Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review of The Dead-Tossed Waves

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.
[from Goodreads]
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Dystopian fans, readers who enjoy immersing themselves in another world
High point: The writing
Low point: The ending; I am, yet again, unsatisfied!
Reader maturity: 13+

The Forest of Hands and Teeth left me with a bit of sick feeling in my stomach due to the ending. With that in mind, I approached The Dead-Tossed Waves with a sense of trepidation and detachment, which made it hard to get involved in the story. Carrie Ryan is, however, an author-type genius, and she pulled me in anyway with her insane writing skills and crazy (zombie-crazy, not unbelievable-crazy) plotlines.

Gabry is a much easier character to relate to, at least for me, than Mary from The Forest of Hands and Teeth. She's a doer, not merely a wisher, like her mother, Mary. Other than that, it's hard to explain the complexity and depth of the story. I love how little bits and pieces of the bigger picture are starting to come together for the reader, even as the main character (Gabry, in this case) fumbles around looking for answers. I also love that there's so much about forgiveness and redemption in The Dead-Tossed Waves. I was almost as unhappy with the ending as I was with The Forest of Hands and Teeth (and I should know by now that Carrie Ryan does not a fairytale ending write), but the overall message was so much more freeing. It was also so much more sobering, about how a seemingly open society can be so paralyzed by fear that they bar all growth and the exchange of ideas, just as Mary's small, restrictive community did in The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

The Dead-Tossed Waves is amazing and fully holds its own as a sequel/companion to The Forest of Hands and Teeth. It contains similar struggles and histories but also a small dash of hope that keeps Gabry and her friends going, even when they think they've breathed their last.

Title:  The Dead-Tossed Waves
Author:  Carrie Ryan
Genre:  Teen Fiction, Horror & Suspense
Year:  2010
Book Source:  Purchased

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review of The Hunger Games

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.

[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Dystopian fans
High point:  When Katniss finally got a chance to shine
Low point:  The 1st half of the book
Reader maturity:  13+

I think I'm the last blogger (person?) on the planet to read The Hunger Games. I resisted--I don't know why, but I did--and I wish I hadn't because, when I finally got around to buying and reading it, I discovered it's awesomeness.

To be honest, I wasn't thrilled by the first half of the book. One of my friends kept asking if I'd read it yet and if I liked it, and I had to say no. Somewhere around the halfway point, around the time that Katniss forms an alliance with a certain person, things picked up considerably, and I was turning pages as quickly as I could, trying to find out what happened to Katniss and Peeta.

One of the reasons the first half didn't pull me in is that it felt very much like reading a list of rules and facts about Katniss and her world. It was pages upon pages of foundation, which, as the first in a trilogy, will surely be helpful, but was a little tedious after a while. When Katniss' colors and the amazing writing/action/plot finally got to shine through, everything just clicked into place, and I loved it.

Overall, I thought it was a well created dystopian, and I'm excited for Catching Fire and Mockingjay to release in paperback. Katniss, as the everygirl, is a main character I could sympathize with, and as for Peeta and Gale....Team Peeta for me (if he could look like Gale)! Also, other than the glut of deaths in the book and some gory moments during the Games, it's clean so it's great entertainment for all YA readers.

My only other disappointment--and this would probably be better discussed in a book club or something, since it's not really a criticism--is that Katniss, with the exception of taking her little sister's place, seems to have everything handed to her. Sure, she's brave and loyal, but she's not particularly skilled or hardy. Maybe that's the point--that she used her normalness and her few special talents to fight and that supposedly being the "best" at something doesn't automatically make a winner.

If you've read
The Hunger Games, what do you think of Katniss? (And I haven't read Catching Fire or Mockingjay so if you can, please keep it spoiler free.)

Title:  The Hunger Games
Author:  Suzanne Collins
Genre:  Teen Fiction -- Dystopian
Year:   2008
Book Source:  Purchased

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reminder: Giveaway of Bandits

In case it got lost in the Blogger debacle (was that last week? the week before?), I want to remind you all about the giveaway I'm currently hosting. The prize? An ARC of Bandits by LM Preston, along with a poster and a magnet.

The giveaway ends May 31 (next week!), and you can enter in this blog post. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review of My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions

Sarah Howard's first year at the university is everything and nothing she expected especially when a very cute boy named Ben in her Art History class starts to show interest in her.

Sarah feels like she's an average, normal, everyday girl. So, when Ben (to whom she secretly refers as Adonis because she thinks he could be a Greek god) begins to take interest in her, Sarah is in denial. For one thing, last year she was deeply crushed and humiliated by Jesse James a guy who she thought liked her.

She's determined not to get burned again. But in her heart of hearts, what she really wants is a Jane Austen kind of romance. Ridiculous, right? That kind of romance doesn t exist anymore . . . or does it? Sarah is smart and fun to be around and even pretty, despite her Medusa-like red curls. She even plays the guitar. (So does Ben!) Yes, Sarah is everything Ben has wanted. He's crazy for her, but Sarah is just not getting it. She's playing hard to get, and if she s not careful, she s going to lose a real hot gentleman -- her 21st-century Mr. Darcy.

[from Goodreads]

Rating: 3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Anyone wanting a sweet love story
High point:  The neurotic Sarah
Low point: It's fluffy
Reader maturity:  13+

The thing I admire most about My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions is that it pretends to be nothing more and nothing less than it is--a sweet, adorable, ridiculous romance from cover to cover.

In My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions, Sarah (she of the Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions) deals with the bliss and trials of first love, all the while pining for a life like a heroine in a romance novel. I'm not a fan of (i.e. have never read) a romance novel of the type Sarah reads (bodice rippers, by the sound of it), so I was a little concerned about the implications of her enthusiasm. However, MRRO is perfectly aboveboard and sweet, and I really enjoyed it.

Sarah was a bit dense regarding her crush, the Adonis Ben, but even as she was making mistake after mistake, I understood where she was coming from. Ms. Wilhite sets her up as an innocent with low self esteem rather than a clueless ninny. Aside from her inability to carry on one half of a successful relationship, Sarah has a lot of things going for her, like brains and great friendships, that give her depth. I had a little trouble believing in Ben's patience and pursuit, but I'm willing to engage in a flight of fancy for a fun afternoon read. Ben and Sarah's relationship was well-constructed, with love-at-first-sight excitement followed by actual, slow-moving substance. Their attraction is obvious and natural.

After finishing MRRO, I was left with a pleasant and slightly wistful feeling. It's the perfect light YA romance to wile away a few hours.

Title:  My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions
Author:  Becca Wilhite
Genre: YA - Romance
Year:  2010
Book Source:  Won--not sure from where

Friday, May 13, 2011

Giveaway of Bandits by LM Preston [CLOSED]

Are you ready to to get your hands on a copy of Bandits by LM Preston?

That's what I thought. :-)

Phenomenal One Press and LM Preston are offering up a prize pack with an ARC of Bandits and a poster and a magnet. How cool is that?!

All the fresh summer sun is making me sleepy so I'm going to keep the giveaway simple...

Rules in a Box:
  1. You do NOT have to be a follower, but I'd love to have you around, of course! :-)
  2. You must be 13 or older to enter.
  3. The prize pack is international.
  4. Ends at 11:59 pm CDT May 31st, 2011.
  5. Winners will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond.
  6. Entries will only be accepted using the FORM, and you MUST include your email address so I can contact you. No email = no books.
  7. Winner will be chosen using a spreadsheet random number generator. 
I reserve the right to amend the rules as needed. (Hopefully this won't happen, but just in case...)

If you can't see the form below, you can find it here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: The Day Before

Sometimes there's no turning back.

Amber's life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of her family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.

Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell that he's also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.

The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she's drawn to him. And the more she's troubled by his darkness. Because Cade's not just living in the now--he's living each moment like it's his last.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review of The Romeo and Juliet Code

Felicity's glamorous parents have a secret. When they leave her with distant relatives in Maine, Felicity hopes they won't leave her long. Her new Uncle Gideon hides things. Her Aunt Miami is star-crossed. And Derek, a kid her age, refuses to leave his room.
But Felicity needs Derek's help. Gideon is getting coded letters from Felicity's parents, and she's sure they're in trouble. Can Felicity crack the code, heal the family and save her parents, all while surviving her first crush? It's a tall order, but - like The Secret Garden's Mary Lennox before her - Felicity's up for the challenge.

[from Goodreads]

Rating: 3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  MG readers
High point:  The utter Britishness
Low point: N/A...I don't read much MG
Reader maturity:  8+

The Romeo and Juliet Code is a cute (and very British!) story that follows Flissy Budwig as a British expat living with relatives in the US during World War II. Flissy and the mysterious Captain Derek try to unravel the secrets about Flissy's parents that all the adults are hiding.

I don't usually like MG, but The Romeo and Juliet Code was actually pretty good, and it will appeal to a wider audience than the MG I've read in the past. Flissy, short for Felicity, is a headstrong, curious and extremely British eleven year old with an unhealthy attachment to her teddy bear, Wink. Her confusion and other eleven year old emotions are easily accessible to the reader. To older readers, the mysteries at the Bathburn house in Bottlebay, May are quickly solved, but I think the clues would provide a properly elusive puzzle for younger readers.

Since I don't usually read or review MG, I'm not sure what to say about the writing or character development, but I can say that I enjoyed The Romeo and Juliet Code and it's one I'd recommend for MG readers.

Title:  The Romeo and Juliet Code
Author:  Phoebe Stone
Genre:  MG
Year:  2011
Book Source:  Won an ARC--not sure from where

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's a Bad World - Spring Blog Carnival

The It's a Bad World Challenge is being hosted at Miss Remmers' Review. Head on over if you want to check out the full post.

Here's the challenge:
  1. Write a post explaining why you think Dystopian fiction is so addicting. Why is everyone reading it? What does it say about our society that we want to read about WORSE societies? Are there any implications dystopian fiction's popularity has on our own society? What say you!!
  2. What is your favorite dystopian novel to date? Why did you like it? How does it stand apart from all the other countlessly recent dystopian novels? Why would you recommend it above all others in this genre?
Here's my reply:
  1. Is it cheating if I link to my own post? I answered a similar question not too long ago, in a post you can find here. In summary, I think dystopian is addicting because it's an escape, and it's a way to tackle tough issues that exist in real life in an imaginary setting that's much worse than anything we're dealing with. The utter dystopia-ness of the setting/plot--and thus, the extreme differences between the dystopia and our cray world--enables the reader to detach and sort through different thoughts and feelings.
  2. My favorite dystopian novel to date is...Divergent! I feel like I just devoured it, and I know my review didn't do it justice. I'm a critical reviewer, and I still thought it was pure awesome! I liked it because, well, Veronica Roth is an amazing writer, and because the main character, Tris, has qualities that I think everyone can relate to in some way. The premise of all the different factions seems so believable, yet so far away. It's my favorite of the recent books because it's great entertainment, it provides a lot of food for thought and it asks a lot of serious questions without preaching the answers.
What do you think? Why do you read dystopian? What's your favorite dystopian novel?

Sci-Fi Sunday: Review of Bandits

Daniel's father has gotten himself killed and left another mess for Daniel to clean up. To save his world from destruction, he must fight off his father's killers while discovering a way to save his world. Time is running out, and Daniel must choose to either walk in his father's footsteps or to reinvent himself into the one to save his world.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Teens, Martian maniacs
High point:  All the cool off-world species and gadgets
Low point:  Jade
Reader maturity:  13+

Bandits is a fun-filled, action-packed, off-world, pirate-y adventure. Along with strange creatures, science fiction and evil villains, it has endearing characters, blossoming relationships and loyal friends.

Bandits is such a cool conglomeration of genres and themes. It's sci-fi, mixed with fantasy, mixed with romance, and of course, it's YA (although there is quite a bit of mature language so be warned). I loved the idea of the book--treasure-hunting--and it's made even more exciting by adding in the element of space travel and colonization. LM Preston's imagination really shines in all the cool gadgets and neat new species. My favorite was the gelfish, which can be used to make anyone or anything flame-resistant. Her imagination also sparkles with the trials that Daniel and his friends are forced to go through to save their planet and the pakeet. Every twist and turn had something new and unique waiting to challenge them. From the first chapter to the last, Bandits is filled with page-turning action, and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next.

While most of the characters (and their relationships) are very natural, I had trouble wrapping my head around Jade. For the first few chapters, I thought she was 12 and was concerned about the older boys' interest in her. When she announced she was 16, I couldn't believe it, although I was quite relieved regarding the boys' attraction. Her personality finds a more even keel in the last third of the book, but her vacillating maturity in the beginning was distracting. At the end, when everything comes together, she really rounds out the group as an awesome character, and she proves her worth as a fighter.

Bandits is a great book for all YA readers (albeit the older ones due to the aforementioned language). With a little romance and a lot of action, there's something for everyone.

Title:  Bandits
Author:  LM Preston
Genre:  Teen Fiction -- Romance & Friendship
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Received from publisher for review

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: Forever Summer

Summer. A break from the burdens of school. Deep tans, deeper thoughts. Far away from the everyday. Closer to making dreams come true...What does summer mean to you? 
For the two teenage girls in these two unforgettable novels, summer means being torn away from the familiar and finding new friends. A new place in the world. A new sense of self. And maybe even new love along the way...When you're having the time of your life, you never want it to end.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.