Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: The Gathering

Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publish date: 2011
Source: RT Goody Bag!
"Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.
" (Goodreads)

I feel kind of ashamed to admit this...but this was my first Kelley Armstrong book. At RT in April, where I got this book, she was one of a few authors who required a wristband just to get in line. That, along with the fact that I haven't read Richelle Mead yet (who was also there), made me feel like I was missing out. I got The Gathering in a goody bag that night, and I just now got around to reading it!

For me, The Gathering was a good example of a book that was entertaining but nothing special. It wasn't unputdownable, but at the same time, I enjoyed reading it. It's not exactly my type of book, per se, but the island setting sucked me in, along with the main characters going to a really small school (which I also love).

The problem was that not a lot actually happened in terms of plot. This book is part of a trilogy, so this whole book is pretty much the set-up for action in the second book. The Gathering was interesting, yes, but the only action happened at the end and of course ended in a cliffhanger. I also wasn't too into the "sexy new bad boy," as the blurb so aptly describes him.

So really, in the end, this book was good, but nothing that I will remember forever. I'll probably read book two...someday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Audiobook review: A Long, Long Sleep

Author: Anna Sheehan; Narrator: Angela Dawe
Publish date: 2011
Source: Library
"It should have been a short suspended-animation sleep. But this time Rose wakes up to find her past is long gone-- and her future full of peril.

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose-- hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire-- is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes-- or be left without any future at all.
" (Goodreads)

I've been meaning to read this book for a while now. I love the concept and am new to loving fairy tale retellings, so I figured this was a win-win. It was pretty good, although I didn't quite love as much as I wanted to.

I really enjoyed the set-up of A Long, Long Sleep and how the reader learned everything about Rose's new world as she did. Life is interesting and different after the Dark Times, and I appreciated the new technology Anna Sheehan created for the future, although I wish there was more. The most often discussed device seemed to be a glorified iPad and the nerd in me would have appreciated something "cooler."

I had a lot of issues with Rose's self-confidence and always calling herself stupid, but by the end, there was an explanation for that, so if that annoys you, keep reading! Some of the dialogue also seemed strange and choppy sometimes, but the story was interesting enough to look past that. I was pretty satisfied by the end and was pleased to read a standalone novel.

Like I said earlier, I liked this one a lot, just didn't absolutely love it. Angela Dawe did a great job, as usual, and I think listening to this was a good choice. I think my students will like the print version, so I'll be on the lookout for one for my classroom!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Need to Finish

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and was started by the lovely Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner.

This week's topic is: Top 10 series I haven't finished yet (in which all the books are out). There are tons of series I need to finish that are not all out yet, but here are the ones with all the books available!

1. Jessica Darling series: still need to read the last two!

2. The Firelight series by Sophie Jordan: have only read the first one, but I'd like to keep going

3. The Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale: I read The Goose Girl and loved it, so I know I need to continue

4. Graceling Realm: Still need to read Fire and Bitterblue!

5. Chaos Walking trilogy: Sadly only read The Knife of Never Letting Go. I loved it, so I will be sure to listen to the others on audio.

6. A Wrinkle in Time: I think I read at least the first two

7. The Giver series by Lois Lowry: I didn't even know it was a series until recently!

8. The Crank series by Ellen Hopkins: Still need to read the last one!

9. Uglies series by Scott Westerfield: I've only read Uglies! I think there are three more left!

10. Millennium series: Have only read Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: The Edge of Nowhere

Author: Elizabeth George
Publish date: September 4, 2012
Source: conference (arc)
"Whidbey Island may be only a ferry ride from Seattle, but it's a world apart. When Becca King arrives there, she doesn't suspect the island will become her home for the next four years. Put at risk by her ability to hear "whispers"--the thoughts of others--Becca is on the run from her stepfather, whose criminal activities she has discovered. Stranded and alone, Becca is soon befriended by Derric, a Ugandon orphan adopted by a local family; Seth, a kindhearted musician and high school dropout; Debbie, a recovering alcoholic who takes her in; and Diana, with whom Becca shares a mysterious psychic connection.

This compelling coming-of-age story, the first of an ongoing sequence of books set on Whidbey Island, has elements of mystery, the paranormal, and romance. Elizabeth George, bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley crime novels, brings her elegant style, intricate plotting, incisive characterization, and top-notch storytelling to her first book for teens.
" (Goodreads)

I'll be honest: I had never heard of this book or author until I found it in a box of books given to me for my classroom. The summary is pretty intriguing and as you may now, I love when books take place on islands, like Burn for Burn, so the idea of Whidbey Island immediately sucked me in. However...I did not really like The Edge of Nowhere.

I'll start with what I did like: the setting and the original plot. You find out right at the beginning that Becca is going to Whidbey Island and doesn't know anyone. I really liked that it took place on an island (and a real one, at that) and how it really added another element of mystery and intrigue to the story. I like everything at the beginning, then it all kind of took a turn for the meh.

Basically, this book felt like it was written as an adult suspense novel, then the author made it YA by changing the characters' ages and making some scenes take place in the high school. Some of the events just seemed strange for teenagers and the writing style was just so reminiscent of a suspense novel like Gone Girl, for example (since that was my most recent adult suspense). The ending left a lot to be desired too. I felt like nothing was really resolved and if THAT was how she was going to end it...why was the book over 400 pages?

Really, I just wasn't satisfied at all. I went into the book with a completely open mind and just feel so meh about it now. I don't even think I can recommend it, although if you are a big fan of suspense/mystery novels, perhaps give it a try. Anyone else read it? Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish People

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and was created by the lovely Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner. This week's topic is:

Top Ten bookish people I'd like to meet (authors, bloggers, etc). This one was hard for me to do since I have been fortunate enough to meet many of my favorite authors and bloggers, but here goes!

1. JK Rowling: I would like to worship at her feet, then probably cry and combust from fangirling.

2. Lauren Oliver: I love her books so much and really just want to tell her that. Coincidentally she is coming to a bookstore about 2 hours north of me in October for a "children's event." Am I allowed to go to that? I think it's a release party for The Spindlers, her new MG.

3. Laurie Halse Anderson: I want to thank her for writing such powerful books, especially Speak and Wintergirls.

4. Laura Ingalls Wilder: I know she's been dead for over 50 years, but hello, I am a fangirl for life. Meeting her would be amazing because of 1. who she is and 2. time travel would be possible.

5. Sarah Dessen: I think she was my first favorite author and I'd LOVE to meet her someday!

6. Ruta Sepetys: I loved Between Shades of Gray and the upcoming Out of the Easy, plus she is from Michigan. Win-win.

7. Ann Brashares: I grew up on the Traveling Pants books and it even inspired my friends and me to have a traveling notebook.

8. Caragh M. O'Brien: I love the Birthmarked series and I'd love to discuss making the move from being a teacher to being a full time writer (a dream of mine...)


9. Christina from Book Tasty: So Christina and I are pretty much twins (and have been known to maybe obnoxiously hashtag #twinsies on twitter) and I think she's awesome. She's a middle school librarian, has excellent taste in books, and is one of my closest blogging/bookish friends.

10. Elizabeth from Don't Take My Books Away: I also really want to meet Elizabeth, another awesome blogging friend. Any book she likes I am pretty much guaranteed to like and we are both fans of baseball and cleaning our kitchens while coffee is brewing.

Why can't bookish friends live closer??? Guess I need to plan some vacations...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Burn for Burn

Authors: Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
Publish date: September 18, 2012
Source: conference (arc)
"Lillia has never had any problems dealing with boys who like her. Not until this summer, when one went too far. No way will she let the same thing happen to her little sister.

Kat is tired of the rumours, the insults, the cruel jokes. It all goes back to one person– her ex-best friend– and she's ready to make her pay.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she's not the same girl anymore. And she's ready to prove it to him.

Three very different girls who want the same thing: sweet, sweet revenge. And they won't stop until they each had a taste.
" (Goodreads)

I know there was some buzz for Burn for Burn at BEA and probably ALA, but I figured I'd read it much later than now, maybe next year or something since it didn't sound that appealing to me. Well, I ended up getting a box of books for my classroom, Burn for Burn included, and decided to try it out a few days ago after being in a "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO READ!!!!" mood. I liked it a lot and am looking forward to the sequel!

One thing I noticed right away about Burn for Burn is that it's not straightforward at all. Yes, there are 3 narrators, Lillia, Kat, and Mary, and yes, they know the same characters within the book, but it was much more complicated than that. Each girl has a distinct voice and personality and along with that, each sees the other characters differently. I liked that we got different perspectives of everyone along with background stories.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it for a number of smaller reasons. The first is that I felt like a lot of the problems in the characters lives could have been taken care of much more easily than they were (like Nadia?). I mean, yeah, plot and conflict and all that, but come on. The second issue was that although I love island settings, little things about this one weren't thought out enough. 1000 people live on Jar Island year round, but there are 4 middle schools and a high school just full of people? The town I teach in has 2000 people in the village limits and we have 1 middle school and 1 high school that share the same building. 1000 year round residents does not equal that many schools. I think I remember something about a community college on the island too. Yeah right!

Nitpicking aside, I enjoyed the book and will read the sequel whenever it comes out (preceded by a reread so I can remember who the characters are!). I'm sure the book will be a hit in my classroom and I plan on booktalking it soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Origin

Author: Jessica Khoury
Publish date: September 4, 2012
Source: conference (arc)
"Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home--and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost.
" (Goodreads)

I'm in the process of getting everything back on my classroom bookshelves (which takes forever since I tend to read the back of every book) and while I was unpacking a box of books from a conference, Origin caught my eye. I like the cover and the plot sounded really intriguing so obviously I HAD to read it. As usual, here are my mixed feelings.

Origin took me forever to read and I blame 2 things for that: 1) the fact that school started and I am crazy busy and 2) the book just didn't grab me like I thought it would. It was interesting, yes, and pretty original, but not in a "I can't do anything but read" kind of way. I never found myself itching to pick it back up, but I enjoyed it when I was reading it. Does that make sense?

This book has a case of something I typically hate: instalove. I despise instalove, especially when it is between teens. I can see WHY the author chose instalove here, knowing how Pia grew up and everything, but how convenient that the first person she meets outside Little Cam is an attractive boy her age, right? Right?? I don't know. I would have found it more believable if Eio and the rest of the Ai'oans were better developed, I think, and weren't just rather convenient plot devices.

Reading back through my review, it sounds like I didn't like Origin, but I really did! The plot was enough to sustain me despite some character issues and I think this will be a hit in my classroom. Also Jessica Khoury is only 22. Damn.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn
Publish date: May 2012
Source: Library
"On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.
" (Goodreads)

Okay, I will admit: I read Gone Girl because of the hype. For once, though, guess what? I LIKED IT.

Gone Girl really creeped me out, but in the best way. I hardly ever read suspense novels (as in, this might have been the first?) and I HATE scary movies, so I essentially was freaked out the whole time I was reading. As the same time, though, I couldn't STOP reading because I needed to know what was going to happen. Gillian Flynn is good at what she does.

In addition to being creeped out, I was in complete awe of Gillian Flynn's ways with words. I swear every word and sentence was perfect. She thought of ways to describe things that I would have NEVER come up with, yet they were perfect. I seriously kept rereading passages because they were that good. I am usually more of a speed reader than a reread parts kind of girl, so to do the latter is pretty rare and the mark of an EXCELLENT writer.

In short, if you like suspense, if you like great writing, if you want to try something different than YA (which I usually read), try Gone Girl. You'll love it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is one of my faves: 

Top Ten Books on my fall TBR list NOT in order

1. Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill: Gotta feed my addiction! I am obsessed with learning about her real life versus her books.

2. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: I STILL HAVEN'T READ THIS

3. Such A Rush by Jennifer Echols: Loved Going Too Far, didn't love Forget You. Curious about this one.

4. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: Sounds fab!

5. Origin by Jessica Khoury: I just started this one and I like it so far

6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: I totally failed at reading this over the summer.

7. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan: I like reading about food.

8. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian: Sounds interesting

9. Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien: Love this series!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August in Review

August was a decent month for me. In terms of reading, I reviewed 8 books and read a few more than that which I probably will not review on the blog. I also went on two weekend trips, which ate up some reading time is almost back! I had to go in for professional development for two days last week and have been spending lots of time working in my classroom and preparing lessons. I'm not teaching any new classes this year, but we have new textbooks for Spanish and I'm teaching a few new things in my English class. It should be a fun and challenging year! I am looking forward to meeting my new students on Tuesday :)

Books reviewed
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Glass by Ellen Hopkins
Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman
Secret Letters by Leah Scheier
Burned by Ellen Hopkins
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Forget You by Jennifer Echols

Other posts
Top Ten Tuesday: ME
Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite books since I've started blogging

My favorite book this month was Princess Academy, although I have really enjoyed listening to Ellen Hopkins's verse novels as audiobooks. Be on the lookout for my review of Gone Girl soon!