Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (12)

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:

Top Ten Characters I Would Like To Trade Places With For A Day

1. Anyone at Hogwarts: it doesn't have to be one of the big 3, anyone attending the school would do.  Though, I'm not sure I could give it up after just 24 hours.

2. Anna in Anna Dressed in Blood: She is one seriously freaky deaky ghost and I would love to have my ethereal hands on those powers for while.

3. Any of the kids in Narnia: Again, like Hogwarts, I'm not picky about who - I just want in!

4. Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: A chocolate factory AND I don't have to worry about the candy hangover the next day? Gimmie!

5. Aura in Shade: A few hours with Zach. Yes, please.

6. Biff in Lamb: hanging out with Christopher Moore's version of Christ has got to be the ultimate "you're never gonna believe this" story. 

7. Francesca in Saving Francesca: I loved the characters in this one so much that I would kill to spend one day with them.

8. Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love: Only while she is in Italy.  None of this self sacrifice and meditation for me, I want to eat every dish that she mentions in the book!

9. Any of the kids at Camp Half-Blood:  This place fascinates me.  I would love a chance to explore and be claimed by my mythical mother or father. 

10. George in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: MUST. WARN. FRED. (seriously, I am still heartbroken over his death - if there is a way I can fix it - I will.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Rape Girl by Alina Klein

Title: Rape Girl
Author: Alina Klein
Publisher: Namelos
Release Date: June 4, 2012
Rating: 5/5

Cover Impressions:
I will be honest, the cover didn't wow me.  It was the title and synopsis that got me interested.  Perhaps it looks different on the physical copy, or perhaps there is some symbolism behind the cover image that I missed.  Either way - do not judge this one by it's cover!

The Gist:
Valerie wanted to throw a fun party and maybe flirt with her crush.  She didn't know that within 24 hrs she would be labeled as The Rape Girl and that she would lose her friends, her reputation and her sense of self. 

Rape Girl is one of those rare books that wraps it's tendrils around my heart and refuses to let go.  I read it in pretty much one sitting, over a few hours and am still left with an overwhelming need to re-examine and discuss it.  I want to make my friends read it, I want to bombard the author with my questions and, more than any of those, I want to get multiple copies for my classroom. 

The first few chapters of this book are divided into Before and After.  This is incredibly effective and reflects the way that many victims will always structure their memories.  While we follow Valerie's rape and the aftermath, we do not get the graphic descriptions that can be common in other books on this subject and this allows it to maintain appropriateness for teens.  Throughout this novel, we are privy to Valerie's inner thoughts and feelings as her friends desert her and her family struggles to deal with their own sense of guilt.  The pain from each of these people is palpable and poignant.

The actions on the part of Valerie, her mother, best friend and even her rapist feel incredibly realistic.  At one point, we hear from this young man and my stomach turned to ice simply reading his justifications for his crimes, knowing that a person with this deluded sense of entitlement as a man will most certainly assault another woman.  While his words are chilling, they seem typical of a person who has convinced himself that he has done nothing wrong.  I was also seriously disturbed at the actions of the principal.  As a teacher, the thought that a man in that position could so blatantly side with the perpetrator of a rape makes me ill.

Rape Girl has easily made my list of top books for 2012 and is one that I highly recommend to both teens and adults. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing, Talk of Sex
Violence: Rape - No Graphic Descriptions
Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Fuck, Ho, Dildo, Ass, Whore, Shit, Bastard
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (7)

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!

EARCS I Got This Week:

Books Bought This Week:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (9)

Feature & Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read

This week's question is:

Summer Reading. What was your favorite book that you were REQUIRED to read when you were in school?
Now this is an interesting question for the English teacher over here.  As such, there is no way that I can write a simple answer and move on, so I am going to complicate things a little:
My favorite required reading from my schooling:
My most hated required reading from my schooling:
The books that I require my students to read: 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

ARC Book Review: Scarlett Dedd by Cathy Brett

Title: Scarlett Dedd
Author: Cathy Brett
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: Aug 14, 2012
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions:
This cover does not even scratch the surface of the awesomeness that is inside.  See those fantastically creepy drawings? Those are EVERYWHERE and they get even better.

The Gist:
Scarlett was dead, to begin with.  Heh, always wanted to start a review like that.  Anyway, in attempting to avoid a painfully awkward class trip, Scarlett Dedd accidentally kills herself - and her entire family.  In finding herself Bodily Challenged, Scarlett does the only sensible thing and attempts to gain some ghostly pals - by killing her old friends.

I cannot possibly go any further in this review without mentioning the illustrations in this book.  Not only are they clever, creative and deliciously gruesome, they are also integrated into the text in a way that I have never seen before.  The storyline is melded with pictures, doodles, membership cards and coffee stains.  The way that the author plays with words and pictures (see below) is fun and keeps the reader entertained.  Elements like these add a sense of whimsy and macabre and would certainly enthrall any young readers.

The story is told through several sources.  Along side the traditional narrative style, we see Scarlett's blog, online conversations and even an interview transcript.  Personally, the constant changes in perspective and style took some getting used to, however, I can appreciate the creative effort and I know that my students would find it fun and refreshing.  The plot took an interesting twist when Scarlett decided to try and kill her friends so that she would have some company, but otherwise was fairly predictable.

The characters are an interesting bunch.  They are the artsy kids.  The ones who tend to dress in black and compare recipes for fake blood rather than the latest party.  While the "teen speak" feels a little forced, the characters feel like a realistic portrayal of typical teenagers.  The only part that really bothered me about the secondary characters is that they don't seem particularly affected by the death of their friend.  They also seem determined to exploit her current situation for fame and popularity rather than try to communicate with her.  For her part, Scarlett incredibly self-absorbed, whiny and exceedingly dense.  This is rather annoying for about the first half (how long does it take her to realize that her parents are also dead?) but it does get better.  Eventually, she gets over her naivety and is able to put the needs of others before her own.  

Scarlett Dedd is certainly a book that will appeal to fans of graphic novels and to those readers who can appreciate a little blood and gore.

For a taste of Scarlett Dedd, you can also follow her blog: ScarDeparted 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

12 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Death by poisoning, several attempted murders
Inappropriate Language: Retard, illustration of character gesturing with middle finger
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (14)

"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: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake which is due to be released on Aug 7th, 2012.

It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on. 

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live--not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.

I LOVED Anna Dressed in Blood.  In fact, I am planning on re-reading and reviewing it before Girl of Nightmares is released.  This is, quite possibly, my most anticipated book of the year.  I am more than a little obsessed and keep checking back to the Goodreads page, just in case the release date got moved up.  

This will be me on Aug 6th:


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (11)

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:

Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds/Settings

In the case of a series, I have included the first book that I read (and thus my introduction into that particular world).  I also included a freebie, because I could not decide between Room and Fog Magic.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Title: A Year In Provence
Author: Peter Mayle
Publisher: Vintage
Release Date: 1989
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions:
I really enjoy the mish-mash of elements in this cover. 

The Gist:
Peter Mayle and his wife have visited Provence several times and fallen in love with the picturesque countryside and the relaxed style of life.  They have decided to take the jump and buy a property there.  Peter chronicles their first year in their new home.

This was a book club pick and not something I would normally have chosen for myself.  The writing was enjoyable enough but I suffered along with the lack of a plot.  Instead of a tale with a beginning, middle and end - I was presented with a large collection of anecdotes.  While these were, in themselves, enjoyable, they did not lend to engrossment in the novel or inspire me to pick it up again after a few hours of distraction elsewhere. 

This book felt like a lazy summer day, pleasant, but lacking anything of substance.  As such, I am having difficulty finding things to write about.  There was nothing inherently BAD about the book, but there was nothing particularly impressive either.  One issue that I did encounter was the descriptions of food.  At the beginning, these were interesting and charming but, as time wore on, they became tedious.  By the end of the book, I felt that I had sat with Peter and his wife at every meal for an entire year! 

All in all, A Year in Provence is a light, easy read perfectly suited to an easy going vacation or simply a trip to the beach.  However, if you are looking for something with a little more substance, it would be best to move on to something else on the shelf. 

*There is nothing in this book to discourage teenage readers, but I do not believe the style would appeal to the average teen.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: The Kitchen Witch by Annette Blair

Title: The Kitchen Witch
Author: Annette Blair
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: Oct 5, 2004
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is really cute.  I don't normally shop for romance, but I think this one would stand out from the more common shirtless men and heaving bosoms. 

The Gist:
Desperate for a babysitter, Single-Dad Logan Kilgarven knocks on the star spangled door of his neighbor, Melody Seabright.  Despite his qualms about her witchiness, he introduces her to his son, Shane - who falls in love immediately.  When she bewitches her way into a job hosting a cooking show at the station where Logan works, they are thrown into close quarters, constant contact and an undeniable lust. 

I don't normally read romance but I sometimes make exceptions for those featuring magical elements.  Due to that, I was a little disappointed in The Kitchen Witch.  While Melody had some serious sex appeal, there was nothing really witchy about her.  Even being set in Salem, there were very few magical elements. Mel did manage to weave a spell around EVERY man she encountered.  And I mean Every, Single, One.  She and Logan had some serious sex appeal but each convinced themselves that they weren't right for each other in a very been-there, seen-that, predictable sort of way.  There were some serious hot and steamy scenes (always interrupted in the typical "let's delay the inevitable" romantic fashion) and when they finally did get down to business it seemed like they would never stop talking! The suspense was killing me!

Despite these issues, I really did enjoy The Kitchen Witch as a quick, fun and fluffy read.  Just prior to starting this book (and while reading it) I was having some personal issues with a friend and neighbor.  This book was exactly what I needed to get out of my own head and stop obsessing, even if just for a little while.  Mel is a fun and quirky character and Shane is one of the cutest kids I have ever read about.  At the beginning of the novel, I found myself laughing out loud at Mel's cooking disasters and Shane's hilarious reactions.

The plot did feel a little disjointed.  Tiffany, Mel's rival for Logan's affections, was a great villain and I enjoyed reading about her manipulation of both Logan and her father.  However, she was not a major player for a large percentage of the novel and the issues that she caused seemed to be solved a little too early on for a real sense of drama.  After this point, I was left reading page after page while waiting for Mel and Logan to come to their senses and get out of their own way.

As I said, I don't normally read Romance novels and some of the issues that I had might not bother someone who regularly reads the genre.  Overall, The Kitchen Witch was a fun book with quirky characters and a great read for relaxing and forgetting your troubles.

This is NOT a YA novel.  It is not recommended for teens.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (13)

"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: Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong which is due to be released on July 24th, 2012.

The exciting, page-turning LAST episode of Kelley Armstrong's acclaimed, bestselling Women of the Otherworld series!
Savannah Levine, a young witch of remarkable power and a dangerous pedigree, staggers away from a bomb blast in New Orleans, glad that she's managed to rescue her half-brother Bryce from the supernatural revolutionaries who'd held him captive. But everyone and everything she holds dear is still at risk. The reveal movement has shaken the Otherworld to its core and the resulting chaos has thinned the boundaries between dimensions, allowing creatures of the deeper realms to break through and wreak havoc on supernaturals but also on innocent humans.

Although she's been temporarily stripped her of her powers, Savannah knows she has a crucial part to play in this war of survival. In fact the fate of her loved ones--of Adam, the friend she hopes will become a lover; of Paige and Lucas, her guardians; of the werewolf Pack and Jaime Vegas; of a pregnant Hope; of her brothers Sean and Bryce--and of the human world rests on her shoulders. If she can find the way and the will to defend them.

Only in the final battle will Savannah find out her true capacities, and what love will drive her to do. In 13, Kelley Armstrong brings her powerful and unique saga to a deeply satisfying end: thrilling, surprising and harrowing.

This release is bittersweet.  I have been reading this series since my first year of college when I came across Dime Store Magic in a second hand bookstore.  I love her characters and I am so excited to see things finally get wrapped up but I am so sad because I know how much I am going to miss them!  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stuff For Book Nerds: The Home Edition

I wanted to share just a few of the home decor items that I have come across.  Some are DIY and on my to do list and some are beautiful items available for order.  Links can be found beneath each picture.

Book Garland
Vintage Book Apple

Scrabble Letters

PosterText Artwork
DIY Lampshade

Paper Rose from Dictionary Pages

Monday, July 16, 2012

ARC Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: Aug 7, 2012

Cover Impressions:
Here is where things get tricky.  Because I had an e-arc with no cover page I got to choose my cover.  Can you guess which of the two above I picked?  That's right, the badass one.  I believe the first is the UK cover and the second is the US cover.  Well folks, the UK wins it.  The US cover is ho-hum, seen it, probably not gonna pick it off a shelf.  The UK cover, on the other hand has a fantastic blend of awesome colors, creepy atmosphere and "don't fuck with me" attitude.

The Gist:
Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games when a king bent on domination holds a competition to find the most deadly criminal to be his champion.  Celaena Sardothien is pulled from the depths of the lands most brutal prison by the Crown Prince to serve as his competitor.  When a mysterious forces begins to sadistically murder and disembowel the other competitors, Celaena finds herself in a world that might just be more dangerous than the one from which she escaped. 

Oh how I wanted to love this book.  The cover.  The hype.  And, to be truthful, Maas had me for the first 5 or 6 chapters.  I began burrowing in and expecting an engrossing read with a compelling main character but alas, things eventually began to fall apart.

The Celaena Sardothien that Prince Dorian finds in prison is one of the most badass characters I have ever encountered.  We learn that she was one of the most feared prisoners for her tendency to "snap" and bury her pickaxe in anyone within her sight.  She has survived for a year in a place where most last weeks at best.  She is strong, witty and imagines murder at every turn, making comments like "You'll be sweating when I skin you alive and squish your eyeballs beneath my feet".  However, halfway through the novel, this character seems to disappear.  Throughout the novel, it seems like Maas can't actually decide who Celaena is.  She is badass one minute, vain and pompous the next and weak and simpering after that.  If anyone has read my review of Grave Mercy, you will recall that I have a problem with Assassins who never actually kill anyone.  This is also a problem in Throne of Glass.  Making your character a kick-ass female assassin with a deadly past seems like an easy out.  The author gets this fantastic character with a fearsome reputation but doesn't actually have to do anything to prove/maintain that reputation.  Now, I am a little bloodthirsty, I think an assassin should kill someone at least every 50 pages.  That may be a bit excessive but *SPOILER ALERT* Celaena doesn't actually kill ANYBODY!  Sure she can fight, but in the end she gets rescued.  Which doesn't fit AT ALL with the original character that we met.  There are also some other issues with the whole assassin role:

- It is up to Chaol to come up with the "lie low" plan, why didn't she think of that herself?
- It is hard to believe that an assassin would be so comfortable in gowns without making some adjustments or asking for clothing better suited for fighting.
- She never manages to get her hands on a decent weapon and, despite being mentioned constantly, she never actually uses her makeshift "knife".
- She never takes a single shot at Cain, despite his increasingly aggressive taunting.
- Dorian is CONSTANTLY sneaking up on her.  Seriously, your trained assassin hearing doesn't work anymore?

There are some other interesting characters.  Chaol starts off strong and stoic and it appears that he will play the love interest.  Unfortunately, he seems to fade to the background by the end of the novel.  The princess, Nehemia, is kind and mysterious.  She appears to hold a world of secrets and, I hope she comes to the forefront as the series continues.   The prince, Dorian, plays the role of handsome womanizer who reforms once he meets the right woman.  It is a little cliche and never quite feels real to me.  For his part, Dorian disagrees with nearly all of the decisions that his father makes but never actually DOES anything about them.  The fearsome and cruel king removes himself from the action, returning at the end of the novel under mysterious circumstances (which are never explained). 

The world building is interesting.  I like the idea of a land where magic has been banished but simmers just below the surface, sometimes leaking through fissures and wreaking havoc.  The plot begins strong but starts to lag once the competition begins.  There are A LOT of Tests and many of them are covered in just a line or two.  Maas could have accomplished the same thing by reducing the number of competitors (some of whom never receive a name) and subsequent tests.  There are a lot of hints at larger secrets in both Celaena's and Nehmia's past but nothing important is ever revealed (I kept wait for that OH MY GOD! moment - but it never came). The pacing is a bit off, with the training and competition being glossed over in order to spend time on the will-they won't-they relationship between Celaena and Dorian. 

Books like this are often the most disappointing.  It has a fabulous premise, even a fantastic opening, but fell apart once the story began to be fleshed out.  Because I saw flashes of greatness, I will be sticking around for the next book.  Here's hoping for more killing, less moaning and FFS no love triangle between Celaena, Chaol and Dorian! 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Hinted at
Violence: Swordplay, Disembowelment, Hand to Hand Combat, Poisoning
Inappropriate Language: Ass, Bitch,
Substance Use/Abuse: Wine, Opium

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (6)

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!

EARCS I Got This Week:

EBOOKS I Bought This Week:

Books Won This Week: