Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Additions To My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books that I recently added to my TBR list. I haven’t bought any of these yet, so let me know if they’re worth reading.

Recent Additions

1. If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes, and boys. 
Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go . . . a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

2. Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. 
Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven? 
It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path. 
In a voice that's as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl's journey through life's challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

3. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called "Le Cirque des Reves," and it is only open at night. 
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

4. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga. 
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. 
In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year-old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. 
That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. 
First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

5. Blankets – Craig Thompson

Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. Blankets is a tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith.

6. The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

Set in seventeenth-century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.
"There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . ." 
On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin. 
But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . . 
Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?
Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

7. My Heart and Other Black Holes – Jasmine Warga

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness. 
There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

8. Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard

The poverty-stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers. 
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change. 
Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the center of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control. 
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

9. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer believes life can't get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. 
It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. 
There is. 
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. 
She's wrong.

10. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – E. Lockhart

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: 
Debate Club. 
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.” 
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: 
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue. 
A chip on her shoulder. 
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks. 
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer. 
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society. 
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. 
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them. 
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her. 
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done. 
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 16: 
Possibly a criminal mastermind.  
This is the story of how she got that way.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Review: I went into this book knowing very little about it, and I’m glad I did. It wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome to read if I’d been spoiled. The plot has so many twists that it’s impossible to predict them all. I’ll try to keep my review completely spoiler-free.

Gone Girl has a simple premise: Amy goes missing, and her husband Nick is the prime suspect. That’s where the simplicity ends. The plot, characters, and story structure are very intricate.

My favorite part of the book is the characters. They are all extremely well-developed. Nick and Amy are devious, manipulative, and unlikable. I had to keep reading because they become more shockingly nasty with every page. The story is told from alternating first-person points-of-view, so the reader gets to see the plot from both Amy and Nick’s perspectives. I love this because the characters have different interpretations of the same events. There’s no way to know for sure which character is telling the truth about what really happened to Amy.

Another great element of the story is the role that the media plays. The media creates their own versions of Nick and Amy: Nick is a heartless murderer; Amy is an innocent victim. The media’s versions of the characters aren’t quite accurate. It made me think about real life and how the people involved in murder cases are presented by the media.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so it’s hard to come up with criticisms. I did find it difficult to get into the story. The beginning has a lot of character development and not much else. It took about 200 pages for the story to really grab my attention. After that, I couldn’t put it down.

If you like mysteries or books with fascinatingly horrible characters, I’d recommend Gone Girl

Friday, March 27, 2015

FF Friday: In Which I Don’t Go To New York

Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

This week’s question: Have you ever been to BEA? If not, what’s stopping you? If you have, what was your best experience there?

Answer: I assume this question is referring to Book Expo America? The answer is No. I’ve been to tons of local book and writing conferences, but BEA has always been too far away and/or too expensive.


The follow part: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. I’d love it if you also followed me. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, Twitter, or G+, that would be awesome, too.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

2015 Book Haul #3

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently.
I just got another giant box of books in the mail. This will be the last one for a while. I have more than enough stuff to read.

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves – Karen Russell

In these ten glittering stories, debut author Karen Russell takes us to the ghostly and magical swamps of the Florida Everglades. Here wolf-like girls are reformed by nuns, a family makes their living wrestling alligators in a theme park, and little girls sail away on crab shells. Filled with stunning inventiveness and heart, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves introduces a radiant new writer.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz. 
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Notable American Women: A Novel – Ben Marcus

On a farm in Ohio, American women led by Jane Dark practice all means of behavior modification in an attempt to attain complete stillness and silence. Witnessing (and subjected to) their cultish actions is one Ben Marcus, whose father, Michael Marcus, may be buried in the back yard, and whose mother, Jane Marcus, enthusiastically condones the use of her son for (generally unsuccessful) breeding purposes, among other things. Inventing his own uses for language, the author Ben Marcus has written a harrowing, hilarious, strangely moving, altogether engrossing work of fiction that will be read and argued over for years to come.

Sky Jumpers: Through the Bomb’s Breath – Peggy Eddleman

What happens when you can’t do the one thing that matters most? 
12-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. The bombs destroyed almost everything that came before, so the skill that matters most in White Rock—sometimes it feels like the only thing that matters—is the ability to invent so that the world can regain some of what it has lost. 
But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of air that covers the crater the town lives in—than fail at yet another invention. 
When bandits discover that White Rock has invented priceless antibiotics, they invade. The town must choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from disease in the coming months or to die fighting the bandits now. Hope and her friends, Aaren and Brock, might be the only ones who can escape through the Bomb’s Breath and make the dangerous trek over the snow-covered mountain to get help. 
For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and risk-taking that usually gets Hope into trouble might just save them all.

Smoke – Ellen Hopkins

Pattyn Von Stratten’s father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run. After far too many years of abuse at the hands of her father, and after the tragic loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn is desperate for peace. Only her sister Jackie knows what happened that night, but she is stuck at home with their mother, who clings to normalcy by allowing the truth to be covered up by their domineering community leaders. Her father might be finally gone, but without Pattyn, Jackie is desperately isolated. Alone and in disguise, Pattyn starts a new life, but is it even possible to rebuild a life when everything you’ve known has burned to ash and lies seem far safer than the truth?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love. 
Richard Flanagan's story—of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife—journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 
Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labor camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.

Rumble – Ellen Hopkins

“There is no God, no benevolent ruler of the earth, no omnipotent grand poobah of countless universes. Because if there was . . . my little brother would still be fishing or playing basketball instead of fertilizing cemetery vegetation.” 
Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything. 
Not in family—his is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough. Not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen. And certainly not in some “It Gets Better” psychobabble. 
No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting go of blame. He’s decided to “live large and go out with a huge bang,” and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble . . . a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything he’s ever disbelieved into question.

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales – Margaret Atwood

A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy. Vintage Atwood creativity, intelligence, and humor: think Alias Grace. 
Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction for the first time since her 2006 collection, Moral Disorder, with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships bringing to mind her award-winning 1996 novel, Alias Grace. A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband in "Alphinland," the first of three loosely linked stories about the romantic geometries of a group of writers and artists. In "The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom," a man who bids on an auctioned storage space has a surprise. In "Lusus Naturae," a woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In "Torching the Dusties," an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. And in "Stone Mattress," a long-ago crime is avenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. 
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: The Drawing Of The Three – Stephen King

The Drawing Of The Three – Stephen King

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland is drawn through a mysterious door that brings him into contemporary America. 
Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean, and with the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies. 
Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism.

The Drawing of the Three is book #2 of the Dark Tower series. This review is spoiler-free, but you might want to check out my review of book #1: The Gunslinger.

Review: Roland, the gunslinger, must find the three people who will help him reach the tower. He knows that he needs these people, but he doesn’t know who they will be until he opens the doors to their world. The “Three” are not who Roland—or the reader—expects. Each of the Three has a dark side, and none of them can be trusted.

This book is closer to King’s normal writing style than the first book in the series. This is both a good and a bad thing. Book #2 is missing the poetic writing style and the eerie tone that I loved in the first book, but it has more action and more explanation of events. I got frustrated with the first book because a lot of things happened, but nothing was really explained. I did not have that same frustration with book #2. In this book, the world is developing quickly, and Roland’s quest is becoming clearer.

The best part of book #2 is the characters. They are all so . . . horrible. They’re drug addicts, serial killers, and thieves. They can be friends one second and then trying to kill each other the next. Their selfishness and unpredictability makes them fascinating to read about. Roland is my favorite. I’m looking forward to learning more of his backstory.

My only criticisms are the pacing and the insta-love. It took me a long time to get interested in this story because it started off quickly and then slowed way, way down. It does pick up again, but I got bored during the airplane scene.

There is also some insta-love. I know that it will be explained eventually, but I wanted more explanation now. I don’t know what these two characters see in each other.

Despite my criticisms, I’m excited to continue with the series. I want to know where this story is heading. (Well, other than to the tower. I know it’s heading to the tower.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books from my childhood that I would love to revisit. Fortunately, since I’m getting a master’s degree in children’s lit., I have been able to revisit a few of these.

My Childhood Favorites

1. The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman

Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

2. Hatchet – Gary Paulsen

Since it was first published in 1987, the story of thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson's survival following a plane crash has become a modern classic. Stranded in the desolate wilderness, Brian uses his instincts and his hatchet to stay alive for fifty-four harrowing days.

3. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson

Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone. 
That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.

4. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town – Kimberly Willis Holt

Nothing ever happens in Toby’s small Texas town. Nothing much until this summer that’s full of big changes.

It’s tough for Toby when his mother leaves home to be a country singer. He takes it hard when his best friend Cal’s older brother goes off to fight in Vietnam. Now their sleepy town is about to get a jolt with the arrival of Zachary Beaver, billed as the fattest boy in the world. Toby is in for a summer unlike any other, a summer sure to change his life. 

5. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. 
Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He's never worn a Cloak of Invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry's room is a tiny cupboard under the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in ten years. 
But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him . . . if Harry can survive the encounter.

7. The Body of Christopher Creed – Carol Plum-Ucci

When Christopher Creed, the class freak and whipping boy, suddenly disappears without a trace, everyone speculates on what could have happened to him. Soon fingers begin pointing, and several lives are changed forever.

8. What Happened to Lani Garver – Carol Plum-Ucci

The close-knit residents of Hackett Island have never seen anyone quite like Lani Garver. Everything about this new kid is a mystery: Where does Lani come from? How old is Lani? And most disturbing of all, is Lani a boy or a girl? 
Claire McKenzie isn't up to tormenting Lani with the rest of the high school elite. Instead, she befriends the intriguing outcast. But within days of Lani's arrival, tragedy strikes and Claire must deal with shattered friendships and personal demons—and the possibility that angels may exist on Earth.

9. Walk Two Moons – Sharon Creech

"How about a story? Spin us a yarn." 
Instantly, Phoebe Winterbottom came to mind. "I could tell you an extensively strange story," I warned. 
"Oh, good!" Gram said. "Delicious!" 
And that is how I happened to tell them about Phoebe, her disappearing mother, and the lunatic. 
As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe's outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold — the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother. 
In her own award-winning style, Sharon Creech intricately weaves together two tales, one funny, one bittersweet, to create a heartwarming, compelling, and utterly moving story of love, loss, and the complexity of human emotion.

10. Holes – Louis Sachar

This winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award features Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys' detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake: the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: The Year Of The Flood – Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood

In a world driven by shadowy, corrupt corporations and the uncontrolled development of new, gene-spliced life forms, a man-made pandemic occurs, obliterating human life. Two people find they have unexpectedly survived: Ren, a young dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails (the cleanest dirty girls in town), and Toby, solitary and determined, who has barricaded herself inside a luxurious spa, watching and waiting. The women have to decide on their next move—they can’t stay hidden forever.  But is anyone else out there?

This is a review of book #2 in a trilogy. The review is spoiler-free, but you might want to check out my thoughts on book #1: Oryx and Crake.

Review: The Year of the Flood is book #2 of the MaddAddam trilogy, but it is more of a companion novel than a sequel. It has a new cast of characters, and the events take place at the same time as the events in the first book. You could probably read this novel as a standalone without getting confused.

While book #1 focuses on the privileged upper-class of a dystopian society, the second book centers on lower-class characters. It follows Toby (a fast-food employee on the run from her abusive boss), and Ren (a dancer in a sex club). Their lives intersect when they both join a fringe doomsday religion called God’s Gardeners. Their Gardner training helps them survive the plague that was unleased in the first book.

The Year of the Flood is easily one of my favorite dystopian novels ever.

Like all of Margaret Atwood’s books, this one is beautifully written. The characters are complex, believable, and well-developed. The world-building is awesome. I especially like all of the details about God’s Gardeners. The group has some strange beliefs, but they still feel very realistic.

There is more action in this book than in the previous one. The characters live in a city where violence is common and the police are corrupt. I love that book #2 has more action, but I actually like book #1 better. Toby and Ren aren’t as interesting as Snowman, Oryx, and Crake. The characters in the first book are extremely compelling. I couldn’t get enough of them. Toby and Ren seem slightly bland by comparison. I think this is because they are just reacting to the events that the characters in the first book set in motion. The reactions aren’t quite as fascinating as the events themselves.  

The only thing that really bothers me about the book is the number of coincidences. The characters keep running into each other at convenient times. I know that they all live in the same area, but I still find it hard to believe that they could find each other so easily after the plague hits and the city descends into chaos.

The best part of The Year of the Flood is when the reader gets to see the characters from book #1 through the eyes of Toby and Ren. I got ridiculously excited whenever Snowman, Oryx, or Crake showed up. I enjoyed seeing them from new perspectives.

No matter how many times I reread this trilogy, I still love it. I’m going to reread the third book now.

Friday, March 20, 2015

FF Friday: In Which I Learn The Unimportance Of Anatomy

Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

This week’s question: Have you ever been inspired by a book character to do something? Who was the character and what was it?

Answer: I can’t remember ever being inspired by a book character to do something, but there have been a lot of characters who have inspired me to think differently about something.

One of the first characters who did this was Lani Garver in Carol Plum-Ucci’s What Happened to Lani Garver.

What Happened to Lani Garver - Carol Plum-Ucci 

The close-knit residents of Hackett Island have never seen anyone quite like Lani Garver. Everything about this new kid is a mystery: Where does Lani come from? How old is Lani? And most disturbing of all, is Lani a boy or a girl? 
Claire McKenzie isn't up to tormenting Lani with the rest of the high school elite. Instead, she befriends the intriguing outcast. But within days of Lani's arrival, tragedy strikes and Claire must deal with shattered friendships and personal demons—and the possibility that angels may exist on Earth.

I read this book when I was 13 or 14, and it made me think about how we judge and value other people. The kids at the fictional high school get so caught up in the superficial details of Lani’s life that they miss the opportunity to know a really interesting person (or a really interesting angel). Lani Garver helped teenage me understand that a person’s gender/sexual orientation/age/fashion sense is not as important as society makes it seem.


The follow part: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. I’d love it if you also followed me. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, Twitter, or G+, that would be awesome, too.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Versatile Blogger Award

I’m very happy that people seem to like my blog, so I’m finally going to do this tag. I’m honored to have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by these readers:

Nita @ Book Choose

Sugandha @ Booklust

Daisy @ A Bookish Flower

I don’t think I forgot anyone. If I did, let me know and I’ll add you to the list.


Next, I’m supposed to nominate other bloggers for the award. I’m not going to do this right now because all of the blogs that I read regularly have either already been nominated or don’t want to participate. When I find new blogs to nominate, I’ll update this post.


Finally, I have to tell you 10 things about myself that you don’t already know. (I’m sure you’re all dying to get this information.) I’ll try to keep it quick and book-related.

1. The first “grown-up” book I ever read was Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers. I was 11 when I read it.

2. I’m getting a master’s degree in children’s lit., but my top two favorite authors usually write for adults.

3. I’m determined to read over 100 books in a year. I’ve never done it before, but it will happen. Eventually.

4. I’ve never read a graphic novel. This needs to change. What should I read?

5. I love The Hobbit, but I’ve never been able to finish Lord of the Rings. I’m going to try again this year.

6. At one point, I owned over 100 books about cults. (Yes, I read them all.)

7. I can listen to music while writing, but I need silence to read.

8. A book has never made me cry. (No, not even TFIOS.)

9. In 2011, I stacked up all of the books in my TBR pile, and the pile was as tall as me. It took until November of last year to read all of those books.

10. My current TBR pile has 23 books. I still haven’t really learned my lesson.