Thursday, January 31, 2013

Audiobooks, please!

In January 2012, I started listening to my first audiobook and I've been hooked ever since. I've found a few duds along the way, either due to story or narrator, and that's why I'm writing this now...I need your recommendations! Right now I'm listening to Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson and also have Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, both from the library. Below are the ones I listened to last year:

I know I need to listen to the rest of the Chaos Walking trilogy, but what else? What are some must-listens? YA or adult is fine!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Madness Underneath

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine. This week's pick is...

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Shades of London #2)
Publish date: February 26, 2013

"After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance. But Rory's brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she's become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city's secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it's too late.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
" (Goodreads)

I devoured The Name of the Star, even though it completely creeped me out, and it is always a big hit with my students. I can't wait to read The Madness Underneath and see where MJ takes us! I already know I'll need to sleep with the light on!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: The Diviners

Author: Libba Bray
Publish date: 2012
Source: Classroom library
"Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.
" (Goodreads)

Let me start this off by saying this is the third Libba Bray book I have read (or tried to read). I read A Great and Terrible Beauty back in June and was disappointed and tried the Beauty Queens audiobook over the summer and just couldn't handle it. At this point, you may be wondering why I even wanted to read The Diviners, as it seems Libba's books and I just don't mesh. Well, I gotta be honest, The Diviners just sounded really cool. And I did actually like it for the most part.

So yes, I liked it. The Diviners was definitely not what I expected, but it was entertaining nonetheless. I was completely annoyed by Evie at the beginning, but I think she was supposed to be that way. At the beginning, I also thought there were way too many characters, but I think everything came together pretty nicely be the end. I have no idea how she plotted all of that out!

I will say I found the entire book to be about 100 pages too long. By the time I was within a couple hundred pages of finishing, I just wanted it to be over because it had just been going on and on. I also found the 20's lingo to be a little annoying (like "you betski!"), but I suppose I'd rather have books be historically accurate than not.

I think this book might have turned from like to love if it had been a bit shorter. I am definitely curious to see where the story goes and will be reading book 2!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: Hate List

Author: Jennifer Brown
Publish date: 2009
Source: Classroom library
"Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.
" (Goodreads)

I don't really know how to explain my feelings about Hate List. I didn't love the book, but I didn't dislike it, and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what I liked and didn't like. I'll do my best to break it down!

What I liked:

1. The title. Hate List is short, but powerful. I like that you learn just from the blurb what it means and how it fits into the story.

2. The past and present narration. I liked reading about Valerie's feelings before and after the shooting.

3. The newspaper articles. I liked reading the reporter's take on the victims and what happened that day. It was a nice change of pace from just Valerie's POV.

What I didn't like:

1. I felt like I couldn't really connect with Valerie and Nick. I don't think I was supposed to connect with Nick (maybe?), but I don't know. I didn't dislike Val as a main character, but I never quite liked her. Basically I felt that the same way about the book as I felt about Val.

2. I didn't like everything else that happened besides the shooting, like Valerie's parents issues and them pretty much hating her. It was just too much going on in one book.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Beauty

Author: Robin McKinley
Publish date: 1978
Source: Classroom library
"Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"

Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast.
" (Goodreads)

I first heard of Robin McKinley when I added The Hero and the Crown to my TBR list on Goodreads after reading a list of great fantasy somewhere. I wish I could remember where! Anyway, I now have a variety of McKinley's novels in my classroom and my coworker recommended Beauty, so I brought it home to read over winter break and it ended up being my first read of 2012!

Beauty is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and I was a little worried that it might get tiresome since I know the story, but it wasn't at all! The book is slow, but a good kind of slow. It takes a while to get to the point of meeting the Beast, but I enjoyed all the back story and learning about Beauty and her family. I thought the ending came up a bit quickly, but I suppose I was used to the slow pacing of the earlier parts of the story.

One thing I really loved was McKinley's writing. It was just beautiful and I found myself rereading certain sentences because they were so wonderful. I also used a couple as examples of great writing in my English classes. I will be book talking this soon and can't wait to read more of McKinley's work. I am thinking The Hero and the Crown next?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Audiobook Review: Beautiful Creatures

Authors: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Narrator: Kevin T. Collins
Publish date: 2009
Source: Library
"Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
" (Goodreads)

A couple months ago I felt like I was the only person that I knew who hadn't read Beautiful Creatures. It's quite a chunkster (563 pages), so I thought audio would be a good way to go. I have to say...this book and I did not click. I went into it completely open and finished it completely annoyed.

The audio of the book itself was fine. The narrator had a calming voice and while his voices for each character weren't insanely different, they were fine. I wasn't annoyed by him, but by other aspects of the book.

I love the idea of Beautiful Creatures in theory. I like southern settings, I like the idea of casters and the parallels between Ethan and Lena and the historical events, etc. This seemed like a "me" novel, but after listening to it, I was surprised at how meh it was. First of all, way too long. Like at least 100 pages too long. So much of the book seemed to not move the plot forward. It was a little tiring to hear about Ethan and Lena researching or just talking to each other about nothing. I thought Ethan was really boring, honestly. I hate sounding so negative, but there was just not much I liked.

The thing that bothers me the most about not liking this book is that I've been to an event with Margie Stohl and I LOVED her. She is hilarious and smart and I wanted to like Beautiful Creatures so much because I liked her so much, but I just can't. I don't know...was audio the wrong way to go? I feel like I would have felt the same way with print, especially with the length. I won't be reading the rest of the series, although I haven't decided yet about the movie.

Did anyone else NOT like this book? I feel like I might be the only one...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: Recovery Road

Author: Blake Nelson
Publish date: 2011
Source: Classroom Library
"Madeline is sent away to Spring Meadows to help with a drinking and rage problem she has. It's a pretty intense place, but there is the weekly movie night in town--where Madeline meets Stewart, who's at another rehab place nearby. They fall for each other during a really crazy time in their lives. Madeline gets out and tries to get back on her feet, waiting for Stewart to join her. When he does, though, it's not the ideal recovery world Madeline dreamed of. Both of them still have serious problems. And Stewart's are only getting worse...." (Goodreads)

This was my first Blake Nelson book and I am looking forward to read more of his after reading Recovery Road. It was my final book of 2012 and I read it really quickly, not because I needed it for my 100th book (although I did), but because it was a great and compulsively readable book. I loved it!

This was not a happy book, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment of it at all. It starts with Maddie in rehab, obviously not a great place, and leads to her meeting Stewart, whom I did not find that amazing. I loved watching Maddie's journey from the beginning of the book to the end and watching her grow and learn about herself. There was some definite character growth here, which I really appreciated. I think a subject like this is difficult to write about well, but Blake Nelson does a great job here.

Other things that I liked: the supporting cast and the chapter length. Like I said, I wasn't a big fan of Stewart, but I liked Maddie's friends and Maddie herself. I also loved that the chapters were short. It made the book go by faster and was easier to find stopping points at the end of chapters (if you're like me and refuse to stop reading in the middle of a chapter).

I will say that I like the cover, but it's not a good representation of the story since Maddie has a drinking problem and not a pill/drug problem. However, I think it's eye-catching and I like the heart.

I have already talked about this one at school and think it will be a hit, especially with students who may have had an experience like this and can find a connection with Maddie or Stewart. I'm looking forward to it being passed around!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: The Glass Castle

Author: Jeannette Walls
Publish date: 2005
Source: Classroom library
"Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town—and the family—Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
" (Goodreads)

I've been meaning to read The Glass Castle for probably 2 years now but lamely never got around to it until a couple weeks ago. I predictably really enjoyed it and would recommend it for anyone who likes memoirs.

I really like reading memoirs because it's just crazy how different everyone's lives are. My life is NOTHING like Jeannette Walls's was, but it was fascinating and horrifying to read about her life, especially her childhood. I just could not believe some of the decisions that her parents made for their family, specifically regarding basic necessities like food and electricity. Basically my jaw was permanently dropped while reading and I even stopped to read some parts out loud to whomever was near me at the time.

My only complaint about The Glass Castle is that the ending seemed really rushed. I would have liked to know more about Jeannette's later years and more about how her parents lived in New York City. I'm also still very curious about the other Walls siblings, although I obviously understand why they might not want to broadcast their stories like Jeannette did.

That all said, I liked this book a lot and it's made me want to read more memoirs. Any suggestions for books like this one?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman
Publish date: 2012
Source: Classroom library
"Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.
" (Goodreads)

Seraphina came out last July and while I was aware of it, I didn't feel an overwhelming urge to read it until we got it for our classroom libraries and I saw how amazing the cover is. I just love it and the fact that it's mostly black and white. Just lovely! I finished it over winter break and loved it.

I have read a "dragon book" before (Firelight), but I enjoyed this one much more, not that Firelight was bad or anything, of course. I appreciated that this was a straight up fantasy book and loved reading about the history of the dragons and humans and obviously, learning about Seraphina herself. She was a great character: smart, musically gifted, funny, someone I would be friends with (you know, if Goredd was real). She's one of the best characters I've read in a long time and I even included her on my favorite characters list in the 2012 end of the year book survey. The supporting characters were also great, including Glisselda, Lars, and Orma.

I also loved the writing in Seraphina. Rachel Hartman is clearly talented and I find it hard to believe that this is her first published book. It took a little while for me to really get into it at the beginning, but you hit a point where everything just comes together and you want to keep reading to learn more about Seraphina and her world. As a teacher, I appreciated the variety of vocabulary Ms. Hartman used, and not just Goredd-inspired words. I think this book will be a little difficult for some of my students because of the vocabulary, but well worth it in terms of having read a great story and learned more vocab. I book talked it on Friday and both copies are already gone!

Basically, Serpahina is an excellent book and I recommend it to everyone, even if you aren't a fantasy fan. Excellent writing combined with a great story and characters makes a fantastic read.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 End of the Year Book Survey


The 2012 End of the Year Book Survey was created by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner and The Broke and the Bookish. This is my first year taking part and I really loved thinking about my reading/blogging year like this!

1. Best book you read in 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want.)

My favorite book this year was Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood. Absolutely loved it and can't wait for the sequel!! 

Adult fiction: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
YA contemporary: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller; The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
YA sci-fi/fantasy: Across the Universe & A Million Suns by Beth Revis; Cinder by Marissa Meyer
YA historical fiction: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys; The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell
Nonfiction: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Audiobook: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn't?

I thought I would love For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund but didn't at all, really. I also thought I'd love Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but felt pretty meh about it. ALSO, Code Name Verity. I am the only person who didn't love it. 

3. Most surprising book (in a good way) of 2012?

I read The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson on a whim and LOVED it. Same with The Boyfriend List and The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.
4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

I recommend Delirium, Divergent, Cinder, and The Knife of Never Letting Go to my students all the time.
5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

Definitely Across the Universe and the Ruby Oliver books. I've read many books that were part of a series this year, but not many that were the first in the series.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?

Let's see...Trish Doller, Marissa Meyer, Beth Revis, Ruta Sepetys, Cynthia Hand, Barbara Kingsolver, and Ellen Hopkins.
7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or in a new genre for you?

Probably Gone Girl: I don't read much suspense. Maybe I should read more, though, since I loved it!

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?

Gone Girl for sure. Although it was hard to put down A Million Suns last January.
9. Book you read in 2012 that you are likely to reread next year?

I'm not a big rereader, but maybe Gone Girl?

10. Favorite cover?

I love the old cover of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman's current cover.

11. Most memorable character in 2012?

Rosie from Water for Elephants, Todd and Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go, Seraphina from Seraphina, Ruby Oliver!
12. Most beautifully written book in 2012?

Hmm...Seraphina or The Springsweet.
13. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to read?

Water for Elephants and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

14. Shortest and longest books?

Shortest: Cut by Patricia McCormick (151 pages)

Longest: Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia (563 pages) (audiobook)

Longest print: Insurgent by Veronica Roth (525 pages)
15. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? 

Definitely Gone Girl!

Book Blogging/Reading Life in 2012

16. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2012?

Has to be Book Tasty! Love her and her blog! (And I think I didn't know her until 2012!)

17. Favorite review that you wrote in 2012?

Hmm...I like my review of The Knife of Never Letting Go and my rant at the end of The Mockingbirds review (spoilers, though).
18. Most thought provoking review or discussion you read on someone else's blog?

Everything on Stacked! I love everything Kelly posts over there about reading and libraries. I also love Jamie's bookish posts, like this rant about people not having time to read. 

19. Best event you participated in?

First of all: CHICAGO. In April, I went to a signing at Anderson's on Friday night and then went to RT Teen Day on Saturday, where I met many fave authors (Beth Revis, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jeri Smith-Ready, and more!) and bloggers (Tara, Jamie, Jen, Anna, Kristi, and more!). It was pretty much amazing. WHY DIDN'T I TAKE MORE PICTURES SIGH

I also met Meg Cabot in July at a signing at Schuler's in Lansing. ALSO amazing. 

20. Best moment of book blogging in 2012?

I'd have to say getting to know people who are like me and GET me. How awesome is it to meet all these amazing people through blogging/twitter?? I also love that a few have gone from being twitter friends to being real friends that I want to talk to all the time, about more than just books. Power of the internet, y'all.
21. Most popular post this year on your blog?

My Top Ten Bookish quotes post from May had the most hits this year, which is kind of funny since I am terrible at remembering quotes. Something I plan on being better at this year!
My most viewed review this year was for the Nickel and Dimed audiobook. I get more hits for that than any other review! 

22. Post you wish got a little more love?

Well, obviously I'm not a huge blog and some of my reviews/posts go by with no comments, which I am fine with. However, I really enjoyed writing my Former Favorites series, which highlighted my childhood faves like The Babysitters' Club and Animorphs. Check them out!
23. Best bookish discovery?

I discovered audiobooks this year! And started going to an indie bookstore more, Schuler's in Lansing, which I love. It's an hour away, though, so I only go for signings or if it's on the way to something.
24. Did you complete any challenges this year?

Well, I signed up for the Back to the Classics challenge and completely failed at that, BUT I did read my goal of 100 books this year. Yay!

Looking Ahead

25. One book you didn't get to in 2012, but will be your number one priority in 2013?

Hahaha well there are many of those, but as soon as I put them on a list, I won't read them! HOWEVER, I promise to read The Poisonwood Bible this year. Finally.
26. Book you are most anticipating for 2013?

Tie between Shades of Earth and Requiem.

27. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your 2013 blogging/reading?

2013 goal: 120 books

I want to do many things, but I want to keep blogging because I like it, not because I feel like I have to. I also want to get to know more people through blogging/twitter and be more outgoing/talkative at book events. I would also love to go to ALA in Chicago this June (as a teacher, MLIS student, and blogger!).

Reading wise, I'd like to keep reading a variety of genres so I can recommend all types of books for my students. I need to try more graphic novels and other genres that I am not that familiar with.
I absolutely loved filling this survey out and thinking about my 2012 reading and blogging! I hope that 2013 brings another great year of reading, blogging, and meeting new people!