Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Audiobook Review: Hattie Big Sky

Author: Kirby Larson; Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Publish date: 2006
Source: Library
"For years, sixteen-year-old Hattie's been shuttled between relatives. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim near Vida, Montana. With a stubborn stick-to-itiveness, Hattie faces frost, drought and blizzards. Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, sharing her adventures with her friends--especially Charlie, fighting in France--through letters and articles for her hometown paper.

Her backbreaking quest for a home is lightened by her neighbors, the Muellers. But she feels threatened by pressure to be a "Loyal" American, forbidding friendships with folks of German descent. Despite everything, Hattie's determined to stay until a tragedy causes her to discover the true meaning of home.
" (Goodreads)

I'd been in kind of an audiobook rut lately and was having a hard time getting halfway through any books, let alone finishing anything...that is, until Hattie Big Sky. It was a win-win for me: a great story and a good audiobook.

If you've read my blog for a while, you might know that I freakin' love Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books. Hattie Big Sky reminded me a bit of the LIW books and is definitely a reason why I liked it so much. I really love that time period and setting of Hattie Big Sky: early 1900's and set out in the middle of nowhere. Living in a shanty and/or sod house=the best. I can't get enough historical fiction like that from the 1800's to early 1900's.

Hattie was a really great character who made me root for her the whole time. She had such a positive attitude and spirit that carried her throughout the whole book. Sometimes I had trouble believing she was only sixteen, but I suppose people back in the "old days" knew how to do more things like cooking from the very basics, farming, and other things so they could, you know, survive. Anyway, Hattie and most of the other characters were likable and fun to read/hear about.

If you're looking for solid historical fiction, check out Hattie Big Sky

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: My Life Next Door

Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publish date: June 2012
Source: Library
"One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over
." (Goodreads)

My Life Next Door seemed like the perfect summer book to me before I read it: romance, fun, wacky family, plus the summary makes me think of Sarah Dessen books. I ended up liking this one, but I didn't love it.

The concept of My Life Next Door is pretty interesting and believable (in some ways). Who hasn't looked at other families and wondered what it would be like to be one of them or wish their family was different? It was fun getting to know the Garrett family, although maybe if there had been a couple fewer we could have gotten to know them a bit better. It was a lot of characters to keep straight and I kept getting Andy and Alice confused. Like I said, though, it was fun to read about them and I loved George. Pretty sure he was my favorite character.

I thought the book started out slowly, had a good middle, and then didn't end the way I was expecting. It took me a while to get into the story, but once everything got going, I was pretty intrigued and wanted to keep reading about Sam and Jase (who seems pretty perfect. Do boys like him really exist?). That said, I had a hard time believing everything was wrapped up so cleanly at the end. The ending just kind of...happened and then that was that.

I think my female students will really enjoy this one, especially the ones that like Sarah Dessen and other authors like her.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Unravel Me

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to showcase books that are not out yet. This week's pick is...

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (sequel to Shatter Me)
Publish date: February 5, 2013

You guys...I am so excited about this book! I know it doesn't come out until February 2013 and all that jazz, but still! I loved Shatter Me and am dying to know what happens next to Juliette! Unravel Me will definitely be a "buy it the day it comes out and do nothing but read it" kind of book. Can't wait!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Eve

Author: Anna Carey
Publish date: 2011
Source: Purchased ebook
"The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.
" (Goodreads)

Eve is one of those books that I'd heard of when it came out, but I didn't have quite enough interest in to read. Until I met Anna Carey, that is. When I went to Chicago for RT in April, Anna Carey, Cynthia Hand, Taherah Mafi, and Veronica Rossi were doing a signing at Anderson's on that Friday night. The signing was great and Anna Carey was especially hilarious. I felt bad that I hadn't bought Eve at the time, but later the ebook was super cheap, so of course I had to buy it. Unfortunately, I didn't love it. Here are my mixed feelings:

First of all, I really like the concept of this book. I love dystopian/future books in general and the idea of a plague wiping out most of the population, while sad, is kind of exciting (only in books/movies though! Plagues, stay away from me!). My expectations for Eve were pretty high so although I didn't love all of it, the plot itself was captivating enough to make me keep reading and finish it. Adventure, lots of characters, plague aftermath, etc=ingredients for a fun book.

That said, I was annoyed with Eve as a character for most of the book. I didn't like how she went from believing one thing for her whole life and then within a few pages, had completely changed her outlook on life. That change was a bit too quick for me to believe it. There was also another event involving a guy that I had a hard time with. As in, when I read it, I immediately thought "Are you kidding me? You had to go there?" Blah.

So basically the plot kept me interested enough to keep reading despite having issues believing the characters. I'm sure I will read the sequel to find out what happens though!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

That one time I met Meg Cabot

Ignore the terrible quality
So here's the deal: Meg Cabot is doing a tour for her new book in her Heather Wells series, Size 12 and Ready to Rock. She came to Schuler's in Lansing, MI, on Tuesday, which blew my mind because who comes to Michigan? Not many authors! There are lots of readers in Michigan, authors! Come see us please!!

Anyway, my friend Devan and I drove the hour to Lansing so we could meet the incomparable Meg Cabot. Seriously, I have loved her and her books since probably middle school and have never had the chance to meet her. Friends...she is hilarious and awesome and lovely. If you ever have the chance to attend one of her signings or hear her speak, please do. I love her.

She started by going through a slideshow of her life, basically, and told funny stories about her childhood and life before she became a writer. I had forgotten she wrote romance novels under the name Patricia Cabot, which are now out of print! I kind of want to track one down. As she talked about her books, I kept thinking about how much I loved them, especially The Princess Diaries series, the 1-800-Where-R-You series, the Mediator series, and All American Girl. I'd really like to read the Heather Wells series now, especially after hearing Meg talk about it and how parts of it were based on her old job of working in a college dorm.

After that, she took questions from the audience and I was THRILLED to find out she is writing another Mediator book! I love that series and feel like it doesn't get enough recognition. Read it! And the 1-800 series, another great one.

The signing was after that. I brought 4 Princess Diaries books that I owned, but only had her sign the 2 hardcovers, plus her new book Size 12 and Ready to Rock, which I had to buy to be guaranteed a seat. She could only personalize that one, so my two PD books sadly only have her name and not mine :) What a great evening with one of my favorite authors!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Going Too Far

Author: Jennifer Echols
Publish date: 2009
Source: purchased ebook
"All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far...and almost doesn't make it back.

John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge -- and over....
" (Goodreads)

So for whatever reason, I had never read a Jennifer Echols book before. This one was only 3.99 for kindle a couple weeks ago AND my library doesn't have it, so it wasn't too hard to convince myself to buy it. I started it, thinking I'd read a few pages...yeah, you know how that goes.

I pretty much loved all the characters in Going Too Far. I liked that Officer After was not in high school, although he did seem much older than 19 at times. It's nice to see good guys in YA books--I mean, how much more of a good guy can you get than a police officer? I really liked his and Meg's relationship too. It was not insta!love. Lust, maybe, but it was nice to see it progress and develop.

I liked Meg a lot too, despite being annoyed with her and her bad decisions at the beginning of the book. I definitely made some assumptions about her that were not true by the end. I liked how Jennifer Echols gave us more and more about her past as we got further into the book and we can learn why Meg is the way she is. Character development: a good thing!

Going Too Far blew me away and I was shocked by how much I loved it. I can't wait to read more of Echols's books, especially Such a Rush!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: Crank

Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publish date: 2004
Source: Library
"Kristina Georgia Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. But on a trip to visit her absentee father, Kristina disappears and Bree takes her place. Bree is the exact opposite of Kristina -- she's fearless. Through a boy, Bree meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul -- her life." (Goodreads)

I've been aware of Ellen Hopkins and her books for a long time, but for whatever reason, never picked one up. Looking back, I think I was a little afraid of reading a verse novel just because it's different from what I normally read. I decided it was finally time to try something new and all I have to say is: WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG???

So let's see, what did I like about this book? Pretty much everything, really. I was a little intimidated by the length at first, but the 537 pages flew by. I mean, yeah, the pages weren't completely filled with words like a "normal" book, but I was so invested in Kristina/Bree's story that I HAD to continue. I didn't want to care about Kristina/Bree, but I did. I hated her, I rooted for her, I felt bad for her, I wanted to smack her--it takes an amazing author to make you feel ALL the feelings like that.

I'm not sure why I hadn't read a verse novel before. I like poetry and know that these books are really popular at my school, but I still hadn't read one. I definitely want to read more now. The story flowed so well and seemed so much more powerful in this particular writing style. I loved all the different types of poetry styles Ellen Hopkins employs here too--I can definitely see myself using examples in class to show the power of repetition, for example, or how to create poetry shapes.

I need to read more verse novels! Any recommendations for more Ellen Hopkins or books by other authors?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Blogger Recommendations

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is a freebie, so I'm going with:

Top ten books that I read and LOVED because of book bloggers...aka would not have read these without book bloggers!

In no particular order of favorites...

1. Delirium by Lauren Oliver: One of my favorite books EVER and would not have heard of it if not for book blogs.

2. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: The title alone would have pushed me away, but the reviews were so amazing that I couldn't say no!

3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepeteys: Would not have read this if not for Tara's glowing review!

4. The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell: I can thank Heidi for this one!

5. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale: Thanks, Christina, for sharing your love of Shannon Hale!

6. Across the Universe/A Million Suns by Beth Revis: Love this series and wouldn't have known about it without book blogs!

7. Shade trilogy by Jeri Smith-Ready: I would have NEVER read this series without blogger recs!

8. The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare: Love this one!

9. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols: I'll thank Ginger for the Echols love!

10. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller: Saw lots of early reviews for this one, all good, and knew I had to read it!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: The List

Author: Siobhan Vivian
Publish date: April 2012
Source: Library
"An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.
" (Goodreads)

The List is an example of a book that I reeeally wanted to like. I teach high school and firmly believe that books about bullying are completely necessary. This book is no exception to being needed, but I personally just didn't like it too much.

The biggest issue that I had with this book is that there is just too much crammed into a short period of time and simply too many characters. I think the most narrators I've kept track of in a book previous to The List is maybe 3, so 8 pretty much blew my mind. I had a hard time remembering which character was which and I often referred to the list before chapter 1 to keep them all straight. I understand needing to show all those POV's, but I would've liked to have gone more in depth with 2 or 3 characters. Maybe I just have a terrible memory and need very few narrators?

I think some of my female students will really enjoy this one, despite me not really digging it. With all the bullying and gossip that happens in schools that we aren't even aware of, I think some teens will be able to identify with one or more of the characters, which is so key at that age. I will definitely be booktalking it and looking around for a copy to add to my classroom shelves.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: Graceling

Author: Kristin Cashore
Publish date: 2008
Source: Purchased
"Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.
" (Goodreads)

Graceling is an example of a book that I had never heard of before I started blogging. I kept hearing about this book, Bitterblue, that apparently EVERYONE was waiting for and THAT is finally how I discovered Graceling. I actually bought it, which is rare for me, but it was cheap and I figured I'd like it. I waited a shamefully long time before actually reading it. Don't judge!

So. Graceling. It was good, yes, but I think in the end I hyped it up too much in my head based on how much everyone else seemed to love it. I of course LIKED it, but I didn't love it. I thought the book as a whole was refreshing, since sometimes fantasy books can get a little similar (or is that just me?)

For me, the characters made the book. Katsa was a real girl, fleshed out and well-developed. I felt like I could get to know her really well throughout the book plus she was a bad ass. Obviously. Po was also a great character and I loved how much we got to learn about him and his family as the book progressed. Great world building!

The reason that I did not love this book is because it just seemed to drag on and on at certain points. I got a bit bored and it made me want to put the book down instead of reading it cover to cover. However, that was really the only thing holding me back from loving it, so all in all it was a good book. I'll definitely be recommending it to my students in the fall and reading Fire and Bitterblue soon!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: Midnight in Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale
Publish date: January 2012
Source: Library
"When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?
" (Goodreads)

So it appears that I've been on a Shannon Hale kick lately (see my review of The Goose Girl here). No worries: this is a good thing! I read Austenland a while ago and found it to be refreshingly fun and different. Midnight in Austenland was also fun, but quite different from Austenland.

One thing that Midnight had that Austenland didn't was a mystery added to the plot. The mystery aspect of it makes Midnight a lot darker than its predecessor and I'm not sure that I enjoyed it as much. I went into this one thinking it would be another Austenland, I guess, and while it was, it was so much different that I think I liked Austenland better. That said, I enjoyed the actual plot and most of the characters.

Another reason that I didn't like Midnight in Austenland as much is because I couldn't sympathize with or relate to the main character. Yes, she is a mom and middle aged, that's all fine and dandy and not a problem, but she was also the creator of a million dollar company. My ability to relate AT ALL just flew out the window. How many of us create million dollar companies? I couldn't get that fact out of my mind for the book and it really affected my enjoyment of it.

Have you read Midnight in Austenland? Thoughts?