Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Jumpstart the World
Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Series: N/A
Pages: 192
Genre: Lgbt
Release Date: October 12, 2010
How Received: Author

SummaryElle is a loner. She doesn’t need people. Which is a good thing, because she’s on her own: she had to move into her own apartment so her mother’s boyfriend won’t have to deal with her.

Then she meets Frank, the guy who lives next door. He’s older and has a girlfriend, but Elle can’t stop thinking about him. Frank isn’t like anyone Elle has ever met. He listens to her. He’s gentle. And Elle is falling for him, hard.

But Frank is different in a way that Elle was never prepared for: he’s transgender. And when Elle learns the truth, her world is turned upside down. Now she’ll have to search inside herself to find not only the true meaning of friendship but her own role in jumpstarting the world.

My Thoughts:
There is so much I want to say about this novel, but I don’t want to make this too long, so I’ll try to keep it as brief as I can.

Jumpstart the World is about acceptance and learning to adapt and to trust. A huge chunk of the book revolves around the way Elle reacts to and deals with finding out her neighbor, and crush, Frank is a transgender. She does a lot of thinking and reevaluating her beliefs, because that revelation shocks her so much and she has no idea how to handle it. The narrative is honest – as honest as a sixteen year old can get – and full of interesting and different perspectives on everyday issues.

Elle really surprised me. I started out disliking her (because she sounded too similar to me, but more harsh), but over time, I felt myself loving her for her personality. She starts out as a loner – as someone who pretends that being alone is okay and that she needs no one. In the end, she blossoms into this independent young woman who knows how to count on others and to let people in and wants to be directly involved in activism. Her transformation is visible – you can see she makes an effort to make friends and struggles with transforming the ideals she’s held from the beginning. She adapts to her situations as needed. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but that’s what’s great about her: she’s sixteen and totally flawed.

One very prevalent aspect of this book I noticed was the similarity between Elle and her cat, Toto. It was almost as if Elle was the embodiment of Toto’s personality. Toto wasn’t beautiful, no one wanted him, and he shut everyone out/hid all the time. Elle could relate to this – she stated that she did not need people. Yet both Elle and Toto made amazing transformations – they just needed someone to love (Frank with Elle; Elle with Toto) them for them to flourish, thrive, and break out of their shells.

There was no romance in the book, per se, but Elle was always dealing with her feelings of love with Frank. Frank, of course, never returned those particular feelings – he had a girlfriend – but they shared a different kind of love, one that was comfortably settled between friendship and romance. And it worked that way – you could tell they both loved each other very much, just not in the way Elle would have liked, and it was very tender reading about their more-than-friends-but-not-lovers exchanges.

Cover Musings: Red is always a great color to attract someone’s attention. On a cover that only includes gray, black, and white, I give them props for being able to grab my attention. Now, people who haven’t read this won’t really understand why there’s a cat on the cover (or maybe you will? I’m not a cat owner; I wouldn’t know how cats behave!). But having read this and knowing it’s Toto’s personality to hide/shy away from others, this cover makes absolute sense and I’m glad the image of a cat was chosen instead of a model.

Memorable Quotes:
“I’m taking that cat. I want the black one. You can’t talk me out of it, so don’t even try.” I was already starting to understand him. To feel for him. Or maybe even to feel with him. He was scared. He was not cuddly. He was not beautiful. If I didn’t take him, he was as good as dead. He was about to be given the death penalty for not being beautiful. Someone had to come along and love him just the way he was. I was that someone. (pg. 3)
 It’s not like I didn’t appreciate his help. And it’s not like I was judging him for his life choices. It’s more like... If I could just have more time to swallow things. Or maybe have things hit me in smaller pieces. I felt like life was always pushing too much down my throat too fast.
It was giving me serious indigestion. (pg. 96)
 We would never treat anybody like shit if we knew they could be about to die. I mean, anyone we care about even a little. If we knew they could die, we would just freaking get over all the petty crap, because losing someone you love is more important than any of that. But, now, here’s the part that actually took up some of the hour: Anybody could be about to die. Every single person we care about is going to die. And we have no idea when.
So how can we afford to treat anybody like shit? Well, that’s the easy part. We can’t. But here’s the harder part: Since we all know for a fact that we’re all going to die, why don’t we all treat each other like we could lose each other at any minute? (pg. 124-125)
 I was hugging my cat.
We sat that way for a long time. Maybe an hour. It meant more to me than if I’d gotten a friendly cat. If a friendly cat had done this with me, that wouldn’t have been such a big thing. But this was Toto.
“Poor Toto,” I said. “See? That’s not so hard. You just have to take a deep breath and let somebody love you.” (pg. 181)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Jumpstart the World is a novel that surprised me, really. I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did – I had initial reservations because Elle seemed so close-minded, whereas I’m more open-minded, so I wasn’t sure how that would work well. It did, though. The pacing was great and the narrative was honest; I genuinely enjoyed experiencing Elle struggle with her ideals. The issues involved with sexuality were very interesting, but I thought they could be developed a bit more. I loved the similarities between Elle and her cat, Toto, and the idea that all you need is someone to love you for who you are.

Rating: 4/5

**This book was provided for review by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Catherine! :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Birthday to me~ Giveaway

So, I've been taking it easy review-wise this week. I've been getting things ready for next week, because I won't be here, and have been particularly been lazy since Thanksgiving. Why?

Because today (the 27th) is my 21st birthday! I'm officially 252 months; 1095 weeks; 7670 days; 184082 hours; 11044924 minutes; 662695445 seconds old today! (And no, I didn't do that on my own - my cousin messaged me that; I'm the mathematically challenged one in the family!) I can officially drink and get wasted... legally. ;)

I am a Thanksgiving baby. I was supposed to have been born on Thanksgiving in 1989, but apparently I didn't want to come out. So, Thanksgiving is my birthday every four years. It wasn't this year, of course. I think 2012 is the next one... ? Anyway.

For my birthday, I'm giving away a signed copy of The Scorch Trials by James Dashner. It was released last October 12, 2010 by Delacorte Press. Yep, one lucky person will win the sequel to The Maze Runner! If you haven't read the Maze Runner series, I highly recommend it. In fact, you can check out my review of The Maze Runner here. (Shameless advertising; it's my birthday, I can do what I want, right?) What the heck does The Scorch Trials have to do with my birthday, or any birthdays for that matter? Absolutely nothing. But it's a good book. ;)

Contest Rules:
- Only open to US/Canadian residents. Again, so sorry international folks - I'm way too poor to afford int. shipping. I'm so poor I can't even buy myself a celebratory drink for happy hour today. :(
- No PO boxes, please.
- Giveaway ends December 11 at 11:59PM PST.
- Must, must fill out the form! While comments are appreciated (especially the "happy b-day" ones!), I won't accept entries made from the comments.

Required Extra Entries:
This one is SUPER easy. All you have to do to get an extra entry is wish me a happy birthday on the form under the designated box. Since I'm feeling particularly happy today, I might add a second extra entry with how creative/mushy you get. ;)

Breaking it down in case I was confusing:
+1 Tell me happy birthday
+2 Creatively or mushily (it's a word now, dangit!) tell me happy birthday. :P

Now, before you think I'm lame for asking that/making it required, know that I'll be completely and utterly alone on my birthday. My entire family abandoned me, haha. So, I'll be in my room, wishing I could afford a drink, singing, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to..." Lonely bookish hermits need some b-day love, too!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, all! :) Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite holiday (and not just because it's around my birthday!), even moreso than Christmas. I love the good food - turkey and gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, garlic green beans, cornbread, stuffing, apple cider - and the time I get to spend with my family.

I'm quite thankful for a lot of things this year, because 2010 was a tough year overall. I've had more downs than ups, and was struggling for a long time with depression.

So, the first thing I'm thankful for is you. All of my followers, readers, stalkers (yes, I'm staring at you, Emi). It's been such a wonderful opportunity to talk with you all over our common interest in books. It's been even greater to become friends with you guys outside of my blog, as well. I know I say this a lot, but I'm very thankful for you guys because you encourage me with your kind thoughts and comments.

I'm thankful for books and my book blog. I know that sounds weird, but it's true. I was struggling for a long time just finding a will to live. But when I turned to books, I was able to forget my woes and worries; I was able to forget the world. From books, I found this wonderful thing called the book blogging community and decided to join it on a whim. Boy, did I not know what I was signing up for. My book blog takes so much of my time, and while that is daunting to some, it made me really happy. I was able to be productive and have something to focus on other than my sadness.

I'm thankful for my mom. We may have our ups and downs (more downs, haha!) and we may fight constantly. Ultimately, though, we love each other. She's always there when I need her, even at midnight when I wake her up, crying. She's the reason I'm still here - she fought so hard to get me to graduate high school, and with my teachers and psychiatrists who didn't believe in me. The main point was that she believed in me. She's done her best to keep me happy, and I love her for it.

I'm thankful to my ex-boyfriend for breaking up with me. We were both miserable, but stayed in our relationship for who knows what reason. Through him, I found out the things I am not looking for in a guy. This might come off as petty and bitter, but I assure you - it isn't. My relationship with him was a huge learning experience for me, and made me realize what qualities I do want in a relationship, none of which he had. If it weren't for him, I would probably still be in a miserable relationship with him, and I wouldn't have started reading books as passionately as before, and I wouldn't have met you all because I wouldn't have started a book blog.

I'm thankful to my dogs. They provide me with comfort and love me unconditionally. They're always happy to see me, or be around me, and will always bring a smile to my face. They're there when I need a shoulder to cry on, or when I need someone to walk with, or when I'm just plain feeling lonely.

I'm thankful to my brother for making me not want to kill him this year. ;P

I'm thankful to my sister-in-law for making my brother change in ways my mom and I couldn't.

I'm thankful to baby Malea, my niece that is due in January. She's changed my brothers life, and my life, and she brings meaning to our entire family every day. I want to be someone she can be proud of calling her aunt, so because of her, I strive to do my best every single day.

I'm thankful to my cousins, for being beacons of support and for accepting me back into their ranks with open arms.

I'm thankful to my friends for the same reason. They had every right not to talk to me again, but most of them came rushing back to my side when I needed them the most.

I'm thankful to Gabriel for reasons I won't mention. But I'm very thankful of him.

Lastly, I'm thankful for all of the authors who have supported me and took a chance with my book blog. Your constant support and kind words are what drives me to continue to produce quality reviews.

Although this was not the best year for me, I've met some wonderful people and had a great circle of support this year. I wouldn't trade what happened this year for the world, because it made me a stronger person. I'm very thankful for this year.

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and eat so much good food you get a food-induced coma (because I know that's what I'll be doing!).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares
Author: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Publisher: Random House
Series: N/A
Pages: 260
Genre: Fiction, romance
Release Date: October 26, 2010
How Received: Random House

I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

My Thoughts:
From page 1, I was absolutely drawn in by this book. It is not only cute and light-hearted, but it's also quirky and humorous. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I had to put this book down because I was laughing so hard! Like all books written by David and Rachel, this book has excessive swearing – not so much as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, of course, but enough to warn those of you who screen their books.

Dash’s character was so enlightening to read – he’s hilarious and cynical half of the time, but he’s still very loyal and a well-rounded guy. I absolutely fell in love with him, and found myself looking forward to his passages more than Lily’s. David really fleshed out Dash’s character without over-rambling about him. There aren’t many teenage boys like Dash out there, but I know they exist, and reading about Dash makes me really want to meet and/or befriend one!

Lily, on the other hand, is Dash’s polar opposite: she’s very innocent and na├»ve, and she finds joy in things Dash scoffs at. While I appreciate Rachel experimenting with a different type of character personality, she incorporated too much of her writing in the character. That probably makes no sense. Having read Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, I noticed that David had the shorter passages while Rachel had much, much longer passages that would involve a lot of internal monologues and tons of meaningless ponderings. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares was no exception to this. I felt like I was reading about Norah, with a new name and a new personality slapped on. Rachel’s portrayal of Lily was too reminiscent of her previous writing; I would have liked to see her style differ from these two characters.

Aside from that, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares was a very quick, cute read. The pacing was great (well, aside from Lily’s narratives...) and a lot happened in such a little amount of time. I loved how Dash and Lily equally challenged each other to increasingly embarrassing dares, and how they clicked with words and a few common interests rather than physical attraction. The gradual romance (and let me tell you, it is very gradual!) was so cute to read about. I can’t even begin to tell you how unique the plot is – how cool is the idea of having a red notebook filled with dares inside of it? I’m almost tempted to try it out, myself!

Cover Musings: I freaking adore this cover! It’s just really... I have no words. I just love it. The snowflakes are falling down in little hearts, how cute is that?!

Memorable Quotes:
Imagine this:
You’re in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author’s books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook.
What do you do?
The choice, I think, is obvious:
You take down the red notebook and open it.
And then you do whatever it tells you to do. (pg. 1)
 I took French Pianism with me (we’d grown close; I couldn’t leave her) and went to the information desk, where the guy sitting there looked like someone had slipped a few lithium into his Coke Zero.
“I’m looking for Fat Hoochie Prom Queen,” I declared.
He did not respond.
“It’s a book,” I said. “Not a person.” (pg. 7)
I turned to find Priya, this girl from my school, somewhere between a friend and acquaintance—a frequaintance, as it were. She had been friends with my ex-girlfriend, Sofia, who was now in Spain. (Not because of me).
“Hi, Priya,” I said.
She looked at the books I was holding—a red Moleskine, French PianismFat Hoochie Prom Queen, and, open to a rather graphic drawing of two men doing something I had heretofore not known to be possible, The Joy of Gay Sex (3rd edition). (pg. 10)
Two days before Christmas Eve.
She might as well have gift-wrapped my face and pumped the carbon dioxide in. Or hung me on a noose of credit card receipts. A department store two days before Christmas Eve is like a city in a state of siege—wild-eyed consumers battling in the aisles over who gets the last seat horse snow globe to give to their respective Great-aunt Marys.
I couldn’t.
I wouldn’t.
I had to. (pg. 27-28)
 I reached right under Santa’s coat. To my horror, I found he wasn’t wearing anything underneath. It was hot, sweaty, fleshy, hairy... and his belly was this massive obstacle, blocking me from the envelope. I had to lean over to angle my arm in order to reach it, the whole time having Santa laugh, “Oh ho ho, ho ho oh ho!” in my ear. I heard the elf scream, “What the hell!” and various parents start to shriek. Yes, I was feeling up Santa. (pg. 36)
 “He eats yogurt?” Mark asked. “What kind of teenage boy is he?”
“Lactose tolerant!” Boomer said. “Dash loves yogurt, and anything with cream in it, and he especially likes Spanish cheeses.”
Mark turned to me consolingly. “Lily. Sweetie. You realize this Dash may not be straight?” (pg. 205)
I looked up from my plastic bag filled with giant poo.
Of course.
It was Dash.
Who else would find me at just this moment? First he found me drunk, now he found me cleaning up poo from a barking pony who was about to go into attack mode. (pg. 210)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares was such a wonderful and cute novel. It’s set around Christmastime, so I’m probably going to re-read this closer to Christmas! It’s that good. I loved the romance between these two characters and I loved reading about their quirks and fears. I think I might have loved D&L more than N&N because the character development was such a step up from their previous novels. I felt so close to Dash and Lily, and I felt like I knew them personally. That’s the mark of a good book to me.

Just a sidenote: I have never been sidetracked into re-reading a novel while pulling out my favorite quotes until I pulled out the quotes for this book. I find myself wanting to re-read it right now!

Rating: 5/5

Giveaway: Sundays At Tiffany's by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Jane Margaux is a lonely little girl. Her mother, the powerful head of a New York theater company, makes time for her only once a week, for their Sunday trip to admire jewelry at Tiffany's. Jane has only one friend: a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael. He's perfect. But only she can see him. Michael can't stay forever, though. On Jane's eighth birthday he leaves, promising that she'll forget him soon. He was there to help her until she was old enought o manage on her own, and now there are other children who need his help.

Years later, in her thirties, Jane is just as alone as she was as a child. And despite her own success as a playwright, she is even more trapped by her overbearing mother. Then she meets Michael again--as handsome, smart and perfect as she remembers him to be. But not even Michael knows the reason they've really been reunited. 

Sundays at Tiffany's is a heart-wrenching love story that surpasses all expectations of why these people have been brought together. With the breathtaking momentum and gripping emotional twists that have made James Patterson a bestseller all over the world, Sundays at Tiffany's takes an altogether fresh look at the timeless and transforming power of love.

Sundays at Tiffany's is now a Lifetime original movie from Sony Pictures Television and will be airing on Mon, Dec. 6 at 9 PM ET/PT, 8PM CT.

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group, I have one paperback copy of Sundays at Tiffany's to offer you guys in celebration of the Lifetime movie release! :)

Contest Rules: 
- Only open to US and Canadian residents (sorry International folks!)
- No PO boxes, please.
- Giveaway ends December 7 at 11:59PM PST!
- Must fill out the form - while comments are appreciated, I will not accept entries made in the comments.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger

The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Little Brown
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: September 7, 2010
How Received: Won 

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

My Thoughts:
I picked up The Duff because I wanted a light-hearted read, and someone had recommended it to me as such. It was definitely that, and more (the romance seriously made me giddy a couple of times there!). A word of forewarning for those of you who screen books: this book uses f-bombs and other vulgar words out there like they’re toilet paper.

Bianca was such a lovely character to read. Not because I love cynical girls, but because she wasn’t your typical Mary-sue goody-two-shoes. I enjoyed reading her narrative because it was so far, yet so close, to how I would react or how I’d think in certain situations. She’s level-headed and attempts to rationalize through things as best as she can, even though she hates nearly everything. But the best part about Bianca? She makes mistakes. A lot of them. I loved the realism to her character, because girls do sometimes forget about their friends when they have a new love interest or other things going on. They have boy problems and hate the world and have self-esteem issues, and when you’re a teenager, it’s a very confusing time. I loved how well these issues translated into Bianca’s character. The only thing I didn’t like that involved Bianca was that we really never got to form our own opinions of her. Kody gave us adjectives to describe Bianca (like cynical, blunt, stubborn, smart, etc.) and usually when I’m explicitly given adjectives for a character, I never get a feel for who that character is. Small dislike, but dislike nonetheless.

Wesley, the main love interest (sort of? lol), was equally as intriguing as Bianca, and I’m a bit sad we didn’t get to see more of him. I enjoyed reading about him every single time, because the one thing he was is unpredictable. He had so many dimensions to him—it was almost like we were looking at a person with a very blatant public face and private face. On the outside, he’s confident, arrogant, man-whorish, and a jerk. On the inside, he’s gentle, caring, a great listener, lonely, and just wants to be accepted for who he is.

I really, really wish we had gotten more romance from Wesley and Bianca. I mean, what we got was great, but I wanted more! Their “fling” starts off with a bang and gets rolling right away, but their gradual interest with each other was what I loved the best. Bianca initially hates Wesley, but he grows on her after a time, and it was a refreshing change of pace in comparison to other novels. At the end, I couldn’t help but be giddy with everything Wesley was throwing at Bianca. That “Wesley Rush does not chase after girls, but...” line at the end had me going nuts! (I got giddy again right now just thinking about it!)

Mostly, I think this book was great for the message it delivered. Names like DUFF (which stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend), or slut, or bitch, etc, are hurtful, even when they aren’t meant in a mean way. Even the strongest of girls will be put down, no matter how much they deny it doesn’t hurt them. And also, everyone will feel like a DUFF at one point in their lives. I know I have, and I still do. Beauty is subjective, and while you think your best friend is the most gorgeous person on the planet, she might think she looks hideous. But perhaps being the Duff is also a good thing, because it means you have friends to be compared to; you’re not alone, and that’s what matters.

Cover Musings: The cover is what grabbed me, really. I mean, huge DUFF splayed across the entire cover and partially covering the girls face. How could I not be intrigued? Then I got close enough to see what DUFF meant (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), and was sold. I had never heard of this term before, so props to the design team for piquing my interest.

Memorable Quotes:
“You, darling, are the Duff.”
“Is that even a word?”
“Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend,” he claried. “No offense, but that would be you. It’s not like you’re an ogre or anything, but in comparison...” He shrugged his broad shoulders. “You have hot friends... really hot friends.” He paused, watching the action on the dance floor for a moment, before facing me again. “The point is, scientists have proven that every group of friends has a weak link, a Duff. And girls respond well to guys who associate with their Duffs.” (pg. 6)
 “I know you hate him,” she continued. “I wanted to make sure you were fine... and that he was okay, too. You didn’t, like, stab the boy, did you? I mean, I totally disapprove of murdering hotties, but if you need help burying the body, you know I’ll bring the shovel.” (pg. 72-73)
 When we reached the door of the unused janitor’s closet, I had no feeling of shame... not yet, at least.
I grasped the doorknob and noticed Wesley’s eyes narrow with suspicion. I yanked open the door, checked that no one was watching, and gestured for him to go inside. Wesley walked into the tiny closet, and I followed, shutting the door stealthily behind us.
“Something tells me this isn’t about The Scarlet Letter,” he said, and even in the dark I knew he was grinning. (pg. 83)
 “But I was wrong,” she said. “I thought I could escape from my problems, but I was so wrong, Bianca. No matter where you go or what you do to distract yourself, reality catches up with you eventually.” (pg. 125-126)
 The lump wasn’t going away. It just kept growing. All of my worries and fears had been leading up to this moment, and I couldn’t fight them back anymore. I couldn’t keep them bottled up. Tears started gushing down my cheeks, and before I knew it I was sobbing.
How had this happened? It felt like a bad dream.
I felt like my world was finally spinning out of control. And this time, I couldn’t deny it. I couldn’t ignore it. And I definitely couldn’t escape it. (pg. 173)
 That was something we all had in common. We were all sluts or bitches or prudes or Duffs.
I was the Duff. And that was a good thing. Because anyone who didn’t feel like the Duff must not have friends. Every girl feels unattractive sometimes. Why had it taken me so long to figure that out? Why had I been stressing over that dumb word for so long when it was so simple? I should be proud to be the Duff. Proud to have great friends who, in their minds, were my Duffs. (pg. 257)

Overall Thoughts/Final CommentsThis was the perfect book to break me out of my sad funk lately. It had a very light-hearted premise. While it dealt with a few deep issues, it didn’t delve too far or get me too depressed reading about it. The Duff had some very strong messages about self-esteem, and I would recommend it to any teenager (that doesn’t mind excessive swearing). The romance was cute, and Wesley was so amazing from every angle. Not only does this book have great messages to deliver, but it screams realism at you – I loved Bianca, her outlet with Wesley, her gradual romance with him, her two best friends. This book was just plain honest and it was done well.

Rating: 5/5

**I submitted this review to the 2010 Debut Author Challenge!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren with inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.

The idea of IMM is to encourage blogger interaction and expose books to our readers' attention. You aren't limited to books that you've received via mail; you can also include books you've bought or checked out at the library.

So, this week was pretty slow compared to the last few weeks. But I still received some very awesome books! :)

From the Library:
Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw

From Giveaways:

Personal Demons by Lisa DesRochers
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder [Ana @ The Crafting Insights]
Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey [from my awesometastic bestest freind, Emi @ Oktopus Ink]

I included this because I technically did get it in the mail, although it isn't a book. It's equally as awesome, though! My best friend sent this to me as an early birthday gift. :)

Edible Arrangements: Chocolate Dipped Apples and Strawberries - mixed toppings (coconut, plain, and nuts)
(We named the bear Charlie :P)

So what did you all get in your mailbox this week? 

Also, don't forget to check out my CSN gift certificate giveaway! Ends 12/3!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

The 2011 Debut Author Challenge is being hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I was kind of late in joining the 2010 Debut Author Challenge, so I'm excited to start the 2011 one at the very beginning! I've currently read 9 debuts so far for 2010's challenge (in three months), so I think I might challenge myself to twenty one 2011 debuts. There are so many great debut novels this year that I was going to read anyway - it'll be like killing two birds with one stone.

The Challenge: The objective is to read a set number of YA (Young Adult) or MG (Middle Grade) novels from debut authors published in 2011. Reviews must be submitted via Mr. Linky.

My List:

  1. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
  2. XVI by Julia Karr
  3. Timeless by Alexandra Monir
  4. Vesper by Jeff Sampsen
  5. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  6. The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
  7. Choker by Elizabeth Woods
  8. So Shelly by Ty Roth
  9. Angelfire by Courtney Allison-Moulton
  10. A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford
  11. The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
  12. I am J by Cris Beam
  13. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  14. Entwined by Heather Dixon
  15. Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
  16. Clarity by Kim Harrington
  17. Rival by Sara Bennet-Wealer
  18. Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
  19. Wildefire by Karsten Knight
  20. The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
  21. Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
I'm hoping to at least get through these 21, if not more. I already either have plans to read these, are signed up for tours with them, or have them in my possession. 2011 looks like it's going to be a great year!

More information about this challenge can be found here, and sign-ups are located here. :) 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday Nov. 19-22

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 week's question is:
Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!
I'm thankful for you all, truly. My followers, readers, friends. I've been going through a bad time recently, and blogging, as well as the people in the book blogging community, has made things a lot more bearable for me.

My holiday traditions usually include a mash-up of Thanksgiving and my birthday (AND I HATE IT; I want them separate, dangit!). My aunt and uncle and two cousins come over and we celebrate Thanksgiving at my house and we gorge ourselves on turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, and sparkling cider. Then we all talk for a good hour or so, until our stomachs are settled. And lastly, we do a mini-birthday celebration for me and eat cake. Not too exciting. But it's good food! :D

Follow Friday is a weekly meme posted on Friday's that is hosted by Parajunkee @ Parajunkee's View. To join, all you have to do is follow the host and the week's featured blogger. Then put your name on the linky, grab the button, and follow, follow, follow as many people as you can! If someone comments and says they're following you, be a dear and follow back -- it's all about spreading the love during Follow Friday! :)

This week's question is:

How long have you been book blogging??

It's technically my fifth month. I started at the end of July, but I was gone for most of August and only really started up in September so that's how I count it. So, three months. :3

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a $55 dollar gift certificate from CSN! Ends 12/3!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Giveaway: CSN Gift Certificate

CSN is comprised of over a variety of 200 online stores where your everyday purchasing needs can be met. CSN has everything—from a counter stool, to comfy beds to lounge in, and even bookshelves!  They have chosen my blog to be a host for a giveaway. You have a chance to win a $55 gift certificate for all participating CSN stores!

Most items in the stores come with free shipping and there is an array of items that are under $55 for you to pick from, or you can use it for a larger purchase. I’m kind of already jealous of the winner! Might I suggest, for those of you who do not have a bookcase (like myself), this particular bookcase?

I’d be all over this bookcase. But you’re free to do as you please with your gift certificate!

- Enter on the FORM below. I do appreciate comments, but please do NOT try to enter via comments.
- Ends on December 3 at 11:59PM PST.
- Must be a follower
- Only to US and Canadian residents only (sorry International folks!).
*Please be aware that CSN ships to US  for free, but if you're from Canadia, you might have to pay for international shipping charges.

[Extra entries]:
+1 for tweets. You only receive 1 extra entry; you may repeatedly tweet if you like, but I won’t add any extra points after your initial tweet.
+1 for mentioning this giveaway anywhere on your blog (sidebars and giveaway pages are fine)

Enter HERE.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review: Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton

Tyger Tyger
Author: Kersten Hamilton
Publisher: Clarion Books
Series: Goblin Wars #1
Pages: 322
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: November 15, 2010
How Received: Netgalley

SummaryTeagan Wylltson’s best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures—goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty—are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn’t worried. Her life isn’t in danger. In fact, it’s perfect. She’s on track for a college scholarship. She has a great job. She’s focused on school, work, and her future. No boys, no heartaches, no problems.

Until Finn MacCumhaill arrives. Finn’s a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either’s he’s crazy or he’s been haunting Abby’s dreams, because he’s talking about goblins, too... and about being The MaCumhaill, born to fight all goblin-kind. Finn knows a thing or two about fighting. Which is a very good thing, because this time, Abby’s right.

The goblins are coming.

My Thoughts:
The best thing about Tyger Tyger was the mythology that was drawn throughout the entire story. The fantasy-geek inside me went crazy with love for this books mythology. I absolutely mean it when I was say it was beyond riveting. There were goblins—which were essentially faeries—and shape-shifters and aingeals, and a plethora of other fascinating beings. This story drew out a lot of Celtic mythology—in fact, it was centered throughout the entire novel—and I felt myself becoming more interested in the mythology than Teagan’s quest. I especially loved that Finn was based on a real Fionn MacCumhail. I found myself wanting to hear more about the goblins and their ways of life.

I loved Teagan as a main character, because she reminded me of myself sometimes. Kersten outwardly states that Teagan doesn’t talk much—she’s more quiet and interested in her smarts, rather than anything else. So when I found out she doesn’t have many lines in the novel, it didn’t bother me; however, if it hadn’t of been stated, that would have been the first thing I complained about. Sometimes, it felt as though Aiden was there just to give Teagan voice. Aiden was very charming for a six year old, and very brave—I would have been terrified if I were facing goblins at age six. He’s inquisitive and actively tries not to be a burden. He was hardly ever annoying, and that’s a huge plus for me, especially since he was such a young age. Finn was also a great character, but I wish we had gotten to see more character development from him. When he came into the story, he was very mysterious and had that Irish bad-boy thing going on for him, but then he was suddenly this caring guy who spilled out his inner-most secrets whenever Teagan asked. If it were me, I would not be sharing lifelong secrets without at least some resistance. I did, however, love how dedicated he was to Teagan and how he followed her into perilous circumstances.

The romance between Teagan and Finn definitely took a back seat in this book. I almost didn’t think there would be one. I also didn’t like the way it started out: Finn immediately said that he was interested in Teagan, and he had barely met with her for an hour. But even though it had a quick start, their “romance” dragged out, because both Teagan and Finn refused to act upon or acknowledge their feelings. If there is one thing I’d like improved in the next novel, it’d be a step up with the romance.

The pacing was great – it starts off a bit slow, but it picks up near the end. I couldn’t get through the pages fast enough. There was action around almost every corner. The plot was unique and I loved the twist Kersten takes with the goblins. There were a couple of small grievances I had, such as the ease the group had to get out of Mag Mell at the end (they spent a long time just reaching Fear Doirich, the villain, and what seemed like a few minutes just getting out), and the way they took Fear Doirich down—was ducktape really all that was needed to stop, or at least hold down, that much of a powerful goblin? It seemed as if these were just easy ways out. They didn’t ruin the book for me, of course, but they were minor complaints.

Cover MusingsI love it—it looks like a painting! I love the colors of the forest – the greens, browns, and yellows – and the insignia at the top.

Memorable Quotes:
Just a note: my page numbers might be off, because I had an e-galley copy.
“You turned red all over, Finn,” Aiden said helpfully. “So did Teagan. As red as Kool-Aid.”
The back of Finn’s neck went from pink lemonade to Blastin’ Berry Cherry.
“Yeah,” Aiden said. “Like that.” (pg. 177)
 “No,” Teagan said. She held up the toe. “You are going to promise not to call the Dark Man, or tell him anything about us.”
“Why would I do something so stupid?” the goblin asked.
“Because if you don’t, I will swallow your toe.”
“That’s disturbing,” Finn said. (pg. 210)
 She scooped up a spponful of slime from the bowl Ginny Greenteeth had brought. It was dead tadpoles in thick jelly. No wonder the frog folk hated Ginny. She made their children into pudding. (pg. 233)
 They blew through the light, swerving to miss a gray Toyota Prius. Teagan glanced in the side mirror. The hellhounds were still coming.
“What are those things?” she asked.
“Hybrids,” Raynor said. “Strange, aren’t they? Half combustion, half battery powered. I think I might like to drive one. We all have to do our part for the planet. But I’m not quite decided...” He glanced at her. “Oh, you meant the hellhounds. I thought you were talking about the Toyota.”  (pg. 269-270)
 She made it to the middle of the roof before she collapsed, hugging the duct tape. It seemed like a million years since the day Finn had told Aiden that duct tape could fix anything. Well, it couldn’t fix this. (pg. 300)
 “I hate it. I hate what I’ve done. But I’ve started down that path, haven’t I? It’s in my blood.”
“You’ve got choices, like any other creature,” Finn said. “You can stumble down that road, pretending you can’t help it. You can curl up and die of regret and sorrow for what you’ve done. Or you can get up and fight, even though the battle might be lost.” (pg. 302)
Overall Thoughts/Final CommentsTyger Tyger is an awesome book that’s rich in mythology with a couple of great characters and well-placed humor for comic relief. I think it was a great debut novel for Kersten, and I can’t wait to see where she goes with the sequel. If you love fantasy or mythology, I’d highly recommend this book.

Rating: 4/5

**This review was submitted in the 2010 Debut Author Challenge
*I received this as an e-galley from Netgalley - Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt! 

Hunger Games: Katniss and Rue

Okay, so, I'm always late on things as I'm sure you've noticed. This is one of those things I'm late on. You might have seen this video on other blogs already, but for those of you who are living under a rock like I am, this is for you.

Warning: This is spoileriffic! If you have not read the Hunger Games yet and don't want to be spoiled, don't watch. And there is blood/acts of violence - for those that are squeamish and/or under the age of 17.

This whole scene just makes me speechless and I end up sobbing like a lunatic. Seeing it in action is more... The actors were just... Yeah, I'm just speechless overall. I'm going to go sob and eat a pint of ice cream and drown in my sorrows for a while.

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on:

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
Releases December 7, 2010

The astonishing final novel in Richelle Mead's epic series!

Murder. Love. Jealousy. And the ultimate sacrifice. Now, with Rose on trial for her life and Lissa first in line for the Royal Throne, nothing will ever be the same between them.

Why I'm waiting on Last Sacrifice:
I just recently had a Vampire Academy marathon in October and completely and utterly fell in love with this series. If you have not read it yet, STOP READING THIS POST AND DO SO NOW. :P I can't wait to see what happens, and how Richelle wraps up her series. Great, now that I'm talking about it, I can't wait until the 7th. -_- I promise you that I will not be around on the 7th, because I will be reading this book. Guaranteed. 

What are YOU waiting on this Wednesday? :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Post at Bookish Novelties

Today I'm guest posting at Ashlie's Bookish Novelties (formerly known as Page Turners Gone Wild) with a review of Nightshade! If you'd like, check out my review here. ♥

Thank you for asking me to guest post, Ashlie! I'm beyond flattered!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren with inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.

The idea of IMM is to encourage blogger interaction and expose books to our readers' attention. You aren't limited to books that you've received via mail; you can also include books you've bought or checked out at the library.

For Review:

Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms by Mark Whiteway
Huntress by Malinda Lo

From Giveaways:

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce [Randombuzzers]
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare [Steph @ Thoughts of a Book Junky]
The Candidates by Inara Scott [Inara's twitter contest - who knew my Dragonrider of Pern obsession would win me a book? :P]
The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur [Kathy @ I Am a Reader, not a Writer]
Karma Bites by  Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas [Steph @ Thoughts of a Book Junky]

Also from Steph:
Awesome pop rocks (I ate them already and didn't picture them, but she gave me a 3-pack of pop rocks!)
A ginormous Halloween pencil
Comfy Halloween socks
A ghost whose eyes light up (hurts my eyes when I stare at it too long)
A karma bites bracelet (she never mentioned she was sending me this, so that was a nice surprise!)
A holographic OWL notebook. With OWLS. I was mesmerized shifting them back and forth.
Aaaand tons of swag that I forgot to picture and I'm too lazy to redo it, so you'll just have to believe me when I say it's awesome.

So what did you all get in your mailbox this week? ♥

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Once a Witch
Author: Carolyn MacCullough
Publisher: Clarion Books
Series: Witch #1
Pages: 292
Genre: Paranormal
Release Date: September 14, 2009
How Received:  Library 
SummaryTamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin’s magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agreed to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all.
 My Thoughts:
Once a Witch involves a classic story where the main character, Tamsin, just doesn’t fit in – with her family or with the world. She turns to the real world for any semblance of normalcy, because the truth is this: Tamsin’s a witch. I love that the main character is the odd one out, the one who is a part of something special but completely cut off from it at the same time. She belongs, but she doesn’t belong.

The witch lore in this story was absolutely riveting. I love anything that deals with witches, but these witches were different. Instead of holding control over all magic, a witch is limited to their specific Talent. Their powers reminded me of geass’ in the anime Code Geass. Every time you use your Talent, its power diminishes bit by bit. Not only do they have special power, but they have limits on their power.

Every little thing that occurred in this novel was brought up later because everything had its own significance. It’s one of those books that you read, find out what happens, then re-read again and see how what happened fits into the bigger picture. Carolyn essentially slips us clues here and there, but I never pieced two and two together.

I loved Tamsin as the main character. She was bitter at not having a Talent, but she never took it out on those who did have Talents. She self-exiled herself to her room and to her own misery half the time, but she never gave up. What she did do was try her best not to let it bring her down, and that’s what brought her to her “normal” boarding school in New York. She wanted to impress her family and fit in so badly that she accepted a seemingly impossible task that does more damage, rather than help, to her family. Gabriel, the “main love interest”, was... charming. How else can I describe him? He’s witty, he’s a musician, and he was very blunt for a teenage boy. He’s gentlemanly, of course, but he thinks about sex just as much as the next kid, and that added to his realism.

Their romance was a little under-developed for my tastes. It was more like the romance took a backseat to the plot. Sure, Tamsin and Gabriel have history, but it’s a history we can’t see and they don’t really do much re-connecting. It mostly just felt like Tamsin thought Gabriel grew up hot, they have a few scenes together, and the next thing we know they’re together. Hopefully in the sequel there’s more romantic development (their first date better be included!).

Cover Musings: I love the color scheme – the brown, purple, and teal are perfect — and that girls’ hair! But I’m nitpicky and hated her fingernails. If I cover her hand up, this would be an awesome, intriguing cover. <3

Memorable Quotes:
I study his face closely, but he looks calm, relaxed, as if this is the most natural occasion, and with a sudden jolt I realize that for him it is. He’s truly home now, in a way that I’ll never be. I rest my eyes on a lone dandelion head that’s been crushed in the grass next to my left foot. (pg. 46)
“Ah,” my grandmother says. It’s one of her favorite words. Depending on the inflection, it means a whole bunch of different things. It could mean I was wondering when you would get around to telling me this. Or you continue to amuse me with your oh-so-predictable troubles. Or I see the solution to your problem even if you cannot. (pg. 113)
I think all those words line the walls of his brain and smother any desire to speak with us lesser mortals. Or maybe we smothered that out of him long ago when we refused to listen to his vast stores of knowledge for more than two seconds before running off or stuffing him headfirst into one of the barrels outside the barn that collected rainwater. In my defense I never did that. I just served as a lookout whenever anyone else did. (pg. 153)
I sigh. “I give up.”
Gabriel, wearing one of Uncle Chester’s charcoal suits, advances toward me. “You give up? You give up your foolish resistance to my undeniable charms? I knew you’d cave eventually. They always do.” (pg. 232)

Overall Thoughts/Final CommentsOnce a Witch is a very enchanting tale that combines romance and witchlore perfectly. It has elements of betrayal, mistrust, helplessness, time-travel, magic.. . You name it! The main character lived up to her mistakes and “followed through” with what she had started instead of dropping out and letting someone else clean up her mess.

While I did love this book, I wasn’t as fan-girly about it and it didn’t hook me right away. I’d like to think that it’s because the main love interests namesake (Gabriel) just broke my poor little hopeful heart in real life while I was reading, but I tried not to be too biased on how that affected my opinion of the book.I WAS, however, fan-girly about the trailer! Go check it out if you haven't!

Rating: 4/5

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday Nov. 12-15

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 week's question is:
If you find a book that looks interesting but is part of a series, do you always start with the first title?
Uh, heck to the yes. I hate reading a series out of order. The only time I did that was when I picked up the second novel in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonrider of Pern series (are you guys sick of me pushing that title on ya? xP). I immediately bought the first. I cannot read a series out of order in any circumstance. I like going into stories cold turkey, without having read the synopsis or knowing anything about the book, but not 2nd novel cold turkey. I might have missed something important in the first novel.

Follow Friday is a weekly meme posted on Friday's that is hosted by Parajunkee @ Parajunkee's View. To join, all you have to do is follow the host and the week's featured blogger. Then put your name on the linky, grab the button, and follow, follow, follow as many people as you can! If someone comments and says they're following you, be a dear and follow back -- it's all about spreading the love during Follow Friday! :)

This week's question is:

What is your usual monthly book budget?

Book budget? What's that? I'm a poor college student that survives on the sale of 4 cups of ramen noodles for $1. So, my book budget is $0. I either borrow books from the library or hog Barnes and Noble's air conditioning while I read a book in the store. I only ever buy a book if it is extremely good - so extreme that I can't live my life without owning that book in some form.