Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fallen by Lauren Kate

There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her.

I have been on the holds list at the library for this book since March and I FINALLY got it last week! It had been so long since I requested it that I couldn't even remember what it was about. (Sad, huh?) The beginning of this book completely hooked me-- then it was a little slow moving. I really enjoyed the storyline though and although I'm not DYING to read the second one, I am excited to get it (in about another 7 months when my turn comes at the library... haha). 

This is one I would definitely recommend, but I don't know that it'd be for everyone. I know that's not super helpful, but I always hate giving stuff away. I don't want to ruin the experience for you if it's a book that I liked. I don't like starting a book already knowing all about it. Then what's there to discover??

Happy Reading!

(P.S. I don't usually do cover comments, but I LOVED this one. And I was waiting for it to tie in the dress/gloves/long hair-- and it does!)

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.

Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.

Shannon Hale's books have been hit and miss for me. This one was a miss. (That's 2 misses and 1 hit so far) :(  Which sucks because I used one of my credits on Paperback Swap for it...

Oh well. Better luck next time.

Love on the Lifts by Rachel Hawthorne

Winter Break super-secret perfect cocoa recipe:

8 oz steamed whole milk (no skim! doesn't work!)
2 tbsp. dark cocoa powder (big scoops)
1 tbsp. sugar (can't be too sweet)
4 dried, crushed mint leaves (or 1 tbsp. mint syrup)

Stir thoroughly. Add mint swizzle stick. Combine with cute ski instructor, or brother's cute best friend, or cute guy you never noticed was so cute...Enjoy.

I actually thought this book was pretty cute. A little "fluffy", but it was a fun, clean "chick" book. There isn't much to say about it. It's pretty predictable from the get-go. (Usually when you want a girly romance, you don't care if it's predictable!) The one thing that annoyed me just a little was the main character-- I don't know if she was being coy or if she was really that oblivious to signs. Some girls "fake it" to manipulate guys into admitting what they are thinking or feeling, but I really think she was possibly a tad brain-dead. It ends well though and it made me feel warm and fuzzy, which was the whole point. And it REALLY just made me want a mug of hot chocolate--even in the 90 degree weather! :) Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Creel, the heroine of Dragon Slippers is hardly a damsel-in-distress. After her aunt totes her out to the local dragon in desperation (with the hope that the local prince will rescue her from certain death and marry her), Creel refuses the haughty prince and finds friendship with the dragons, who set her on a journey to the center of the kingdom with a pretty pair of what only seem to be ordinary slippers. Along the way we discover Creel's enormous talent at embroidery, and you can't help but linger over the rich descriptions of her lovely tapestry-like gowns, which quickly make her the most sought-after dressmaker in the kingdom. But soon enough those mysterious slippers begin to wreak havoc, and it's up to Creel to save the kingdom from disaster and defend the dragons from certain doom.

I borrowed this book ages ago from my friend, put it on my bookshelf, .... and forgot about it! (Sorry, Chan!) When I decided to re-read some books, I saw it sitting there on the shelf and decided to read it instead.

This was a slow-moving book to begin with, and it was difficult to get into. Once I did (after a few chapters), I LOVED this book. I read another book by this author a few months ago and it was the same way-- slow, but picked up fairly quickly. I didn't know if I'd care for a book about dragons, but I thought the book was ABOUT a dragon (It didn't have the outer cover on the hardback, so I didn't get a synopsis) which made me reluctant to read it. It's not-- it's about a country girl and a prince. And dragons, of course.

If you like fantasy, this book is well worth your time. This is a series-- there are two more. As soon as I get them from the library and make it through my pile, I'll let you know what I think!

Happy Reading!

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

It’s a fight to the death—on live TV—when a gladiator’s daughter steps into the arena

Lyn is a neo-gladiator’s daughter, through and through. Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family. Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator. Remind him constantly of his victories. And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying. The rules help the family survive, but rules—and the GSA—can also turn against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn’s seventh father, he also captures Lyn’s dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him... For fans of The Hunger Games and Fight Club, Lise Haines’ debut novel is a mesmerizing look at a world addicted to violence—a modern world that’s disturbingly easy to imagine.

I have heard so much about this book and it has gotten rave reviews from everyone I've talked to. I've heard it compared many times to The Hunger Games--which I loved-- so how could this book be bad, right? WRONG. THIS WAS THE STUPIDEST BOOK I READ ALL YEAR AND IF I HEAR OF ANYONE COMPARING IT TO THE HUNGER GAMES, I'M GOING TO PUNCH THEM IN THE NOSE.

DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME READING THIS! I kept reading, thinking it would get amazing and it was just depressing and stupid. Argh!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This is FULL of spoilers... If you do not want the book "spoiled" for you, do not read this. :)

"My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead."

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

Now that I have had a good, LONG think on this book, I feel like I can review it.

Let me start off by saying that this book was not ANYTHING like what I was expecting. I don't really know what I was expecting, I just know that this was not it. After reading my review you can decide for yourselves if that's a good thing or a bad thing. :)

After loving The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I was stoked for the final intallment-- Butt-kicking Katniss, smooth-talking Peeta, cynical Haymitch. So I was VERY a bit disappointed that the opening scenes were crazy Katniss ready to kill Haymitch and Peeta nowhere to be found. Flirtatious Finnick is even pretty nuts. It takes FOREVER for the story to start, I felt like. While the Capitol is torturing Peeta (which you hear nothing about) and the other people pulled from the arena after the Quarter Quell, Katniss agrees to be the "offical" face of the rebellion as the Mockingjay. Cinna, who was in fact killed, just happened to make Katniss an awesome outfit, that I felt like she never really deserved. She went from being a survivor and a fighter to being more than a bit pitiful. Granted, she did lose Peeta-- whom she swore to save. But even when he is rescued (and also CRAZY!!) she gives up on him. She chooses Gale over Peeta as an easy out. I think the more I read, the more frustrated and upset I got. When she finally does "man up" (or "boy up" as my 3 year old says), I felt like it was too little, too late. Finnick dies (and it was insanely UNDERPLAYED for how big of a character he was in this book) trying to keep Katniss alive so she could assasinate President Snow, Prim is blown to smitherines trying to save children (which defeated Katniss's entire purpose of going to the Hunger Games in the first place! But I also think it was necessary and wouldn't have changed it.), and the book ends (in a TWO PAGE SUMMARY! GAH!) of what happens to Katniss, Peeta, and the (FEW!) people who are still living at the end of the book.

While I felt like the book was one huge killing spree for the author, some of the deaths I felt had to happen, namely Prim's, while others I didn't think were needed--Finnick.

Some other points I feel need addressed:

  • I've read, and heard, A LOT of reviews that people hated how it ended with Gale. That there was no goodbye, etc. I thought it was perfect. While I liked Peeta better, I always liked Gale until this book. You really see who he is and how is mind works in this final installment. When Katniss realized that the bomb that killed Prim was a design by Gale, and she asks him about it, he replys that he doesn't know if it was his-- "but you'll always wonder." I thought that was a fitting goodbye. What else is there really to say??

  • I also know a lot of people were not happy with not having a side of the story from Peeta. To these people: did you forget that this series is about KATNISS? Not Peeta? It's been about her from book One. Why are you now surprised that it has no "Peeta-perspective"? Believe me, I am disappointed too that there wasn't any romance blooming and that their story got "summarized" in the last few pages. But I didn't expect a Breaking Dawn-like ending where there was a "Peeta Section" squeezed between two "Katniss Sections", and I am so glad she didn't do that. It wouldn't have felt as real. 

  • Leave Haymitch alone! If he wants to drink himself into a stupor on a daily (or hourly) basis, let him! He's been through more than pretty much all the characters combined and he was the only one that was ALWAYS on Katniss's side. I always liked Haymitch. :)

  • I was SHOCKED when Coin suggested the Final Hunger Games. AND THAT KATNISS AGREED. It wasn't until later that I understood why she did-- when she kills Coin instead of Snow, when she realizes that things will never change if Coin is president. And then, oh yeah, Snow coughs himself to death. Oh brother... Her enemy of the ENTIRE series dies of COUGHING?? Yikes.

  • I hated the ending. I was mad that even after 20 years, Peeta still has urges to kill Katniss. I am glad that they ended up together and they had kids, but it just isn't the same. They are both so broken that it kind of negates the whole marriage/family storyline. And I am SO MAD that it felt like an "by the way-- they end up together." ending. Really?? After all I've invested in this series. that's all I get? And really-- I don't know that I'd sleep next to someone every night that has insane, uncontrollable urges to murder me. I'm just sayin... Athough the "Real, or not real?" line at the end made me sob. :) I love, love, love Peeta, even if he is nuts.
Overall, I really did like this book. I know it doesn't sound like it from all my ranting and raving, but I was just a little disappointed with how the ending played out. I really don't think it could have ended any differently, I just WISH it could have. I'm just... unsatisfied, I guess. I still recommend this series to anyone and everyone, but now I need to move on to a new series to obsess over. :) Any suggestions?

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Still processing....

Review to come...sometime in the near future...after I've had a week or so longer to absorb and work through it...

Anyone have any thoughts on it that has already read it?

I'll even put a ***SPOILER ALERT!!!!*** here for you so people reading comments will know. And when I do my review, you can bet it'll be FULL of spoilers.

What did you think of the final book??

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

I don't know if I can rave enough about this trilogy, so here I go again. When I read this (just barely and for the first time last October) I liked it a million times more than the first, which is next to impossible since I absolutely loved The Hunger Games. Now, having read the final installment as well, I have to say that this is still my very favorite of the three.

I love everything about this book. Honestly, I can't think of a single thing I would change about the story and the direction the author took it. Things that I still am:
-Brokenhearted for Peeta
-Loving Cinna and his amazing outfits
-In awe (and not in a good way) of the Quarter Quell
-Trying to mentally shove Katniss and Peeta together
-Flogging Haymitch in my head
-Cringing at Gale's punishment
I saw a girl at Sam's Club today buying Mockingjay (the final book in the trilogy) and it made me chuckle because she was the epitomy of Johanna Mason in my head. Really-- exactly how I pictured her. It made me want to read this book all over again--even though I just read it a few days ago. :) Another great read. How could it NOT be though?? :) Happy Reading!

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her “power” to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he’s claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay’s intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she’s falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.

Hmmm... what to say about this book...? In the words of Randy Jackson, "It was just ah-iight for me, dawg."

I liked the romance factor-- her and her MALE best friend. But the suspense factor was lacking. I think part of the problem I had with this book was that I took it, along with a stack of books, camping with me and I read it immediately after finishing The Hunger Games, which I'm pretty sure it's impossible to hold a light to. I can't say that I think I would have loved it had it not proceeded such an AMAZING book, but I maybe would have liked it just a touch more.

There was some underage drinking and some swearing (including, but not limited to, one "f-bomb"). Both of which don't bother me much in books, but in this particular one, it just rubbed me the wrong way. It felt misplaced somehow, like it didn't fit but the author threw it in anyway.

Anyway, not my favorite this year by far, but it was a good read overall. A little predictable, but worth picking up. :)

Happy Reading!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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.

I read this book for the first time last September because it was our book club pick for the month. This was when I had just started dabbling in YA Fiction and probably, honestly, would never have heard of it, or given it a chance (based on the descrpition) otherwise. Let me just say, I am so glad that I didn't miss out on this book. It is the first in The Hunger Games Trilogy and this is one trilogy you'd be VERY sorry to miss out on. I have yet to meet someone who had read these and NOT liked them.

All year I have been waiting patiently (and dying on the inside!) for the final installment in the trilogy to be released so I could re-read the first two and have it be a continuing story. Even with the year that has passed since I last read this book, I was still as enthralled with it as I was last September. Knowing how it ended, and knowing the events already of Book 2, I was still captivated by Katniss and Peeta and the Hunger Games in general. My heart was still in my throat as Prim's name was called at the reaping and as Katniss volunteered to take her place. I was still appalled by the Capitol and their endless parade of shallow citizens who condone CHILDREN killing each other for their entertainment. I fell in love with Peeta all over again as he repeatedly tried to protect Katniss and as you see their individual characters develop and grow together. And, of course, I was still shattered by the ending... and wanting more.

I didn't realize how much I had forgotten about in this book and am SO GLAD that I read it again. If you have not read this, you have NO IDEA(!!!) what you are missing out on. This is such an amazing trilogy. Now, go read it!  :)