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.


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! :)