Monday, August 29, 2011

Giveaways, Week of 8/29

1. Addicted 2 Novels is giving away Dark Parties by Sara Grant, The Shattering by Karen Healey, Bunheads by Sophie Flack, DJ Rising by Love Maia and Wintertown by Stephen Emond. Ends 9/15.

2. The Book Scout is celebrating a 2nd blogoversary with a giveaway. Up for grabs is the winner's choice of a pre-order of Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith or Tempest by Julie Cross. Ends 9/16.

3. Books at Midnight is also celebrating a 2nd blogoversary with a giveaway. Up for grabs is the winner's choice of a pre-order of  Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen, Slide by Jill Hathaway, Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard, A Beautiful Evil by Kelly Keaton or Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. Ends 9/23.

4. First Novels Club is giving away The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch. Ends 9/3.

5. Books at Midnight is giving away Dark Souls by Paula Morris. Ends 9/12.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Beastly

I am a beast.
A beast!
Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright. I am a monster.
You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll, stay this way forever ruined unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly...beastly.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Grown-up fairytale readers
High point:  Being from the Beast's POV
Low point:  Being from the Beast's POV...
Reader maturity: 13+

I should've known--what with the male narrator and all--but due to the recent movie, I thought I'd give Beastly a chance. Unfortunately, it didn't really impress me.

Intrigued by the idea of a modern day take on Beauty and the Beast (which, while not my favorite fairy tale, certainly ranks among the best), it seemed like Beastly would be interesting, seeing as how it's from the Beast's point of view. First off, I thought Adrian (Kyle, post-Beastifying) was a completely unsympathetic character, both before and after his transformation. And the way he traps the girl so he can force her to spend time with him? Despicable, even if her situation was bad to begin with. It's that second point that refused to make way for me to enjoy the rest of the novel. Adrian was a creep before he was Adrian, he was a creep while he was Adrian (using the mirror to check in on all those girls on MySpace--really?!), and actually, I thought he was kinda creepy after he could've gone back to being Kyle.

No one reacted to a boy-turned-beast like I would expect, either. Everyone was so levelheaded that I couldn't believe it, even within the realm of fiction.

Aside from the points I've mentioned, I didn't dislike Beastly; however, it falls into the category of novels that aren't for me.

Title:  Beastly
Author:  Alex Flinn
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2007
Book Source:  Purchased

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Giveaways, Week of 8/21

1. Dark Faerie Tales is giving away The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. Ends 9/4.

2. Dark Faerie Tales is giving away Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Ends 9/4.

3. Once Upon a Twilight is giving away Dark Souls by Paula Morris. Ends 9/2.

4. Alexandra Shostak is giving away Enthralled, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong, Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Ends 8/29.

5. Books At Midnight is giving away Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy. Ends 9/6.

6. A Good Addiction is giving away Possess by Gretchen McNeil. Ends 9/1.

7. Confessions of a Bookaholic is giving away Bargains & Betrayals by Shannon Delany. Ends 9/12.

8. The Fairytale Nerd is giving away a pre-order of The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa. Ends 11/1.

9. Dark Faerie Tales is giving away Dark Souls by Paula Morris. Ends 9/9.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Monsters of Men

"War," says the Mayor. "At last." Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they're so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge - the electrifying finale to the award-winning "Chaos Walking" trilogy, Monsters of Men is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Light sci-fi and fantasy fans
High point:  Viola, the mistresses, Todd, the Mayor...the ending!
Low point: was perfect
Reader maturity:  13+

Monsters of Men is a brilliant and stunning conclusions to the Chaos Walking trilogy. I LOVED it!

I was a little unsure about The Knife of Never Letting Go, Viola's perspective made The Ask and the Answer much more interesting, and everything culminated in an emotional, action-packed, thought-provoking Monsters of Men. I couldn't have asked for a better ending to the series.

Everything that made the first two so poignant and individual appears in Monsters of Men. Todd questions his existence, the mayor, his choices, the Spackle; he's very conflicted, and even though he frequently makes what turns out to be the wrong decision, his heart is noble and he's honestly trying to be a good man. Viola has some parallel issues this time around. Todd's introspection (and to an extent, Viola's) could have veered into woe-is-me territory, but instead, the reader sympathizes with Todd, understands and aches to help him. What's right? What's wrong? Sometimes the line is so blurred, it's hard to tell. Is doing a small bad thing still wrong if it prevents something worse from happening?

Every time I turned a page, I held my breath, hoping that sanity and common sense would prevail somewhere. I was on tenterhooks every time Mistress Coyle, the Mayor or the Sky launched another attack. The battle scenes were fantastically written, expressing the chaos and utter madness.

I don't usually like endings like the one in Monsters of Men (and I'm not going to spoil it for you so it's hard to explain), but it fit so beautifully that instead of being annoyed by it, I embraced it. It's perfect. I'm amazed at how all the events culminated in such an explosive event. Patrick Ness' skill as a writer is unmatched, and if you haven't read Chaos Walking yet, I highly, highly recommend it. (And even if you don't love the 1st book, stick it out. Each book is better than the last!)

Title:  Monsters of Men
Author:  Patrick Ness
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Science Fiction
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Won from Lori's Reading Corner

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Reckoning

Only two weeks ago, life was all too predictable. But that was before I saw my first ghost. Now along with my supernatural friends Tori, Derek, and Simon, I'm on the run from the Edison Group, which genetically altered us as part of their sinister experiment. We're hiding in a safe house that might not be as safe as it seems. We'll be gone soon anyway, back to rescue those we'd left behind and take out the Edison Group . . . or so we hope.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Anyone who EVER loved ghost stories
High point:  All the plot elements
Low point:  Everything gets campy if you look at it too closely
Reader maturity: 13+

*happy squeal of excitement*

I LOVE the Darkest Powers series and I'm SO sad that it's come to an end, but wow! Kelley Armstrong did a fantastic job sending the series out with a bang! There are so many things that I loved about the conclusion that I'm not sure how to gush properly without spoiling anything, but I'll give it my best shot.

First off, I love Ms. Armstrong's writing. The descriptions, pacing and characters are spot on. And the characters in The Reckoning!! They've been slowly and patiently developed over the series, culminating in a blend of rich histories and complicated relationships. While Tori (one of the superpowerful gifted kids) is hardly my favorite character, I think she's one of the best written ones. Her transformation since book 1 has been startling, believable and complete.

As for complicated relationships, I'm really psyched about the ending! I've been rooting for a certain someone, and fortunately, the series ended the way I'd hoped. That relationship is complicated and messy and (hooray!) doesn't involve anything head-over-heels or love-at-first-sight. It's very real, which I appreciate.

The main character, Chloe, has come a long way since The Summoning as well. She finally found her voice and was able to stand up for herself. There was one particular issue that bothered me a little bit from the first two books, but Chloe comes into her own and makes a situation that could've been detrimental into something really special.

As for the plot, it's a little bit all over the place with emotion and action; it's crazy and filled with conspiracies, just like The Summoning and The Awakening, and all the events culminate in the perfect ending to such a diverse series. In short, I loved it, and even though I'm sad the series is over, I couldn't be happier with the conclusion.

Title:  The Reckoning
Author:  Kelley Armstrong
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Purchased

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review of The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?
This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson's vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.
[from Goodreads]

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Science fiction readers who want a little heart
High point:  The questions that arise
Low point:  Abrupt ending
Reader maturity:  13+

The Adoration of Jenna Fox reminds me most of By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, which strikes me as a little strange because By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead is heavily concerned with death and The Adoration of Jenna Fox is all about choosing life.

It's poignant and insightful, giving little glimpses into a dystopian/utopian (depending on your point of view) society who-knows-how-many years into the future. Through the events of Jenna's post-accident life, question after question about ethics and politics arise. There are no answers, but the beauty is in the asking.

Ms. Pearson does a fabulous job, not only of encouraging her readers to think (without pushing any particular agenda), but of showing the expansion of Jenna's memory. I even flipped back through the back to make sure my impression was right, and it was--In the beginning, when Jenna's memories are few, the prose is short and choppy, very stream of limited conciousness, and as Jenna regains more awareness of her past, the writing becomes more fluid and complex. The transition in writing style, especially as an emphasis of Jenna's state, is brilliant.

Along with being a terrific, albeit serious, novel, The Adoration of Jenna Fox would also be a great book to spark discussion about life, death and new beginnings.

Title:  The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author:  Mary E. Pearson
Genre: YA - Science Fiction
Year:  2008
Book Source:  Purchased

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Bite Me!

AJ Ashe isn't your typical seventeen-year-old vampire—as if there is such a thing! She's stuck in the middle of a huge fight between her two BFFs. Her ex-boyfriend—whom she's still totally in love with, by the way—is now her stepbrother. A former classmate—who, um, she may or may not have turned into a vampire—is stalking her. And now, apparently, the fate of humankind lies in her little undead hands. What ever happened to the good old days, when all a vampire girl had to worry about was the occasional zit and hiding her taste for blood?

[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Vampire fans who can't get enough
High point:  It's...different...
Low point:  Totally filled with akwardness
Reader maturity: 15+

My opinion of this book was formed in the first few pages. I tried to shake it off, even putting the book aside and waiting a few months to resume, but nothing helped. AJ's in love with her new stepbrother, and it really made the rest of the book awkward. Mostly because of what she does. And what he does. Not because of their pre-familial attraction.

She comes by the crush innocently enough; after all, she and Ryan started dating before her mom and Ryan's dad did, but still...that's no excuse for her later actions!

Anyway, now that the book has had a few weeks to simmer since I finished it, I think it was a fun book. I'm not really sure based on that whole uncomfortable-what's-AJ-going-to-do-next thing that had me reading through squinted eyelids and holding the book as far away from my face as I could. The premise is cool, that vampires can be born, not just created, and that they're aren't necessarily pale, night-skulking monsters. AJ has a great sense of humor, both about herself and her situation, although she's one of the more immature paranormal MCs I've encountered. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it comes into play a few times throughout the novel.

I haven't decided about whether to continue the series; on the one hand, I'd like to find out what happens with AJ and her Brady Bunch family and the prophecy. On the other hand, I'm not sure I could sit through another 200 pages of that kind of "No, AJ, don't!" uncomfortableness...

Title:  Bite Me!
Author:  Melissa Francis
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Purchased

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review of The Summer I Turned Pretty

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer--they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.
[from Goodreads]

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Anyone wanting a summery love story
High point:  Belly
Low point:  The love triangle
Reader maturity:  13+

Like everyone else that I know about that's read The Summer I Turned Pretty, I thought it was fantastic.There were things I didn't like, of course, because I'm picky like that, but overall, it's a gorgeously written summer read.

It seems a little backwards, but let's start with what I didn't like and move on from there.

I don't like love triangles.

Not. At. All.

They're always cruel to someone, and usually the girl (because it's never one guy and two girls...) ends up picking a different guy than I wanted her too. And the girl's usually wishy-washy and doesn't seem at all fazed that she's messing with people's hearts.

Yeah, Belly's kind of like that. She doesn't think she's much of a looker, but she sure knows how to twist the boys around her little finger. That's what I didn't like. Belly, in all other respects, is a perfectly good main character, but with that love...[insert a multi-cornered geometric shape of your choice], my patience wore thin.

Something about Belly is charming though, and the rest of the book more than makes up for Belly's shortcomings, which, aside from stealing hearts, also included a penchant for pouting. But Belly's young in this novel and her brother and Conrad and Jere make her feel like the baby sister tagging along so I can sympathize a bit. Even with their teasing, Belly does a great job of representing the awkwardness of the teenage years without making me cringe.

[Spoiler alert!] Speaking of the boys...I love Jere. He was so cute and snuggly (yes, snuggly!) and adorable that I was rooting for him the whole time. Conrad, on the other hand...maybe he was just hiding a crush on Belly the whole time, but he was mean to her. Even in the anecdotes where Belly's recollecting how he stood up for her, he was kind of a jerk and NOT just in the last summer...So that ruined some things for me...[End spoiler]

The exposition is amazing, like waves crashing on the beach, just a little new information being uncovered each time. It's gentle but very revealing. I found myself looking at my teenage summers through Belly's lens. The Summer I Turned Pretty is a very beautiful novel, not in descriptions, because there weren't many that I recall, but in its exploration of childhood and the journey of leaving youth behind. With the exception named above, I loved The Summer I Turned Pretty and can't wait to read the sequel, It's Not Summer Without You, which I conveniently have sitting on my shelf.

Title:  The Summer I Turned Pretty
Author:  Jenny Han
Genre: YA - Romance
Year:  2009
Book Source:  Purchased