Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Publish date: 2012
Source: Purchased
Format: ebook
Length: 236 pages
"Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.
" (Goodreads)

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight has been on my radar since it came out last year, but I didn't have any strong desire to read it. When it was 2.99 for kindle a little while ago, I figured I should read it since it seems like one my female students would enjoy. I think they will, although I didn't love it as much as I wanted to.

At the beginning of the book, I felt like I could really empathize with Hadley and what she was going through. I probably would have reacted to those situations in the same way, although I definitely would not have done what she did at her dad's wedding, regardless of how well we got along. Other than that decision, I liked Hadley and felt like I learned a lot about her despite the short length of the book.

The one thing that bothered me throughout the book was the fact that it was written in the third person. I feel like it would have been better in first person from Hadley's point of view. I think I just prefer a first person narrator in general and was honestly surprised that this one was third person. I'm not sure if that makes me nitpicky or what!

I think this one will be a big hit with my students and I'm looking forward to book talking it soon. I didn't love it, but I think they will!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most

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

Top Ten books I recommend the most

I was thinking about both my students and my family/friends when I made this list, so keep that in mind!

1. Delirium by Lauren Oliver: This is a big hit at school, especially with the girls. One of my favorite books!

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth: This is also a big hit with everyone! Popular among students and I got it for my sister for Christmas. She liked it!

3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer: I always recommend this amazing fairy tale retelling! Coincidentally, another Christmas gift for a family member this year!

4. Anything by Sarah Dessen: I always recommend her books to students looking for love stories or romances. She is always a hit!

5. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness: The Chaos Walking trilogy is becoming more popular at school, hopefully partly because I recommend it so much.

6. Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach: I usually recommend this one to people looking for a funny story, a sports story, or both. I love Felton!

7. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson: This is a great one for someone looking for a gritty, real read. I loved it and recommend it all the time.

8. Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis: I like to recommend this to people looking for something different than usual or for people who don't think they like sci-fi.

9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: For people looking for a crazy thriller!

10. Anything by Ellen Hopkins: I recommend her books to my students who are looking to try something different or who want to try a verse novel for the first time. She's very popular!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson (sequel to Hattie Big Sky)

Publish date: 2013
Source: Library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 219 pages
"After leaving Uncle Chester's homestead claim, orphan Hattie Brooks throws a lasso around a new dream, even bigger than the Montana sky. She wants to be a reporter, knowing full well that a few pieces published in the Arlington News will not suffice. Real reporters must go to Grand Places, and do Grand Things, like Hattie's hero Nellie Bly. Another girl might be stymied by this, but Hattie has faced down a hungry wolf and stood up to a mob of angry men. Nothing can squash her desire to write for a big city newspaper. A letter and love token from Uncle Chester's old flame in San Francisco fuels that desire and Hattie jumps at the opportunity to get there by working as a seamstress for a traveling acting troupe. This could be her chance to solve the mystery of her "scoundrel" uncle and, in the process, help her learn more about herself. But Hattie must first tell Charlie that she will not join him in Seattle. Even though her heart approves of Charlie's plan for their marriage, her mind fears that saying yes to him would be saying no to herself. 

Hattie holds her own in the big city, literally pitching her way to a byline, and a career that could be even bigger than Nellie Bly's. But can making headlines compensate for the pain of betrayal and lost love? Hattie must dig deep to find her own true place in the world. Kirby Larson once again creates a lovingly written novel about the remarkable and resilient young orphan, Hattie Inez Brooks." (Goodreads)

Hattie Ever After is the sequel to Hattie Big Sky, a 2007 Newbery Honor that I listened to last summer. I really enjoyed it, as it reminded me a lot of Laura Ingalls Wilder and I liked Hattie Ever After a lot too, despite its lack of a prairie setting (one of my all time fave settings).

Hattie Ever After picks up after Hattie has left Uncle Chester's homestead, but she is definitely the same spunky, positive girl that she was in Montana. One of my favorite things about her is that she has such a great attitude throughout the two books. I loved following her journey from Montana all the way to San Francisco. I've been to San Francisco once and it was cool to imagine how the city has changed since Hattie's time.

I think my favorite thing about this story is Kirby Larson's writing style. It fits so perfectly with both Hattie's character and the time period. The word choice, the dialect, the sentence structure: everything was just perfect for the story. It's obvious everything was well-researched and it was really interesting to read the author's note afterward to learn about Ms. Larson's journey to writing this unexpected sequel.

Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After are the types of books that remind me of why I love historical fiction. Definitely read these two if you are looking for fun, well-researched, and compulsively readable historical fiction!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Publish date: 2012
Source: Classroom Library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 403 pages
"Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city's brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father's apprentice, Logan--the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same one who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but a fierce belief in her father's survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city's top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor's impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can't be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.
" (Goodreads)

The cover and blurb of Defiance make it seem like a completely awesome book. Rachel is looking pretty sweet in her cloak on the cover, she's off to search for her father, the village has a wacky name like Baalboden...seems like a fun fantasy, right? Well, it wasn't. I honestly don't know if it was fantasy or a sci-fi/dystopian and I was not satisfied with the plot.

It took me until about halfway through Defiance to be actually interested in the plot. I'd read some good reviews, so I wanted to keep going and just push through the beginning to get to the action, but it still took about 200 pages for me to be invested in the story. Rachel was a likable character for the first few chapters, but after she was interacting with all went downhill. Normally I like romance in stories, but I just didn't understand Logan and Rachel. No chemistry at all and Rachel turned into a different person.

The one thing I did like about Defiance was the writing itself. CJ Redwine is a great writer and that really shines here. The writing was basically the reason I finished the book. Great word choice and descriptions, just not enough of them! Definitely not enough world building for me to even know what genre this is.

I really wanted to like this, since it seems like my kind of book, but it just didn't click for me. Obviously other people liked/loved it, just from looking at Goodreads, but I don't know if I'll be recommending it. Have you read it? Thoughts?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trilogy Talk: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

I don't know about you guys, but I have a hard time reviewing books in a series. The first one? Sure, no problem, it's just a regular book review. But further in the series? It's hard to review them without spoiling anything, plus if someone is invested in a series, they probably don't need to be told to read the sequels. In an effort to talk about series as a whole and to solve my problem of reviewing sequels, I decided to start Trilogy Talk. Whenever I finish a trilogy (or series, I suppose), I plan to review the books as a whole series and invite you guys to share your thoughts in the comments. Here goes!

Trilogy Talk: Birthmarked, Prized, and Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien

When I started this series in 2011, I thought it was a fresh new take on dystopian fiction. I really loved Birthmarked and almost counted it as one of my favorite books of 2011. I also liked Prized a lot and didn't think it suffered from the dreaded second book syndrome. I found both of the book's subject matter to be fascinating, since you don't see a lot of books involving midwifery, especially in that kind of setting. 

However...there was the last book in the series, Promised. I read Promised in January and while it was a relatively short book, it seemed to drag on and on. I was not a big fan of it, if you can't tell. Honestly, it was kind of boring and I hate saying that, since I truly enjoyed Birthmarked and Prized. I guess I was just expecting more of an ending and not one with such strange plotlines and unanswered questions. If you've read Promised, you know what I'm talking about.

I hesitantly recommend this series to certain students/friends. Like I said, I truly enjoyed the first two books and know that some people enjoyed Promised, but it just didn't work for me. If you like dystopian fiction and are interested in reading about midwifery, try them out! (And let me know what you think of Promised.)

Have you read this series? Tell me what you thought/think!!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Publish date: 2012
Source: Classroom library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 309 pages
"When sixteen-year-old Kaelyn lets her best friend leave for school without saying goodbye, she never dreams that she might not see him again. But then a strange virus begins to sweep through her small island community, infecting young and old alike. As the dead pile up, the government quarantines the island: no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for the island’s dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.

Because how will she go on if there isn't?

Poignant and dizzying, The Way We Fall is the heart-wrenching story of one girl's bravery and unbeatable spirit as she challenges not just her fears, but her sense of what makes life worth living.
" (Goodreads)

Even though The Way We Fall just came out last year, I don't remember hearing anything about it. After finishing it, I'm surprised that I hadn't because it was great! I really enjoyed it and am hoping to pass it along to quite a few students as well.

First of all, if you've read my blog for a while, you know I'm a sucker for island settings. I love that whole small town feel and the added bonus of if anything bad happens, it's hard to get off the island (hint, hint). The setting worked well for this story of a virus/plague type thing taking over the island, although sometimes I found it hard to believe that a small island had such an advanced hospital like the one Kaelyn's dad worked at. Overall though, I liked the plot and found it to be pretty engaging.

The Way We Fall is told in journal format, first as Kaelyn writing to a friend and then just as a general record of everything happening. I liked this format and think it worked well for this particular story. It reminded me of the journal format in Life as We Knew it. It added a sense of desperation and loneliness to the story and never felt over the top or too detailed to be a journal, like some epistolary novels can be.

The second in the series, The Lives We Lost, is currently sitting in my classroom and I plan to read it soon! I also think this will be a hit with my freshmen English class...who doesn't love a good plague story?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Audiobook Review: Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Narrator: Mike Chamberlain
Publish date: 2007
Source: Library
Format: Audiobook
Length: 6 hours 28 minutes
"High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy— and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in school, in his family, and in the world." (Goodreads)

Twisted has been on my radar for quite awhile and I knew I'd eventually read it due to my love of both Speak and Wintergirls. I had it in my classroom, but seeing that it was a shorter book, I decided to try the audio. I'm glad I did, although I don't think reading it would have changed my opinion on the story.

Twisted is told from Tyler's POV, which I thought Anderson did well. She is a great writer and this was no exception. The dialogue felt a bit stilted and awkward at times, but I can forgive that with contemporaries. Everything flowed well and I never felt like the story was stuck on a certain point for too long.

My main issue with Twisted is that I don't have any overarching feelings about it. I thought it was just ok, nothing fabulous like Speak or Wintergirls (which I loved). I understand that it's a completely different type of story than those two, and a very different narrator, but I just didn't feel satisfied at the end. I wanted to know more about Tyler and his relationships with his father and Bethany and just how everything was going to work out, given the events throughout the story. I suppose that I am simply not the intended audience for this one. I can imagine that some of my male students looking for a contemp not about sports or war (which are the popular topics in my classes) will enjoy Twisted and I'm looking forward to hearing their opinions.

If you have read Twisted, what are your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring 2013 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic is: Top Ten books at the TOP of my spring TBR

1. Requiem by Lauren Oliver: I have heard mixed reviews on this one, but I still need to finish the series!

2. Unravel Me by Taherah Mafi: I probably should have read this by now.

3. Boundless by Cynthia Hand: I can't believe this series is over!

4. Defiance by CJ Redwine: This seems like a fun fantasy and right up my alley.

5. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell: Have only heard good things about this contemp

6. Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson: Loved the first book, Hattie Big Sky!

7. The Miseduation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth: Have this in my class and it looks interesting

8. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: I know, I know.

9. Wonder by RJ Palacio: Thinking of trying this on audio

10. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: This one intrigues me.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

When Life and Books Collide

As you may have noticed, I have not really been posting lately. Part of that reason is work being super busy, but the bigger part is something from my personal life. My grandmother passed away on February 24 and it took me a good two weeks to be able to read again (and want to blog). Part of that was the grieving process, yes, but part of it had to do with the specific book I was reading.

One of my favorite pics of my grandparents, right after they got married. I miss them both like crazy.

I eagerly took Scarlet by Marissa Meyer from my classroom library when it arrived, fully intending to read it over a few days since I was so excited for it. I was about three quarters of the way through when Granny died and if you've read Scarlet or the description of it, you know why I couldn't continue. One of the main plot lines in the book is Scarlet searching for her grandmother and I just could not read about a grandmother with mine being gone so recently. I couldn't even think about the book, honestly. It made me too sad.

I am not writing this post to garner sympathy, but to instead try to explain the first time I can remember my personal life impacting my ability to read. Sure, I've read books that remind me of high school or some event in my life, but never anything that made me not want to read like this. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been unable to read something because it hits too close to home?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top Ten To-Read Series

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

Top Ten series I'd like to start, but haven't yet

This will be an embarrassing list, since there are many series that I probably should have read or at least started...but haven't.

1. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare: I even own the first two! SIGH

2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: I think it is my life's goal just to read the first book. Anyone want to do a readalong?

3. Curse Workers by Holly Black: I have the first on my kindle. Why haven't I read it? I've also heard the audio is good.

4. Starcrossed by Josephine Angellini: Another one I have on my kindle already.

5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld: I think I would like these, plus I liked Uglies.

6. Anything by Cinda Williams Chima: Where do I start? Help!

7. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier: I have these in my classroom and they look fun!

8. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead: Don't hate me!

9. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: Or, um, anything by her.

10. Anything by Rick Riordan: Should I remedy this?