Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Blogger Hop Oct. 1-4

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy-for-Books. It's a chance for book bloggers to interact, make new friends, and most importantly, share their love of books!

Anyway, this week's question is:

How do you spread the word about your blog?
(e.g. Social Networking sites, Book Blog Directories, comments on other blogs...)

This question was definitely not made for me! I'm a relatively new blogger (new in the sense that I started in July, spent the entire month of August in Texas, then came back in September and started it up again :P) and I'm not sure if you guys have noticed, but I have no idea what in the world I'm doing. I've heard from other people to social network, but I suck at that (every tweet I do makes me cringe; I think it screams "I'm networking socially!"). So, mostly I just try to link reviews to my very few twitter follows and I took up Jennifer's own Book Blogs Ning  advice a while ago. But aside from that, I'm just floundering wildly in the dark.

I'm more interested in YOUR guys' answers! This newbie needs tips. :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Series: The Seven Kingdoms #1
Pages: 471
Genre: Fantasy
Release: October 1, 2008
How Received: Library

Summary: 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, and in her case horrifying, 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.

My Thoughts:
Immersing ourselves in the world of the Seven Kingdoms was slightly confusing. There were so many kingdoms to remember, and it was a challenge remembering which king belonged to which kingdom. Even after reading the book, I only really know the kingdoms of Middlun, Lienid, and Monsea, as these three kingdoms were the primary focus of the storyline.

Kristin Cashore’s prose was elegant and she was able to weave a tale that I felt I was in. Her descriptions were perfect – exuding details to the very tiniest point. The pacing in this book was absolutely lovely – it was a very fast-paced novel. Time wasn’t a stranger in this book: we knew exactly how much time had passed during certain events, and it was easy to keep a timeline of what had transgressed during the main characters’ absences. The plot was fleshed out really well and it was easy to accept the concept of Graces.

The characters were written so in-depth; perfect, yet flawed at the same time. You could see the character development as time progressed. We got a lot of time to get to know the characters, down to their every nuance. Katsa is so strong-willed, yet very humble when it comes to the power she wields. She despises her Grace of killing and uses it as little as possible. She always does the right thing. Po was just a charming little doll. I loved him sooo much. <3 He was charming, witty, and a perfect match for Katsa. I sympathized with him so much at the end. Secondary characters, like Raffin and Bitterblue (how awesome is it that a princess has the name Bitterblue?), were easily loveable. Even characters, such as Bann, Skye, and even Giddon, were easy to like, despite the meager amount of “face time” they have.

The climax seemed a little... rushed, but I can see why it happened the way it did. The last pages after what happened in Lienid were... well, I have to admit they seemed unnecessary to the novel. Sure, we wanted closure and a lead up to the next novel, but I couldn’t help but think that it was just 50 pages of filler. But regardless, I'm really excited to see what happens in the next novel in the series (which I had the fortune to check out), Fire! 

Cover Musings: So pretty. <3 The color scheme, the knife – even the eyes! Simple, but very lovely.

Memorable Quotes:
“‘It would look stunning, My Lady,’ she called, ‘with your dark hair and your eyes.’
[...] ‘If there’s anyone I wish to stun at dinner, I’ll hit him in the face.’” (pg. 63)

"‘What in the name of Lienid have you done to your face?’
‘It’s nothing, Grandfather. I’ve only been fighting.’
‘With what, a pack of wolves?’
‘With the Lady Katsa,’ Po said.”" (pg 85)

“A monster that refused, sometimes, to behave like a monster. When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?” (pg. 137)

"Skye kissed her forehead. ‘You saved my life.’
Katsa smiled. ‘You Lienid are very outward in your affection.’
‘I’m going to name my firstborn child after you.’
Katsa laughed at that. ‘For the child’s sake, wait for a girl.’" (pg. 433)

Overall Comments/Final Thoughts: Graceling is a fantastic fantasy novel, full of twists and turns, ‘magic’, and adventure. The pacing was outstanding and I never once got bored. It’s a long book, but the pages breezed by and before I knew it, I was done. A definite recommend for other fantasy lovers, and for anyone who might be interested in trying out the fantasy genre. :)

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forever Cover Reveal!

Maggie Stiefvater revealed her cover for Forever, the third and final installment of her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, on LJ yesterday! The post to the original reveal is located at here. Cover art was designed by Christopher Stengel. Check out the cover:

This cover is really pretty. <3 I didn't like it as much as the other covers, though. I was expecting a more subtle color scheme. Should I be worried that the book containing answers to the cure has a red cover?! It reminded me more of blood than the color of love. xD But anyway, it's still gorgeous, like the others. And it has Saaaaaam on it!

You can pre-order an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Forever from Maggie's favorite local indie store Fountain Bookstore. Forever is roughly scheduled to release in July of 2011!

So, what do you guys think of the cover? :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic

Series: Hunger Games #1
Pages: 374
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: October 1, 2008
How Received: Library

SummaryCould you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? 

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

My Thoughts
At first, I had my reserves about this series. I had heard about it from reviews, but the entire concept of the Hunger Games repulsed me enough to not really want to read. But when I actually sat down to read The Hunger Games? It did not disappoint. At all. It was full of such epic epicness! Within the first few chapters – the first, actually – I was hooked. I couldn’t put the book down, even if I had tried to.

I loved Katniss. She’s my newest favorite character. She’s strong, level-headed (most of the time), and will stop at nothing to protect those she loves. I was easily won over when she placed herself in front of Prim despite the certain death that would consequently await her. If there was a definition of epic, it would be Katniss.

Peeta was a lovely counterpart to Katniss. He had such charisma that he won me over with the littlest of promptings. He was comic relief and just plain funny despite the grim situation. I loved how he was the “weak” one, when men are usually portrayed as the big, macho protectors of our weak female heroines. The roles were definitely reversed in this book.

The plot was just... epic. The concept of the Hunger Games is repulsive, yet it reels you in, all the same. I found myself wanting to know what happened, to see which kid died, and how. Katniss’s predicament in the arena is so raw, and real, and I found my heart quickening with each page turn. It was so intense that I had to fight myself from not jumping ahead a few pages. I couldn’t take the suspense! There were a few times, I have to admit, that my eyes wandered ahead. I couldn’t help it! The one thing that totally got me was the scene where District 11 gave her the bread, and the scene preceding it. I was bawling.

The ending was just as awesome as everything else. Katniss is even more in danger than she was before. I love it.

I’ve seen all the Team Gale vs Tale Peeta buttons out there, and I have to say (for now, at least) I’m Team Peeta all the way.

Cover Musings: I wasn’t too impressed with the cover for The Hunger Games. That’s probably why I didn’t pick it up sooner. But after reading it? I looooove the cover, for all it symbolizes, and the Mockingjay pin!

Memorable Quotes:
[I had a hard time with quotes, because they either spoiled something or had to be taken in context, so.. I apologize for my meager amount of quotes D: ]

“At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means goodbye to someone you love.” 24

“I guess all those hours decorating cakes paid off.”
Peeta smiles. “Yes, frosting. The final defense of the dying.” (252)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: I freaking LOVED The Hunger Games. I don’t know what else I can say besides that. I said epic about a gazillion times in this review -- that's how darn good this book was! I felt like each page turn was like crack. It was sooo good; I’m dang addicted now! If you had the same reservations about this series as I had... FORGET THEM. Just pick this book up right now! Go Peeta! <3

Rating: 5/5

Book Trailer! :3 I was going to post another video, but it was a bit spoilerish, so I decided on this instead.

** This post is a challenge entry in the September Spectacular Challenge #5

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review: Aurelie: A Faerie Tale by Heather Tomlinson

Aurelie: A Faerie Tale
Author: Heather Tomlinson                                 
Publisher: Square Fish
Series: N/A
Pages: 184 (Hardback)
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: September 2, 2008
How Received: Library

Summary: Once upon a time, three children and a little river dragon were the best of friends—until a promise was broken. Now they are almost grown up and barely speaking to one another. With her country in turmoil, Aurelie is sent on a peacekeeping mission. But how can she prevent a war when she can’t even make her friends get along? Heartsick at losing her dearest companions, especially the handsome Garin, Aurelie finds comfort in her secret, late-night trips to fairyland. But a princess can’t hide from her duties forever. Her country needs her, and so do her friends—whether they know it or not.

My Thoughts:
Aurelie is a short fairytale novel about four childhood friends – three children and one dragon (or drac). I think the premise of the novel was pretty good; it was the execution of it that lacked. A lot.

Nothing is really explained in this novel. We know there are Fae, but we aren’t explained what each one is. The only explanation is a very mini one for drac’s. It was difficult distinguishing what each country was. Names of places, people, and faeries are thrown at us without any real meaning. The children are sworn to secrecy about their ability to see Fae, and that it’d be disastrous if anyone knew about it. But what was so disastrous, besides becoming blind?

Descriptions were non-existent – we didn’t know what the Fae looked like, what the main characters looked like, what the countryside (besides Skoe) looked like. It was just a jumbled mess of non-description.

The characters were very one dimensional – they just lacked all around. We know that Netta is shy, Garin is brave, Aurelie is proud, and Loic is mischievous. But that’s it. I hated how everything was forgiven so easily – and that it took place off screen. If these friends didn’t speak for 2 years, why were they all happy and dandy after a few sentences of speaking? And why were they separated? I understand why they refused to see Loic, and why Netta didn’t want to see Aurelie and Garin, but why did the latter two not speak to each other?

Time isn’t distinct in this novel. One moment, we were reading about Aurelie in her room and the next paragraph, she was suddenly somewhere else, with no word whatsoever as to how she got there. One minute she’s in the dining room of the guesthouse, the next she’s at the docks with no explanation that she’s moving.

Cover Musings: I thought the old cover had a certain charm that fairytale’s do, but I can’t say I’m very fond of the new cover. I like how they incorporated the white eagles – the symbol for Jocondagne – but the model and the awkward color scheme is just... eh.

Memorable Quotes:
“No, its not their lies that trouble me; it’s the ingratitude. Show them marvels, they’ll take it for their due. Share your innermost self, and they forget you. Best friends one day, and the next—what’s the quaint expression? They ‘grow up’.” (pg. 82)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: This novel had every potential of being good, but it was too choppy and fragmented and lacked too many things. I did like the story though, once I looked past the fact that it was a story only half there.

Rating: 2/5

Contest Craze Mini Challenge #1

The Contest Craze is hosted by Princess Bookie. You can check out details here.

For today's challenge, all you have to do is pick your top 5 most wanted books of 2011 and why you want them. I already had 3 in my mind before I even considered entering the challenge. To be honest, I had a hard time choosing only five.

5. Awakened by P.C. and Kristin Cast(House of Night #8) 
Releases January 4, 2011
Definitely my guilty pleasure novel -- so many people scorn my love for the HoN series! I absolutely adore it, though. Zoey returns from the Otherworld after suffering the loss of her human consort and ex-boyfriend, Heath. To be honest, I just want to find out what happens between Zoey and Stark (in the throngs of Zoey's MANY men, I'm Team Stark all the way). I really also want to know what happens between Stevie Rae and Rephaim as they struggle through their budding romance and differing allegiances. 

4. The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa (Iron Fey #3)
Releases February 1, 2011
I'm not anticipating this much as I should, seeing as I have it on number four. I just really want to see how Julie Kagawa wraps up the final decision Meghan made in Never Never. I don't see how she can avoid going back to Never Never, as she's obviously needed there. I'm also holding on to the small sliver of hope that Meghan regains her senses and swings back to Puck. I always seem to go for the "under-dog", because I'm whole-heartedly Team Puck. =x

3. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Releases January 4, 2011
I mostly chose this because the cover is gorgeous beyond belief. I was blown away when I first saw it. Then I started seeing good reviews popping up left and right like candy. I've never read a book about angels, really (I haven't had a chance to get Halo), so I'm really intrigued about the plot. An added plus is it's partially set in California, and I gotta say I always have Californian pride when I'm reading books. =P! 

2. Blackveil by Kristen Britain (Green Rider #4) [cover not revealed]
Releases February 2011
Ohhh. Myyy. Gooooodness. I can't even begin to tell you how much I want this release so badly. I first read the first book to the series almost 10 years ago (it was published in 2000) and third book three years ago. So I have been waiting a long ass time for Blackveil! I love the Green Rider series so much -- it's absolutely amazing, and it's a shame I don't hear this book talked about more. I can't wait to see what happens with Karigan. I need to know what's going on with Alton (I'm rooting for a KariganxAlton pairing), and the whole weird King Zachary-Estora-Karigan triangle.

1. Illusions by Aprilynne Pike (Wings #3) [cover not revealed, but will be in December of this year!]
Releases May 8, 2011
This book couldn't be released fast enough. I would give an arm or a leg to get this book. I haven't loved a series as much as I've loved Aprilynne Pike's series since Anne McCaffrey's Dragonrider of Pern series. That is saying a lot. Her series was admittedly the first faerie book I read (which led me to Julie Kagawa's series later) and is the reason I came across wonderful things like Goodreads, and book bloggers, and authors interacting with their fans. She started it all for me, basically. :P Anyway, on to the book. She left it on a cliffhanger (which she admitted to not consciously doing -- she didn't think it was that big) that is making me itch in my seat right now, thinking about it. I also want to see what happens in the Laurel-David-Tamani triangle. I wanted to smack Laurel when she chose David. I'm so hardcore Team Tamani that I boycotted reading David's scenes on my second and third re-reads (not that my boycott did anything but make me feel better about LaurelxTamani). I hope this novel incorporates more Avalon in its story and less human world, because the portion we got of Avalon in the second book made me want more! Did I mention I want to know what the deal with the cliffhanger is?! I absolutely CAN NOT WAIT FOR THIS BOOK, so much so that I had to caps it.

Other books I can't wait for, but didn't list:
1. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
2. Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
3. Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
4. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
5. The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
6. Fourth book to the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini
7. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
8. Entwined by Heather Dixon

Aaaaand I should probably stop there before my list exceeds 50. :/ There are many, many, MANY more. 

What are your most anticipated books of 2011? Let me know, and then head over and enter Princess Bookie's contest, yourselves! :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Book Blogger Hop Sept. 24-27

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy-for-Books. It's a chance for book bloggers to interact, make new friends, and most importantly, share their love of books!

This is my very first hop! :) I've seen the hop around since I've started blogging, but I haven't gotten around to it. Why? Oh, simple. I'm just lazy! :P

Anyway, this week's question is:

When you write reviews, do you write them as you are reading or wait until you have read the entire book?

I never write a review while I'm reading the book. I'd end up marking down the entire book in my review and come up with a 6-page Word review if I did! I write my reviews after I've finished a book -- usually immediately after, so it's fresh in my mind. I do, however, write down notes on Word while I'm reading. I tend to forget things I want to say or mention if I leave it up to memory, so I'll have little post-it notes all over my book to "focus on this section, Kristina!" I also scribble down quotes, but that took too long and slowed down my reading, so I just have post-it notes for the page numbers of quotes I'd want to include in my review.

How about you all? :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Random House
Series: Maze Runner #1
Pages: 374
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction
Release: October 6, 2009
How Received: Library

Summary: When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is black. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as they could remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the maze after dark.
The Gladers were expecting Thomas’s arrival. But the next day, a girl arrives in the lift—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might be able to find their way home... wherever that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the maze is unsolvable.
And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers—if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.

My Thoughts:
I’m not new to dystopian novels, but I didn’t know what I was getting into when I picked up this book. I honestly picked it up because there were no other titles that piqued my interest on the “new releases” on my libraries shelves. So I didn’t know it was dystopian.

Let me tell you, I felt as confused as Thomas did when he got to the Glade. I had no idea what was going on, and I wanted answers. The speech was weird—off—because the Gladers have separate words for things, like “klunk” for “poop”. I almost gave up because I hated the way the Gladers spoke. But like Thomas, after a few pages, I was pretty much used to it.

I didn’t think much of the novel at all in the beginning. I just kept going to see if something would get answered. Before I knew it, I was sucked into the book. Hook, line, and sinker.

Dashner posed us with more questions than answers throughout the entire novel, and I felt compelled to find out what was going on with the Glade. Through the quest for answers, Thomas encounters the fear that engulfs the Gladers: Grievers. Grievers are monstrous things with needle like things that prick you; if you don’t get the Grief Serum, you die. The only thing keeping the Grievers out is the walls surrounding the Glade.

I was downright paralyzed with fear for 3/4th’s of the novel. My heart pounded every time Thomas encountered a Griever (especially the night in the maze) – imagine how he felt, actually living it! He was so grounded, so fearless. He was also a bit whiny at the beginning, but I can sympathize for why. My only gripe about him was that he seemed too perfect. The fact that he’s smart was reiterated at least five times. It seemed almost like everything was falling into Thomas’s lap: he was the one who needed to save Minho and Alby, he figured out the key to the maze, he helped find the Griever hole. He found out all the answers without really trying to.  

This book reminded me a lot of Lord of the Flies – the premise of it was survival of the fittest.

Cover Musings: It’s lovely, for a dystopian science fiction book. The spikes between the walls just screams ominous!

Memorable Quotes:
“The creature was a horrific mix of animal and machine, and seemed to realize it was being observed, seemed to know what lay inside the walls of the Glade, seemed to want to get inside and feast on human flesh.” (pg. 39)

“‘Think about it. Our memories are wiped. We live inside a place that seems to have no way out, surrounded by bloodthirsty monster-guards. Doesn’t that sound like prison to you?’ As he said it out loud, it sounded more and more possible. Nausea trickled into his chest.
‘I’m probably twelve years old, dude.’ Chuck pointed to his chest. ‘At the most, thirteen. You really think I did something that would send me to prison for the rest of my life?’” (pg. 64)

“‘Shouldn’t someone give a pep talk or something?’ Minho asked, pulling Thomas’s attention away from Alby.
‘Go ahead,’ Newt replied.
Minho nodded and faced the crowd. ‘Be careful,’ he said dryly. ‘Don’t die.’” (pg. 329)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: The Maze Runner was so action packed, suspenseful, and fast-paced, I didn’t have to worry about being bored. Event after event after event unfolded almost one right after the other and kept me hooked. The emotional connections with the characters could use development, because I only ever really worried about two characters in the novel (Minho and Chuck). But really, the suspense made up for any other area that lacked development. I really can’t wait for The Scorch Trials, and I’m so glad I don’t have to even wait that long!

Rating: 4/5

Extras: This book trailer freaked me oooout, and made me realize I probably can’t watch this series if it became a movie, haha. But check it out: it’s pretty cool.

Also, don’t miss out on the release of the second novel of the Maze Runner series: The Scorch Trials It comes out on October 12, 2010!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Need by Carrie Jones

Author: Carrie Jones
Publisher: Bloomsbury U.S.A Children’s Books 

Series: Need #1
Pages: 306
Genre: Paranormal, YA
Release Date: December 28, 2008
How Received: Library

Summary: Zara White suspects there's a freaky guy semi-stalking her. She's also obsessed with phobias. And it's true, she hasn't exactly been herself since her stepfather died. But exiling her to shivery Maine to live with her grandmother? That seems a bit extreme. The move is supposed to help her stay sane...but Zara's pretty sure her mom just can't deal with her right now.

She couldn't be more wrong. Turns out the semi-stalker is not a figment of Zara's overactive imagination. In fact, he's still following her, leaving behind an eerie trail of gold dust. There's something not right - not human - in this sleepy Maine town, and all signs point to Zara.

In this creepy, compelling breakout novel, Carrie Jones delivers romance, suspense, and a creature you never thought you'd have to fear.

My Thoughts:
As much as I hate comparing books to other books, I had to with this one. The beginning of Need was so reminiscent of Twilight, it wasn’t even funny. New girl in a small town, it’s cold – she hates the cold, she falls down on the first day of school as she’s walking to her new ride, the hospital near the end. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt myself going back through time when I first read Twilight. Hell, some of the lines even sounded the same.  

I really didn’t know what to expect from this book, and let me tell you – even without a clue about what’s going on at the beginning, this book delivers.

So, not knowing what was going on, I accepted the pixie “sub-plot” pretty easily. Werewolves? Okay. Were-tigers? Uhh... I’ll let that slide. No vampires? That’s where I draw the line. You have an entire army of these other mythical creatures, and no vampires? That’s just odd. But yes, despite the seemingly normal title, Need IS paranormal with lots of shiny creatures.

Our main character, Zara, is dealing with loss, a new romance, potential stalker, and phobia on top of phobia. She’s depressed, hollow, and stubborn. I think she was meant to be portrayed as a strong character, but she’s really just a stupid one. She goes to danger and ends up with concussions, broken limbs, etc. I mean cmon... There is only so much physical harm the body can take. Have some self-preservation. If she had waited for half of the bad scenarios she got caught in, I’m sure there’d be more favorable outcomes. I loved Issie – she’s hyper, eccentric, and loves bunnies. Who wouldn’t like her?! She was a nice, bubbly contrast to Zara.  I also liked the fact that there was a parental figure in Zara’s life – that almost always seems to be missing in YA novels. Betty was so badass for a grandmother, and it seemed like she bended over backwards for Zara.

The novel didn’t drag too much, if at all. A lot of the story revolved on moving forward, and action from here to there. Something was always happening. And goodness, PLOT TWIST GALORE. I was only able to predict one plot twist, and that was only because it was super obvious. I’m usually up to par with some plot twists, but goodness, I did not see at least 2 of them coming AT ALL. My mouth hung open – it takes a lot to do that, so kudos to Need for catching me off guard so badly.

I love that the title Need incorporates into the story, in a way I wouldn’t have expected it to – I thought it was more of a need for... romance, or saving, or some sort. You’ll see what I mean. But it was super cool. =)

Cover Musings: THIS COVER IS GORGEOUS. Gah! I’m in love with it so much. I love it even more now that I know it actually has significance and ties in with the story! Sooo much love.

Memorable Quotes:
“It’s a lot easier to understand things once you name them. It’s the unknown that mostly freaks me out.” (pg. 1)

“'The keys are right here
She drew an arrow pointing at the keys, next to the note on the table, like I’d miss them.” (pg. 19)

“I used to be the type of person who was always in motion, always doing things, writing letters, running through the streets, laughing with my friends, moving. Always forward. Moving.
                Then I got stuck. My dad died and the only words I hear are death, deadly, stillness. To never more. No forward. No backward. Just stuck. Gone forever, like my dad, a blank screen on the computer, an old photograph in the hall with no spirit in it, an ice patch on a road to nowhere, nothing. Just gone.”  (pg. 62)

“Nick laughs. Dimples crinkle up the skin near his lips. I will not look at his lips. How can he never have used those? That’s a crime against humanity right there.” (pg. 101)

“Fear pushes my feet faster, makes my heart speed up too fast. It pounds against my chest, trying to escape. But from what? A voice? A shadow? I came out here to find him. He’s found me.” (pg. 111)

“Everybody has fears, right? But how many of us have my fear? Enough, it seems. Because there’s a name for it.
Fear of oneself” (pg. 306)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Need was a pretty good book – I’d recommend this to any YA lovers out there. The pacing was good, the characters were enjoyable, and the plot was semi-unique. The inclusion of phobias made this a rather fun and quirky read – much like our main character. Zara’s and Nick’s romance was sweet, and I actually enjoyed seeing how it progressed. This actually would have been a great standalone book, but I realized it’s a series, so I’m rather curious as to how the story will expand.

Rating: 4/5

Random, fun phobias in the novel that applied to me:
Fear of being stared at.

Fear of being the third wheel

The fear of darkness

Fear of being ridiculed

Fear of being alone

** This post is a challenge entry for the September Spectacular Challenge

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
Series: N/A
Pages: 290
Genre: Fiction, romance
Release Date: June 9, 2009
How Received: Library

Summary: "Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

My Thoughts:
I... am pretty much speechless. I don’t even know how I can begin to review this book without marring it somehow.

Twenty Boy Summer is a heart-wrenching story about love, loss, friendships, and moving on. Sarah Ockler’s prose was lyrical, poignant, and beautiful: this book is beyond stunning. This book is so tragically honest and full of raw emotion. This book moved me.

Don’t be fooled by the title. It sounds like a light, warm read – it’s not. It will tear you up with the grief and spit you back out again. I can’t begin to tell you how many tissues I used throughout this whole book.

The premise of the book was light, and fun, enough. Twenty boys for the twenty three days they’d be in Zanzibar Bay. Even so, Matt’s death loomed over the entire family like a cloud of repressed, raw emotion.

Grief is a funny thing to deal with. For those of us who have lost someone through death, it’s... It’s like a part of you dies along with them, especially if your bond was really close. I felt myself empathizing with Anna – I couldn’t help but feel transported back to 8 years ago when I lost someone closer to me than anyone else. I felt the same way she had when Matt died: lost, alone, abandoned, frozen in time.

I couldn’t help but love Anna – I connected to her the most. She was gripped in the throngs of despair, but she had to be the strong one. She had to take care of the new wild-Frankie, and always took a back seat with her feelings. No one ever bothered to ask how she was. No one bothered to notice that maybe she was hurting just as much as they were. I couldn’t connect with Frankie. She was just the annoying, out of control best friend Anna had. I know I shouldn’t count that against her, since it – sex, smoking cigarettes, excessive flirting, attitude – was the way she dealt with Matt’s death; the way to get her parents to acknowledge her again. But I did count it against her. I hated her near the end of the book – and if you read this, you’ll see why. It was hard to stay mad at her, though.

Most Memorable Scene: The scene near the end with Anna’s journal, the banished mermaid, and the ocean... I was so torn up with grief and my tears that I had to stop reading and get some air. 

Cover Musings: I always thought the cover was lovely. After reading this, I thought it was pure amazing. I knew what the glasses in the heart meant; I saw the red piece of glass. My heart broke again. This is such a beautiful, symbolic cover.

Memorable Quotes:
THIS NOVEL IS A MECCA OF QUOTES. If I didn’t have the library copy, I would have torn this novel up with high lights. I have about 60 quotes from this novel alone.

“When someone you love dies, people ask you how you’re doing, but they don’t really want to know. They seek affirmation that you’re okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (it’s three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that’s about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will.)” (pg. 73-74)

“When it happens, you’re totally unprepared, fragmented and lost, looking for the hidden meaning in every little thing. I’ve replayed the events of that day a hundred thousand times, looking for clues. An alternate ending. The butterfly effect.” (pg. 88)

“I just swallow hard.
Nod and smile.
One foot in front of the other.
I’m fine, thanks for not asking.” (pg. 273)

“Nothing ever really goes away – it just changes into something else. Something beautiful.” (pg. 289)

Overall Comments/Final Thoughts: The girls’ journey to moving on was such an emotional roller coaster – one moment you were crying with them, then laughing, then getting angry, then crying again, and then getting hopeful. This novel was beyond brilliance, capturing grief, guilt, anger, and hope perfectly. A definite must read! 

Rating: 5/5

Read an excerpt here on Goodreads. 

Giveaway: Princess Bookie's Contest Craze

Princess Bookie is hosting her Contest Craze during September 27 through October 9. Every day there will be a new contest with separate challenges. It looks like it's going to be really fun! :)

Click here for the actual post and more information (I'd probably just butcher the info).

Guess what, Contest Craze Will be starting a week from Monday (September 27th)! It will last two weeks this year with the major blowout contest day on October 9th. Each day there will be a special contest or a little mini challenge to participate and win! 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Review: Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson

Claire de Lune
Author: Christine Johnson
Simon Pulse
Series: Claire de Lune #1
Pages: 336
Genre: Paranormal, fantasy, YA
Release Date:
 May 18, 2010
How Received: Library

Summary: Torn between two destinies?

Claire is having the perfect sixteenth birthday. Her pool party is a big success, and gorgeous Matthew keeps chatting and flirting with her as if she's the only girl there. But that night, she discovers something that takes away all sense of normalcy: she's a werewolf.

As Claire is initiated into the pack of female werewolves, she must deal not only with her changing identity, but also with a rogue werewolf who is putting everyone she knows in danger. Claire's new life threatens her blossoming romance with Matthew, whose father is leading the werewolf hunt. Now burdened with a dark secret and pushing the boundaries of forbidden love, Claire is struggling to feel comfortable in either skin. With her lupine loyalty at odds with her human heart, she will make a choice that will change her forever?

My Thoughts:
This story isn’t your average werewolf story – you don’t get bitten to become one, people/the media know that werewolves exist and actively hunt them, and the pack is entirely matriarchal. The premise of the story confused me at times. I go into books without reading summaries. I like being “blind” about a story, lest something on the back sways my judgment while reading. So, with that said, I had no idea what the hell was going on besides Claire dealing with her three month change into a werewolf and being whiny about having to lie. There was no real action, and we didn’t even get a subplot, until the end.

I’ll start with Claire. After Claire’s rockin’ 16th birthday part, she finds out she’s a werewolf. She spent a lot of time in denial – and I mean a freaking lot. I wanted to slap her at the beginning and tell her to just go with it, since you can’t change it. We’re constantly reminded that Claire HAS TO LIE and that she doesn’t like it. After the tenth or twentieth time, you’d think we knew by now that Claire hates lying and that she’s going to whine about it for a few paragraphs. I couldn’t connect with Claire. Not really. She’s your typical rebellious teenager who is too self-absorbed to notice the shit pile she’s walking into.

The other characters... eh. Emily was just there for annoying banter for a few paragraphs. Lisbeth was just... there, as well. We never got to experience or see who the wolf pack members were for ourselves. Again, they were just there.

The one thing I did like about this story was the progression of Matthew’s and Claire’s relationship. It wasn’t a look—then BAM, we’re in love. It was slow, it was sweet, it was romantic. Matthew was such a gentleman at times. I didn’t, however, like their awkwardness. I felt like screaming every time there were awkward silences.

The progression of the story was very dull. It was mostly Claire whining, and then trying to learn how to be a werewolf, and then we’re back to Claire whining. Repeat and rinse. It only picked up near the end (and it wasn’t much of a pick-up). I have to admit that I almost fell for the red herring Johnson threw at us. But then I realized the one she cast as suspicious couldn’t have been the culprit – the times never matched up.

One thing I despised about this story was the lack of description and detail. I never even knew what Claire looked like, other than a really vague description about her. Other characters got even more vague descriptions, which were limited to their hair colors. And the werewolves – people knew about them. But how did they know? How did this lycanthrophy research society set itself up? There was just too many “why’s” and not enough answers – I mean, I know it’s a fantasy novel, but at least throw us a bone, give us some vague idea.

I guess, however, the lack of description worked in a way – it made this a really fast read.

Cover Musings: Oh gosh, the one thing I absolutely loved about this novel! The cover is so pretty. The model, the moon, the sentence, and even the brush they used behind “Claire de Lune” is absolutely gorgeous!

Memorable Quotes: 
“The truth of who she was, what she was, hung over her like a lead umbrella. Her mother had told her over and over that it would get easier, that Claire would become like an oyster. ‘The truth, chérie, the secret—it is like a grain of sand. You must hold it inside the way an oyster does, smoothing it over and over until it becomes a jewel that makes you stronger, more valuable, even though no one can see it inside you. It will only hurt at first.’” (pg. 259)

“Claire sighed. ‘I wish I could, but I’ve got some, uh, girl stuff to do later. I think I’d better stick around here tonight.’
‘Girl stuff’? Is that what we’re calling it now?’” (pg. 321)

“Every part of her felt right—her silky fur that caught the wind, the pads of her feet against the soft dirt—it was perfect. The feeling of release was so great that Claire couldn’t hold back the cry that rose through her. She threw back her head and howled. Around her, she could hear the others join in, calling out to the moon above them, the ground below, and the forest that circled them tight.” (pg. 335-6)

Final Thoughts/Overall Comments: I wanted to like Claire de Lune more than I did, but I couldn’t. The book itself was okay; I liked it. But it wasn’t extraordinary, or something I’d fan about. It was just a good book, and I’ll probably read its sequel whenever it comes out.

Rating: 3/5