Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Thoughts

Well 2011 is over, and guess what?! I completed my quest to read 111 books in 2011. In fact, I finished two weeks early and ended up reading a total of 120 books. I'm in the process of writing a huge post about my favorite 11 books of the year, but for now I wanted to share with you some thoughts and statistics about my 111 in 11 project.

First, here's a breakdown by genre of what I read:

71 Young Adult
24 Christian fiction
7 Scifi/Fantasy
6 Mystery/Thriller
5 Romance/ChickLit
4 Historical
2 Classics
1 Nonfiction

My most productive month was November with 19 books, and my least productive was September with 1 book.

Some of you might remember that originally I had some sub-goals. I wanted to read 5 nonfiction, 10 classics, and 15 bestsellers. I stopped keeping track of bestsellers but I'm pretty sure I read at least 15 books that were on one the the New York Times lists at some point in time. But I didn't even come close to those other two goals... oops. I gave up on that about halfway through the year, when I was afraid I might not even make my 111 goal. I also had a list of must reads, and I got all but about 2 of those. If I had a do over I probably would have tried a little harder to meet those goals, but really I'm not too upset about it. Maybe those are some good goals for 2012.

Speaking of 2012. 112 books in 2012?? Well, probably not. At least not intentionally. Why? Because I don't like feeling obligated to read. I'd rather it be something I'm doing because I want to. However, I probably will still keep track of what I've read. Without that list I tend to forget what I read. I will also probably keep book blogging occasionally, because I like talking about books. So keep checking this blog if your interested!

What's next on my reading list? Well I have been dying to reread some books for about a year now... I will probably start rereading The Hunger Games tonight, then maybe The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter too. After that, who knows!

That's about everything I wanted to say I think. For those of you who have followed along with my journey all year, thanks for the encouragement and suggestions, and most of all thanks for reading!

Make sure to check back soon for my 11 Best Books of 2011. Here's a teaser- books that almost made the list, numbers 12-16:

12. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
13. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
14. A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
15. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
16. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Friday, October 21, 2011

Finally, a book worth reviewing!

82 down, 29 to go! I'm slowly getting closer... But still really far away...

I'm posting again so soon because I just finished a great book and I want to talk about it. What book? Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This book has been popular for a while now, so I'm sure a lot of you have already read it or seen then movie. I've been putting off reading it for a while, mostly because I thought I wouldn't like it. I'm not really sure why I thought that, but somewhere along the way I got it in my head that it wasn't a very good book. But I loved it. Great writing, fascinating story, I could hardly put it down and finished it in a day and a half. I especially liked the framing of the story, the way the narration switched between 93 year old Jacob and 23 year old Jacob. Surprisingly, 93 year old Jacob's chapters were just as interesting as his 23 year old counterpart. Maybe I only liked this book so much because my expectations were so low. Honestly though, I think I would have liked it anyway. Now, if only I could find 111 books this good, I would have been finished months ago.

I've read 2 other books recently that are worth mentioning. One was Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. I had high expectations for this books because it was a bestseller for a while and the premise sounded really interesting. But I was disappointed. The writing wasn't very good, and yes, the historical events behind the novel were interesting, but the story itself fell flat. A bit of background: The story alternates between Sarah: a 10 year old Jewish girl in France during WWII, and Julia, a present day middle aged journalist who slowly discovers Sarah's story. Really fascinating premise with a lot of potential, but story never connected with me. There are several possible reasons for this. For one, I felt like the book was simply telling me how I should feel, rather than actually stirring my emotions. Also, I never really forgot that I was reading a book. The story didn't draw me in enough. And finally, the present day part of the book, Julia's part, read like a bad chick flick or cheesy Nicholas Sparks novel. It didn't really fit with the gravity of what happened to Sarah and her family. It wasn't an overall terrible read, it just wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be.

book#2: The Death Cure by James Dashner. You might remember that I read the first two books in this YA dystopian trilogy back in January, The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials. I was very excited to read the much anticipated final installment. Overall, I think it was a good book. I was a little disappointed, but mostly because I think I remembered liking the first two books way more than I actually did. Or probably more accurately: I was much less disillusioned with and burnt-out on reading when I read the first 2 books, and so I enjoyed them way more than I would if I read them right now. That's sad, right? Anyway- the third book was good, really fast paced and full of action. I would have liked a little more character development and a little more umm... I don't know... something else that was missing... but considering it is young adult and probably geared toward teenage boys, I'll let it slide. Also I'm not entirely sure I liked the ending, but as a friend recently pointed out, I hardly ever like the endings, so I'll let that slide too. So- if you started The Maze Runner trilogy, go get a copy of The Death Cure, because it is at least a series worth finishing.

So far October has been way more productive than September, but I've still only read 5 books this month. I don't think I'll make my benchmark of 11, which means November and December are going to be verrrry busy. And I'm working now too- So that means even less time for reading. But, I'm very determined to reach my goal. I feel like I have not really accomplished much in this post-college year of floundering and figuring myself out. But reading 111 books, yeah that would be a pretty good accomplishment, right? Plus, when else in my life will I have time to attempt something like this again? So wish me luck and, as always, please let me know if you have any good books suggestions!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Update!

78 books down, 33 to go, and less than 3 months left!

It's been a long long time since I updated this, but for those of you still wondering, I'm still attempting to reach my goal of 111 books in 2011! This quest has proven to be a lot more difficult than I expected, mainly because I really had no idea how much or how often I would get burnt out on reading. For example, in September, I read all of one book. And I should point out, that I didn't actually read that book, it was an audio book that I listened while walking or driving.

Because of the extremely unproductive month of September, I'm not actually sure that I will reach my goal. I will have to read 11 books a month, so it will be a lot, but I'm sure going to try! It would help tremendously if I find 33 really good books to read, but that's not likely. (But, suggestions are welcome!)

If you are interested in a book suggestion, well since my last actual update I've read two books that I think are worth recommending. One is The Help, which if you haven't heard of that book by now you must be living under a rock. The other is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. This book was surprisingly wonderful. It's written as a bunch of letters, so I didn't think that I would like it. But, it was great, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. (Thanks Tara for recommending it to me!)

One last thing. I doubt that I'll start updating my blog again regularly in the next few months, but if you are interested in keeping up with what I've read or how close I am to my goal, check the link on the right side of the page, the What I've read so far page. I have been regularly updating that list throughout the whole year, because it's my way of keeping up with what I've read.

Well, that's about all I have to say. I'll hopefully blog a several more times before the end of the year, but at the very least, I'll definitely let you know how things turn out when January 1st arrives!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Halfway there!

Earlier today I finished my 56th book... and do you know what that means? That's right, I'm over halfway to 111!!! I have to say it feels pretty good. :D And just in time too, it's almost July and I am just barely on schedule. But that's okay, I've got 6 more months!

The special book number 56 was When Joy Came to Stay by Karen Kingsbury. This was the first Karen Kingsbury book I had read, and I loved it! I have to admit that I've been a little snobby towards Christian fiction... I mean there are a lot of badly written Christian fiction books out there. But really, that's true of any genre. And When Joy Came to Stay definitely doesn't fall in the bad category; it was great! Since Karen Kingsbury has written something like 50 novels.. you will probably see several more of her books popping up on my reading list.

Book number 55 was another Sarah Dessen book, Along for the Ride. It's about like every other Sarah Dessen book I've read, but that didn't stop me from staying up til 4 in the morning to finish it! I loved it and I would most definitely recommend it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Longest book of the year right here!

Well I'm pretty proud of myself because I just finished a 1,258 page book! Yep that's right, 1,258 pages, and in 8 days too! Not too bad, right? Maybe I'm getting back on track.

Anyway, this book, as you might have guessed by the length, falls in the epic fantasy genre. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is the first in what will eventually be a 10(?I think) book series. The book was really good, especially if you like epic fantasy. If you aren't an epic fantasy fan, then I probably wouldn't recommend it. It's long, complex, a little slow at times, and a lot confusing. But I think that's part of what I loved. So many small details, little clues, big revelations, hints at bigger revelations to come... I love it. And the characters! I fell in love with Sanderson's previous books because of his characters... and he did not disappoint with in this book. I feel so invested in them and their world already after one book.. how will I feel after 10?

There is one problem though. This is only the first book, and the second one won't be out for another year. With 10 books, and 1-2 years in between... I can't imagine this series ever ending. And that's a daunting thought. I will likely be 40 years old when this is over! I am hesitant to get involved in such an enthralling series so early on... but it's too late now. I am already invested. Maybe I will wait until I am 40 and all 10 books are released before I read another one. But probably not, I won't be able to wait that long. And part of the fun is the speculation, right? It might be kind of fun to follow this series through from the start.

Anyway, if you are a Wheel of Time or Sword of Truth fan, you'll like this. If you like fantasy but don't want to get involved in lengthy epics, try one of Sanderson's stand-alone novels- Elantris or Warbreaker.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm still alive but I'm barely reading

Barely reading. What can I say? I guess I'm not quite the avid reader that I was so proud of being. Or I just got a little burned out. Either way, I've hardly been reading at all lately. I realize I didn't post a progress update at the end of May- it was because I didn't really read much in May. I didn't feel like there was much to update. I thought June would be better. So far, it's been worse. I've only read two books- and really we should say only one, because the other one was an audio book that I've been listening to for months and finally finished. But that one book I did read was a good one- 1984 by George Orwell. It was on my must read list AND it's a classic, which I have to read 10 of this year (this makes two). So I do feel a little proud of myself for finishing that, and for the most part, enjoying it.

Hopefully my reading will pick up in the next month or so, because I'm going to the beach. (Twice!) There is something so appealing about the idea of spending a day just reading a good book on the beach. So in anticipation I've been saving two supposedly awesome books for beach reading- Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Hopefully they will live up to my high expectations, and get me back to being a reader again. I'll let you know.

In the meantime, if you are looking for some good beach reading, might I suggest Delirium by Lauren Oliver? You won't regret reading it, I promise!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Progress!

Well guys, I am excited to tell you all that I have officially finished my first nonfiction book. 127 Hours by Aron Ralston. Yes, this is the book about the guy who was hiking alone, got his hand stuck in between two rocks, was stuck there 127 hours, then cut his hand off. It's now a movie starring James Franco, which I really want to see.

I started reading this book way back in February. It took me several months to get through the first half. Not because it was bad. Just because it wasn't quite a page-turner and I was always reading something else at the time. And the first half of the book was a lot of flashbacks to past outdoorsy expeditions, which were described in a technical outdoorsy way, and I just wasn't super interested. However, I finished the last half of the book in three days. It was a page-turner by that point! I knew he got out, and I knew how (from the back of the book), but I still couldn't stop reading. We got to hear about things from his point of view, and what his friends and parents did once they realized he was missing. His thoughts, visions, ideas, and the things he went through while he was stuck were just fascinating, (in a horrifying sort of way). I'm really glad I read this book and I'm really glad I stuck with it through the end.

I've read three other books since my last update. One was great- Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. If you haven't already, read my previous review about Lauren Oliver's second book, Delirium. I was blown away by Delirium, and not only because it was dystopian but also because of Oliver's beautiful writing. So that's why I decided to give Before I Fall a shot. It's about a snobby, mean, popular teenager who dies and has to live her last day over and over again. Sounds kind of horrible, right? But it really wasn't. I LOVED it. Main character Samantha really grew and changed and learned and loved. And even though the whole story was the same day 7 times.. it didn't feel repetitive. Samantha did different things with her last day every day, and the book was actually impossible to put down. And like Delirium, it was beautifully written. I think I may have just discovered a new favorite author!

The other two books I read weren't as good- If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and the sequel Where She Went. The first book is about a girl named Mia who is in a car accident with her family. Her entire family is killed, and she gets to watch through an out of body experience as her friends and family gather around her unconscious body at the hospital. She realizes that she gets to choose- does she stay here without her family? Or does she leave with her family? (aka die) I really didn't like this book much.. and I don't think it was only because it was morbid, because I loved Before I Fall. It just didn't capture me. The sequel was slightly better, it was told from Mia's boyfriend's perspective after the accident, but I still just didn't really like it. And it didn't feel like a young adult book either. Anyway, those two books just weren't for me.

In other news, I've done really well on my no buying new books in May rule, so far, but I've just heard about a new YA dystopian that I'm dying to read. So we'll see if I can last.. Surely it'd be ok to buy one new book in May, right?

p.s. I forgot about one other book I read. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, the sequel to Shiver, a paranormal romance that anyone who even remotely liked Twilight will love. (Click here to read my review!) Linger was just as good as Shiver, and I'm absolutely dying to read the third one, which comes out sometime this summer.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver


I am on a constant quest for good, young adult dystopian book. Sometimes I find one, but that just leaves me hungering all the more for another one. Which is what led me to Lauren Oliver's Delirium. Imagine a dystopian world where love is a disease. A deadly, contagious disease that must be cured at all costs. Lena will receive the cure in a few months, on her 18th birthday. She can't wait to be safe from the disease. Until she meets a boy, who turns her world upside down.

I LOVED this book. I might even go so far as to say, best book of the year so far. I don't want to get your expectations up too much, because then you might be disappointed, but really, it was really good. The book was riddled that powerful imagery. The characters were very real and honest. The book focused a lot on Lena's relationship with her best friend, Hana, as well as her budding romance. The book dealt with the importance of all kinds of love, love between friends, love between family. Basically just a really great book. And really, come on. It's a young adult dystopian book- how could I not like it?

So what are you waiting for? After this glowing review I expect you all to go out and buy this book. Okay maybe not really, but if your looking for a good read, you might have just found it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

April Update!

Books Read: 9 / 43 total
Books to go: 68

Best Book of April: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Worst Book of April: There was nothing especially awful in April. I guess I would have to say Switched by Amanda Hocking

0 (0) out of 5 nonfiction
0 (1) out of 10 classics
0 (5) out of 15 New York Times Bestsellers

Genres:7 out of 10
7 (30 total) Young Adult
0 (4) Fantasy
0 (1) Classic
0 (2) Thriller
1 (4) Romance
0 (1) Chick Lit
1 (1) Christian Fiction

April wasn't a very productive month, reading wise or blogging wise. What can I say? I think I just needed a little break. Hopefully May will be a little better, I've already started it off with reading an AMAZING book, which I will review soon! (I hope.) May's theme is going to be books on my shelf month, meaning I can only read books that I already own, or borrow. Maybe my theme should be No Money May. Anyway, it shouldn't be too hard because I have managed to accumulate a massive amount of unread books! So keeping visiting, I will start updating again, I promise!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Blahs and Blogger's Block

I've got a case of the book blahs! I haven't really read much lately. I haven't really wanted to read much lately. And I've got a case of blogger's block- I haven't really felt like blogging about anything that I have read.

I think what I need is a breathtaking, exciting, new, fun, fantastic book to get me out of this funk. I need to be excited about reading again, and so excited that I want to blog about it.

Got any book suggestions for me?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sarah Dessen time!

Alright guys so I've got three different Sarah Dessen books to review. It would be repetitive to review them all separately so I'm just going to write one big post about them right here, right now.

What's a Sarah Dessen book? Well, I like to think of her as the Nicholas Sparks of young adult literature. Her books tend to be about love, relationships, family, friends, teen girls figuring out who they are, that kind of thing. Don't get them confused with surfacey romance novels. These books usual talk about deep feelings and important issues. Here's a little bit more about the three that I read:

Someone Like You - This books focuses on best friends Halley and Scarlett. Scarlett's boyfriend is killed in a motorcycle accident, then she realizes she's pregnant with his baby. Meanwhile, a popular boy is paying attention to shy Halley, which never happens. Can Halley handle a new boyfriend and still be there for Scarlett? I really enjoyed this book, Halley is a strong and likeable protagonist.

This Lullaby- I loved this one! Remy doesn't believe in love. How could she, after watching her mother go through husband after husband? But then Dexter comes along. He's different from all the other guys Remy's dated. Can she overcome her fear and learn to love before it is too late?

Dreamland- I didn't enjoy this one as much, but that wasn't because it's not good. It's really good- it just deals with deeper and heavier stuff. Caitlin is determined not to be like her sister, Cass. And when she meets Rogerson, he seems like the perfect way to step out of her sister's shadow. Soon Caitlin and Rogerson are in love- but what happens when that love becomes dangerous?

Bottom line- I enjoyed all of the books and would recommend each of them. However, my favorite Sarah Dessen book is still The Truth About Forever, and you can read my review of that by clicking here.

One last thing: Despite my love for Sarah Dessen books, there are a few things about them that bother me, and I feel compelled to mention them. First of all, almost all of her high school age characters smoke and drink, and often they do drugs and sleep around a lot too. Sometimes it works because it's part of the issues they are dealing with, or it fits in the story, but sometimes it's just not necessary. Maybe it's realistic, but still I don't feel like I could put any of her books in my classroom library. The second thing that bothers me isn't as easy to put my finger on... But all of her books feel sort of... dated. Or something. Granted some of them were written in the 90's (gosh, it feels weird to consider something written in the 90's old), but they just seem like maybe they take place more in a world that my parents grew up in, rather than the one I grew up in. Not that that is even a bad thing, but it just annoys me a little for some reason.

Despite my minor issues with her books, I would still suggest that if you haven't read a Sarah Dessen book before, you should give one a try. I hope to read more of her books soon, so keep checking back for more reviews!

Friday, April 1, 2011

March Update

Are you ready for this?

Books Read: 10 / 34 total
Books to go: 77

Best Book of March: I can't decide! It might be a three way tie between:
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima,
Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter, and
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Worst Book of March: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

0 (0) out of 5 nonfiction
0 (1) out of 10 classics
2 (5) out of 15 New York Times Bestsellers

Genres: 6 out of 10
5 (23 total) Young Adult
1 (4) Fantasy
0 (1) Classic
1 (2) Thriller
2 (3) Romance
1 (1) Chick Lit

So there it is. 10 books in March. It has been my lowest month so far, but still over my minimum goal of 9 books a month, so I'm pretty happy with it.

However, I did set a goal at the beginning of the month to read more adult books than young adult books. And, as it turns out, I read 5 adult and 5 young adult. So you might be thinking I didn't meet my goal. But actually, as of last night at midnight, I was halfway through my 6th adult book, so technically, I read 5.5 adult books and 5.0 young adult. And, I'm saying that that counts. And, I do make the rules after all. So, all in all, success in March!

Now on to April. I have decided that since I met my March goal AND April is my birthday month, I'm going to read whatever the heck I want. So, most likely you should prepare for a lot of young adult and/or fantasy and/or dystopian and/or romance reviews coming your way!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An apology letter

Dear avid readers of my 111 project,

This is an apology letter. You might be wondering what I have to apologize for. Well don't worry, I'm getting ready to explain, probably with more detail than you ever wanted.

You see, it has come to my attention recently that I have become... wait for it... a book snob. A huge book snob! Might as well change the name of my blog to Snobby's 111 in 11. Ok, I'm getting carried away. Back to the point.

I realized the full horror of my snobbery as was reading a new Nicholas Sparks book, The Choice, and I was really enjoying it.

But, as I was reading, I found myself thinking, what am I going to say about this in my blog? How is the character development? Are the characters too stereotypical? There's good plot development, but what about the lack of originality in the plot and setting? And on, and on, and on with my boring English major terms.

To clarify, I actually like thinking analytically about books. I like all those boring literary terms. And I like discussing them in relation to books, which is one reason I started book blogging.

HOWEVER: I realized while thinking about The Choice, that I have actually used my love of literary analysis stomp out my love of something more much more valuable to me- my love of READING.

In other words, if I enjoy reading something, then I should just let myself enjoy it instead of going through and pointing out how it just isn't literary genius, and this and that is wrong with it.

I think I've been ashamed to admit that I enjoy something so simple as Nicholas Sparks, afraid that people will judge me and think I am a shallow reader with no real literary knowledge or some nonsense like that, so I've been justifying my love of these books by saying things like "I enjoyed this book BUT it's no literary genius or anything," or "BUT it's shallow and predictable" or something like that. When really, I've just plain enjoyed it.

So that, my friends, is how I've become a book snob. And let me tell you, it ends TODAY. Because right now, I'm going to tell you my honest to goodness opinion of Nicholas Sparks' book, The Choice.

Here it is: I REALLY LIKED IT! I was drawn in right away. It had all those great things that I'm beginning to love about Sparks' books: the quaint small towns with the slow pace of life, likeable characters, lovable pets, and of course, a beautiful love story. Plus this one had a good little twist, and I had no idea how it was going to end. Which means, it was impossible to stop reading! I did have a few problems with it, the biggest one being the morality of some choices the characters made in the middle of the story. Now I sound like a prude! I've gone from snob to prude! But seriously, I don't want to spoil the plot for you, but I do feel like parts of the book were saying that anything is excusable if you are in love. I do not agree, but it was a minor part of the story, so I guess it's all good.

So anyway, there you have it, the former literary snob admitting love for some good old Nicholas Sparks. Please accept my humblest apologies for my snobbery.

Sincerely,
Holly

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Virals by Kathy Reichs

Virals is the first book in a new young adult series by Kathy Reichs, who you might know as the producer and inspiration for the TV series Bones. This book is about world famous forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan's niece, Tory. Tory and her other science-geek friends accidentally get exposed to a virus, which gives them special abilities. They also stumble upon a cold case murder. Soon, they are using their new-found abilities to fight for their lives, because someone is trying to kill them before they can solve the murder.

This book was totally fun to read. I loved Tory. She was smart, brave, and bossy-- far from you typical young adult heroine. I also loved the mix of the science fiction-y super virus and the murder mystery thriller, with some real science stuff thrown in. And the end, well I totally didn't see it coming. (Although maybe that's because it was almost a little too unbelievable.) All in all a good book.

The only problem I had was, I'm not sure if it needed to be tied in to the Bones storyline. I mean, I don't think the fact that Tory was Bones' niece really added to the story at all. And it felt like a stretch to fit that in. I think what I'm saying is that this book was strong enough on it's own, and it didn't really need a crutch. But, I guess it did help to explain Tory's geeky/quirkiness... and maybe it did make her more of a believable character. Besides, people do love a good spin off series. And also- I haven't read any of Kathy Reichs other books- so really I'm making an uninformed judgement here. So, don't take my word for it.

But either way, it's still a good book. And it's the beginning of a series, which means more books to look forward to!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

So the other day, I was at Books-a-Million, checking out their bargain books section. I'd picked out about $10 worth of stuff, but you see, I had this coupon for a free tote bag with a $15 purchase. So in my search for something else to buy, I came across Sophie Kinsella's Remember Me?, and without really knowing anything about it, I bought it. And, you know, the really funny part of the story is that I already had two of those BAM free tote bags.

Remember Me? is about Lexi, who wakes up one day after an accident and discovers that she can't remember the last three years of her life. And her life has totally changed in three years, she's got a new job, expensive clothes, and a handsome husband, who, as far as she can remember, she's never met before. At first, Lexi feels like she's magically landed into the dream life. But as she begins to find out more about the person she's become, she realizes her fairytale life might not be as amazing as it seems.

I really enjoyed this book. Sure, it's kind of shallow, cliche, and maybe a little too chick lit-y for my taste (I mean, how many times do you need to namedrop designer clothing labels?), but I still found it fun and interesting. I was expecting a little more umm... mystery or excitement or something than it actually had, but it was still good enough to keep me turning pages.

So, am I glad I ended up buying it? Was it worth it? Absolutely. I got a fun new book and my third free tote bag. Of course it was worth it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Who doesn't love a good scifi/dystopian book?

Thanks to my fantastic friend Kate for suggesting a wonderful new young adult scifi/dystopian book to me. The book is Across the Universe by Beth Revis. I totally loved this book, and really, how could I not? It had all the fascinating new ideas and concepts and social commentary of a good dystopian novel, spaceships and cryogenically frozen people and other science-y stuff that you'd find in a good science fiction story, and all those great young adult coming-of-age and romance themes. Really, what's not to like?

I don't want to tell you much about the plot, because I read some reviews that told too much of the plot and spoiled parts of the book for me. But briefly, the book begins as narrator Amy and her parents prepare to be cryogenically frozen and then travel via spaceship to a far away planet. The book's narration alternates between Amy and Elder, a passenger aboard the spaceship many years into its journey to the new planet. Amy's story captured me right away. It took me a little longer to be interested in Elder's chapters, but pretty soon I couldn't put down the book at all. And the best part is, I'm pretty sure this book is the start of a new series. Fantastic! I can't wait for the next one.

Now don't get too excited. On a scale of 1 to The Hunger Games, it's not quite up there with THG. But it is still a really good book. And you should probably read it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

I actually bought The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms about a year ago, back when I thought the only thing I liked to read was fantasy, but just now got around to reading it. I read a review that said something like this is the best new voice in fantasy, and so I assumed I would like it. Since then, I've realized that I'm pickier about my fantasy books than I thought, and this one just wasn't up my alley.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is narrated by Yeine, a barbarian from the North. Her mother, who used to be heir to the throne of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms until she ran away, is mysteriously killed. Then Yeine is summoned by the king to Sky, a majestic floating city, and named as an heiress to the king. Yeine must learn to how to live among her crazy relatives and the gods that inhabit Sky, as well as fight for the throne and search for the secrets behind her mother's death.

If I had to describe this book in one word, I would say weird. Odd, unreal, and bizarre would also fit. It was just a strange story! Everything about it was weird: how it was told, what it was about, the characters. From the description on the back of the book, I was expecting more political intrigue kind of stuff, but instead it focused more on the relationships of the gods and goddesses. Not really my thing. Also, the whole tone of the book was a little too evil and hopeless for me. Basically, I just really didn't like it.

I don't want to give the wrong impression though. The book was actually a pretty well written book. It was interesting enough to keep reading. And the writing style was a little unique, but it worked. And one thing that I really liked it that even though this book is the first in a trilogy, it is self-contained enough that you can read it by itself. (but maybe I just like that because I don't want to read the next books..) So, this book is definitely not a horrible. It's just not my cup of tea.

I am pretty proud of myself for finishing the book, and for finishing it in 3 days. I sort of feel like I deserve a prize. So I'm allowing myself to read a young adult, sci-fi dystopian book next. Definitely my kind of reward. :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven

I stayed up until 2am the other night finishing Nicholas Sparks' latest novel Safe Haven. Yes, it was actually that good.

Safe Haven is love story with a plot and setting surprisingly similar to the last Sparks book I read. Katie is the shy new girl in a small Southern town, who has a past full of secrets. Alex is the kind widower with two little kids. Anyone can guess what happens next.

Despite the predictability of the plot, there were some surprises thrown in there, even one that I didn't see coming. And the bookwas super suspenseful, especially towards the end. The characters were a little stereotypical, but still likable. The story was a little cheesy, but still heartwarming.

So all in all, not a particularly noteworthy novel, but I loved it anyway. If you are looking for a simple, enjoyable, feel-good story, then this is definitely the book for you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

You might remember my quick review of young adult fantasy novel The Demon King a few days ago. The Exiled Queen is the second book in the series.

I don't want to give too much away in the summary, in case you haven't read the first book. But briefly, The Exiled Queen follows the adventures of former street lord Han and on-the-run Princess Raisa. In this novel, both characters end up at Oden's Ford, a university town. Han is studying at the wizard school, and Raisa at the military school.

I enjoyed this book just as much as the first one. My only problem with the first one was that characters were young a stupid, but in this book they began to grow up. It was great to watch them learn and think and begin to make smart decisions. Also, the whole school aspect was fun. It reminded me a little of Harry Potter, in a good way. I'm also really intrigued by the blurred lines of right and wrong. I have no idea how this series will turn out, who will end up being the bad guys, and who will be the good guys. I could almost see it going in a Star Wars-Annakin type of direction. I'm totally looking forward to the next books in the series. I think there will be two more, and the next one comes out in September.

If I had one complaint about this book, it would be that it was a little slow. There was not a whole lot of action or new developments. But it still kept me interested enough, so I guess that's okay.

If you are a young adult fan or a fantasy fan I think you should read this book. It had all the best aspects of both genres: coming-of-age, romance, political intrigue, magic... What's not to like??

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I finally got around to reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. It's been sitting on my shelf for a while, but I was waiting until I had a copy of the other two books in the trilogy before I started, thinking that it might end on a cliff hanger. It really didn't, but I am still anxious to read to the next book.

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I read this book. I had heard so many rave reviews, and it's been on the bestseller lists for soooo long. I think I had pretty high expectations, and I really wasn't disappointed.

Brief summary: This crime thriller follows Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist currently out of work because of an unfair libel conviction. Mikael is hired to solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger, who disappeared 40 years ago. Mikael has some help from a strange private investigator, Lisbeth Salander.

I hadn't really read anything like this before, but I enjoyed it. It took me a couple of chapters to get interested, but once the mystery of Harriet Vanger was introduced I was intrigued. That plot line kept me turning the pages, but I also enjoyed the originality and depth of the characters. I don't think I really liked Mikael and Lisbeth's relationship though, it was just a little odd. I'll have to see where it goes it the next couple of books.

So to summarize: I wasn't blown away or anything, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed this novel. Check back soon for my review on the next book in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Catch Up Post!

Well, I haven't reviewed any books in a while, but I have an excuse! As I mentioned in my last post, thanks to substitute teaching, I've been sick for about a week. So, now as a result, I'm about 5 books behind in my reviews. Rather than review all of them in detail and in separate posts, I'm just going to do some quick catch up reviews right here and now. I don't really have the energy to write out summaries for all these books, so just check Amazon if your interested. This post will just include my thoughts.

The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld: I decided to read this because I really liked Westerfeld's Uglies series, but this one, not so much. It was a lot darker than the Uglies. The characters were strange, and not particularly likeable. Neat concept, but not followed through particularly well in my opinion. Not completely horrible, but I don't know if I'll read any more in this series.

The Giver by Lois Lowry: LOVED IT!! If you are a fan of either YA or dystopian books and you haven't read The Giver, then by all means go buy it right now. It's a short, simple read but full of thought-provoking ideas. I'm looking forward to reading The Messenger and Gathering Blue, which are supposedly companion novels.

Heist Society by Ally Carter: I have to say I was a little disappointed. I loved Carter's Gallagher Girls series, and so I had high expectations for this, but it didn't measure up. The characters all seemed a little too forced and the plot a little too contrived... I just didn't get into it enough. Although, I think it will make a fantastic movie. It's a great story idea, but it just failed to capture me.. not enough details, or something...

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima: FANTASTIC!!! Great simple YA fantasy. Good story, characters, exciting plot. My only problem was that the characters were incredibly stupid. Dumb decisions, couldn't put anything together... but maybe that's to be expected in YA? But anyway, I'm looking forward to the next in this series.

Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter: Did not disappoint!! 4th book in the Gallagher series, and probably the best yet. The series is building and building and this one was really intense and action packed. We finally get some answers, and they aren't what I was expecting! The tone in the books changes slightly, which fits because our narrator Cammie is changing and growing. I can't wait to read the next book, but unfortunately it won't be out for another year.

And so, now I'm caught up! Sorry for such quick reviews. If you want to hear more of my thoughts on any of these books, please ask me. Otherwise, see ya next time!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

February Progress Report!

Drum roll, please...

Books Read: 13 / 24 total
Books to go: 87

Best Book of February: Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
Worst Book of February: The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld

0 (0) out of 5 nonfiction
0 (1) out of 10 classics
0 (3) out of 15 New York Times Bestsellers

Genres: 5 out of 10
11 (18 total) Young Adult
0 (3) Fantasy
0 (1) Classic
1 (1) Thriller
1 (1) Romance

2 out of 5 books on my Must Read List

So, 13 books in February, not bad at all! However, you may have noticed that 11 out of those 13 were young adult. Now, I do have a good excuse for reading so much YA (I want to be an English teacher and I'm preparing my classroom library. But really, who needs an excuse? YA is just more fun.) However, I don't want to be accused of cheating by reading 111 short easy YA books. I want to do this thing for real. Therefore, I have set a new goal for March: to read more "adult" books than YA books.

One last thing. You may have noticed that I haven't posted any reviews in a while. Well, I have my new job, substitute teaching, to thank for that. No, it's not that subbing has kept me so busy that I haven't had time to write reviews. Actually quite the opposite. One of the numerous benefits of my new job is apparently a nice case of the flu. So, I haven't really been up to blogging lately, but I did want to go on and post this since February is over! But hopefully I'll catch up on some reviews in the next few days, so check back! :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, and other spy stories.

So, you know that whole library eBooks on my phone thing that I was complaining viciously about a few days ago? Well perhaps I spoke too harshly, or too soon. I still mean everything I said about it being frustrating and not user-friendly and all that. But maybe the whole free books thing counts for more than I thought, because in the past few days I have devoured several free eBooks on my phone.

Which brings me to today's topic: Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series. There are four books in this young adult series (although I think she plans to write two more) and I read the first three. I am impatiently waiting for my name to come up on the waiting list for number four. The first three books are, in order, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, and Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover.

So what are these Gallagher Girls books all about?? Well, think Harry Potter, and then mix it with Alias, and then throw in a little of something like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. This series follows Cammie Morgan, a witty teenage girl who attends Gallagher Academy, which is an all girls boarding school with a twist- Gallagher Academy is a top secret school for spies! Cammie, who knows fourteen different languages, discovers there is one language she doesn't understand: boy! In the first book, Cammie finds first love, but there's a problem. He's a normal boy, and she's a spy. Will their relationship survive her secrets? The second book gets more exciting when Cammie and her friends discover a secret spy school for boys. Can Cammie trust Zach, a super cute and attractively mysterious spy? And the third book is the best yet. When someone tries to kidnap Cammie's friend Macey, her spy skills are put to the ultimate test. Suddenly all her training had become real.

These books may sound like fluffy, vapid, girly books, but they are so not! There is so much surprising wonderfulness packed in this series. The best part is Cammie's witty, unique voice, which provides a humorous and fun depiction of life at spy school. The supporting characters in the books are great too: from Cammie's sleek spy mom, her crazy professors, and her super smart super fun friends that Cammie wouldn't be able to survive without!

My description just can't really do these books justice. Let's just say I was very pleasantly surprised by the Gallagher Girls series, and I would definitely recommend them!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Am Number Four - Movie AND Book Review!

I recently read I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, and then I saw the movie. What that means is that you get to hear my thoughts on the book and the movie, all right here at the same time!

Book first: The story of I Am Number Four revolves around Number Four, current alias John Smith. John is an alien from the planet Lorien, which was destroyed several years ago by the Mogodorians. John and his guardian Henri, along with 8 other children and their guardians, escaped to Earth. However, the Mogodorians know they are on Earth and are searching for them. The nine children have a protective charm that prevents them from being killed except in numerical order. At the opening of this book, Number Three has just been killed. And John is Number Four. John and Henri have spent their life on the run, and John has tried to keep a low profile. But they have just moved to a new place, and John has started a new school, and there is this girl...

There's a lot more to it than that, but I'm trying to summarize! But hopefully I've said enough to get you interested. Now for the good and the bad: The whole concept of this story was really interesting. A teenage alien learning to use his superpowers while navigating the horrors of high school, and oh yeah he's also being hunted by the evil aliens who destroyed his planet. Very cool. I realize that I may have seemed sarcastic just then, but I'm being serious. It was cool. And the plot panned out well, full of excitement, mystery, love, and a whole lot of action and suspense. I had a hard time putting it down.

That being said, don't go into it expecting some amazing work of literature. It is lacking a little bit in the description department. It's all fast-paced action, rather than thoughtful introspection. But, that's not really always a bad thing, is it? Besides, it is classified as Grade 7 and up, and I think most 7th graders would love it.

And now for my thoughts on the movie: I liked it.

Okay okay, so I'll say a little more than that, since the majority of you are probably more interested in the movie than the book anyway. The premise of the movie is the same as the book. The movie follows the book pretty well, as far as book-to-movie things go. They did have to take a lot of stuff out, but that's to be expected.

It's really hard for me to say if the movie was good, because since I had just read the book, I couldn't help but sit there and think things like "That's not what happened in the book!" Also, I knew a lot of extra stuff and back story that didn't make it into the movie, so it's hard for me to say if I would have liked it if I didn't already know those things.

But, for what it's worth, I did enjoy the movie. And all three of the people I was with said they really liked it too, and they hadn't read the book. So I guess I would say it's worth watching... and reading!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

eBook rentals from your local library!

I recently finished Ted Dekker's book The Bride Collector, and all I have to say is, FINALLY!

Okay, so I lied that's not all I have to say, but that is what I was thinking when I finished. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, gosh that must have been an awful book! Well, no. It really wasn't that bad. It was the way I read it that made me so happy when I finished.

I discovered about a month ago a way to rent free eBooks and read them on my phone. All you have to have is a library card for any participating Tennessee library. You can browse audio books and eBooks on the website, http://reads.lib.overdrive.com, then find one you want, type in your library card number, and then download the book onto your iPads, iPods, Nooks, Androids, and various other mp3 players, tablets, phones, readers (although not on Kindles), and of course onto your computer. For free.

Sounds awesome right???

Well, there's a catch. Actually more than one catch. So before you get too excited, let me explain more.

First of all, they don't have a huge book selection. You can find lots of recent bestsellers, and then a little bit of some other slightly more obscure or less mainstream type of stuff. They get new titles all the time, but still. You can't be too picky, because there just aren't a whole lot of options. And then there's the waiting list. Even though it's an eBook it's just like a regular library book, in the sense that if the website only owns two copies of the eBook, then only two people can have it checked out at a time. All of Tennessee is using the same website, and they rarely have more than 1-3 copies of each book. So, needless to say, you have to wait. When I first discovered the website, I put myself on about 15 different waiting lists, being anywhere from patron 1 of 1 to patron 63 of 63. They said they would email me when my titles were available, so I sat back and waited, expecting a windfall of free books any day now. About a week and a half later, I finally got my first email, which was for The Bride Collector. (I was patron 1 of 1 on that one- imagine how long it will be before they get to patron 63!?!)

I wasn't really sure I wanted to read The Bride Collector. I didn't really know what it was about, but I've read some of Dekker's books before and enjoyed them, and it was free, so why not? I downloaded it onto my phone and began reading. Now, I've read books on my phone before, using the Kindle app, and it was a good experience. The app was nice, user-friendly, my phone has a big screen, and I even forgot I was reading on my phone after a while. However- this was NOT the case with this library thing. You have to use their app, Overdrive Media, which was not very nice! The screen kept cutting off while I was reading, it rarely registered me turning pages and I had to keep swiping over and over, then it would turn three pages at once and I'd have to go back, it also took a long time to load in between chapters, there weren't as many screen settings as the Kindle app and the screen was harder to read from... All in all not a very nice experience.

So, the app wasn't user friendly. On top of that, the book I was reading started off very slowly and I could not get interested. Also, at the time I was reading it I was actually a little bit busy. All of that meant that it was taking me a while to finish! So then, when I was finally about halfway through the book, it was just starting to pick up a little, and I opened the app on my phone and... the book was gone! Which is the last catch: you can only check books out for 7 days at a time. Now sometimes that's not a problem, if you're on vacation, or it's a short book, or it's an easy read... but really. Who can usually read a not-so-interesting full length novel in 7 days, when life is going on as well? Not me, at least, not this time.

Anyway, imagine my frustration when I couldn't finish the book! I got back on the website and got on the waiting list again. Now I was patron 2 of 2. I waited about a week and a half, got the book again, and finished it. The book got pretty exciting there at the end... it definitely wasn't what I expected but still, it didn't turn out to be horrible. And who knows, if I had been reading a hard copy, I might have liked it a lot more!!

Side note: I also attempted to download an audio book from this site onto my iPod. I couldn't get it to work, but I didn't try too awfully hard. Maybe the audio books work better. And who knows, maybe the eBooks would have worked better on a different device, like a Nook or an iPad. Also- I know other libraries in other states and countries do the eBook rental thing too. Some you have to live there, some you have to pay a yearly fee, some claim to be free for anyone. I haven't actually checked out any of those out yet, but maybe they would be less frustrating.

So anyway- library eBooks, not quite as exciting as they might seem. But, despite all my complaining, they still aren't all bad. After all, I did just download another one after I finished The Bride Collector. I mean, it is, you know, like, free.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Goodbye, Valentine

Well Valentine's Day has come and gone and it will be another year before we have to suffer through all the pink and red blues. But, if you are still looking for a good love story to sweep you away, well I've got one for you.

I finally did it, I finally broke down and read... a
Nicholas Sparks novel. Yes, I read, and even enjoyed, The Lucky One. I've actually been wanting to read a Sparks novel for a while now, but I really didn't want to read one of those where I had already seen the movie. So that, and the fact that it was the cheapest Sparks book available for Kindle, led me to The Lucky One. Which, interestingly enough, The Lucky One will soon be a movie, premiering in 2012 and starring... the love of my life... Zac Efron. (Hence the picture. -->) I will definitely be seeing that one on the big screen.

Anyway- back to my review. Like I said, I actually enjoyed this book, and I have to admit I was surprised. I was afraid it would have some awful surprise stupid ending plot, like Dear John or something. But this was no Dear John. The Lucky One tells the story of Logan, a Marine serving in Iraq, who finds a photo of a girl. This photo becomes a lucky charm for Logan, and so upon his return to the States he sets out to find the girl in the photo. And, yes the premise of this story was a little dumb, or maybe really sweet depending on how cynical you are. And the plot felt a little forced in places. And the whole romantic storyline felt a little fake. Throw that in with one annoying character, and one really annoying hard to pronounce character's name... And what you get isn't nearly as bad as you would think. You get a suspenseful, hopeful, sweet story with an amazing dog, a hilarious grandmother, and maybe even a happily ever after.

So, this review is scattered and random, and I'm sorry about that. My excuse is this: I've been up since 5am, battling back-talking, tennis ball-tossing 6th graders. (Also known as substitute teaching.) So on that note, goodnight!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Review Number 2

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Today I will be reviewing the second book in my Valentine's review series. And that book is... Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver. Now I know that most of you are only reading this because I mentioned yesterday that Twilight fans would love this book. Don't even try to hide it. That's ok- I forgive you. And you definitely won't be disappointed in this book.

Shiver is a paranormal romance, telling the story of Grace and Sam. Grace is a quiet 17 year old girl who is slightly obsessed with the wolves in her backyard. Especially one in particular, the one with the yellow eyes, who watches over her every winter. Sam is that yellow-eyed wolf, keeping an eye on the girl he loves. Except in the summers, when he becomes human. Will human Sam have the courage to talk to Grace? Will he do it before it's too late? Will their love survive the harsh realities of Sam's other life?

Okay, I have to admit I was a little skeptical of the whole paranormal thing. I didn't think I wanted to read about werewolves! But, actually, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Although it did remind me of Twilight, it was different enough that I wasn't turned away. And not only was it different than Twilight, but also, I thought it was actually better. For one, Grace was much stronger and much less annoying than Bella. Sam was also much more likeable than the overbearing Edward Cullen. The love story, while still not realistic, was a little bit more believable than some other teenage romances. And yes, it wasn't perfect. But it was good enough that I couldn't put it down!

So, Twilight fan or not, you should check out Shiver. And Shiver is actually the first in a series. Book 2, Linger, is already out and the third book comes out this summer. I plan to read and review those as well, so check back for that!

This ends part two of my Valentine's Review series. Check back tomorrow for my final Valentine's review, featuring Nicholas Sparks' novel The Lucky One.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! - Part One

Ladies! Valentine's Day is approaching fast. Are you lonely and alone this Valentine's Day? Are you disappointed, because your significant other isn't living up to your Edward Cullen standards? Are you craving a good love story to wash away all your Valentine's Day blues?

Well look no further! I'm featuring reviews of some great chick lit, right here on my blog, just in time for Valentine's Day. Today I'm going to talk about Sarah Dessen's novel, The Truth about Forever.

The Truth about Forever is narrated by Macy, a teenage girl grieving the loss of her father. Summer has just begun, and Macy's perfectionist boyfriend has left for brain camp. Macy is expecting a boring and lonely summer, until she meets some new friends and you guessed it, a new boy. Despite what is probably a slightly predictable and perhaps a little cheesy plot, I really, really liked this book. I actually finished it in one sitting, even though it took until 3am. The characters drew me in right away. And although there is an irresistible boy and some exciting romance, this novel actually had surprising depth. Macy is struggling with the grief of her father, the high standards of her mother, and her low expectations of herself. Now, I'm not saying it's a work of literary genius- it's predictable, a little contrived, sappy, and probably completely unrealistic. But I loved it. Definitely some good young adult chick lit, and I think all you ladies of any age would enjoy it.

So that is my Valentine's gift for you, part one. Check back tomorrow for my review of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, a breathtaking paranormal romance that all you Twilight fans are guaranteed to love.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

It has been a while since my last post. Which actually means, it has been a while since I last finished a book. I've had a lot of false starts with books this month. So here I am, 12 days into February, and I've only read two books! Yikes!

Those two books have been good ones though: Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher. Yes, this duo is yet another young adult dystopian series...don't judge! But, it is refreshingly different from the others of its kind, and that's part of why I liked it.

Even though I classified these books as dystopian, they could actually fall in a number of different categories: science fiction, historical, fantasy... which is pretty cool. Incarceron tells the story of two different people in two different worlds. Finn is a prisoner in Incarceron, a futuristic prison that is actually alive. Finn can't remember who he is or where he came from, but he is caught up in his fellow prisoners' dreams of escape. Claudia is the Warden of Incarceron's daughter, living in the Realm, a seemingly 18th century society complete with petticoats and servants and a queen. But like everything else in this novel, the Realm isn't what it appears to be. Finn's quest for escape and Claudia's attempts to thwart her father's plans for her arranged marriage lead them to each other, and they begin to discover truths about their worlds that will change everything.

I'm going to start with the bad, and end with the good. Because, while there was a lot that I didn't like about these books, my overall impression was good, and I want yours to be too. So, the bad:
1. The characters didn't quite make sense. For one, they weren't really likeable. And they didn't really seem to grow or change as the story went on, so there was no redemptive revelation or change of heart at the end. Also, the characters were constantly behaving out of character, so much so that I wasn't really sure what their actual character was.
2. This story was confusing!! I constantly had to go back and reread, trying to find small but crucial details hidden in the seemingly unimportant, almost boring descriptions of something else. And although there was a pretty solid conclusion, I still don't think I completely understand what happened. And there were several dangling story lines there at the end that I think should have been wrapped up a little more.
(For other people, this might not be a bad thing. Maybe what confused me will fascinate you.. Maybe I just didn't give the books enough thought and attention, and if I had I would be blown away by the intricacies of the plot... I don't know.)
3. No love story. I actually don't know if this is a pro or a con for me. The first book had the beginnings of a good love story, maybe even a love triangle, but then in the end there were too many hard feelings between characters, and they were never able to overcome them, so the love story never really went anywhere. The good thing about this is that it is a little refreshing after reading so many other predictable love stories. The bad thing is I found myself really hoping something would happen, and I was disappointed when it didn't.

And now, for the good:
1. I LOVED the setting, especially the paradox of future and past. I found myself forgetting that I wasn't reading historical fiction, until I would read something about using forbidden washing machines and I would remember that it was actually the future. And then there was the prison, Incarceron itself. An artificially intelligent prison that houses an entire civilization. Pretty interesting. The whole concept of the books is so different from anything I've read before, and I loved that.
2. The mystery- Nothing in these worlds was what it seemed... And even at the end I wasn't completely sure what was real. While it was a little frustrating at times, it was also fascinating to witness the discoveries along with the characters... and it was fun to speculate and try to figure out what was really happening. It made for some good page-turning suspense.

So, my overall opinion: Even though I didn't really feel like I connected with the characters, and the story was super confusing, I still really enjoyed the books. The concept, setting, suspense, and mystery were enough to make me overlook the bad stuff.

And I'll close with this little tidbit of interesting news. Incarceron is following in the footsteps of every other new young adult dystopian series. That's right, Incarceron is soon going to be a movie, and will be starring none other than Twilight's very own Taylor Lautner. There are also rumors that Emma Watson be playing Lautner's love interest. (Wait, didn't I say there wasn't much of a love story in the book? Yes. But you can bet that won't be the case in the movie.) With stars from both Twilight AND Harry Potter, how can they go wrong?? However, despite the star-studded cast, or maybe because of it, I have a feeling that this movie is a disaster waiting to happen...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January Progress Report

The first month of my challenge is finished! I am quite happy with my completion of 11 out of 111 books. Make sure you check out the pages on the right to see a complete list of what I've read so far and a list of what I hope to read. Here's a summary of my progress, including the mini-goals I set for myself (see this post):

Books Read: 11
Books to go: 100

Best Book of January: Matched by Ally Condie
Worst Book of January: Fire by Kristin Cashore

0 out of 5 nonfiction
1 out of 10 classics
3 out of 15 New York Times Bestsellers (although they were all from the YA bestseller list, does that count??)

Genres: 3 out of 10
7 Young Adult
3 Fantasy
1 Classic

1 out of 5 books on my Must Read List.

So, as you can see, I have done pretty good on the number of books read, but not very good on the whole reading out of my comfort zone thing. It's all been young adult or fantasy, or most often YA fantasy. So I need suggestions, people! Suggestions of books in other genres... Or if you have any YA or fantasy suggestions, tell me those too, because I can't quit cold turkey or anything...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Contemporary Fantasy for All Ages

I've spent the last several days exploring the worlds of contemporary fantasy. Magic Kingdom for Sale-Sold! by Terry Brooks and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins both begin right here in our very own world, which makes the adventures that follow are all the more exciting because they started so close to home.

Magic Kingdom for Sale-Sold! is written by Terry Brooks, author of Shannara books, which are actually the books that first made me love fantasy. I bought Magic Kingdom for Sale-Sold! way back in middle school when I was reading Shannara, but never read it. I decided give it another try when a friend suggested it (thanks Cory!). I was a little nervous, partly because when I recently reread some of the Shannara books, I was surprised to find them boring and hard to read. Also because the main character is mid-life crisis-ing lawyer, and I just thought it might be too hard to relate. But, I didn't need to worry because Magic Kingdom for Sale-Sold! was a fun, exciting, and overall enjoyable book.

The story begins in Chicago with Ben Holiday, a lawyer who is searching for something more to life. He sees a magazine ad for a magic kingdom for sale, complete with dragons and wizards and knights in shining armor, and decides to go for it. His purchase makes him the king of Landover, but when he arrives he realizes that the kingdom isn't actually doing very well, and there are a lot of challenges that the king must overcome if he wants to save his kingdom. I liked this book, which is a relief because just maybe it means that perhaps the Shannara books weren't so bad the first time around, and my taste in books way back then wasn't so bad after all. And I just have one last thing to say on this topic - Mr. Brooks, what is the deal with the whole women-who-turn-into-trees thing? I mean, seriously?? There's a tree-woman in Landover too? Okay, whatever. Still a good book.

Gregor the Overlander is for an entirely different audience- kids in grades 4-8. This book is the
first in a series by Suzanne Collins, that's right, author of The Hunger Games. I was a little apprehensive about reading this one too- although this time because it's about an 11 year boy
and I wasn't sure if I could relate. Also, because it's about spiders and cockroaches and bats and rats... Not my favorite subjects!! But, Collins did not disappoint. This book was fun and hard to put down, even for my 22-year-old self.

Gregor the Overlander tells about 11-year-old Gregor who falls through a hole in his laundry room, along with his 2-year-old sister. They find themselves on a world filled with talking cockroaches, evil rats, and strange, translucent Underland humans. Gregor just wants to get back home, but he gets caught in the middle of Underland events. Gregor is a brave character, and I really enjoyed reading about him, his cute little sister, and the surprisingly likeable cockroaches. I would recommend this book to people of all ages, not just 4th-8th graders.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Who wants some more dystopian young adult?!

As it turns out, keeping my pledge to finish one book before watching any more Grey's Anatomy wasn't actually that hard. I started reading The Maze Runner, couldn't put it down, and about 6ish hours later I was finished.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is another dystopian young adult novel, and the first in a series of three. I also read The Scorch Trials, which is the second book in the series. The third book won't be out until October.

The first book opens when our narrator, Thomas, wakes up to find himself in the middle of a giant maze. He can't remember who he is or how he got there.
There are other boys there too, all with similar memory loss, and some have been there as long as 2 years, trying to find a way out of the maze. But soon after Thomas arrives, everything begins to change. And that's about all I want to tell you about the book, because part of what makes this book so good is the mystery. We readers are as clueless as Thomas, and his mind-blowing situation is so intriguing that I was absolutely dying for answers.

We do get some answers along the way, but those answers are almost annoyingly unexpected and ultimately just lead to more questions, which got frustrating about halfway through the second book. Things got to the point where they weren't really believable anymore, and nothing made any sense. So, I will hold my final judgement of these books until after I have read the third one. If Dashner can wrap everything up in a way that makes sense and just isn't stupid, which I think he is capable of, then he will have succeeded in writing one freaking awesome trilogy.

These books seem to be written on a low reading level, and I think they are probably aimed more at boys than girls. That being said, I still really enjoyed them. So if you are looking for an easy, exciting, suspenseful novel with a new and interesting plot, then look no further! However, I might suggest you wait until October. The Scorch Trials ends with a lot of unanswered questions, and it's going to be hard to wait!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Distractions

This is going to be harder than I thought.

I have to admit, I was a little arrogant when I started this project. I thought, "I read fast, and I read a lot. This won't be any trouble at all for me. I'll probably end up reading more than 111 books!" Wrong! wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

You might be thinking.. Wait. She's already read 7 books. She's ahead of schedule. What's the big deal??

Well, the big deal is this: I am currently unemployed (although very actively job searching, dang it!) and since I'm obviously hoping this unemployment thing won't last all year, I was thinking I should get way ahead while I can. And, since I don't really have much to do all day except read, well then I should be able to get through some of these books in a day or two tops. And they have been taking me longer, and longer... 4 days 5 days... Now if I can't read one book every three days when I'm unemployed, how am I going to be able to do it when I have a job?? Not to mention, so far I've stuck mostly to shorter, quicker young adult books.. what's going to happen when I start getting into some deeper stuff?

And now, it's confession time. Do you want to know why it's been taking me longer and longer to finish a book? Well, I am very ashamed to admit this, but I have been taken in... by a television show. Yes, a TV show has been trumping books. And that show would be... Grey's Anatomy. There, it's out! I admitted it!! The reason it took me 5 days to read The Blue Sword was because during those 5 days I also might have watched the entire first two seasons of Grey's Anatomy. Don't judge me too harshly! For some reason, books just can't always distract me from real life as well as TV. And when real life is jobless and seemingly purposeless.. Well I want a good distraction.

Now that that's out, I feel better. You guys might not know it, but you are my reading accountability partners. You keep me on top of this 111 books thing. So, thank you. And now, accountability partners, I'm making a pledge. I will not watch any more Grey's Anatomy until I have finished one entire book. Hold me to it!!

In other news, I really enjoyed The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. Thanks to Allison for lending it to me.. two years ago.. I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading it! It was a really fun read, classic young adult fantasy with a great heroine and a little romance, and I recommend it!

So that is all from me today, it's time to get back to reading!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A hate story

Last night I finished Wuthering Heights and I can't say that I actually enjoyed it. Is that allowed? Can I not like a classic? The main thing that I did not like was that it was so dark, and so full of hate. Was I supposed to be drawn in by the love story? The love story that subsequently destroyed everyone around them? Well, I wasn't. Now I know not all books have to be happy, and I'm sure it was full of literary value and all that. I personally just didn't enjoy it very much.

But, at least I learned why this is Bella Swan's favorite book! I have to say that it fits her well.

Now for something funny- I stumbled across this review, from Graham's Lady's Magazine in 1848

"How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors..."

Now I didn't think it was quite that bad!! That review is a little extreme. But, it made me laugh.

Anyway, I am very ashamed to admit that this little book took me four days to finish! So now, I am behind and I must get back to reading!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fire Rage!

I have just finished books four and five of the year: Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. These books are young adult fantasy/romance stories. In short, I will just say that I didn't them, I don't recommend them, and they are inappropriate for a young adult audience.

Now... Get ready! I am about to begin a very long-winded, angry rant about these books, so if you don't want to hear about it, stop reading. This rant will probably also include significant parts of the plot, so if you plan to read these books someday (which, by the way, I do not recommend. Did I mention that yet?), stop reading.

Okay, you're still here? Well, you can't say you weren't warned! Here we go.

Graceling is about a girl named Katsa, who is graced with a special power. What's her special power? Killing. Causing pain. Katsa, who tortures and kills people for the king, also runs The Alliance on the side, where she saves people from the brutality of the kings. That's not contradictory or anything. Then she meets Prince Po (which, by the way, can you think of a worse name for our brave handsome prince? Po? Really? Okay, so maybe it's not that bad, but it did always make me think of the Pillsbury doughboy..) and of course she falls in love the the handsome prince, but there is a problem. Oh no! What is it?? Well, it's just that Katsa is so independent. She just can't let a man control her! What will happen?? Don't worry, they have come up with the perfect solution. They will just be lovers, instead of getting married. And describe it all with a little too much detail for a young adult book.

And that is just the first half of the book. The second half tells of Katsa and Po's attempts to save their unrealistic, underdeveloped, unbelievable world from an evil villain. But really, it tells about strong Katsa, and how she can wrestle mountain lions and hike Mount Everest. Then the story just ends, and it is surprisingly anticlimactic. But don't worry, even though the book kind of sucked, at least we all managed to grasp the important themes of the story. Marriage is bad! Woman are strong! Don't let men control you!

The second book, Fire, is not really any better. I really didn't want to read it. But I paid $5 for it! So I started reading. It was quite a challenge! I was so confused at first that I felt like I started reading in the middle of the book instead of the beginning! I almost stopped after 20 pages. But I decided not to let that book win! I kept reading..

This book taught me the following lessons:
Friends with benefits is good, even if that FWB is actually madly in love with you.
It's funny when your FWB sleeps around with lots of other girls.
Until your FWB sleeps with your friends, and they get pregnant. Then it's not funny. He is such an awful man. You must end your sexual relationship.
However, when your FWB goes off and dies, it's okay to grieve so much for him that you just can't live life anymore.
Also, birth control is good, so that you can have lots of love affairs with many different people.
Oh yeah, and I think this was the main moral of the story, because it was clearly stated on the last page: Some people are just plain bad people, and you should kill them. Even though it will make you a bad person if you do. Kill them anyway. And, oh yeah! Don't get married!

Okay, so although my main problem was with the content of these books, they also weren't written very well. The fantasy world was too simple, and so not believable. The villains were too easily vanquished. They exciting parts occurred in the wrong places, or they just didn't occur at all.

But, the thing that makes the whole thing so frustrating is that the author is actually very talented. The stories are very enthralling..sometimes, when you get past your confusion and disbelief. I actually found myself really caught up in the books at times. So I'm frustrated that someone so talented would waste it like this! Take the time to plan your books out a little better. Make your world more believable. Be more creative with your villains. And for goodness sake, come up with some better names! Oh yes, and get off your feminist soap box. And write something with a little bit better morals, especially if your audience is malleable young adult minds.

Okay, THE END of my rant. I apologize for my anger. But, one last thing. Did I mention that these books have been bestsellers, won lots of awards, and teens love them?? I mean, I guess they weren't the worst books I've ever read or anything. I just think our standards could be a little higher. We could do so much better.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Who is your perfect Match?

Just finished book number three- Matched by Ally Condie. This book was so hyped up that I was sort of afraid it wouldn't live up to my high expectations. I mean, a movie deal was signed even before the book was released! But, I didn't need to worry. Matched was exactly what I expected.

This novel is a dystopian love story (my two favorite things to read, by the way) about a seventeen year old girl named Cassia. The story opens with Cassia on her way to her Match Banquet, where she will find out the name of her Match- the statistically compatible boy that she will ultimately spend the rest of her life with. Cassia is perfectly happy with her Match results, The Society, and her life, until things began to happen that make her question all that she thought she knew and believed.

Matched is beautifully written, interlaced with powerful imagery, inspiring poetry, and thought-provoking themes. It was so easy to get caught up in the story, and very hard to leave Cassia and her world!

I have no doubt that this book, its sequels (Matched is the first in a trilogy), and the forthcoming movies will be a huge success. It is already being called the next Twilight, although thankfully it is much better written, and it is noticeably similar to The Hunger Games. Which actually brings me to my one complaint about the book: lack of originality. Not so much in the world and plot and themes, but in the love story. The tried and true, lovable love triangle. A great way to get teen girls to read your books! Jut put in two wonderful guys, both vying for the heroine's attention, and you've got a bestseller right there! It seems that this love triangle has permeated every young adult series that I have read recently: Twilight, The Uglies, The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments... and now this too. Now, I'm not going to become a hater over this or anything. The book is just too good! And, the series isn't over yet, so maybe it's too soon to make judgments. But, for me personally, I'm over the overdone love triangle.

So, do I recommend this book? Most definitely. What are you waiting for? Go read it!

And finally, for those of you who are wondering who your Match would be, wonder no more! The official Matched website, http://matched-book.com/, can tell you! (Using facebook, of course.) I won't tell you all who my Match is... I think that's going to stay a secret. But I encourage you to give it a try! Don't worry, it doesn't post your results on facebook without your permission. Or at least, I don't think it does...