Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stacking The Shelves (4)

Stacking The Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Ebooks Bought This Week: 

  E-ARCS I Got This Week:


Friday, June 29, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (6)

Feature & Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read

This week's question is 

Birthday Wishes — Blow out the candles and imagine what character could pop out of your cake…who is it and what book are they from??

Here we go: 1.....2.....3..... TA DA! It's Zach from Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade series.  Hello Handsome, come lay that accent on me.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Title: Changeling
Author:  Philippa Gregory
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 24, 2012
Rating: 1/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is pretty, but expected.  It makes it appear that Isolde is the main character when, in actuality, the plot follows Luca for a majority of the time.  I was glad to see the omission of the "heaving bosoms" that normally accompanies this type of cover

The Gist:
Seventeen year old Luca is accused of heresy and thrown out of his religious order for using math to prove that it is impossible for all of the relics from the true cross to be real.  He is quickly recruited by a secret order and sent on a mission to hold an inquiry into strange occurrences.  Isolde has been cast out from her home upon the death of her father and forced to vows at a nunnery and serve as their lady superior.  When the sisters began acting strangely and complaining of strange dreams and stigmata, Luca is sent to investigate.

I was pretty disappointed by this one.  I have read a lot of Philippa Gregory's books (though I haven't really enjoyed the latest ones) and was hoping for the same sense of excitement that I got while reading The Other Boleyn Girl.  Instead, I got a watered down romance, predictable storyline and characters who were barely tolerable.

When we meet Luca, we are told that he has a remarkable head for numbers and that these skills led to him being called a Changeling (my definition: a child that is left behind by the faerie folk to be raised in a human household).  Take note of this BECAUSE IT NEVER COMES UP AGAIN! Seriously.  He never uses these mysterious mathematical skills and, despite the title of the book, we never find out anything about whether or not he is a changeling.  As a character, he is boring as heck.  He never does anything exciting or unexpected, his manner of speaking is flat and unaffected and he switches between allowing others to take charge and pompously reminding them that he is supposed to be leading this investigation.

Isolde has been promised by her father that, upon his death, all the lands and the kingdom would be hers.  She has been raised to be the lady of the house and taught how to maintain her lands and keep her people fed and safe.  Yet, on his deathbed he supposedly recounts all of this and gives her the choice between marrying a particularly disgusting man or joining the nunnery.  Isolde is told all of this by her brother (her father apparently refused to see her at the end) and never questions the authenticity of his claims.  When she asks to see the will, he gives her a COPY instead of the original and then sends her would-be husband to rape her.  That's right folks, her brother tells his buddy that he can exercise his matrimonial rights before she has even accepted and (I think) within 24 hours of her father's death.  And STILL Isolde doesn't think he is lying about her inheritance.  FFS! How dense can you get?  For the rest of the book, Isolde continues to be boring and is in constant need of rescuing.  The only characters that show any type of promise are the servants Ishraq and Freize and even they are not nearly as interesting as they could be.

This book holds an odd place in the genre spectrum.  It is not quite realistic enough to be true historical fiction nor is it strange enough to be paranormal fiction.  The blurb promises werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers but doesn't actually deliver on either werewolves or witches and I can only assume the alchemists and death-dancers will be featured in the next book.  The plot is sloooooowwwwww and concentrates far too much on traveling and interviewing people.  It really feels like two separate stories; one that features the nunnery and one a village with a werewolf.  The stories felt disconnected, almost like two novellas that were strung together in an attempt to make a full book, and no progress is made on any of the over-arching issues (Luca's mysterious new order and his heritage or Isolde's disinheritance).  

For most of this book I found myself waiting for it to be over and wishing that I had chosen to read something else instead.  I do not think I will be sticking around for the next in this series. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: None
Violence: Death by Poison, Death by Fire
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking Wine/Ale

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (10)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep which was released on May 29th, 2012.

I’ve seen so many freaky things since I started attending Mythos Academy last fall. I know I’m supposed to be a fearless warrior, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just waiting for the next Bad, Bad Thing to happen. Like someone trying to kill me—again.

Everyone at Mythos Academy knows me as Gwen Frost, the Gypsy girl who uses her psychometry magic to find lost objects—and who just may be dating Logan Quinn, the hottest guy in school. But I’m also the girl the Reapers of Chaos want dead in the worst way. The Reapers are the baddest of the bad, the people who murdered my mom. So why do they have it in for me?

It turns out my mom hid a powerful artifact called the Helheim Dagger before she died. Now, the Reapers will do anything to get it back. They think I know where the dagger is hidden, but this is one thing I can’t use my magic to find. All I do know is that the Reapers are coming for me—and I’m in for the fight of my life.

This is a bit of an odd WoW for me.  First, this book is the third in a series and I haven't actually read the first two and second, it has already been released.  BUUUUTTTT I am still waiting because I won this as part of Goodreads First Reads! WOOOOOOOOO!  I got the notice over a month ago and have been anxiously awaiting it's arrival.  I don't want to start the other two books because I am sure by the time I finish the second one I will be ravenous for book 3 and will get even more irritated at the slow delivery.

On a related note, in the past month I have won 3 books (two Goodreads, one from a blog giveaway) and been promised 2 books from an author for review and I haven't received ANY OF THEM! I am beginning to think that someone at Canada Post is stealing my books! URGH!!!!  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

Title: Suicide Notes
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: Oct 14, 2008
Rating: 5/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is simple, clean and to the point.  It isn't something that would normally attract me to pick up a book, but after having read it, I like it. 

The Gist:
Jeff has been sentenced to 45 days in a psych ward following an attempted suicide.  Despite his insistence that he is not a "nut job", he must endure therapy and group with other kids that society has deemed disturbed.  As time goes on the patients start to seem less crazy - or is it that Jeff is becoming more so?

Suicide Notes is one of those books where I never really know where to start with the review.  Each chapter follows a different day of Jeff's 45 day sentence and this works really well to keep the story flowing.  Jeff is funny, self-deprecating and an all round little shit.  But a loveable little shit.  As the narrator, he spends the beginning of the book lying to his doctors, himself and, consequently, the reader.  His sessions with Dr. Cat Poop were laden with humor and thinly veiled disdain and it was compelling to watch as Jeff's walls broke down and he became tired of lying all the time.

The secondary characters are fascinating in and of themselves.  As Jeff opens up, we begin to learn more about these characters but they continue to hold a sense of mystery.  We watch them struggle, make breakthrough and suffer setbacks.  No one is miraculously "cured" and we are left to wonder what happened to them upon release.

This novel deals with some pretty heavy issues, Suicide, Arson, Drug Use, Sexuality and Self-Hate to name a few.  I fully admit that while I would allow my own children to read this one once they reached a mature age, I would not recommend it to my students due to the frank talk of sex, description of sexual acts and description of attempted suicide.  As an adult reader I can appreciate the realism and sincerity behind many of these scenes but I would be concerned that many parents might not share this view. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and Up
Gender: Both
Sex: Masturbation, Groping, Oral Sex.
Violence: Suicide and attempted suicide,
Inappropriate Language: LOTS: Fucking, Suck my Cock, Retarded, Fag, Jacked Off, Pissing, Queer, Bitch, Dick, Asshole,
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Talk of Drug Use

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sound Off Sunday (4)


Sound Off Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Reading Between Classes.  This is your chance to speak your mind.  Each week will feature a new question or topic on which you can share your thoughts.

This week's Sound Off topic is: Do-Not-Read Shelves

If you peruse my books on Goodreads, you will notice that I have two of these shelves.  

The first is No-Due-To-Author-Shenanigans.  If an author mis-treats a reviewer and/or engages in general assholery, I do not want to support them with my hard earned dollars.  That is my right as a consumer.  With a new scandal of authors behaving badly every week, I found this shelf to be a necessity in order to keep track of which authors I wished to avoid.  The list keeps getting longer and longer.  Occasionally, I will get a troll on there telling me that I am hurting the author's reputation and that this is bullying.  To the first point - they did that already, I am simply getting the word out to the miniscule percentage of the internet that actually cares what I think and no, I do not think I am impacting their sales - though I can only wish to one day actually be that important.  To the second point - no, this is not bullying, this is shelving.  I do not review these books, I do not rate these books, I just stick them on a shelf so that I can remember that Suzy Suck A Lot was a total bitch to a reviewer who dared to give her 3/5 stars.  GASP!

The second shelf is No-Due-To-Being-Shit.  This is a special place for all those books that are so crap-tastic that they need their own shelf.  Usually books get placed here because of a myriad of bad reviews (Hush Hush), excerpts that display shitty writing (Fifty Shades of Gray), A premise that is downright insulting (How to Save Your Daughter's Life) or one that simply shouldn't exist (Twilight, True Love and You: Seven Secret Steps to Finding Your Edward or Jacob).  Again, I have trolls tell me that I shouldn't do this - especially since I haven't read the books - but it is my account and my shelf and I can do what I want with it as long as I am acting within Goodreads code of conduct.

Other shelves of note are 
1) Slit-Wrist-Before-Reading-Sequel - just in case I forget how much I HATED the previous book 
2) Am-I-Being-Punked - for those books that are filled with WTFery
3) And of course, Did-Not-Finish - for those books that I simply could not make it through, no matter how much tequila I drank.

Thanks for reading and if you want to share your thoughts on this topic I would love for you to leave your link in the comments! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: A Beautiful Evil by Kelly Keaton

Title: A Beautiful Evil
Author: Kelly Keaton
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: Feb 21, 2012
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:
OOOOOOHHHHHH PRETTY!  I love the colors and the transition from hair to snake reflecting Ari's pending transformation.

The Gist:
Having survived Athena's attack, Ari attempts to learn about her enemy and formulate a plan for rescuing her father and friend, Violet.  (Really.  That's it.  Can you tell that I am less than enthusiastic?)

I love re-tellings of the Greek Myths.  I am particularly fond of the Medusa myth and love the concept of following her lineage to modern day.  However, this sequel to Darkness Becomes Her, fell flat for me.

Ari was not the kick ass character that I longed for her to be.  She is petrified of her own power and constantly fights her abilities (even though she knows that it is her best bet to defeat Athena) and, to make matters worse, she CONSTANTLY reminds the reader of how weak she is - RIGHT, can turn people to stone = weak as shit.  Has she even READ the myths??  She bitched and complained fought valiantly for the right to get into the Novem School (I forget what it is called and am not looking it up) but then skips out on the very classes that are supposed to be helping her learn about her enemy.  She enters the super secret library, stumbles upon important information, but instead of using it to formulate a plan, Ari just runs in blindly with a bunch of kids while the magical elite sit at home twiddling their thumbs.  Right, this is a great plan when you are going up against THE GODDESS OF STRATEGY! 

I couldn't keep all of the characters and their powers straight and I didn't remember any of the hierarchy stuff from the last book.  And can someone please tell me why there are like 6 different types of vampires in this book??  Most of the secondary characters were flat and/or completely undeveloped.  Honestly, I would much rather read a book about Violet than about Ari.  I found it difficult to read the motivations behind some of the characters actions and this made me care less about them.  

It seemed like I was reading action scene after action scene and I needed time to re-coup and get in touch with the characters.  There were some scenes of torture that were pretty disturbing (as they tend to get when you are torturing an immortal) and I didn't feel they fit with the YA theme. 

Despite *almost finishing this book in the doctor's office (one of the most boring places on earth) I still couldn't concentrate on the plot and did not emotionally connect with the characters or their suffering.  I don't think I will be sticking around for #3.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: None
Violence: Swordplay, Knifeplay, Gunplay, Torture, Vampirism
Inappropriate Language: Shit, Blow Me, Bitch, Jesus, Bastard, Fucking
Substance Use/Abuse:  Drinking

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review: The Mosts by Melissa Senate

Title: The Mosts
Author: Melissa Senate
Publisher: Delacorte
Release Date: June 8, 2010
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is cute.  it reminds me of the old school YA novels.  Simple, but effective.

The Gist:
Maddie was invisible.  Not popular, but not ridiculed.  After spending a summer in Italy, she re-enters the school fashionable, confident and on the arm of one of the hottest guys in school.  Madeline is everything that Maddie wasn't and she is quickly adopted by the "Mosts" who gained their title from the list voted on by the students at the end of each year.  When her perfect boyfriend moves away Madeline wonders if he was the key to her success and if she can maintain her status as a Most without losing herself. 

When I picked up this book, I was in the mood for a quick, fluffy read and that is exactly what I got.  In fact, I managed to read the whole thing in about 2 hours.  The writing was clean and more concerned with the plot than with flowery descriptions.  The book began a year after Maddie's transformation and I do wish that we were able to see some of her time being invisible and her efforts to re-invent herself in Italy.  The characters were fun, though I would have preferred that they be a little more developed.  I am very glad that Madeline's popularity techniques for the Nots were limited to outward appearance, confidence and not trying too hard and that they did not attempt to change the core values of the people she was helping.

This novel was a little tame when it came to the actions of the teenagers.  There was only the barest illusion to sex and underage drinking, and the actions of the Mosts were limited to some cruel comments and a few rumors.  I do believe that if real teenagers were feeling their social roles being threatened they would take more drastic actions (I'm sure you've seen Carrie).  However, in making this choice, the author did manage to keep the book appropriate for nearly any teenager.

The Mosts is a fun book that is recommended as a beach read or to take along on a car trip this summer.  Happy Reading!

Teaching/Parental Notes:

12 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Spoken about but not described
Violence: None
Inappropriate Language: Bitch
Substance Abuse: Allusion to underage drinking

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (9)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week will feature a new Top Ten list . Everyone is welcome to join. 
This week's topic is the Top Ten Books I'd Recommend As Good Beach Reads.

I consider beach reads to be books that are easy to read, fun and or generally fluffy.  My own list has a mix of YA, Magical Realism and even a Memoir.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Review: Bewitching by Alex Flinn

Title: Bewitching
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is pretty, and I like the dark tone and colors but it doesn't really stand out from all the other "pretty girl in a pretty dress" in YA.  If it wasn't for my slight obsession with witches and fairy tale re-tellings, I probably never would have picked up this book.

The Gist:
Bewitching spins together a number of fairy tales as it follows Kendra, a witch who tries to help people but, inevitably, makes things worse. 

I thoroughly enjoy books that re-tell or take a different spin on fairy tales.  This book should have been right up my alley, but there was something about it that just didn't click.  First of all, I wasn't a fan of Kendra (does anyone else think this is an odd name for a character that originated in the 1660s?).  We never really learn anything about her motivations.  The story opens with her escaping a plague ridden town with her brother in tow and being captured by the witch from the Hansel & Gretel story.  This witch teaches Kendra how to control her powers but we see very little of these lessons nor do we learn anything else about the history of that witch or Kendra.  Eventually, the brother disappears - for no apparent reason and we abruptly shift to the Cinderella story of Emma and Lisette. 

In Emma, I see a character that I could enjoy (despite her being ANOTHER YA character who is obsessed with classical novels - puhleese!).  She grew up in a priveledged household, but it ultimately just a lonely little girl.  When her stepfather brings home a daughter Emma never knew about, she hopes to gain a friend and instead finds Lisette to be a mastermind at manipulation.  A few things bothered me: 1) we never find out why Lisette lived in abject poverty while Daddy Warbucks spoiled Emma and her mother 2) the father seems like a decent guy, but while bonding with Lisette he COMPLETELY neglects Emma - FOR YEARS! 

Just as I am getting interested in Emma and Lisette's story, there is yet another interlude while Kendra tells us another story.  The shifts in time and narrator changes made for a very choppy storyline and left me annoyed.  Each time one occurred, I was tempted to put the book down and never pick it up again.  In the end, it felt like the author started this book with a handful of short stories and then concocted a weak storyline in order to link them all together into one book.  Perhaps, if the entire story had been told from Kendra's point of view (or at least switched between just Kendra and Emma) it might have flowed better. 

In the end, I found this novel unsatisfying.  While the novel may be exactly what some readers enjoy (and judging by many of the reviews, it is) it was simply not for me and I do not think I will be continuing with Kendra's story through any subsequent books. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Females
Sex: Kissing,
Violence: Death by drowning,
Inappropriate Language: Bastard, Slut
Substance Abuse: Underage Drinking, Marijuana Use

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review: Bunheads by Sophie Flack

Title: Bunheads
Author: Sophie Flack
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette)
Release Date: Oct 10, 20122
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:
This cover is really pretty and reminds me of the fractal geometry projects that my students do in math class.  The image is reflective of the struggle for each dancer to look identical as a company but fighting to stand out and be noticed as an individual.

The Gist:
Hannah Ward is a bunhead.  She spends her days and nights practicing, performing and pining to be featured as soloist.  When she meets a musician named Jacob, she begins to question whether or not she is as dedicated to this life as she once believed

It seems I am in the minority on this one.  I have wanted to read it for a long time and was excited to have an addition to my classroom library that would appeal to my little dancers (with a plethora of sports books, it is always nice to find a different kind of "interests" book).  I wanted to like this book, I really did.  But, when I started putting it down in order to do other things (like laundry and the dishes) that it was simply not living up to expectations.

If you read the bio of the author you will find out that she danced with the New York City Ballet as part of the corps de ballet.  She retired in 2009 and is now studying English at Columbia University.  SPOILER ALERT: Hannah dances with the Manhattan Ballet Company as part of the corps de ballet and quits to study Creative Writing at New York University.  Sound familiar?  There is nothing wrong with writing an autobiography but please, call it an autobiography.

This story reads much the same way as the stories my students tell when they are in trouble.  They tell a version that is close to the truth, but one that paints them in the best light possible.  Hannah's motivations do not seem sincere and I am skeptical that Sophie she truly left the company because she wanted to expand her horizons (rather than because her friend was promoted and she was angry and jealous).

As a character, she is unlikeable and indecisive.  It takes the entire book for her to act on a decision that she had clearly already made shortly after meeting Jacob.  She is not particularly kind, or funny, or smart.  Even her struggle with her weight doesn't feel genuine and we only see the consequences of extreme dieting in minor characters which doesn't provide any emotional pay-off.  The relationship with Jacob is boring at best and her flirtation with Matt does not teach her anything and seemed completely unnecessary. 

Bunheads did keep my interest enough for me to finish but, ultimately, was a disappointment.  I was hoping for a backstage pass into the world of ballet, one that showed the dedication and determination of the dancers and the lengths to which they are willing to go in order to secure their success.  What I got instead was a watered down version of life within a Company and the story of a girl who spends 11 years working toward a dream only to give it up for a boyfriend. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing, Possible sex - not described at all
Violence: None
Inappropriate Language: Nutfucker, Sluttier, Fuck Buddy
Substance Abuse: Underage drinking