Sunday, November 27, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge: What's in a Name 5

I completed this challenge for 2011, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to participate in it again. The What's in a Name 5 Challenge is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. The six categories for the new challenge is as follows:

1. A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title: The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title: Storm Born by Richelle Mead
3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title: Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
4. A book with a type of house in the title: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder
6. A book with something you'd find on a calendar in the title

Some of the books that I have on my Wish List that would fit this challenge are as follows:

The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Book Details:
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
By Gregory Maguire
Genre: Fiction
Published 1999, HarperCollins Publishers
Paperback, 368 pages
ISBN: 0060987529

          We have all heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave among the ashes. But what of her stepsisters, the homely pair exiled into ignominy by the fame of their lovely sibling? What fate befell those untouched by beauty ... and what curses accompanied Cinderella's looks?
Set against the backdrop of seventeenth-century Holland, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris's path quickly becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister. While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household -- and the treacherous truth of her former life.
I have been meaning to read this book for some time, simply because I loved Gregory Maguire's Wicked so much. This book I read considerably slower than I expected, though I still found the plot compelling. In this retelling of Cinderella, the reader follows the viewpoint of Iris, one of the "stepsisters" of the original tale. Iris is smart and artistic, but plain-looking -- a fact her mother never fails to point out endlessly. Iris's older sister, Ruth, is dumb and mute, which makes life at times both interesting and difficult for Iris and their mother, Margarethe.
The trio flee England for Margarethe's homeland of Holland -- the reasons for which remaining a mystery for most of the book -- and are forced to beg for shelter and work before falling under the mercy of a local painter. This is where Clara, the blonde changeling girl standing in the place of "Cinderella," is introduced. Her beauty is so ethereal that she lives a reclusive, sheltered existence under the extreme protection of her mother. Strangely, Clara and Iris seem to make up two sides of the same coin -- where one lacks the other excels in. Where Clara hides from strangers, Iris is adept at social interaction. Iris's vivid imagination makes up for Clara's lack of intelligence.
Margarethe's machinations first get her and her daughters into the same household under Clara's parents, as their servants. Then when Clara's mother dies through mysterious circumstances, Margarethe maneuvers them to become Clara's step-family, effectively pushing Clara's father almost completely out of the picture. Ironically, a picture is what serves as the glue for almost the entire plot, motivating all of the main characters to a particular behavior.
Clara is almost the complete opposite of what one would expect from the image of "Cinderella." She is spoiled, rich, obstinate, paranoid, reclusive, delusional, confrontational, and quite childish even in adulthood. Margarethe is a villain that is relate-able, as her choices throughout the book stem from an obsessive need to both survive and thrive. Though at times I intensely dislike the things that she spouts, I cannot hate her due to the suffering she endures from a certain ironic malady that befalls her.
The ending that is so familiar to the original tale seems to happen almost by accident -- and how easily Iris could have taken Clara's place makes me a bit sad for Iris. The ending to the book is also a nice surprise, causing me to rethink many of the scenes and the thoughts that could have been occurring to one of the central characters. Indeed, the ending makes the book almost worth a re-read.

The Cover: I love the cover, with its allusions to the original Cinderella tale and the picture-window effect.

First Line: "Hobbling home under a mackerel sky, I came upon a group of children."
Aside from the fact that I had to look up mackerel (yup, the fish), this is an unusual way to begin a story, but I am still intrigued.

Favorite Quote"In the lives of children, pumpkins turn into coaches, mice and rats turn into men. When we grow up, we realize it is far more common for men to turn into rats."

Read For: I Want More Challenge, Read a Myth Challenge, 101 Fantasy Challenge

Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne

Book Details:
Blackberry Summer
By RaeAnne Thayne
Genre: Romance
Published 2011, Harlequin Books
Paperback, 376 pages
ISBN: 9780373775934

          What she didn't need was a tragic car accident. As a single mom and the owner of a successful bead shop, Claire leads a predictable life in Hope's Crossing, Colorado. So what if she has no time for romance? At least, that's what she tells herself, especially when her best friend's sexy younger brother comes back to town as the new chief of police.
But when the accident forces Claire to slow down and lean on others—especially Riley McKnight—she realizes, for the first time, that things need to change. And not just in her own life. The accident—and the string of robberies committed by teenagers that led up to it—is a wake-up call to the people of Hope's Crossing. The sense of community and togetherness had been lost during those tough years. But with a mysterious "Angel of Hope" working to inspire the town, Riley and Claire will find themselves opening up to love and other possibilities by the end of an extraordinary summer….
The community of Hope's Crossing is quaint in its friendliness and familiarity of the different individuals with one another. Though the town operates as the hub of a large resort, it does not lose its charm as a small town. So when the type of crime that is more prone to big cities happens here, it causes its citizens to be less welcoming to its newest inhabitant and chief of police, Riley McKnight. Riley faces an uphill battle both socially and romantically, as he is drawn all over again to the stubbornly independent Claire that was attracted to growing up. The big difference this time is that Claire likes him back! They play the typical game of I can't believe he/she likes me, and do I really like him/ her that is so common in romance novels. In the mean time, Claire dreams up a way to put the town in better spirits, while defending Riley's place there.
Claire is easy to like, with her bead store that attracts such colorful characters, and the patience she exhibits in all of her relationships, from the one with her mother to the ones with her ex-husband and his new, pregnant wife. I even like how her injuries drive Riley to constantly offer to help her in any way possible.
Riley's honesty is at times comedic, shocking, and even alluring. He has charm to spare, but keeps most of it bottled up because of a difficult past.
The book was more entertaining than I have come to expect from the typical Harlequin, but in many ways not very unique from the standard plot line. While I did enjoy reading it, I doubt that I will remember much about the book.

The Cover: The cover is attractive and a nice change from your typical Harlequin novel, but after reading the book, I don't agree that the theme of summer really applies.

First Line: "Lousy, stupid horoscope."
This is a humorous way to open the book, and now I am curious to know what would compel the narrator to have this thought, as well as what the horoscope actually was.

Favorite Quote: "Here, there or anywhere. But this wasn't a Dr. Seuss book and Riley was definitely not green eggs."

Read For: Off the Shelf Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Challenge Completed: Read a Myth Challenge

I am a sucker for a good myth or fairy tale retelling, so I enjoyed completing the Read a Myth Challenge for 2011. I managed to read three books from the Canongate series that this challenge is based on, plus a few of my own choosing. In addition, at least one of the books had to be non-fiction and my choices had to span more than three countries. The countries I pulled from were Canada, England, the U.S.A., and Israel, with only one book being an actual translation. I read at the Level 4 Ogma: The God of All Myths, with 8 books total.
Here are the books I read for this challenge, with their reviews:

1. Beastly by Alex Flinn (U.S.A.)
2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (England)
3. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (Canada)
4. A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong
5. A Midnight Dance by Lila DiPasqua (U.S.A.)
6. Abandon by Meg Cabot (U.S.A.)
7. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire (U.S.A.)
8. Lion's Honey by David Grossman (Israel)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Challenge Completed: Off the Shelf Challenge

I managed to finish my biggest challenge for 2011, the Off the Shelf Challenge. I had to read 30 books off my own shelves, which was the "Making a Dent" level. I indeed made a dent, but I still have lots more, so I will be looking for a similar challenge for 2012.
Here is the list of books that I read for this challenge, and their reviews:

1. Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens
2. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
3. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ravens of Avalon by Diana L. Paxson
4. A Pointed Death by Kath Russell
5. Blue by Lou Aronica
6. Redemption by Laurel Dewey
7. River Marked by Patricia Briggs
8. The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
9. Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee
10. Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites ...and Other Lies You've Been Told by Bradley R. E. Wright, Ph.D.
11. There's Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon
12. Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione
13. The Life Ready Woman by Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis
14. The Lens and the Looker by Lory S. Kaufman
15. Just One Taste by Louisa Edwards
16. The Doctor's Forever Family by Marie Ferrarella
17. The Bronze and the Brimstone by Lory S. Kaufman
18. Savage Nature by Christine Feehan
19. If God, Why Evil? by Norman Geisler
20. Holy Guacamole by Dan & Denise Harmer
21. A Midnight Dance by Lila DiPasqua
22. The Comeback Cowboy by Cathy McDavid
23. Whole Foods to Thrive by Brendan Brazier
24. A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell
25. Wedlocked by Bonnie Trachtenberg
26. Economic Meltdown by Karen McHale
27. 101 Gourmet Cake Bites by Wendy Paul
28. Pumpkin Roll by Josi S. Kilpack
29. Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne
30. Sweet Chic by Rachel Schifter Thebault

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Lion's Honey by David Grossman

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
          And maybe this is what motivates Samson, and not only in this instance. He goes through life like a walking enigma, marveling over his secret, his riddle. He enjoys approaching the dangerous brink of being found out by others. Yet, on second thoughts, this word 'enjoys' is inaccurate: more likely he is driven to this: compelled to confront this feeling, this bitter-tasting knowledge that he is impenetrable, that he cannot be released from his strangeness, nor from the mystery within. - pg. 69, Lion's Honey: The Myth of Samson by David Grossman

What are you reading this week?

Monday, November 21, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge: Dystopia

I found a unique challenge that I could not pass up for the new year. The Dystopia Challenge is being hosted by Bookish Ardour. The blog suggested a list of 15 titles for the challenge, but I realized that I have read more dystopia than I previously thought. The list does not include any YA books, though. Since I know of several YA titles that I would like to read that would fit this category, I decided to join the challenge at the level of Asocial with 5 books.

This is a list of books that I will pull from to complete this challenge:

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
2. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
3. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
4. Divergent by Veronica Roth
5. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
6. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
7. Matched by Ally Condie
8. A Million Suns by Beth Revis
9. Fever by Lauren DeStefano
10. Enclave by Ann Aquirre
11. Crossed by Ally Condie
12. Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
13. Bumped by Megan McCafferty
14. XVI by Julie Karr
15. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Books I have read for this challenge:
1. The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
2. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
5. Divergent by Veronica Roth
6. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
7. Fever by Lauren DeStefano
8. A Million Suns by Beth Revis
9. Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
10. Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Sunday, November 20, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge: Read Your Own Books

My second challenge for the new year is Read Your Own Books Challenge, hosted by Tales From the Crypt. This challenge is for those of us who have books that we’ve purchased and just haven’t gotten to. The books that qualify are any that I have personally purchased, been gifted, or swapped, BEFORE January 1, 2012 and just have not gotten the chance to read yet. I count books that I have won in this description, too. This also means that I can not include any books that I have been asked to review.
I am terrible about bringing home books and forgetting to read them simply because I had no "due date," like library books, or a required review. This challenge will force me to acknowledge the books that I frivolously acquire!
I am picking Level 2 for this challenge at 6 - 10 books, which I will list here as I read them.

1. Rugged and Relentless by Kelly Eileen Hake
2. The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
3. Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee
4. The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin & Alex Malarkey
5. Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
6. Autumn Winds by Charlotte Hubbard


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: Sweet Chic by Rachel Schifter Thebault

Book Details:
Sweet Chic: Stylish Treats to Dress Up for Any Occasion
By Rachel Schifter Thebault
Genre: Cookbook
Published 2010, Ballantine Books
Hardback, 187 pages
ISBN: 9780345516558

Today’s baker faces a great challenge: With little time and a limited repertoire, she often needs to whip up a delicious dessert that’s dressed to impress. Rachel Schifter Thebault, founder and head confectioner of Tribeca Treats in New York City, knows all about making a sweet statement. Combining a confectioner’s expertise with fashion sense, she shares a scrumptious cache of popular dessert recipes that can be accessorized to fit any occasion.
What’s more, transforming a basic dessert into a masterpiece brimming with personality and flair can be easy, quick, and fun. In the same way you’d plan an outfit, Sweet Chic pieces together a Devil’s Food Cake—the little black dress of delights—with such irresistible accessories as Caramel Buttercream (think knee-high boots) for ultimate decadence, turns Vanilla Cookies (the crisp oxford shirt) into Strawberry “Shortcakes” ideal for casual or dressy occasions, and blends brownies (the cashmere sweater of confectionery) with a swirl of mint for a showstopping number.
Gorgeous and appetizing color photos throughout reveal how a change of icing here and a substitute topping there can take a simple dessert from Sunday brunch to a date-night treat. Mix and match more than seventy recipes for cookies, cakes, and confections, including Peanut Butter and Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, Brownie Sundae Parfait, Mini S’mores Cupcakes, Wasabi-Black Sesame Truffles, and so much more.
Whether you’re a novice baker hoping to master the basics or an experienced one looking to add a little versatility to your existing creations, Sweet Chic is a clever and practical guide for memorable desserts, a one-sweet-fits-all way to make a tantalizing impression.
There are few pastimes that can compete with my love of books, but baking is one of them. The premise of this cookbook seemed rather unique, as it attempted to combine baking with fashion. There is even a delightful foreword by Isaac Mizrahi to further the theme. The author, Rachel Schifter Thebault, runs her own bakery, Tribeca Treats, out of New York City, and this is her debut cookbook.
The book opens with an explanation of Rachel's philosophy of baking. In the same way that a woman uses a little black dress as the foundation of her wardrobe, using accessories to dress it up or down, so too can a baker take a basic recipe for the base of a dessert and use simple alterations to create a complete "wardrobe" of desserts for any occasion. Chocolate chip cookie dough becomes white chocolate coconut cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, snickerdoodles, or anything else a cook can dream up with a change in mix-ins. I used the oatmeal raisin cookie recipe and substituted in chocolate chips, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and they came out perfect!
The book is divided into three sections: Cookies, Cakes, and Confections. Each chapter in the three sections feature a basic recipe to build on, with names such as "The Crisp Oxford Shirt," "The A-Line Skirt," and "The Leather Jacket." Following the basic recipe of each chapter are several more example recipes of how to alter the base recipe to fit your needs. Vanilla Cake becomes Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes, and Basic Tempered Chocolate becomes Cranberry Almond Bark.
The detail that Rachel goes into is also quite impressive. The beginning of the book teaches the basics of baked goods by reviewing all of the major ingredients used in baking - things like eggs, cocoa powder, and extracts - as well as essential equipment used, like a cake turntable. She then goes into the basic techniques of baking, simplifying them for even the most amateur of novices, and provides a pictorial guide for icing a cake and dipping things in chocolate. Each recipe is provided with very specific details on how to perform each step, as well as ideas at the end on how to dress it up further.
I loved this cookbook, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in baking, from the amateur to the experienced baker.

The Cover: The cover is accentuated with a whimsical stack of cupcakes that look both delicious and pretty.

Read For: Off the Shelf Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Library

 As a life-long bookworm by choice and (sometimes) by trade, I am a fervent supporter of anything that promotes literacy and advocates for the production and distribution of literature. So when I first learned about the library that has blossomed to provide services for those participating in the Wall Street protest - or even those not - I was immediately fascinated by this self-named Occupy Wall Street Library (OWSL), or the People's Library. The People's Library subsists only on the donations of others, whether it be pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, books -- sometimes by the authors themselves, complete with signatures -- or monetary means. Yes, this grassroots library is built and run by actual librarians, even through the dead of night to protect its valuable resources. The library has even brought about an Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology.

While the whole Occupy movement is about much more than just this one library (others include one in Boston), I felt I needed to bring attention to a recent development in the short history of this library. On November 15th, the NYPD raided Zuccotti Park, where the People's Library is located, taking pretty much everything that was not strapped to a person's body and dumping it all in dumpsters, without regard to private property or even the Constitution. Two librarians were even arrested, and the library was comprised of over 5,000 books.

Mayor Bloomberg's response to the outcry regarding the destruction of the OWSL was a single photograph of the remaining books being housed at the 57th St. Sanitation Garage, along with the tweet “Property from #Zuccotti, incl #OWS library, safely stored @ 57th St Sanit Garage; can be picked up Weds”. This turned out to be a lie, as only 25 boxes of books were recovered, with the rest of the books destroyed beyond repair, as well as everything else belonging to the library. In addition, the mayor's office also gave this statement as a pathetic excuse for their actions: "thousands & thousands of people read books in New York City parks every day, but they don't leave stacks of their stuff - books or otherwise". Reading about this made me both very angry and very sad, as this kind of nightmare should never leave the pages of Fahrenheit 451 and other similar works to take place in reality.

One day later, the determined protesters reorganize and begin to rebuild this little library, only to be raided yet again by the NYPD, who specifically went after the small collection of books to destroy what was left.

I can't imagine that any lover of books would not be enraged by this aggressive destruction of a library, no matter how big or small the collection of literature. As the political commentator Keith Olbermann as said about this: "Supression always creates the opposite of the effect desired." While I know that these dedicated librarians will rebuild and rebuild again every time they are raided, these events are signs to me that the predictions of dystopian literature are not so far off.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest by Waheed Rabbani

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
          In the next village, I left the Count at a friendly serai and managed to procure what we needed. We quickly changed into our new disguise. In addition, as another diversionary tactic, we altered our direction and joined a caravan travelling northwards, the least expected course our trackers would have anticipated we would take. It worked. Soon enough the red-coated party we had been spotting in our telescope was nowhere to be seen. No doubt they were feverishly enquiring about a French doctor and his helper from every caravan and in every serai they could find. - pg. 99, Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest by Waheed Rabbani
What are you reading this week?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Romance at Random Winner

The winner of the ebook Because of You by Jessica Scott, using, is...

Catherine Lee!

You should be getting an email soon with instructions on obtaining your ebook. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge: Young Adult

It's that time of year again... time to pick new reading challenges! I try to pick challenges based on what I read the most of the previous year, and since I tend to consume Young Adult literature as fast as I consume chocolate, this challenge was a perfect choice.
The Eclectic Bookshelf is hosting the 2012 Young Adult Reading Challenge. I am committing myself to the "Fun Size" level of 20 books, and I will post the titles here as I read them.

1. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
2. The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
3. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
4. Last Breath by Rachel Caine
5. Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
7. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
8. Divergent by Veronica Roth
9. Destined by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
10. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
11. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
12. Fever by Lauren DeStefano
13. A Million Suns by Beth Revis
14. Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
15. Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
16. Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Salute to Our Veterans – Veteran’s Day Blog Hop


In honor of Veteran’s Day and the servicemen of the United States, we would like to celebrate with our very own Jessica Scott, active duty army captain, full time mom, and author, and her husband, first sergeant deployed with the army on his final tour; by promoting Jessica’s new book, Because of You, the first in her Coming Home Series.

About the book:

          From the war-torn streets of Baghdad to the bittersweet comforts of the home front, two wounded hearts navigate the battlefield of coming home from war in this explosive eBook original from newcomer Jessica Scott.
 Keeping his men alive is all that matters to Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison. But meeting Jen St. James the night before his latest deployment makes Shane wonder if there’s more to life than war. He leaves for Iraq remembering a single kiss with a woman he’ll never see again—until a near fatal attack lands him back at home and in her care.
 Jen has survived her own brush with death and endured its scars. And yet there’s a fire in Shane that makes Jen forget all about her past. He may be her patient, but when this warrior looks her in the eyes, she feels—for the first time in a long time—like a woman. Shane is too proud to ask for help, but for Jen, caring for him is more than a duty—it’s a need. And as Jen guides Shane through the fires of healing, she finds something she never expected—her deepest desire.

Here’s what people are saying:
•  “Jessica Scott is an exciting new voice in romantic fiction who bursts upon the scene with an unputdownable debut novel! ” -New York Times Bestselling Author, Robyn Carr
 •  “Edgy and current—and a truly satisfying love story. Put this book, Jessica Scott’s, Because of You, on your 'must read' list.” -New York Times Bestselling Author, Suzanne Brockmann
•  “Jessica Scott writes with a soldier’s heart. Because Of You is touching, authentic and a fantastic read.” -New York Times Bestselling Author, Cindy Gerard
•  “Crackling with realism, sizzling with sexual tension, and pulsing with emotion, Jessica Scott has penned an unforgettable militaryromance that delivers heartache and hope on every page.” -New York Times Bestselling Author, Roxanne St. Claire

Giveaway Details:
I have one eBook copy of Because of You to give away. The only mandatory entry I require is for you to leave a comment with your name and email, so that I may contact you if you win on this blog. This giveaway will be open from Thursday, November 10th to Sunday, November 13th. I will announce the winner on Monday, November 14th.

Each participating blog found in this linky will be giving away a FREE ebook of Because of You. Be one of the first to read this powerful love story by commenting below or on any of the participating sites to be included in this random drawing. There will be 25 winners total, as each site will choose a winner. Increase your chances of winning by visiting all of these sites on the linky!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Book Details:
The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins
Genre: Fantasy
Published 2008, Scholastic, Inc.
Paperback, 374 pages
ISBN: 9780439023528

          In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Right away this book captures my attention with a quick introduction to Katniss's survival skills followed by the District 12 Hunger Games lottery, a grim holiday that nobody wants to celebrate, but is still mandatory. It does not take long for the reader to feel sympathetic towards Katniss and the hardship she struggles with everyday just to survive.
Every detail leading up to the actual event of the Hunger Games has a surreal feel, as Katniss is primped and paraded like a beauty pageant contestant, as if everyone is ignoring the fact that these are children, with all but one facing imminent death. This is reality television meets the ancient gladiator games of Rome, combined with the sick irony of using a nation's most precious commodity -- its children. As a mother of three, I can not even fathom living in a country that tolerated this year after year. These Hunger Games are the country's way of preventing rebellion in its citizens through fear, brainwashing, and desensitization, as it is mandatory for every citizen to watch. In some districts, this is so successful that children are routinely trained specifically for the Hunger Games, volunteering to face murder and death for a chance at fame and fortune.
The love triangle is obvious early on, though the conflict can't come into play until the second book in the series. Peeta is the one in the spotlight, the one that humanizes Katniss for the viewers and makes her likable due to his own romantic feelings for her. Unfortunately, Katniss is too busy staying alive to be certain of her true feelings, even though she can pretend well enough to convince even Peeta. Peeta is self-sacrificing, while Katniss is observant and resourceful. Katniss is able to avoid becoming a cold-hearted murderer only because of Peeta's presence.
Regarding the actual Game, those that run it operate to keep the entertainment value up, adding to the danger of the contestants still alive, handing out gifts to give one an edge over another, forcing contestants into battle to increase bloodshed and drama, and generally treating the twenty-four as actors and actresses in any other fictional television drama. What Katniss keeps returning to is how "normal" these people of the Capitol see of the deaths of these children. It occurred to me while reading this that it would be better to be one of those that died in the Games, rather than live with being the monster responsible for the deaths of twenty-three other children purely for the entertainment of the shallow and self-absorbed.
This book is both shocking and heart-rending, and I look forward to the next installment, Catching Fire.

The Cover: The cover features the mockingjay pin that Katniss wears, which is a simple design, but it still works for the cover of such a starkly dramatic book.

First Line: "When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold."
Interesting that the author is using present tense, though not a particularly memorable opening line.

Favorite Quote"It's funny, because even though they're rattling on about the Games, it's all about where they were or what they were doing or how they felt when a specific event occurred. . . . Everything is about them, not the dying boys and girls in the arena."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Abandon by Meg Cabot

Book Details:
By Meg Cabot
Genre: Fantasy
Published May 2011, Point
Hardback, 304 pages
ISBN: 9780545284103

          New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld. Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.
But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.
Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.
Though I have been familiar with the name of Meg Cabot for awhile, this is the first book by her that I have actually read. I am a sucker for Greek mythology, and a retelling of Hades and Persephone has great potential. With a great cover and an even better premise to the book, I had pretty high hopes for the plot itself.
The way the book begins throws me -- told through the eyes of Pierce Oliviera, which is not that great of a name for a girl (instead of Persephone?), the author refrains from giving away hardly anything about Pierce's circumstances, what happened to her, what motivates her, etc. While it can be considered good writing to hold back on the major revelations as long as possible to build the suspense and draw in the reader, for me it was rather frustrating to read almost the entire book before Pierce finally realized who and what John Hayden is(also a crummy name for a death deity). Much of the actual events of the book are Pierce's memories, and what happens in real time is the culmination of these memories.
While I disliked the way that Meg Cabot chose to string all of these separate events together, I do like what the actual events create when put together. A girl who has a Near-Death Experience, or NDE, meets for the second time the man who runs her personal Underworld, instantly making her his consort thanks to a rare diamond necklace, though she does not yet know it. Her ability to skirt death makes her a target for the bad guys in the book, the Furies (not the same as the Furies of Greek mythology), who blame John for their lot in life after death. In addition, Pierce also has a host of quirks that alternately set her up for disaster or save her life, such as her addiction to soda and her paranoia that tassels are Evil.
While Pierce has a vast array of personality and behavioral problems that make the act of living difficult for her, I do think that this book fits well in the Young Adult category. Pierce does not have everything figured out, does not always know how to handle herself, and does not even recognize when she is in love. She is protective of her feelings, can be just as detached as the next person from those around her, and has to work at not being too self-absorbed. Sometimes an imperfect heroine makes for a better book. I look forward to the next installment in the trilogy, Underworld.

The Cover: This is such a darkly beautiful cover, and yet so mysterious. The cover is definitely what made me want to read this book.

First Line: "Anything can happen in the blink of an eye."
This is a great first line, though it does not tell me anything about the plot. Still, my curiosity is peaked.

Favorite Quote"There’s no accountability anymore, Pierce, no one holds anyone accountable for what they do. It’s always someone else’s fault. Usually people just blame the victim."

Read For: Read a Myth Challenge

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Read It 1st

I found a website that promotes a concept that many people in the reading community avidly pursue just as a matter of principle. This is the idea that one should read the book before seeing the movie that the book is based on. Personally, I find that this is not always achievable, since oftentimes I don't learn that a certain movie is based on a book until I read it on the screen. Luckily, the website publishes a newsletter to keep you up to date on which movies, past and present, are based on books. A surprising number of movies are based on books, and I often find great reading material thanks to the movies that are produced.

At Read It 1st, you can take one of two pledges and copy a button to post on your own website. The first pledge states that you will read the book before the movie, while the second pledge states that you will read the book whenever, but you still want to know what movies are based on books. I took the second pledge.

Will you pledge?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Abandon by Meg Cabot

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
          I took the staircase that twisted down, thinking it would lead me back to the lake. I remember -- as clearly as if it were yesterday -- that with every step, I'd felt as if my heart was going to explode.
That, the psychiatrists assured me later, was the epinephrine.
The next thing I knew, I was looking up at my mom's face. I watched as her face went from agonized, tormented grief to wild, joyous hope as I responded like a robot to the ER doctor's questions. Yes, I knew who I was. Yes, I knew who my mother was, and what year it was, and how many fingers the doctor was holding up.
I was alive. I had gotten away from there, wherever it was.
Away from him. - pg. 73, Abandon by Meg Cabot
What are you reading this week?

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