Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brayden's books of the month- March edition

I Howl, I Growl by Marcia Vaughan- This has been a favorite of Brayden's since he first got into books. The animal thing, I guess. It's a very simple text. Two page spreads featuring two animals saying "I _____. I _____." Now that he's talking more, he tries to repeat the words after me.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.- This may not be the most exciting book to read out loud because of the repetition, but toddlers love it. I do love Carle's illustrations, though.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss- Oh, how I love Dr. Seuss. It's been awhile since I've read one of his longer ones out loud. I've got to get back into the hang of reading his books. My Seuss tongue is out of shape. :) I've been trying to read more picture books to Brayden. He doesn't usually sit through them all the time, but I'll keep trying. I was on the phone with a friend this morning and told her I've started reading Green Eggs and Ham to him, and less than a minute later he brought the book to me. I guess that means he likes it too.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

First Quarter Reading List 2011

1- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling- I'm trying to reread the series this year before the last movie comes out.

2- Harry Potter and the Chamber of secrets by J.K. Rowling- Amazing, as always.

3- Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama- Great kids book.

4- A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature by Roger Sutton- I loved this book. It led to starting a goodreads list of books I want to read to Brayden.

5- Notes From the Cracked Ceiling: Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win by Anne Kornblut- Interesting read.

6- Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins- Perfect YF romance

7- Room by Emma Donoghue- reviewed- I still think about this book a lot.

8- I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman- Meh.

9- If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now by Claire LaZebnik- Meh.

10- A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz- reviewed

11- Harry Potter: Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley- reviewed- I still want this for my birthday, which is coming up. Any takers?

12- The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller- reviewed

13- The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan- reviewed

14- Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale- reviewed

15- Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller- reviewed

16- Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale- Decent follow-up

17- Fly on the Wall: How One Girl saw Everything by E. Lockhart- Sucks.

18- I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells- reviewed

19- The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff- Sucks.

20- The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger- reviewed

21- The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo- Meh.

22- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness- reviewed

23- Trapped by Michael Northrop- reviewed

24- Whiter Shades of Pale: The Stuff White People Like, Coast to Coast, from Seattle's Sweaters to Maine's Microbrews by Christian Lander- Okay.

25- Delirium by Lauren Oliver- reviewed

26- Mr. Monster by Dan Wells- reviewed

27- Bumped by Megan McCafferty- will be reviewed

28- The Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels- A Love Story by Ree Drummond- will be reviewed

29- Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay- Okay.

30- Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter's Uncommon Year by Laura Brodie- will be reviewed

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells (and a dash of Dexter)

6 out of 10: John Wayne Cleaver thinks his life is settling back down after getting rid of the demon of Clayton County. He's back to following his rules. Except for one- he decides to let himself give in to one of his tendencies, because it's harder to control Mr. Monster (what he calls his inner demon) now that he has been let loose once before. He's even attempting a social life. And then killings start happening again. Another demon is in town, trying to lure him.

Mr. Monster is a solid book. The basic plot is similar to I Am Not A Serial Killer, but it is definitely different enough. The heart of the story is the same- John's ongoing struggle to tame his inner demon in the midst of other demons.

I Am Not A Serial Killer didn't have a big, exciting ending, but Mr. Monster did. I cannot wait to read the last book in this trilogy and see how it ends.

Note: I also just finished listening to Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. Really similar stories. Good guys with serial killer tendencies killing other demons/serial killers. I know I'm going to keep listening to the Dexter series at work, and I'll probably check out the TV series on Netflix.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I've been excited for this book for months. I've been reading the hype for this book for months. Here is my short review of Delirium. It is not the best dystopia out there, people! Dystopia has been around for a long, long time and is currently at an upswing in its popularity. I love dystopia, mostly because of its subversive storylines (Ex. Hunger Games and its anti-war agenda).

Delirium's dystopian world is focused on love, or the disease they call amor deliria nervosa. Love is the root of all evil, and a cure has been found. The major problem with the cure is that it has bad effects on younger people, so it cannot be administered until close to your 18th birthday. Everything is highly regulated.  Boys and girls are kept apart as much as possible to lessen the risk of infection.

Enter Lena, a quiet girl close to her 18th birthday. She is eager to receive the cure. She has seen the effects of delirium on her sister, and her mother committed suicide from the infection. Then she is at an evaluation and witnesses an incident rumored to have been done by Invalids living in the Wilds. People who chose not to have the cure. She also meets a boy, and her world is turned upside down. She attends a party with her friend Hana (great character) and hears real music for the first time. Music that can move you. She realizes how detached everyone with the cure is, even to their own children. The cure never took for her mother, so she has memories of her mother being a very loving mom but having to hide it. As a mother, I can't imagine that. That was my strongest reaction to this book. Thinking about a world where parents are not attached to their children. They care for them because they have to, not because they love them.

I mentioned Hana was a great character. My favorite line in the whole book comes from her, early on, before either of them honestly begin to question things. Right before their evaluations, she asks Lena "You know you can't be happy unless you're unhappy sometimes, right?" I love it, because it is so true. Living in a world of indifference, where you are never unhappy, doesn't mean you are happy.

Delirium is the first in a trilogy. I know, I know. Everything in YA fiction seems to be a trilogy now. I have to admit, it's becoming a bit of a pet peeve. This book is strong enough to stand on its own. Most people will disagree with me, because of the cliffhanger ending. Look at The Giver, though- huge cliffhanger ending and it stands on its own just fine. It's on many people's list of favorite books, including mine. Oliver wrote one of the best cliffhangers I've read in a long time, and it's the ending that makes me think it could be a stand-alone book. Not everything has to be tied up in a pretty little bow, especially in dystopias. Look at 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale.

All in all, though, I did enjoy Delirium. I have another dystopian novel on my reading list (Bumped) so I will have to see how they compare.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves

Oh, do I have some bookish pet peeves to share. I am such a nerd.

-Censorship. This is so much more than a pet peeve. When The Golden Compass movie came out, the community I love in sent e-mails and wrote editorials protesting it. I read them at that point because no one is going to tell me what I shouldn't read. (Side: I do think parents can censor books for their children, but not to the extent of asking a library to ban a book.)

-I don't like it when people act like YA fiction is just "fluff." YA fiction is just like any other genre. It has its fluff, and it has true literature too. No one could tell me novels by John Grisham or James Patterson are better quality than novels by Markus Zusak.

-Along the same note, it's not necessarily bad if all your kid will read is graphic novels. He is reading! Many kids nowadays will be brought into the world of reading by graphic novels. That's okay, in my opinion.

-I get so annoyed with series that last too long. The story usually gets repetitive, and I start to feel like the author is only continuing it because it's a proven formula.

-As mentioned in my review of A Discovery of Witches, I don't like not knowing ahead of time that the book will have a sequel. I guess I have to prepare myself.

-Another bookish pet peeve is that my husband limits me to one bookshelf for my books and one for children's books. It's only because of limited space, though. He says I can have more once we buy a house. I can't wait.

-This was an example given on the meme list, but it hold true for me as well. I hate stickers on my books!

-I hate it when people act as if reading is simply a leisure activity. It is relaxing for me, don't get me wrong. I often feel, however, like mommy brain is taking over and I'm losing IQ points daily, but reading helps me offset that. :)

Meme from The Broke and the Bookish

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I'm just going to say it outright. This book is an intellectual Twilight. I don't mean that as an insult. That's just what I felt while I was reading it. It's a paranormal romance set in academia. Diana, the main character, is a witch who has spent her whole life trying to hide that part of her world. It catches up to her when she requests an old manuscript as part of her academic research. She can tell the book is magic and sends it back. Suddenly, the world of witches, vampires and daemons fall upon her. This book is an alchemic manuscript that has been searched for by members of all three supernatural species for hundreds of years. Matthew, a vampire who has been searching for the manuscript, believes it will help save the creatures from extinction, though his motives are definitely questionable at first. As if the recalling and subsequent sending back of the manuscript isn't enough, Diana and Matthew fall in love, angering the entire supernatural world by breaking an old treaty barring inter-species relationships.

I did love some of the supporting characters, even more than Matthew and Diana. Diana's aunts are wonderful, as is Marthe, Matthew's housekeeper. My favorite, however, would have to be Diana's family house. Yes, the house is a character in this book. I thought it was a nice and unique touch. The house is a true witch house, hiding things away for years, adding a room when visitors are expected, etc.
This book is long. I think  it could have been at least 100 pages shorter. Also, the alchemy content was hard to understand, but it isn't absolutely necessary to enjoy the book. Another thing I didn't like (to no fauly of the author) is that I had assumed that this was a stand-alone book. When there were 200 pages left for me to read, I started wondering how she was going to wrap it up by the end. At the 100 page mark, I knew there must be an upcoming sequel. I guess I just like to know ahead of time.
After I finished the book, I was skimming through the reviews on Goodreads. It seems as if this book has more extreme votes (1/2 stars or 5 stars) than many other books. People either love it or hate it. As always, there are reviews like mine that "rate" A Discovery of Witches somewhere in the middle. I do that because I can honestly see both sides. I found the book enjoyable as I was reading it. At the same time, however, I don't know if this book was memorable enough to read the sequel. I spent way too much time trying to decide what rating to give this book, especially after reading this post by Janssen on why she stopped ranking. I think from now on I'll only rank if it's an easy choice. If the number keeps changing and going up and down like this did, I'm not going to worry about it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Trapped by Michael Northrop

6 out of 10: This book is a quick read that is geared toward teenage boys. A huge storm hits a semi-rural town in New England, and a group of seven teenagers get stuck at their high school waiting for rides. When I first started the book, I tweeted that it seemed like it would end up being The Breakfast Club meets Lord of the Flies. Luckily, it ended up being more The Breakfast Club than Lord of the Flies.

The main character and narrator is named Scotty, and he's the jock. He's only a sophomore though, so he isn't super popular. He's still friends with his childhood friends more than his teammates. His two best friends are Pete and Jason who are stuck as well. Scotty's crush Krista and Pete's crush Julie are there too, along with Les (the bully) and Elijah (the goth). I think this is a great read for teenage boys, but I'm going to tell you what I liked as a female adult.

-In a way, it seems like it was written years after the incident and because of that has some wisdom only gained in hindsight. For example, Scotty at one point declares "We were fifteen. We considered ourselves invulnerable and had yet to be proven wrong."

- This book contains a that's-what-she-said line. I know they're immature, but I love them thanks to The Office.

-It feels authentic to me. I know I've been out of high school for ten years, though, so I could be wrong. One specific moments I noticed this was when they were discussing the storm and what had caused it. They all remembered bits and pieces from their science class, but had a hard time tying it all together. The teens also have a hard time dealing with the loss of technology, not surprisingly. They check their phones constantly at first. Scotty thinks about the last time he was on the internet, and all the e-mails and games that are waiting for him.

-There's a classic Breakfast Club moment when Scotty looks around at the group and realizes he was wrong in his assumptions, especially about Elijah and Les.

-On a more superficial note, I also liked the cover and the pages at the start of each chapter. Very ominous. The cover shows the school buried in snow, with the windows and the marquee outside of the school barely showing. The starting page of each chapter shows the progression of the snow, with white just grazing the bottom of the the page on Chapter One and completely white by Chapter Thirty.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Top Ten Book Characters I'd Want As Family Members

Top Ten Book Characters I'd Want As Family Members

Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird- I'm going to try to have a lot of variation from last week's list, but Atticus absolutely HAS to be included. He is so moral and such a wonderful father.

Molly Weasley from Harry Potter- I know, I know, Harry Potter was featured on last week's list. It just might be on any list I make, so get used to it. Molly is such a loving mom. And her line to Bellatrix in the last book is one of my favorite lines in the whole series. I will probably be my favorite part of the movie.

All of the sisters from Little Women- For some time, all the sisters have is each other.

Katniss from The Hunger Games- She's a courageous and loving big sister.

Anne Shirley, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables- These characters show that a family can be formed without blood. Matthew and Marilla, as siblings, take Anne in basically as help, but they truly become parents to her. And she becomes a daughter for them, caring for them as they age.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Flops

Friday flops- This feature will be my spot to vent about the books I don't enjoy as much as the ones I choose to review. This will not be a weekly feature, thank goodness, because I enjoy most of what I read. These books aren't bad, necessarily, they are just books that didn't do it for me for whatever reason.

Fly On the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart- I was so disappointed with this book. Why? Because I love Lockhart's other books. One of her books is one of my most favorite YA books. I'm definitely not a prude, but there was way too much emphasis on sex. Also, I listened to this on my iPod, and I don't think they picked the right narrator to play a Japanese-American teen who turns into a fly.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff- The book club I am in chose to read this after two of us went to the Breathless Reads event. We discussed it today, and we all agreed it was so weird.

Whiter Shades of Pale by Christian Lander- I loved his first book, Stuff White People Like. This is more of the same, so I should like it right? Well, I'm only halfway through, but I feel like it's too repetitive. I still feel like the first one is hilarious, but this one is just okay.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

7 out of 10: As winner of the 2010 Cybils Award for middle grade fiction, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda has "the secret sauce that makes a child or teen want to pull it off the shelf (or download it onto their gizmo of choice) and not move/eat/sleep/breathe until the last page is turned."

A boy named Dwight, the weird kid of the class, makes an Origami Yoda and starts giving out advice and answering questions. The other kids in the class are unsure if the Yoda is real or not. Some say yes, because the Yoda "is so wise even though Dwight is a loser." Others say the Yoda is just a "green paperwad."

Tommy starts a case file compiling all of the stories. Why does he go to all of this trouble? Origami Yoda gave him good advice before, but then he receives more advice. And he is terrified because if the advice is bad, he will be completely humiliated.

This book is perfect for its audience. Just read this:

All right, uh, this is Kellan here... Uh, Tommy asked me to, uh, write down what happened
with Origami Yoda, but I, like, hate to write things down. That's too much like homework,
having to write a bunch of stuff down. And make complete sentences and all that. I'm like
no thanks, dude. So I'm just going to record it on this... uh... recording thing and let Tommy
write it down. So... uh... I guess you can edit out where I say... uhhh... and stuff like that.

If that isn't how typical sixth-grade boys talk, the you got me. There's no way I could write that authentically for a twelve-year old boy.

I love the cover. It's one of the best covers I've seen recently. To add to the fun factor, the book includes direction to make your own Origami Yoda. I'll definitely be keeping this book in mind for Brayden when he is older.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Top Ten Dynamic Duos

Top Ten Dynamic Duos
Note: I know there was a separate meme for favorite fictional couples, but I'm including some on my list since I didn't do that meme. Also, two of my choices are more than duos, but I had to include them.

Harry, Ron and Hermione from the Harry Potter series- Duh. This group belongs at the top of the list, no ifs ands or buts about it. This is one of the best, if not the best, examples of friendship in YA fiction.

Scout and Jem from To Kill A Mockingbird- Another given, at least for me. They are probably the ultimate brother-sister duo in my eyes.

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist from the Millenium trilogy- A tormented girl and a progressive journalist join forces to fight men who hate women.

Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice- Needs no explanation.

Jack and Ma from Room- For the first 5 years of Jack's life, all they have is each other. I can't even imagine how hard that would be.

Matilda and Miss Honey from Matilda- I just love Matilda. And since Miss Honey is the only person to give her the love and attention she deserves, I love her too.

Jonas and the Giver from The Giver- Another student/teacher relationship, but not a typical one. I love their symbiotic relationship. The Giver gives Jonas the strength to do what he knew needed to be done, but could not do himself.

Sarah and Jack from These Is My Words- Read this book if you haven't already. I love this couple! I know I'm a bit of a birth junkie, but one thing I loved about them is that Jack helped Sarah through her labor in a time when men were NOT ever a part of the birth.

Marley and his family from Marley and Me- I know some people thought this book was cheesy, but I loved it. I won't claim it has amazing writing, but the story is worth it. If you had a family dog growing up, this will take you back to those fun experiences you had (and the sad too).

Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre- This is another one that needs no explanation. I will say I didn't like the pairing the first time I read this book, but I was a teenager. I read it again last year and loved them.

Meme from The Broke and the Bookish

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weekend Links

2011 book to film adaptations- I'm most excited for Jane Eyre, The Help, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I think the list just shows how much the movie industry relies on books. A big number of releases are adaptations from books. With a built-in story and fan base, they can't lose.

Netgalley- I found out about this site thanks to the Utah Book Bloggers group. I am so excited about it. You can sign up to receive and review e-galleys. A galley is an advance copy released to generate press. You can read them on your computer or e-reader. I found 18 books that looked interesting last night, and I have access to 8 already.

The Book Depository- Also thank to the blogging group, I found this amazing site. It's based out of the UK. All shipping is free and the prices for books are similar to Amazon. Best of all, many books are released over there first, so you can get them sooner. For example, Dan Well's third book in the I Am Not A Serial Killer doesn't come out until next month here, but it's available to purchase there.

Seriously, though, a huge thanks must go out to the book bloggers group that have welcomed me into their fold. I definitely plan on showcasing some of their amazing blogs next week.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

Transferred from my old blog, originally written on April 25, 2010. I'm beginning to fear the same thing is happening with dystopian literature as the paranormal fad. It still is one of my favorite genres, but so many are getting published that you have to search out the quality titles. I'm looking forward to Birthmarked's sequel, along with Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I have also now read 1984 and I loved it.

7 out of 10: I have to say that I love the current trend in YA fiction for dystopian literature. Hopefully it's replacing the supernatural trend (you know- vampires and werewolves and fairies oh my). I actually think dystopian literature is good for teens. The characters are strong and they fight for what is right. They rebel against oppression, which is always a good lesson. And I know this sounds foreboding of me, but these teens will know what oppressive governments and societies are like. They will hopefully not be apathetic to changes similar to ones in these books.

I just finished Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien. It was so good! It's set about 300 years in the future and begins with a 16 year old midwife "advancing" her first official delivery to the Enclave. She lives in a society outside of the walled Enclave, and each midwife has to advance the first three babies delivered each month. After this, all hell breaks loose. Her parents are arrested and she begins to question the Enclave's rule while she is in search of her parents. And yes, like the best YA fiction, there is romance- the wonderful slow-building kind.

This looks like a fabulous list of YA dystopian novels. Out of his list, I've read The Giver by Lois Lowry (but not its companion novels), The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix and most of the The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield. I would recommend all of them. The rest sound interesting too, especially Genesis by Bernard Beckett, Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Of course, I also want to read Brave New World by Aldolus Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell (I'm actually ashamed of myself for not reading this because I was an English major and my husband who is definitely not a reader has read it). Reading Birthmarked also made me want to reread The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. They're both dystopian novels, and they both have to do with birthing babies so I was think of Atwood's novel as I was reading Birthmarked.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

9 out of 10: This book is creepy and haunting and not my normal read. I only picked it up after a friend with similar reading tastes recommended it, and I am so glad I did.

I read this book on vacation. In case giving it 9 stars wasn't enough of a hint that I liked it, I'll give you another one. I was so engrossed that I read it by the light of my iPod while we were driving from Las Vegas to St. George. And then I had talked it up so much that my mom started reading it on the drive from St. George to Salt Lake City as we were heading home.

The main character of this novel is John Wayne Cleaver, a teenager fighting the demon he fears lurks inside of him. Why does he think he is a demon? Well, he is obsessed with death, and more specifically, death by serial killer. His family runs a mortuary, so he knows the ins and outs of death. He shares a name with a serial killer, his last name is the name of a weapon, and his father's name is Sam, making him the son of Sam. More disturbing to him is that he has all of the three characteristics of serial killers- pyromania, animal cruelty and bed wetting.

You would think a narrator like this would be one the reader would struggle to be sympathetic with, right? Thanks to the author's magic touch, you feel sorry for the kid. He's honestly trying to fight these urges. He has a hard time relating to anyone, especially since he knows that might only lead to trouble. He sets very strict rules for himself... until a serial killer shows up in his town. He begins to try to solve the case by studying the killer's methods and possible motives. In trying to save the town from this demon, will he unleash his own inner demon? You'll have to read it to find out.

Two things I want to note:
-While this book has a teenage protagonist, I would not classify it as YF. Many people on Goodreads have it as YF, but I think it's definitely adult fiction.
-This book is the first of a trilogy, but could easily be read as a stand-alone. The second one is out and high on my to-read list, and the third one comes out in April.