Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Author: Ken Kesey
Publisher: Signet
Rating: 4

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In this classic of the 1960s, Ken Kesey's hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, back by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story's shocking climax.

Review: *backstory time* My awesomesauce AP Literature teacher, Ms. R, challenged my class at the beginning of the school year to read 60 classical pre-graduation books - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was on that list.  As I picked it up, I knew it was about a mental hospital... In fact, that's all I knew.  One of my classmates noticed that I had chosen to read it and she told me, "That is such a good book."  My brother was flipping through tv channels the other night; the movie adaption of said novel was on and he insisted on watching it, but I made him change the channel because I had yet to finish reading the book.

I finished reading the book last night.  I turned the last page, flipped back to the previous page, stared at the last sentence for a while, and finally closed the book.  To say I was confused was an understatement.  I needed to talk to somebody about the story ASAP.  Naturally, the first person I started to question was my mom.  Although she hadn't read it, she mentioned that her father had.  So, I headed to my room, book in hand, and called my grandfather.

"What part are confused about?" he asked.  My response: "Uh, the whole thing?"

He gasped.  "My dear, you must've missed something."  My grandfather was right, and after our 40 minute conversation we figured out what exactly I had missed: the history behind mental institutions.  You see, in the 1960's mental institutions were filled with those who were declared "unfit" for society.  Some patients admitted themselves to avoid their day-to-day responsibilities.  Suddenly, the whole story clicked.

McMurphy wasn't insane or sick, he just didn't want to act like an adult.  In fact, a majority of the men that he met in Big Nurse's ward weren't sick either.  McMurphy noticed this upon his arrival, and took it upon himself to teach the fellow patients how to live life to the fullest.  Activities such as gambling, watching the World Series despite the tv schedule, and the fishing trip helped each patient open up bit by bit.  His rebellion has a price, but McMurphy is willing to pay as long at the other patients learn their true potential.  McMurphy's teachings are told through the eyes of Chief, an Indian who the hospital staff believe is dumb and deaf.  Out of all the characters, he grows the most.  His childhood flashbacks are proof of that, and, in the end, help him realize how much he's changed for the better.

I understand why this book made Ms. R's Must Read list, and I love how it sparked a conversation between my grandfather and I.  A recommendation to all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: Delirium

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 4

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It's hard to be patient. It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't. 

Review: "Hearts are fragile things.  That's why you have to be so careful."

I think that my love for the dystopian genre has been apparent in some previous blog posts of mine, so you may assume that I enjoyed Delirium right up to the last page.  If you made this assumption, then you are correct... to a certain extent. 

Lauren Oliver's concept of love being a disease that everyone had to be cured from was genius.  I mean, we've all heard the term "lovesick" before so it was only a matter of time before an author took this idea and ran with it.  In Portland - the setting of Lena's story - love is known by its scientific name: amor deliria nervosa.  People are educated about the disease from a young age to the point where they're scared of it, except they can't be cured until they're 18 years old in order to avoid possible brain damage or long term side effects.  Word is after you're cured, all types of pain disappear especially the pain caused from love.  Anyone or anything that has to do with love is banned from the city.  There's heavy segregation between boys and girls, strict curfews, and random house raids performed by the government.  I wasn't even a character in the book and I didn't feel safe.  

Lena was an okay character.  You know... the story is focused on her, but she's not like BAM-OMG-AMAZING.  Her overall adventure is WOW-HOLYCRAP-HOLDUP material starting from her first evaluation where she meets Alex.  Before the 18 year olds are cured, they have to go through a standard interview whose results are used to pair couples up to be married after graduating from school.  Remember, after the cure they have little to no emotions and act like robots just casually walking through life.  Unfortunately, or fortunately for Lena because she wasn't doing so hot with answering questions under pressure, her interview was interrupted by a herd of cows running through the government labs.  That's right.  A herd of cows.  This is the type of thing that makes me wonder if Lauren Oliver was experiencing writer's block and thought to herself, "Well, cows are cool. Maybe I should add those in there and confuse Lena out of her mind."  Although it was the perfect segue to the introduction to Lover Bo- I mean, Alex who just so happened to be hanging out on the roof of the lab.  

Okay, so the girl who is terrified of love and needs to be cured meets a boy.  The rest of the story is predictable, right?  Wrong, nope, incorrecto.  Once I submerged myself in the story (because honestly, I started re-reading this book several times until I got into it), I couldn't put it down.  Technically, I couldn't put my phone down because it was an e-book and maybe that's the reason it took me so long to get into it, but... MORAL OF THE STORY IS THIS: 

Reading this book will infect you with amor deliria nervosa.  And may rekindle your love for reading.

Just a warning.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Book Review: Soul Inferno

Title: Soul Inferno 
Author: Aprille Legacy 
Publisher: Smashwords Edition 
Rating:

Synopsis (via Goodreads): War threatens the country. With King Phoenix taking control of the North, Sky heads to the Tsalskinese Empire to treat with the Emperor, hoping to gain his support in the coming conflict. Can Sky negotiate her way through the long standing prejudice against her country and prove herself worthy of the Emperor’s assistance? New aspects of her power and a mysterious Pirate Queen are just a few of the obstacles standing in the way of an alliance. But little does she know, betrayal is only a whisper away... As both the North and the South clash in fiery warfare, Sky has to make the ultimate choice to ensure the reincarnation cycle is broken for good... Even if it means saying goodbye. Soul Inferno is the final instalment in the Soul Trilogy.

Review: "Soul Inferno is the final instalment in the Soul Trilogy." 
That's it.  My life is over.

I don't remember the last time I was so emotionally invested in a book series.  I had just posted my review of Soul Blaze when Aprille messaged me and asked if I wanted a copy of the third book (uh, of course I would like to get my grimy hands on a copy of pure genius).  Right after it came in the mail, I started to read it.  Then, I found myself not having time to read.  Before long I acknowledged the fact that my stress level was through the roof and I needed an escape from reality - hello, books. 

Once I got back into the story, I couldn't stop.  I loved Sky's journey to the Tsalskinese Empire in an attempt to form an alliance.  For some reason, I felt a Mulan vibe coming from that setting.  Even more so from Myrikan, the Emperor, himself.  I swear he looks like this: 
Moving on... The romance between Griffin and Sky was HOT, HOT, HOT.  (Shoutout Aprille for her smooth writing skills - she implied bedroom scenes, but didn't go into detail).  He made me want an attractive soldier to become my boyfriend.  He couldn't be any cuter, except he did try to kill her in the previous book so... kind of awkward? 

This book was packed with deceit, celebration, loss and triumph.  I was thoroughly impressed with the war action scenes.  (This book is 92% war and 8% Tsalskinese Empire by the way).  They kept me on my toes and, to be honest, were super exhilarating.  "I slit a soldier's hamstring and then his throat as he fell with a wail.  As it gurgled in his chest, I turned and stabbed another who'd lost his breastplate, my sword emerging from his back.  I barely had time to breathe before another man flew at me" (397).  That's.  So.  Awesome.  *cue evil laughter*  

My favorite plot twist - because there are multiple that you don't even suspect (aka Jett, Phoenix; just the ending in general) - is Ilsa.  How badass is a pirate queen with elemental powers?!  She tops Eleanora and Sky on my B.A. scale, meaning she's most likely my favorite character of the entire series. 

Which brings me back to how emotionally invested I was in the Soul Trilogy.  (I made so many facial expressions while I was reading this book that I'm sure my peers thought I was going insane).  I usually fail when it comes to completing books series.  For example, I have yet to finish reading the Harry Potter series.  Or the Heist Society series.  Or The Goddess Test series.  Or the Fairytale Retellings.  Or the Cinder Series.  I better get reading... 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (12)

Waiting on Wednesday is a daily meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It highlights what newly released books us bloggers are most excited to read. 
Title: Breakaway
Author: Kat Spears 
Synopsis (via Goodreads): From Kat Spears, author of Sway, comes a new novel that asks the question: when a group of four best friends begin to drift apart, what will it take to bring them back together? When Jason Marshall's younger sister dies, he knows he can count on his three best friends and soccer teammates — Mario, Jordie, and Chick — to be there for him. With a grief-crippled mother and a father who's not in the picture, he needs them more than ever. But when Mario starts hanging out with a rough group of friends and Jordie finally lands the girl of his dreams, Jason is left to fend for himself while maintaining a strained relationship with troubled and quiet Chick. Then Jason meets Raine, a girl he thinks is out of his league but who sees him for everything he wants to be, and he finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his sister, and trying to hold onto the friendships he has always relied on. A witty and emotionally moving tale of friendship, first love, and loss, Breakaway is Kat Spears at her finest. 
My Thoughts: I haven't read a lot of books told in a boy's POV other than Looking for Alaska by John Green. I think I need to start stepping out of my comfort zone and read more of a variety - as if I put my to-read list on shuffle. Just reading the synopsis for Breakaway made my heart pound with excitement. I want to have a copy to read right now. 

What are you waiting on this week?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Blog Tour: The Breeding Tree

Title: The Breeding Tree
Author: J. Andersen
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Is the opportunity to create the next generation of life a dream come true or a deadly nightmare? When seventeen year old Katherine Dennard is selected to become a "Creation Specialist" in Sector 4, the opportunity sounds like a dream come true. But Kate soon discovers the darker side of her profession - the disposal of fetal organs and destruction of human life. It makes sense, really. In a society where disease and malformations don t exist, human perfection demands that no genetic "mutants" be allowed to live. For Sector 4, "survival of the fittest" is not just a theory - it's The Institute's main mission. When Kate discovers that The Institute is using her DNA to create new life, her work gets personal. In order to save her unviable son, she'll have to trust Micah and his band of underground Natural Born Rebels. The problem is, if The Institute discovers her betrayal, the next body being disposed of could be hers.  
 
Extra Info: Purchase The Breeding Tree at Amazon. Learn more about the book on Goodreads.
 
Author Bio: There’s not much to do growing up in a small town in Western, NY, so J. Andersen wrote stories and won high school writing contests. But in college her writing was limited to term papers. While teaching middle school she began to read young adult books and got serious about writing. She now writes full time, volunteers at the town library, helps to run a School of the Arts at her church, and sings in the church band. She enjoys good coffee—read: home roasted by her husband—crafts, baking, and chasing after her children. You’ll rarely see J. without a book in her hands, and that’s the way she’d like to keep it.
 
Author Links: Author Website; Twitter; Facebook and Instagram.
 
Author Interview - The Story:
1. Some people would say you left THE BREEDING TREE on a cliff hanger. Why did you do that?
Well, I have to disagree a little. I like to find ways to wrap up the conflict but still allow the reader to make assumptions and fill in the blanks. So some may say, “You left me hanging.” But I’d respond that the resolution did in fact resolve the conflict. It might not be resolved in the way some readers want or anticipate, but that’s okay. I want the reader to fill in and predict what happens behind the scenes. It allows for you, the reader, to be creative. I’ve given you all the creativity I have for the moment. Now it’s your turn. =) I remember when Allegiant, the third in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth came out. People went nuts over her ending. They gave the book poor reviews. Personally, I loved it. It resolved the conflict and did justice to the characters and their goals. That’s what makes a good story in my opinion.

2. How do you develop the personality of the characters?
This is a tough question. It’s like asking how we influence the personalities of our children. In some ways we can shape who they are. We help them make choices. We teach them right from wrong. But in others, they are who they are. When it comes to my kids, I have a very introverted son who is crazy about electronics and taking things apart and putting them back together. My middle daughter is my organizer. She’s a little mother who loves to plan activities. My youngest is a ball of energy. She never stops. Did I make them that way? No. They just are. When I create characters, it’s similar. In some ways they just are who they are. A writer really discovers who his or her characters are by putting them in difficult situations. And, let me tell you: sometimes we’re surprised at their reactions. We can make them behave a certain way, but occasionally, they do something unexpected. In THE BREEDING TREE, I loved how Jaxon turned out. As I would write him, dialogue that fit him would surface in my head. Most of the time I didn’t know how to fit that dialogue in, so I’d jot it on a sticky note and wait for the perfect time to use it. In the second and third books, Saul surprised me. He’s a fairly minor character in the first book, but he kept calling to me. He wanted his story told. By the end, he became my favorite character.

3. Which characters are your favorite? Well, I guess I gave that one away in the previous question. Jaxon is definitely my favorite. He made me laugh every time I’d write him. My brother, Matt gave me lots of fodder for Jaxon. There are several one-liners that are straight out of my brother’s mouth. Saul was not my favorite in THE BREEDING TREE, but became so in the later books. Obviously, I can’t go into detail about that until those books come out! =)

4. Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
I have no idea! Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m pretty sure my mind is a little twisted, so strange stories just come to me, but the full answer to that question is God. I finish one story and pray until God gives me another to write. With my first novel, I didn’t want to write it. I even told God that he could pick someone else because I was unqualified. But in the end, he chose me and gave me what I needed to finish.  I believe the same is true of any story I write. There’s an element of who I am engrained in every story I write. It’s something we can’t get away from. Yes, authors try not to intrude on the story or the characters, but in some way, we’re in there. You just have to find us.

Huge thank you to J. Andersen for personally asking me to participate in this book tour! The Breeding Tree has been officially added to my to-read list. =)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: 1984

Title: 1984
Author: George Orwell
Publisher: Signet
Rating: 5

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell's chilling prophecy about the future. While 1984 has come and gone, Orwell's narrative is more timely than ever. 1984 presents a "negative utopia", that is at once a startling and haunting vision of the world — so powerful that it's completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of entire generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions — a legacy that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

Review: "Two and two make five."  "Freedom is slavery."  "War is peace."

Can you see how this book screwed with my mind?!  Not only is this a more advanced piece of literature that is often used for a lesson of AP English classes, but it was way out of my league... and I liked it!

Although slow at first, Winston's curiosity aroused my curiosity and made the wheels in my head spin.  This is not your typical fiction dystopian story, my friends.  You can't read a single page mindlessly - it's nearly impossible to.  It's as though Orwell forces you to think! (How dare he...)

Julia confused me.  She came out of nowhere and her intentions were unclear.  She admits that she loves Winston, but the people in their society are barely able to think for themselves, let alone love.  The one thing I loved about her though was her rebellious spirit.  She knew the risks of defying the government, but she was smart enough to blend into the crowd.

The government was another hard concept for me to grasp.  Was the Party the government with Big Brother as the ambassador, or was Big Brother the government that the Party did the dirty work for?  Did Big Brother truly exist, or was he created to stir fear in the citizens of Oceania?  Even with these unanswered questions (and more that I didn't mention in fear of spoilers), I couldn't get enough of the overall concept - a government that controls everyone's thoughts in fear of them discovering the truth.

 "'There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the Party.  There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother.  There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy.  There will be no art, no literature, no science.  When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science.  There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness.  There will be no curiosity, no employment of the process of life.  All competing pleasures will be destroyed... there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler.  Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless.  If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.'" 

Bet you couldn't imagine a world like that until now... and that is the power of reading. (=

Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review: Hang a Thousand Trees With Ribbons

Title: Hang a Thousand Trees With Ribbons
Author: Ann Rinaldi
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Rating: 5

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Kidnapped from her home in Senegal and sold as a slave in 1761, Phillis Wheatley--as she comes to be known--stuns her adopted country by becoming America's first published black poet.

Review: I tend to forget how much I love historical fiction, especially the slave era.  Although, my favorite time period happens to be the 1920's.  If time travel was a thing, that's what year I'd be in... 

Once I started reading the story of Phillis Wheatley, I couldn't stop.  The first couple of chapters start out with teenage Phillis who has a special meeting with "the most noble men in Boston" to prove her reading and writing skills.  Before the important committee reveals their thoughts, the story flashes back to January of 1761 when Phillis was just a child growing up in a tiny village with her mother and infamous hunter of a father.  At that time, she was known as Keziah.  Keziah/Phillis sneaks out late one night in an effort to meet with her best friend, Obour, but it is there where the two are kidnapped by no one other than Keziah/Phillis' uncle.  

Plot twists, such as the identity of Keziah/Phillis and Obour's kidnapper, were not only a reality during the slave trade period, but was also what encouraged me to turn the page. I wanted to hug Aunt Cumsee, slap Mary Wheatley, joke with Prince, but more than anything, I wanted Nathaniel Wheatley to fall in love with Phillis.

Nathaniel took Phillis under his wing right after his father bought her.  He taught her how to read, he helped her discover her writing talents, he defended her, he encouraged her, he stood by her side... he was practically her older brother.  She wanted more, and so did I.  Except, mixed relationships were unheard of back then.  Probably even frowned upon.  I'm one of those people who strongly believe in "love is love" and that people have the right to choose who they love and not be defined or judged by it.  It's not who you love, it's how you love.

The ending tore me to pieces.  It was no where close to a perfect wrap up.  Older Phillis seemed to have lost her spark and love for life.  She wasn't happy and she wasn't upset; she was just casually going by day by day like a ghost.  With such a successful comeback story, I was hoping for something more.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book Review: Soul Blaze

Title: Soul Blaze
Author: Aprille Legacy
Publisher: Smashwords Edition
Rating: 4

Synopsis (via Goodreads): After a year at the Academy, Rose is sent back to Ar Cena - minus her memory of the past year. As she tries to fit back in to her human life with relative success, her magic returns. An unsuccessful kidnap attempt by rogue mages of the North sends her back to Lotheria, where she is taken prisoner by the Academy Masters. Confused and manipulated, she bargains a way home with the Masters by guaranteeing the only thing they want from her; the death of Phoenix. But the Masters are yet to realise what they've truly unleashed... As Sky's destiny returns to haunt her once again, she realises she can't ignore who she is any longer.

Review: YES, YES, YES! Why did I wait so long to read this book? I mean, for starters, it took me a while to get back into the series because I read Soul Fire a year ago. (That's right, a year ago). Is it sad that I have little to no time to read anymore?

I just love how original this story is. And how I can't predict what's going to happen next. I mean, being surprised at the end of every chapter gets pretty exciting and eventually you end up looking like this:
Sky is such a badass. She does what she wants when she wants even if Phoenix says no (because she's a strong, independent woman who doesn't need a man). I just have a thing for headstrong heroines who are totally against having their significant other define who they are. Even when they are in a relationship, they stick to their guns and stay true to themselves. Isn't that how it should be?

I'm getting off track... Rose isn't home for long before being kidnapped and thrown back into the mystical world where surprise she's actually freakin' queen. (S/O Dad for giving her a heads up on that one). She's reunited with her soulmate, Phoenix, and all seems perfect... but not even the written world can be all sunshine and rainbows. And BAM - that's where Aprille, like any good author, ends the book.

Shockingly, my favorite character in Soul Blaze wasn't Rose/Sky. Remember snobby, rich girl Eleanora who clung to Phoenix for dear life even though they weren't dating anymore? Well, something happened during Rose's missing year and she transformed into the daughter of Black Widow and Hawkeye. I mean, this girl has mad archery skills. She's no longer a girly girl... she's yet another badass heroine. Like Kim Possible. But 100 times cooler. Hands down, my favorite.

Rumor has it, there will be a third installment in this magical series. There better be with that cliff hanger ending that left me like:
P.S. Aprille - keep writing. Please. Just, don't stop.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: We Can Work It Out

Title: We Can Work It Out
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Point
Rating: 3

Synopsis (via Goodreads): When Penny Lane started The Lonely Hearts Club, the goal was simple: to show that girls didn’t need to define themselves by how guys look at them, and didn’t have to value boyfriends over everything else. Penny thought she’d be an outcast for life…but then the club became far more popular than she ever imagined it would be. But what happens when the girl who never thought she’d date a good guy suddenly finds herself dating a great one? She doesn’t need a boyfriend… but she wants it to work out with this particular boyfriend. And he wants it to work out with her. Only, things keep getting in the way. Feelings keep getting hurt. Words keep getting misunderstood. Penny Lane worked hard to declare her independence. Now she needs to figure out what to do with it — and how to balance what she wants with what everyone else wants. In We Can Work It Out, Elizabeth Eulberg returns to the world of her first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club, and gets to the heart of how hard relationships can be… and why they are sometimes worth all the drama and comedy they create.

Review: If it wasn't already public knowledge, I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Eulberg. She happened to grow up in the town I live in and I've been to all but one of her book signings with my friend, Kayleigh. Unfortunately, I feel like I am growing out of the genre she specializes in. Don't get me wrong, We Can Work It Out is the perfect sequel to The Lonely Hearts Club (and I eagerly anticipated its release), but I rolled my eyes during multiple scenes, if not the whole book.

I am no where near a "sappy romantic." (I attempted to read a Nicholas Sparks book once... that didn't go over well). The club that Penny Lane builds up in Eulberg's debut novel is what sparked my interest in the first place. "... the goal was simple: to show that girls didn't need to define themselves by how guys looked at them, and didn't have to value boyfriends over everything else." Talk about girl power! But outlooks change in We Can Work It Out. Now, Penny is dating the hottie who goes by the name, Ryan (who also happens to be the ex-boyfriend of her best friend, Diane).

That's right. Penny Lane is dating the ex-boyfriend of her best friend. Let's pause and talk about this for a second... isn't this one of the golden no-no rules girls live by? To avoid dating boys your friends have already dated? Don't worry. Penny, Diane, and Ryan don't see this as awkward whatsoever. Tracy, Penny's other best friend, is not the funny, sarcastic character readers fell in love with in The Lonely Hearts Club. She hasn't lost her sass, but it appears that she lost her soul. Now, that may seem pretty harsh, but the girl is a completely different person! Trust me, I understand that in reality people change and that in books, we classify it as "character development" but COME ON. Bring back the old Tracy who would jump at the opportunity to date that cute foreign guy who is totally into her.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I was impartial to the characters and impartial to the plot. I didn't feel like I was reading a young adult book - it was more like a throwback to middle school (ew). The most excitement I felt when reading We Can Work It Out was during Diane's basketball games (she finally figured out that she needed to live her own life and start participating in activities she enjoyed) and the announcement of the Club's expansion (what was it, nationwide? global? probably the most successful club in the history of ever?).

I hope this is the last installment of The Lonely Hearts Club. I was content with just the first book...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: The Princesses of Iowa

Title: The Princesses of Iowa
Author: M. Molly Backes
Publisher: Candlewick
Rating: 2

Synopsis (via Goodreads): What does it mean to do wrong, when no one punishes you? A smart and unflinching look at friendship, the nature of entitlement, and growing up in the heartland. Paige Sheridan has the perfect life. She's pretty, rich, and popular, and her spot on the homecoming court is practically guaranteed. But when a night of partying ends in an it-could-have-been-so-much worse crash, everything changes. Her best friends start ignoring her, her boyfriend grows cold and distant, and her once-adoring younger sister now views her with contempt. The only bright spot is her creative writing class, led by a charismatic new teacher who encourages students to be true to themselves. But who is Paige, if not the homecoming princess everyone expects her to be? In this arresting and witty debut, a girl who was once high-school royalty must face a truth that money and status can't fix, and choose between living the privileged life of a princess, or owning up to her mistakes and giving up everything she once held dear.

Review: If you like a book full of snobby, popular rich girls who only care about getting the homecoming crown, then this book is for you! If not, run away. Fast.

I snatched this book after a quick trip to the library (which is never a "quick trip" - let's be real) because of the creative writing class Paige is enrolled in during her senior year of high school and the suspense of a car accident. The creative writing class is literally the only thing I liked about this book. The car accident scene wasn't even climatic. All three went to a party, got drunk, acted stupid, decided to drive and got into a sissy girl-fight while driving resulting in a car accident. Whoop de doo.

Like any other book with the main character being a mean, popular girl there was an intelligent boy. Ethan. He worked at Starbucks and liked to write. That's all I got to learn about him. Shanti was pretty cool from what I read about her. She had that whole "hipster vibe" going for her. Then again, I never really got to connect with her either. Do you see the problem? I literally had no emotional connection to any of the characters. THIS NEVER HAPPENS TO ME. Character connection and development is on the top of my list for Why I Love To Read. So, you can say I'm pretty crushed.

Underneath the main plot of princesses-and-perfection hid the creative writing snippet. (You know, the only thing I cherished about this novel). Unfortunately, this was also clouded by a petty problem. The accusation of Mr. Tremont being gay.
You've got to be kidding me... 

*Warning to those who plan on reading this book: I had a constant urge to chuck this book across the room. The thought of burning it also crossed my mind.* 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Review: Eleanor & Park

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Rating: 5

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Two misfits. One extraordinary love. Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor. Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park. Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. 

Review: "There's no such thing as handsome princes, she told herself. There's no such thing as happily ever after. She looked up at Park. Into his golden green eyes. You saved my life, she tried to tell him. Not forever, not for good. Probably just temporary. But you saved my life, and now I'm yours. The me that's me right now is yours. Always." 

This. I just. 

I can't. 

I fell in love with this book after reading the first sentence. And if you know me, I hate sappy romance novels. I make faces at cute couples at my school for crying out loud. There was just something about Eleanor & Park that made me smile. It could've been the humor (“Because being assaulted with maxi pads is a great way to win friends and influence people."); it could've been the stereotypes (Eleanor wasn't model thin and Park isn't caucasian); but one thing is for sure, I will be reading - and eagerly anticipating - more from Rainbow Rowell. 

Both Eleanor and Park have their own insecurities, but when they are together, they feel like they can be themselves. Maybe this is what made this book so beautiful. The two bond over music and reading comics on the school bus - definitely not your typical boy meets girl. In fact, Park thought she was weird when he first saw her. There was no "love at first sight" in sight! (Kudos to Rainbow for being realistic here). The insecurities continue throughout their story. First kiss? Awkward. Meeting the parents? Cringe worthy. Not-so-normal family life? Spot on. I've never read a contemporary young adult book before that actually came off as practical - as in, it could actually happen. 

I've heard a lot of great things about Fangirl, so I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. At the same time, I really don't want to return Eleanor & Park to the library... 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review: Pirate Cinema

Title: Pirate Cinema
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Tom Doherty
Rating: 1

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In near-future Britain, this is more illegal than ever. The punishment for being caught three times is to cut off your entire household from the internet for a year - no work, school, health or money benefits. Trent thinks he is too clever for that to happen, but it does, and nearly destroys his family. Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London, where slowly he learns the ways of staying alive on the streets. He joins artists and activists fighting a new bill that will jail too many, especially minors, at one stroke. Jem introduces him to the Jammie Dodgers, beautiful brilliant "26" to love and cemetery parties. Things look bad. Parliament is in power of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers-that-be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a gripping movie to change people’s minds...

Review: It only took me two months to finish this book... Oops. 
Maybe it took this long because every time I looked at it I glared at it, or maybe it was because it was awful. I hated it. I have come to the conclusion that I'm not a technology genre type of reader. If you write anything about fixing computers, building computers, hacking or software, you will lose me. Doctorow lost me on page one. 

Out of the three factors I focus on the most when reviewing (characters, plot and writing style) not one stood out. Nothing reeled me in. The main character, Trent, is obsessed with taking clips from original movies and remixing them into his own - similar to fanfiction. In his world, such creativity is viewed illegal and violators get their internet shut off. When this happens to his family, his dad loses his job, his mom loses the medical support she needs, and his sister starts to fall behind in school. So, what does he do? He runs away and continues to make more illegal movies by doing lots of illegal activities. What a genius.  

News flash: running away from your problems never works. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book Review: Insignia

Title: Insignia
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Rating: 4

Synopsis (via Goodreads): The earth is in the middle of WWIII in Insignia, the first entry in S. J. Kincaid's fast-paced sci-fi adventure trilogy perfect for fans of Ender's GameThe planet's natural resources are almost gone, and war is being fought to control the assets of the solar system. The enemy is winning. The salvation may be Tom Raines. Tom doesn't seem like a hero. He's a short fourteen-year-old with bad skin. But he has the virtual-reality gaming skills that make him a phenom behind the controls of the battle drones. As a new member of the Intrasolar Forces, Tom's life completely changes. Suddenly, he's someone important. He has new opportunities, friends, and a shot at having a girlfriend. But there's a price to pay.

Review: I don't normally read sci-fi, but the beauty of Battle of the Books is that I get to explore different genres. Needless to say, I've discovered I'm not the biggest fan of sci-fi. 

The main idea of Insignia is a group of teenagers turned robot from a neutral processor (aka mini computer) surgically installed in their heads after being recruited for the military. Instead of one-on-one combat like the military in today's society, the fighting is done via droids. What are they fighting over? Area in space. Why? I never really caught that. In fact, I think I skimmed over a lot of dull information. For example, when Tom was in class and was learning the politics behind the war. I don't keep up with current politics, so book politics don't get my time of day either. The plot was promising, but didn't get me excited, take my breath away, or give me the urge to chuck my copy at the wall. (Some books can do that to you).

What surprised me is the love I had for the characters. There wasn't a large amount of growth for any of them, and most of the conflict fell on Tom's shoulders, but they each had their own unique personality -- personalities you don't usually find in books. Vik is the smartass best friend who supports Tom throughout his journey at the Spire. They called themselves the Doctors of Doom during their programming class even though the best program they created made people fart constantly... you know, 14-year-old boy humor. Wyatt is the smartest girl at the Spire, but tends to blend into the background. She's a socially awkward programming wizard who doesn't know how to celebrate her own victories because she's so modest. Yuri is thought to be a spy because he's Russian (the enemy), so his processor is scrambled. When the other Combatants are being given classified information during class, he blacks out. All four had their own quirks, which made their relationships comedic. *Honorable mentions: Medusa (the undefeated fighter for the Russo-Chinese forces), Neil (Tom's alcoholic stepfather) and Nigel (the bullied nerd who quietly plots revenge on everything and everyone).*

The one question that comes to mind after finishing Insignia is this: Why is it a series?! It doesn't need to be a series. Pretty sure this one book had four different storylines crammed in between one cover. It would've been a great standalone.

Come on, S.J. Kincaid. You're breaking my heart.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Book Review: The False Prince

Title: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic
Rating: 5

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together. An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats. 

Review: Book two of the five I'm responsible for reading during my Battle of the Books competition is another winner of the awesomesauce award! I've had the best luck recently when it comes to books and their kickass plots. I'm going to be thoroughly depressed when I stumble across a dud... 

Sage (picture Aladdin) is an orphan who is trapped in an orphanage run by a horrible woman (picture Miss Hattie from Despicable Me) and often finds himself in trouble -- stealing food, what else? -- when one day, out of nowhere, nobility knocks on the orphanage door requesting Sage personally. While other orphans would see this opportunity as a way to live a new life, Sage figures that he'll just be taken in as a servant. (You know, nothing too extravagant). The snowball of a plot starts rolling and the reader quickly discovers Conner's motives are nothing but evil and Sage seems a little bit too comfortable in the royal castle. Lie after lie, test after test, Sage transforms into Conner's false prince, which may or may not turn out for the better. 

Although a bit slow in the beginning, The False Prince was, as stated in the synopsis, "an extraordinary adventure." I felt that all the characters were well-rounded and the plot was something original. You don't come across a book about good 'ole kings, queens, and castles every day! While Sage was learning about the nobility line, I did get confused, but it wasn't of utmost importance so I shook it off as a minor detail. 

The conclusion was beautiful. To be honest, I think my face looked something like this: 
Who am I kidding? 

My face looked like this during the whole book... 

I regret nothing.