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,, 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...