Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Problem Worth Addressing

I don't do "Soap Box" posts very often, but I came across a really fascinating article that addressed a problem that I never realized was a problem.

The post was called "Cover Trends & The Female Body". You can read it on the blog Stacked by CLICKING HERE. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!

Since I read this, I've given a lot of thought to the books I am drawn to. I always tend to gravitate towards "Pretty Covers"--many of which were listed in this article. I've also been the victim of what I like to call "Cover Fraud". (When a really crappy book is disguised in beautiful packaging.) But in all the time I've been reviewing books, I've never given much thought to the influence of cover art on teenagers. And even adults. No one is exempt from the influence of media image. It's become so much more than just getting someone to read your book. It's become a not-so-subtle way of telling women that they aren't good enough unless they look or act a certain way.

And while some of you are probably thinking that I'm reading too much into it and inventing a problem that doesn't really exist, I truly believe that media nowadays strike in any avenue they can. Because we are being bombarded on all sides, I think it's so important to instill in girls and boys (and women and men) a strong and unshakable sense of self-worth so when they are confronted with cookie-cutter images of "the perfect body" or "the perfect girl" or whatever the case may be, they won't succomb to the need to try to become something they aren't or have unreasonable and unrealistic expectations.

Now I'm not saying any book that has the types of covers listed in the article are bad, and I'll never read another one. But I am saying that I feel the need to be more aware of the messages they portray. I didn't start reading Young Adult books until I was in my early 20s, and I was/am old enough that the images don't affect me like they would, say, my teenage sisters. However, that doesn't make them any less powerful. While covers draw me in and are sometimes the difference between me buying a book versus not buying it, it's important to acknowledge that these books, when written, weren't geared towards me--a twenty-something wife and mother of two. They were aimed at (Imagine that!) actual TEENAGERS. Meaning that the cover art and subsequent message of said cover was meant for teenagers too.

We need to be more aware. And we need to acknowledge that there is a serious problem in the messages being sent about girls and women. They (we) have it hard enough from TV and magazines already without books throwing our imperfections in our faces too. But really, maybe the message should be this: Don't be so hard on yourself. You're perfect just the way you are. And a just a book.

What is your opinion on this issue? Or do you not see it as an issue? I'd love to know your thoughts on the matter.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Frost by Wendy Delsol

This is the SECOND book in a series.
Do not read this review until or unless you have read Stork.
You can read my review of it HERE.

Release Date: October 11, 2011
In this sequel to STORK, Katla Leblanc has to employ her grit, spirit, and special gifts to rescue the boy she loves.

After the drama of finding out that she's a Stork, a member of an ancient and mystical order of women, and that her boyfriend, Jack, is a descendant of the Winter People able to control the weather, Katla Leblanc is delighted when all signs point to a busy and peaceful Christmas. That is, until the snowstorm Jack summons as a gift to Katla turns into the storm of the century, attracting Brigid, a gorgeous scientist who, in turn, attracts Jack. Between the school play, a bedridden, pregnant mother's to-do lists, and keeping an eye on her aging grandfather, Katla doesn't have time to question Brigid's motives or deal with Jack's increasingly cold behavior. But Katla's suspicions mount when Jack joins Brigid on a research expedition to Greenland, and when the two of them go missing, it becomes clear that Katla is the only one who can save her beloved Jack from the Snow Queen who holds him prisoner. Adventure, romance, and myth combine in this winter escapade for teens who like a bit of fire with their ice.

As I was re-reading my review of the first book in this series, Stork, I was surprised. I don't remember liking it quite as much as I made it sound. I do remember that it was well-written and an original story, but I don't think I was *dying* to read the sequel.

Well, now that I have read the sequel, I have to say that this series seems to just be getting stranger and stranger. At the end of book one, the conflict had me really confused, and the confusion continued in book two. The conflict completely changed, and I'm not sure how everything will tie together when the series comes to a close this fall.

I still liked the characters, especially Jack. Although I think I liked him better when him and Kat hated each other. And I still really like the concept of "Sister Storks"--neither of which made much of an appearance this time around. Other than that, I'm sad to say the the rest of the book was pretty much lost on me. I was confused by some of Kat's "other powers"--powers that I felt like she abused. Also, I felt like I had skipped over a crucial time-travel element when Kat sets out on her rescue adventure. Overall, I felt like this book wasn't very well executed. It seemed more like a Hurry-and-write-something-because-your-contract-says-to book.

I'm torn here, because I feel like the first book in this series was worth reading, but I wouldn't recommend this book. So how does that work? I guess you will have to be the judge. I still plan on reading the final book, simply out of curiosity. Plus I feel like I've invested too much into the series at this point. Here's to hoping things get resolved in the least nonsensical way possible.

Happy Reading!

**I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Allegiance by Cayla Kluver

This is the SECOND book in a series.
Before reading this review, read book one in the series, Legacy.
You can also read my review of book one HERE.
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Only I saw Narian for who he truly was: a young man with courage and an independent mind, and made to pay for what was outside his control. He couldn't help his past any more than he could help the way those intense, deep-blue eyes pierced me and held me captive.

An eighteen-year-old queen in love with the enemy as their countries pass the point of no return...

Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn't truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica-until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge.

Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn....

I'm sad that I forgot how much I loved this series and waited MONTHS to read the sequel to one of my favorite books from last year, Legacy. It also slightly amuses me how much one book can completely change my viewpoint of the story. Don't worry-- I still love this series!

Last summer when I read the first book, I was completely Team Narian. If you read my review of Legacy (which you can do by clicking above in my spoiler alert) I gushed and gushed about him. I was then devastated by how helplessly bleak the book ended, with no idea how my beloved Alera and Narian would fare in book two. As for Steldor, he wasn't even a blip on my radar. I had completely written him off as a character that would never be good for the Alera I adored.

So imagine my surprise when Steldor and all his charm snuck up on me and had me head over heels for him throughout most of this book. I'm not sure what it was that made me change my mind about him, but it may have had something to do with my opinion of Narian waning at times. Whatever it was, now I am thoroughly confused about what I want to happen in the final installment due out in November of this year.

While this book was rather long--490 pages--I thought the story flowed well. However, I really felt like this book could have easily wrapped up the series. In all honesty, I felt like it did. I'll be quite interested to see where Cayla Kluver takes the story from here. Plus, I'll admit that I'm pleased that I get to enjoy more of this series before it ends. I've said it before, but I am so impressed with the ability of Miss Kluver. She's just a teenager, for heavens sake! All I have to say is: You go, girl. (And keep going and going, because at this rate, I'll read your books forever!)

In short, GET THIS NOW. Or get Legacy now and read this immediately after. :)

Happy Reading!

*I received this egalley from the publisher for the purpose of review.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Hunger Pains: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon



When Kantkiss Neverclean replaces her sister as a contestant on the Hunger Games—the second-highest-rated reality TV show in Peaceland, behind Extreme Home Makeover—she has no idea what to expect. Having lived her entire life in the telemarketing district’s worst neighborhood, the Crack, Kantkiss feels unprepared to fight to the death while simultaneously winking and looking adorable for the cameras. But when her survival rests on choosing between the dreamy hunk from home, Carol Handsomestein, or the doughy klutz, Pita Malarkey, Kantkiss discovers that the toughest conflicts may not be found on the battlefield but in her own heart . . . which is unfortunately on a battlefield.

After seeing The Hunger Games for the second time with my husband, I was thinking what a downer the whole story is. Yay, Katniss and Peeta win and get to go home, but 22 other kids had to die for that to happen. So imagine my glee when I happened to be walking through my local Walmart (fully clothed, thank you very much. But I'm the only one that got the memo...) and I happened across this lovely little gem.

When I read the description of this book from the back cover (see above) I couldn't help but laugh. Could it be that I had found the silver lining of The Hunger Games that I'd been searching for? Why yes, yes I did. This is a fairly small book- At 157 pages, it was just the right amount of humor I needed. And even though it was still morbid, it painted the whole book in the insanely absurd story it was. Kids that kill each other? It's crazy! And scary. And something that I hope our society never ever comes to.

And while I absolutely loved The Hunger Games, sometimes it's nice just to have something to laugh about. This was exactly what I needed! While this was a pretty funny book, I would recommend saving the $11 I spent on it, and buying a *real* book. If you're dying to read it, I'd recommend borrowing it or checking if your local library has it. 

Happy Reading! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Release Date: April 10, 2012
Mirabelle's past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents' tragic deaths to her guardians' half-truths about why she can't return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who's a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren't pretty things, and they don't always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she'll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

Have you ever read real fairy tales? I bought a "Fairy Tale Treasury" book for my four year old for this last Christmas, and I didn't flip through it before purchasing. I just figured, hey! fairy tales! yay! So you can imagine my surprise when I was reading him a bedtime story from it and quickly discovered how morbid *real* fairy tales are. C'mon--Rapunzel's love gets his eyes pecked out by birds, a young girl is so mesmerized by watching matches burn that she freezes to death one night when she loses track of time staring at them, crazy stepmothers are constantly trying to kill their step daughters. It's creepy.

Anyway, just last week I was at book club and someone asked what I was reading. At the time, I was about 10% into this book (according to my Kindle) and I was really struggling. To be completely honest, I hated it. I've gotten to a point in my old age (ha!) that when I don't like a book, I am okay calling it a good effort and shelving it. A few years ago, I would have struggled through it and been miserable the entire time. Needless to say, I was surprised with myself when, the morning after book club, I decided to keep reading this book instead of moving on. I am so glad I did!

I really liked this book! I did have a hard time at first, but then I couldn't put it down. The concept for the story was actually very good. It was one of the most original books I've read, which is funny considering it's based on tales that have been around for ages. It was an interesting take on a fairy tale I don't think I even know existed (that I will not spill the beans and tell you about).

The only thing that bothered me was how young Mira was. The book takes place during the days leading up to her sixteenth birthday and she gets involved with a twenty one year old. Hello, can you say statutory? It never gets very physical, but it still seemed highly inappropriate.

This book was released this week and it is definitely worth reading. If the story seems overly slow or hard to get into at first, keep reading! It gets better and better as you go. If you're a fan of fractured fairy tales, this book is for you! Enjoy!

Happy Reading!

**I received this egalley from the publisher for the purpose of review. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Hunger Games

It's been more than a week since The Hunger Games movie came out. Did you see it? What are your thoughts? ( I LOVE this movie poster!!)

As for myself, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most everything on screen was how I pictured it in my head. The one thing that I pictured differently was Cinna. The person I pictured playing him was actually the guy that played Seneca Crane (I think his name is Wes Bentley?). Like this:

Although really, I thought Lenny Kravitz did a great job too. The casting was perfect, in my opinion.

That said, this is a BOOK blog, so while I want to know what you thought of the movie, I also want to know if you re-read the book before seeing it, or if you went into it with just your memories of HG Awesomeness? I went in with just awesomeness and I discovered that I meshed some of book one and book two together. I forgot that her dress in book one (during her interview) really does just look like flames when she twirls and doesn't actually burn and disintigrate like it does in book two. I kept waiting for it, and it never happened so I had to come home (at 3am--I won tickets to the midnight showing) and look it up. I'm so lame.

Did you have any moments like that? When you kept waiting for something to happen and then realized-- oops, wrong book? Or were your memories more on track than mine? Did seeing the movie make you want to read the book again? Or have you not yet jumped on the HG bandwagon?

Anyway, if you are new to The Hunger Games (and even if you're not!), you can read my review of it by clicking HERE. Enjoy!

Happy Reading!