Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book #77: The Pregnancy Project

Book #77: The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
4/5 stars

I am not a non-fiction fan, but I've been trying to broaden my horizons, so I borrowed this non-fiction novel, and found that not all non-fiction is about dry topics and old people (haha). This novel is the true story of Gaby Rodriguez, a teen who pretended to be pregnant for a school project, and ended up gaining national attention. Her story has also spawned a Lifetime film in addition to this book.

Just about two years ago, Rodriguez made headlines when people found out that she faked a pregnancy for about six months, telling only her boyfriend, mother, best friend, and a few professionals for the sake of making things look real. She then announced her project to the entire school, as a way of teaching her peers about discrimination and prejudice. However, the book starts way before all of this happens, going through a brief family history in which it is revealed that Gaby comes from a family of single parents: her mother, as well as many of her brothers and sisters, have had children out of wedlock, and become statistics for teen pregnancy. Gaby is a smart young woman, who has a future in mind and a good boyfriend, but she feels that everyone is waiting on her to be the next statistic. So, as her senior project, she consults with professionals to make everything as realistic as possible, and fakes a pregnancy. Her best friend and boyfriend tell her what others say about her, the comments and judgements they make, etc., and Gaby recorded them for the big reveal. Her findings about her peers, herself, and teen pregnancy in general, are very interesting and opened my eyes about the subject.

This book didn't really change my feelings of indifference toward non-fiction, but it was definitely an entertaining and informative read. It's a subject that I don't read much about, and when I do it's usually in fiction form so it was a good change for me to expose myself to this. Gaby does not endorse teen pregnancy; in fact, she does this project in part to make a point about how it can change your life drastically, and that teens should take care to be prepared. I have never seen the Lifetime film, but if anyone has, please let me know if its worth watching. And, as always, let me know if you read this or any other books I review, and let me know what you think!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book #75: The Maze Runner

Book #75: The Maze Runner by James Dashner
5/5 stars

Since dystopian literature has been all the rage since The Hunger Games series has been published, you might want to check out this new-ish dystopian series by James Dashner! It is fast-paced and an intriguing read, right until the final pages.

The novel starts with Thomas waking up with his memory of the past basically gone, and he finds himself in a strange world, inhabited only by teen boys who call themselves "The Gladers." They explain that they don't know why they're in this new world, all they know is that every month, a new boy is sent into the community, and that once a week they receive supplies from the same box that sends the boys. There is a mysterious maze outside the walls of the community, but you don't want to be caught there at night, because monstrous creatures called "Grievers" patrol the Maze, and can cause serious harm to people, even death. The walls of the Glade are open by day, but close at sundown, so you had better be inside by then, or you will never be heard from again. Each Glader has a job, but the one Thomas wants the most is to be a Maze Runner, a group of boys who head out into the dangerous Maze during the day, and try to study its patterns to figure out a way to escape.

However, everything that the Gladers have known changes the day after Thomas arrives, because they receive the first ever female to the community, and she brings with her a message that everything is going to change, and that the end is coming. From there, the environment changes and the Gladers have to make some quick decisions about how to free themselves, or soon perish, never knowing why they ended up in the Glade.

This novel was super interesting and easy to get into. Lovers of dystopian fiction will enjoy this novel and the new ideas it offers: a world with no adults, secrets that you try to figure out along with the characters, and new, creative inventions of the imagination. The Maze Runner was reminiscent of The Hunger Games series with the secrets in government and teens taking action against the injustices that have been done to them.  After finishing the novel that ends with a cliffhanger, I am excited to get started on the second novel in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Book #72: Impulse

Book #72: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
5/5 stars

Does anyone else remember when Ellen Hopkins' Crank series was all the rage in high school? I certainly do! I decided to try another one of her novels to see if they were as good as I remember, and it turns out that Impulse was better than Crank (for me at least)! Hopkins is known for her chunky (and I mean HUGE) Young Adult novels, but don't be scared off by the often 500+ page novels. She writes in verse, which are basically poems without all of the flowery language, and so the novel reads much quicker than you'd expect.

Impulse, as all of Hopkins' novels do, explores some very dark themes. This one in particular follows three teens who are committed to a treatment center for those who have attempted suicide, among other issues. Vanessa, Tony, and Connor all enter the facility around the same time for suicide attempts. None of them are particularly keen on sharing their stories, as you can imagine, but as time goes on and the three meet one another, parts of their past start to come out. Connor was the "perfect boy", with a rich family and top grades and he was fantastic at sports. But, as you can imagine, the pressure to be perfect pushed Connor over the edge. Vanessa's family has always been far from perfect. Her father is often overseas, serving in the military, and her mother suffers from severe mental issues. Tony has even less of a parental influence on his life, as his father abandoned him at a young age, and his mother is constantly dating someone new. As if that's not bad enough, one of the boyfriends once sexually abused Tony. Obviously, these three individuals have a lot of baggage, so they turn to one another for support and comfort over the course of the novel, as they embark on their journey of healing and hopefully getting back to their lives.

This novel is obviously dark, and sometimes really hard to take, but I still enjoyed it immensely. It's awesome that authors are allowed to address these issues that are prevalent in teens' lives, and Hopkins does it in an interesting, yet accessible way through the medium of a verse novel. Anyone who has ever read her novels knows what to expect, but if you haven't, try to go out of your comfort zone and check out Impulse! It's certainly not the type of novel to bring holiday cheer, but it's beautifully crafted and tells a story that you won't soon forget.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book #70: Every Day

Book #70: Every Day by David Levithan
5/5 stars

It's been over a month since I read this fantastic novel, but I'll do my best to remember all the details! I loved this novel, and after my first experience with David Levithan's work, I am excited to try more of his novels, especially Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which he co-wrote with John Green...what a dream team!

This is unlike any novel I've ever read, YA or adult. Every Day is the story of a person named "A", who wakes up every day in a different body. A has no gender, which is a confusing concept at first, but part of what makes this novel and Levithan in general so great. Why give A a gender if A doesn't need one? So every day since A can remember, he/she has woken up in a different body, the only predictable part being that he/she is always the same age as he/she moves grows up. For example, A will not wake up one day as a 6 year old and the next as a 50 year old, but will still continue to grow up. This is the only life that A has ever known, so A is used to it, until A meets a girl named Rhiannon. While in Rhiannon's boyfriend's body for one day, A makes a connection with her, deeper than any relationship A has ever known. A cannot forget about Rhiannon, but the next day, A wakes up in a different body, away from Rhiannon. A makes it a point to try to find this amazing girl each and every day and try to convince her of the situation that he/she is in, and of his/her love for her. The love A has for Rhiannon transcends gender, location, everything. Will the two ever be able to be together, though, due to A's condition, as it becomes more and more difficult for the two to spend time together without disrupting the lives of the people whose bodies A is borrowing each day?

It is ridiculously hard to explain this novel, because of A's lack of gender as well as the strange situation presented, but I assure you, it is not confusing to read, and so worth it! It is such a different kind of story, a refreshing new novel. I became so invested in A and Rhiannon's relationship and wanted it to work so badly! The novel often made me think of The Time Traveler's Wife, because the two have so much in common, with a relationship being disrupted by strange circumstances. I would definitely suggest giving this novel a try! You might just be pleasantly surprised! =)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Soon!

Hi all,

I know, it has been an embarrassing amount of time since my last post, but rest assured I have been reading LOTS! With the approaching winter break, I want to take time to catch up on sharing all the fabulous books I've had the pleasure to read, and also catch up on the million more I've been wanting to read! If you have any suggestions, please pass them along, and keep an eye out for blog posts coming soon!

-Mary

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book #66: Zoo

Book #66: Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
5/5 stars

It's no secret that post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels are all the rage right now. Between The Hunger Games series and the novels it has inspired, and the old but ever popular novels such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which despite being published in 1950 is ever popular (in fact I'll be reading and reviewing it very soon!), futuristic novels are taking over our libraries, bookstores, and e-readers. For this reason, I anticipate that James Patterson's newest novel will catch like fire!

Normally, Patterson tackles mystery and thrillers, and he does it well. However, his brand new novel with Michael Ledwidge, Zoo, is more of a sci-fi thriller, a different territory for him, but he handled it well! However, instead of being post-apocalyptic, like the novels I mentioned above, Zoo describes just how the world reaches the apocalypse, and it may surprise you.

As you may have guessed from the title, animals play a large part in the end of the world scenario present in this novel. Animals, over the past few years, have increased their aggression toward humans, and are acting strangely: coming together (despite normal behaviors of their species) and attacking humans, seemingly unprovoked. Jackson Oz, known as Oz, was doing well at an Ivy League college, until his theories about animals taking over the world got him laughed out of the prestigious science circles he was once a part of.

However, as the novel progresses, it becomes alarmingly clear that Oz's theories are all too real. As every kind of animal, from wild lions to household dogs, becomes more and more aggressive and dangerous, the world begins to panic and fall to pieces, at the mercy of mammals everywhere. Will people finally start listening to Oz...before its too late?

This novel asked some tough questions and made me think a lot about if this were to really happen. Were the animals just crazy, or were they angered by the human treatment they had received all their lives? What would I be willing to give up to stop these attacks? Would I, and my fellow humans, be willing to give up "essentials" like cell phones, and cars?

This novel was a fantastic, quick read, and interesting to me, someone who doesn't enjoy science, and doesn't read much sci-fi. Go out and get a copy of this novel asap, and if you read it, tell me what you thought!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book #65: The Chocolate War


Book #65: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5/5 stars

I know, it's been a little while since I last posted, but I have been reading lots! I'm back to YA with this novel, originally published in 1974, but its popularity (and controversy) has spanned the decades.

The Chocolate War's protagonist is a freshman named Jerry Renault. In his locker, he has a poster that poses the question: "Do I dare disturb the universe?" This question is a central point of the novel. Jerry doesn't have many friends besides "The Goober" - Roland Goubert - and he doesn't quite love life at Trinity Catholic high school. No one really notices who he is...until he refuses to participate in the school-wide annual chocolate sale.

It turns out that the reason for this was because Archie Costello, an upperclassman who enjoys manipulating and making people squirm, and the Vigils, a mysterious society of boys within the school, have given Jerry the "assignment" to refuse the chocolates for two weeks, just enough time to make Brother Leon, the chocolate sale's biggest pusher, nervous.

However, what happens when the two weeks are up, and Jerry still refuses to participate in the sale? Why is he so adamant about not selling? Is it simply a lack of school spirit? Laziness? Or something more? And how will the Vigils and the other students react when Jerry becomes legend, the first student to not sell chocolate for the school? You have to read to find out whether Jerry becomes a hero, or a target.

This book has been banned and challenged many times since it's publication in the 1970s...which of course means that you need to read it ASAP! The reasons given for challenging the novel include: "offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group", according to ALA's "Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century" list. Of course this only entices readers to get their hands on this novel faster. I felt that it was absolutely worth reading, and despite how long ago it was published, it is easy to read and entertaining and intriguing until the end. Happy reading!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book #62: Dare Me

Book #62: Dare Me by Megan Abbott
5/5 stars

I had never read anything by Megan Abbott (Not to be confused with The Princess Diaries author, Meg Cabot), before this, but I think I found out about this novel through some site related to Gillian Flynn. It was a few months ago, so I'm not really sure, but the reason it took me so long to read this book is because it took a few months to get a hold of through the library. It's Abbott's newest novel, and after reading it, I can understand where her popularity is coming from!

Dare Me is a suspenseful, dark novel about cheerleaders and their new coach. Yes, I know, cheerleaders. I'm not sure about you, but cheerleaders aren't usually the protagonists in the novels I read. As a former high school drama nerd, I was never a fan of cheerleaders. However, if I can like this novel despite the cheerleaders, I'm sure most people can.

In Dare Me, Addy is the narrator, and she starts with a startling, ambiguous prologue in which it is clear that something has gone horribly wrong, probably in a violent way, but it's hard to tell. The novel then jumps back in time to the start of the school year, when Addy and her best friend, and cheer captain Beth, are gearing up for another competitive year of cheering and being super popular and amazing at everything they do. Yes, you'd think you couldn't stand reading about these girls, but I promise, the novel goes deeper than that.

There is a new coach for the cheerleaders this year, Colette French, a young, hardcore, yet somewhat mysterious woman. The girls on the team quickly flock around Coach...all except Beth, who isn't used to being out of the spotlight. Addy especially forms a strong bond with Coach, and the girls form almost a cult around their new idol, who works them to the bone in practice, but offers mature, coveted advice and just seems like everything they want to be.

However, when a suicide (no, I won't say who it was!) investigation effects Coach and the team,things start to get dark. Is Coach really who she seems? Is Beth? Are any of the girls? Do they all have dark sides? Who can be trusted?

In this novel of betrayal, secrets, and deception, the reader will see cheerleading practices and parties, but more often, you will encounter suspenseful dialogue, misleading circumstances, and cult-like obsessions. I loved this novel, and can't wait to read more of Abbott's work.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book #59: Stolen

Book #59: Stolen by Lucy Christopher
5/5 stars

This is a novel I read for my YA literature class, and I won't soon forget it. Stolen is written as a novel-long letter from a victim to her kidnapper and it's unlike anything I've ever read. It not only dares to speak the entire time in the second person (using "you" instead of "I" or "he/she"), but it also treads the controversial topic of Stockholm syndrome: when a kidnapping victim has positive feelings toward his or her captor.

The story is a letter from 16-year-old Gemma to the man who kidnapped her: Ty. She was in an airport in Bangkok when Ty, a seemingly charismatic, mysterious guy not too much older than her drugs her coffee and kidnaps her, bringing her to the middle of the desert in Australia, miles and miles away from anyone or anything. Ty has set up a little place for them to live, with running water and enough food to last years. Gemma is angry with him for taking her, though besides initially drugging her, Ty never hurts her.

The story gets really interesting as Gemma (and the reader) start to develop feelings for Ty that aren't hateful. He has been through a lot in his life, and tells Gemma about it, and why he had to take her. Parts of his story made me think of Native Americans, because he is so dedicated to the land, and smart about how to use it. Gemma begins to struggle with her feelings toward her kidnapper. He must be a bad guy right? He took her away. And yet...he seems so gentle, and he genuinely cares for her, in a way that isn't creepy as she once thought. Is she suffering from Stockholm syndrome? Or is Ty really just not a bad guy?

This debut novel from Lucy Christopher had me hooked from the beginning. The second person narration is a little weird at first, but I got used to it. I was confused about my own feelings toward Ty's character. I felt that I had to hate him, and I tried so hard to, but sometimes my feelings were swayed. The novel really makes you think, long after you've finished, and it poses some interesting questions about Stockholm syndrome. Having recently read another novel about kidnapping that was extremely different, Stolen was a refreshing new kind of novel that blew my mind until the last page.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book #57: Wintergirls

Book #57: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
5/5 stars

If Laurie Halse Anderson's name rings a bell, it's probably because you've read or at least heard of her famous novel, Speak. This YA novel is just as insane and wrenching, perhaps even better because of its creativity. Wintergirls takes on a tough teen topic: anorexia.

The story follows Lia, whose once best friend has just died (this isn't a spoiler, you find out on page 1!) mysteriously in a motel room alone. Lia hasn't talked to Cassie in a long time, but the girls had known each other since they were young, so Cassie's death is hard to deal with obviously. A few factors make it even harder to accept: Cassie called Lia 33 times during the weekend of her death, leaving desperate messages each time that Lia cannot bring herself to listen to all the way through. Cassie was suffering from bulimia when the girls were friends, and they bonded even more over their eating disorders (Lia is anorexic). Lia has a terrible support system, if you can even call it that. Her mother is a busy doctor, her father a busy professor, and her stepmother just doesn't get it. Oh, and Lia is also haunted by Cassie's ghost, day and night.

Over the course of Wintergirls, Lia tries to come to terms with her friend's death, and if she is indirectly responsible for it. Simultaneously, she is living a nightmare of anorexia. She had been in a hospital and clinic previously for her eating disorder, where they made her gain weight until she was just over 100 lbs. She has to maintain a certain weight in order to stay at home, so she has fixed the scale without her stepmother knowing. She is losing weight but despite her dedication she is constantly hungry. Even though she has been anorexic for a while, the desire to eat never subsides; if anything it gets worse.

This book may sound absolutely depressing, and I can't tell you that it's a happy, light story. It's dark and real and scary. But it's also amazing to behold and beautiful to read. Laurie Halse Anderson explores interesting choices in her novel, like making the chapter headings look like numbers on a scale, and listing calories in parenthesis after any food item that is mentioned in the novel, to represent Lia's thought. For example, if she is surveying the dinner table and looking at the different foods, after each food is listed, Lia is counting the calories. If there is butter on the toast, she adds more calories, etc. And the numbers are pretty exact, which is frightening, considering how meticulous Lia is about food.

Also, the writing in the novel is haunting and poetic, unlike anything I've read in a YA novel recently. “This girl shivers and crawls under the covers with all her clothes on and falls into an overdue library book, a faerie story with rats and marrow and burning curses. The sentences build a fence around her, a Times Roman 10-point barricade, to keep the thorny voices in her head from getting too close.” This quote is just a small example of some of the amazing writing choices Anderson has made in Wintergirls. This novel was absolutely incredible and eye-opening. It's great to see authors tackle such tough, scary subjects in a real way.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book #56: Dark Places

Book #56: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
5/5 stars

I took a short break from YA lit to check out the amazing Gillian Flynn's second novel, Dark Places, published in 2009. I liked it even better than her first, Sharp Objects, and I FINALLY got a hold of her most recent novel, Gone Girl, so expect a review of it soon!

Dark Places is a dark, occasionally graphic, novel about a woman named Libby Day. She is the sole survivor of a horrifying night in which her mother and two sisters were murdered...well the sole survivor except for her brother, Ben, who is now in jail for life after being convicted of the murders. Libby was just seven years old at the time of the tragedy, and her testimony is attributed to being key in Ben's conviction. Now, almost 25 years later, Libby's monetary fund from supporters and well-wishers for the Day baby is almost gone. She has never worked a day in her life, but now might be the time to start looking for a job. Libby is disgruntled and still never quite healed from the tragedy that struck her family.

Soon after Libby gets the news about her dwindling bank account, she receives a call from Lyle, a young guy who is calling on behalf of the Kill Club. If it sounds sketchy...that's because it is. The Kill Club is made up of people who are obsessed with famous murder cases, so much so that they have meetings where they talk about the murders and actually purchase "souvenirs" that come from people related to the case. Lyle invites Libby to come speak at a little convention that the group is having, and the only reason she goes is because she desperately needs the money.

Upon arriving at the convention, Libby meets many people who are convinced that her older brother, Ben is innocent. They have many theories about who the real killer is, including Libby's deadbeat dad, Runner, whom she hasn't seen or spoken to in years. There is even a group of women who have a Free Ben club and who often write to him in prison. They demand that Libby retract her damaging testimony from 25 years ago, which they claim Libby was coached to say in the first place. Libby is disgusted and confused, but when she finds that she can make some money out of this situation, she strikes a deal with Lyle. She will do some investigating of her own, and talk to some of the key figures and suspects surrounding the murders...for a fee. As Libby delves into her past and begins to uncover secrets she never knew about, she starts to doubt Ben's guilt, and wonder who else might have actually torn her family apart.

This novel was a crazy read and I loved it! It's very dark and touches on subjects that are controversial such as Satan worship and pedophilia, but it is not in a way that makes you feel sick or super uncomfortable; it's all part of the story and it's there for a reason. Dark Places had a ton of suspense and kept me guessing until the very end what exactly happened that night. There are flashbacks every other chapter to the hours leading up to the murders, and they are in different perspectives, including Patty's, the mother, and even Ben's perspective. Little clues are given in these flashbacks but it's up to the reader to put them all together before the surprise ending blows your mind. Loved this novel, and can't wait to read Gillian Flynn's latest, to see if it's even better.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book #55: Black Duck

Book #55: Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle
5/5 stars

So normally I hate Historical Fiction. With a burning passion. I've never been much of a history buff, which is probably why I don't usually like reading about how life was during the Holocaust (depressing), down on the ol' plantation (boooooooring), or fighting in the Revolutionary War (boring AND depressing). So, you can imagine when I got the assignment to read Black Duck, a historical fiction novel, for my YA literature class, I died a little inside. I knew by the groans in the classroom that I was not alone in my hatred of historical fiction. However, my professor warned us that she'd turn us at least a little bit in the direction of tolerating historical fiction, and I hate to admit it, but she was right about this book.

Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle is an adventurous account of a young boy living dangerously close to rum runner territory during Prohibition. It might sound a little boring at first; after all, I am among those who dread reading about the Great Depression period. However, this novel bordered on a pirate novel, except for the fact that all of the thievery and secrecy happened on land.

Ruben and his best friend Jeddy are walking along the beach one day when they find a body. The man has been shot and washed up on the shore! The two friends search the man for any kind of ID, finding nothing except an old tobacco purse (which Ruben takes) and a few other odds and ends. When they go to tell the local police (one of which is Jeddy's dad), it takes the police hours to show up, by which time the body is gone without a trace, leaving Ruben and Jeddy looking like liars.

Finally, word gets around that the body was discovered by the Coast Guard, and that the man was involved with rum runners. During this time, alcohol was illegal, so people would buy liquor from other countries, in this novel mainly Canada, and have it shipped to the coast by boat in the dead of night. It turns out that there are warring gangs who are fighting for territory and trying to conduct massive "business transactions" on the beaches right near where Ruben lives. The most famous, or perhaps infamous, rum runner boat is the Black Duck, which has escaped the police and Coast Guard innumerable times.

As the novel goes on, Ruben becomes wrapped up in the rum running scandals, since he was the one to discover the body. Inside the tobacco case is something that many different rum runners want desperately. And since they're already breaking the law by importing and selling liquor, these men aren't above breaking some more laws to get what they want from Ruben.

I wish I could tell more about the story but obviously I can't give it away. I'll just say that what follows is some great adventures that are reminiscent of pirate stories, and action that barely stops. The story is narrated by a much older Ruben, telling his tales to a young, aspiring reporter, who reminds Ruben a lot of himself.

I said it before and I'll say it again: I usually HATE historical fiction, so I did not expect to like this book in the slightest. I picked it up reluctantly, expecting to struggle through it, but I couldn't put it down. The short chapters and exciting action sequences made for a quick, and entertaining read. I can't say I'm sold on historical fiction, but this novel did lean me in the direction of liking it a little better.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book #54: Forever...

Book #54: Forever... by Judy Blume
5/5 stars

After reading the often banned book Go Ask Alice, I was excited to explore more infamous banned books over the years. I figured I should definitely see what all the buzz was about concerning what may be Judy Blume's most famous (or perhaps infamous) banned book, Forever.... Originally published in 1975, this YA novel "has been the frequent target of censorship and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 at number seven" (Wikipedia). Why has this book been challenged so often? The big "S" word: sex. Apparently adults think that teenagers don't know about things like sex and birth control, and/or don't need to be reading about them. However, besides the fact that this book was an entertaining story of high school relationships, it's informative, and that's something that teens need.

Forever... is the story of high school seniors Katherine and Michael. They're mid-way through the school year, looking forward to college and the future. When they meet at a New Year's party, there is an instant connection, and shortly after, they begin dating. As high school-aged kids will, they explore the ideas of love and sexuality together. There are a few graphic descriptions within the novel, but it's probably not anything that most high school students haven't heard about. Forever... goes into depth about love and how it may or may not tie into sexuality. Katherine struggles with being apart from Michael whenever they're not together, and says that she is in love with him, something that her parents doubt, or don't want to believe.

This was a quick read (I read it in one day), yet it was definitely worth it. It's definitely not the kind of book that could be read or taught in a school setting, but I think it's important for high school students to read about and understand different aspects of being in a relationship and what they are and are not comfortable with, as well as how quickly relationships can change. I don't think that this book (or any for that matter) should have been banned. I think that some kids are not mature enough to handle the content, but those who are will find not only a good story about the ups and downs of young love, but an informative novel that tells it like it is, yet encourages caution and intelligence.

Note: If you read and liked Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky, which is a more recent version of Forever..., you will probably like this novel, and vice versa. I read Anatomy of a Boyfriend in high school, and plan to re-read it soon after reading this novel to see how they compare.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Book #52: Go Ask Alice

Book #52: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
5/5 stars

This novel, printed in 1971, was challenged and censored quite often over the years for its mature content, which made me want to read it even more. I am very into reading banned books lately, because I don't think that books should ever be banned. Children should not be handed books that would scar them due to the mature content, but I believe that books should be available to everyone.

I was interested in this novel also because it has no listed author. An editor's note in the beginning of the novel claims that this was the true diary of a young, anonymous girl, and that names and places have been altered to protect all those involved. However, the novel is listed as a work of fiction. Upon finishing the novel, I did some research about it. Apparently in the 1970s when it was first published, Go Ask Alice was marketed as a nonfiction YA book. However, over the years there has been much speculation about a woman, who claims to be only the book's editor, possibly having written the fictitious novel herself. Regardless, the novel is absolutely incredible and worth reading whether or not the author is truly the author of these diaries.

The protagonist of this novel doesn't have a name. The title comes from a Jefferson Airplane song apparently (one with which I am not familiar). However, for clarity's sake, I will refer to her as Alice in this review. Alice is 15 at the start of the novel, and the whole book is comprised of her diary entries over a couple of years. At first, Alice is living a basically normal teenage life: some days are pretty good, some days are filled with angst. Her family moves when her father is offered a new job at a college, and Alice hopes that life will be better for her in this new town. When it turns out that this is not true at all, she is isolated and sad for most of the remaining school year.

When Alice visits her old town during the summer (her grandparents still live there), she runs into a popular girl from her old school, who is surprisingly a lot nicer to her than she used to be. After talking for a while, the girl invites Alice to a party she is throwing and Alice is delighted to go. While there, the kids play a dangerous party game involving LSD, which Alice doesn't realize until she is already flying high. She believes that what everyone has told her about drugs can't be true, and that she may try a few other substances just to see what they're like, and then be back to normal.

But of course, life doesn't go as Alice planned. From that night on, she starts a battle with an inner demon that will not let her go: addiction. She is flung in and out of her addiction over the course of the novel, and her diary entries let the reader look through a window into Alice's mind, as she battles herself for months and months and her life begins to crumble around her.

Go Ask Alice reminded me a lot of the verse novels written by Ellen Hopkins (i.e. Crank, etc.), though since Go Ask Alice came first, perhaps that's where Hopkins got some of her inspiration. Despite how it may sound, this novel is not entirely depressing. The subject matter is absolutely dark and mature, but there are times when Alice fights back hard against the darkness inside her, giving the reader hope that she may in fact overcome her addiction. This novel is terrifying but intriguing, and I wouldn't have guessed for a second that it is over 30 years old. I finished it in one day, if that is any indication of how quick and fantastic a novel it was. It shocked me till the very end, and left me deep in thought. Rather than censor books like this, I believe that we should encourage high school students to read them, and learn the terrible truth about what choices like Alice's can do to a person. It's no wonder this book became so famous (or infamous); it's definitely worth reading and it won't let you go right away once you've finished it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The First 50!

Finally, I'm halfway to my goal of 100 books in a year! For those who don't know, this isn't in a calendar year (I wasn't smooth enough to think of this in time haha), but from 3/1/12-3/1/13. So I'm about on schedule, halfway through right now. Here's the list of the first 50 books I've read this year, and if I reviewed them on the blog, the titles are click-able links in case you missed that post! Feel free to ask about any of the books if you're interested! I have listed the date I finished the book, title and author, and rating out of 5 stars. I'm looking forward to reading the next 50 and sharing them with everyone! Be expecting a lot of YA lit this half, because I'm reading a lot of it for my classes, but some fabulous adult books as well! Happy reading!

1. 3/6 Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip 5/5 stars
2. 3/8 The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne 2/5 stars
3. 3/12 The Big Bad Wolf (an Alex Cross novel) by James Patterson 5/5 stars
4. 3/14 Fat Pig a play by Neil LaBute 4/5 stars
5. 3/20 London Bridges (an Alex Cross novel) by James Patterson 5/5 stars
6. 3/26 The Beach House by James Patterson and Peter DeJonge 5/5 stars
7. 3/29 The Garies and Their Friends by Frank Webb 2/5 stars
8. 3/30 Summer and Smoke a play by Tennessee Williams 4/5 stars
9. 3/31 Cloaked by Alex Flinn 4/5 stars
10. 4/5 The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks 5/5 stars
11. 4/9 Mary, Mary (an Alex Cross novel) by James Patterson 5/5 stars
12. 4/11 Eurydice a play by Sarah Ruhl 3/5 stars
13. 4/11 Cross (an Alex Cross novel) by James Patterson
14. 4/15 Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson 5/5 stars
15. 4/18 The Pact by Jodi Picoult 5/5 stars
16. 4/23 Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo a play by Rajhiv Joseph 3/5 stars
17. 4/24 The Glass Menagerie a play by Tennessee Williams 5/5 stars
18. 4/25 Double Cross (an Alex Cross novel) by James Patterson 5/5 stars
19. 5/6 The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark 5/5 stars
20. 5/11 Cross Country (an Alex Cross novel) by James Patterson 5/5 stars
21. 5/15 Cut by Patricia McCormick 5/5 stars
22. 5/16 Sold by Patricia McCormick 5/5 stars
23. 5/23 Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult 5/5 stars
24. 5/29 The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark 4/5 stars
25. 5/30 Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeffrey P. Lindsay 4/5 stars
26. 6/4 Looking for Alaska by John Green 5/5 stars
27. 6/6 Divergent by Veronica Roth 5/5 stars
28. 6/10 Mad Women by Jane Maas 4/5 stars
29. 6/12 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 4/5 stars
30. 6/17 In the Forests of Serre by Patricia McKillip
31. 6/18 Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James 3/5 stars
32. 6/21 Death in the Classroom by Jeffrey Berman 4/5 stars
33. 6/27 Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult 5/5 stars
34. 6/30 Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick 5/5 stars
35. 7/4 Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto by Eric Luper 4/5 stars
36. 7/6 I, Alex Cross (an Alex Cross novel) by James Patterson 5/5 stars
37. 7/12 Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer 5/5 stars
38. 7/14 Insurgent (sequel to Divergent, #27) by Veronica Roth 5/5 stars
39. 7/19 Insatiable by Meg Cabot 5/5 stars
40. 7/24 A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly 4/5 stars
41. 8/2 The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron 5/5 stars
42. 8/4 Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks 5/5 stars
43. 8/9 Overbite (sequel to Insatiable, #39) by Meg Cabot 4/5 stars
44. 8/12 Dearly Devoted Dexter (sequel to Darkly Dreaming Dexter, #25) by Jeffrey P. Lindsay 4/5 stars
45. 8/14 The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks 5/5 stars
46. 8/22 Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn 5/5 stars
47. 8/26 Paper Towns by John Green 5/5 stars
48. 8/30 Cross Fire (an Alex Cross novel) by James Patterson 5/5 stars
49. 9/4 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 5/5 stars
50. 9/6 The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult 4/5 stars

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book #49: The Fault in Our Stars

Book #49: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
5/5 stars

"Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book." Hazel, The Fault in Our Stars, pg. 33.

I'm sorry to be reviewing two books by the same author in a row, but if my review of Paper Towns didn't convince you that John Green is a modern master of literature, pay close attention to this review, or be prepared to miss out on one of the most amazing books of your reading career.

I had heard that The Fault in Our Stars was amazing from a few different people, and I didn't doubt it since what I have read by Green has been nothing short of awesome so far. This book, though it was published this past January, is catching like fire because it's probably the best thing Green has written so far. For those interested in the title, it comes from Shakespeare's Julius Cesar, the full quote being: "The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

As my Young Adult Literature professor put it, "no one can write a novel about kids with cancer like John Green." Ahhh there it is, the "C-word". But do not fear readers! I agree that only Green could craft such a wrenching, yet hilarious and overall beautiful novel about such a subject. The main character, Hazel, is a 16-year old girl who has basically been slowly dying for years from cancer. She had a miracle a few years earlier where she was basically on the brink of death from the disease, but kept on living. She is not healed, and is on oxygen 24/7. However, she is doing her best to live life as best she can, which most of the time means sitting at home with her mom and watching reruns of America's Next Top Model and re-reading a book with which she is in love called An Imperial Affliction.

When Hazel is forced into a support group with a cliche, ridiculous leader who wants everyone to get touchy-feely about their feelings and whatnot, she dreads the meetings, and spends them communicating with her half-blind friend Issac through sighs of boredom and frustration. However, one night, Issac brings a friend with him - a one-legged GORGEOUS cancer survivor who is also Hazel's age: Augustus. He approaches Hazel after the meeting and the two become fast friends, finding many similarities between themselves despite some definite differences.

The Fault in Our Stars follows the story of Hazel and Augustus, two young people who have seen and been through far worse in their 16 years than most of us will in a lifetime. Together they struggle with questions about their lives and diseases, but more importantly, they try to experience life as just two teenagers finding out about themselves and one another. They each have a witty sense of humor that kept me laughing, even at the "cancer jokes" they swapped. As Hazel says of her own favorite book, The Fault in Our Stars "...is not a cancer book, because cancer books suck" (pg. 48). The book is less about cancer than it is about the lives of Hazel and Augustus and their relationships with one another and the other characters. It's hard to explain the plot without giving lots away, so all I can say is READ IT! I did cry a few times over the course of the novel, but I also smiled and laughed aloud. And I thought, deeply. Hazel and Augustus, like all of John Green's characters, are more than just one-dimensional teenagers concerned with the latest celebrity breakups and the new popular song. They are smart, really really smart, and witty, and a little jaded, and just absolutely incredible to read about. Of the now three John Green novels that I have read, this is by far my favorite. I know that it's a classified Young Adult novel, but I feel that anyone, no matter how long ago his or her teenage years are, can appreciate this work of brilliance.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” - Emilie Buchwald

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Book #47: Paper Towns

Book #47: Paper Towns by John Green
5/5 stars

This is the second book by John Green that I've read so far and I'm hooked! I previously read and reviewed Looking for Alaska, also by John Green, and can't decide which of these I like better. I can't wait to read more of his novels. Though cataloged as YA, Green's books have more depth than most of what I read in middle and high school.

Paper Towns is about a high school senior, Quentin, who is nicknamed "Q" and lives in Orlando, Florida. For most of his life, Q has been infatuated with his next-door neighbor and childhood friend, Margo Roth Spiegelman. The once inseparable duo have not spoken much since they grew up, and Margo became the school's "It Girl", even though they still live mere feet away from one another.

However, one night, a few weeks before prom and graduation, Margo comes to Q's window in the middle of the night, as she did when they were kids, dressed in all black like a ninja. She has an eleven-step plan for revenge against the peers who have wronged her recently, and she needs Q's assistance. Confused but intrigued, Q goes along with Margo for a strange, crazy night that includes everything from taking blackmail pictures, to leaving dead fish in people's cars, to breaking into Sea World. All of the steps are completed leaving a half hour to sleep before school that day.

Q is left wondering how he and Margo will interact in the daylight after the incidents of the previous night, but Margo doesn't show up to school that day, or the next or even the next. Q begins to worry about her, though this is not the first time she's run away, this is certainly the longest. Q searches for and finds clues that Margo has left, to lead him to her he presumes. He enlists the help of his two eclectic best friends: Ben, an inappropriate band geek whose favorite pastimes include playing video games and fantasizing about the hot girls who don't even notice him, and "Radar" (whose real name is Marcus), a computer nerd whose parents own the largest collection of black Santas in the world.

This quirky, intelligent novel kept me laughing out loud (especially about the black Santas, which by the way, are displayed all year round at Radar's house), and guessing at the mysteries surround Margo. I found her to be similar to Alaska, from Looking For Alaska, in that she was an enigma, and while intelligent and popular, she seemed somewhat lost in the world.

Paper Towns is written in the signature John Green style that reads so easily, yet makes the reader think deeply about life. It's so different from some of the YA novels I read as a young adult myself, where all of the main characters get drunk and do stupid things all the time. The characters in this book do party occasionally, but there is more to them than that. Paper Towns served to further my obsession with Green's writing, and offered a new, interesting perspective on young adults.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book #46: Sharp Objects

Book #46: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
5/5 stars

Agh, I know, I've been reading slow lately! Life has been busy and I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to just sit and read, but every free moment I had lately I grabbed this novel and spent as much time with it as I could. I don't remember where I first heard about Gillian Flynn, but she is an incredible writer whose popularity is ever growing. Sharp Objects is her first novel, published in 2006. Since then, she has gone on to write two more wildly successful novels (that are taking me forever to get a hold of from my local library because they are in such high demand!).

Sharp Objects is a twisted mystery novel that will grip you until the very last page. It's protagonist, Camille Preaker, is a reporter living in Chicago and working for a small, forgettable newspaper. Her boss sends her back to her tiny hometown in Missouri to cover the kidnappings of two young girls within the past year, one of which ended in murder. The other girl had recently gone missing with no trace of her dead or alive having been discovered yet. Camille reluctantly returns to her childhood home in Wind Gap, hoping to get her story and be out as quickly as possible.

However, soon after she arrives, the second young girl, Natalie, is found dead. That makes two murders in the tiny town within a matter of months, whereas prior, there had been basically no violence for the miniscule police force to have to deal with. A detective is pulled from Kansas City to help out the incompetent policemen with the investigation, but it seems that even he has no leads after months. Camille attempts to get at least a few facts from the citizens of Wind Gap to report back to her boss in Chicago, but everyone is either speculating based on rumors, or has clammed up entirely, refusing to help out the woman who was once their neighbor and friend. There are clearly some dark secrets within this town that Camille is desperate to uncover, and fast.

Because Camille is not just facing the issue of not having enough to report about. During her stay in Wind Gap, she is back in her old home, with her mother, stepfather, and stepsister, all of whom are basically nuts. Adora, Camille's mother, refuses to acknowledge what Camille is there to do, feigning melodramatic grief about the deaths of the young girls, whom she seems to have barely known. She also refuses to accept the death of Camille's sister many years earlier, an event which also has some mysteries surrounding it. Amma, Adora's other living daughter, is only 13 years old, but acts much older, engaging in dangerous and illicit activities, and acts as a surprisingly creepy ringleader to her friends. Camille tries to put Adora, Amma, and the memories of her deceased sister out of her mind, but her scars, both emotional and literal, refuse to fade.

I loved this novel because Camille, the protagonist, is far from one-sided. Of course she's the good guy, the one we root for, but she has a twisted past that is revealed bit by bit rather than handed to us on page one. She has many layers to her, a product of the traumatic events she has faced throughout her life. Though facing her childhood is so much more than difficult for her, she continues to try to get to the bottom of the story, not just because she is a reporter, but because she wants justice.

Flynn's debut novel is astounding. It's sometimes creepy and graphic, yet always compelling and it crawls inside your mind and refuses to leave. Stephen King calls it "an admirably nasty piece of work, elevated by sharp writing and sharper insights". He also agrees that this story will stay with you long after you finish it and won't let you go. Prepare yourself for a novel that will grab you in its clutches, terrorize and boggle you, and then stay and wait for your reaction.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book #45: The Guardian

Book #45: The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks
5/5 stars

So in my last post, about Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks, I mentioned that he delved into a new genre for him: thriller. I had forgotten about The Guardian. This novel, which came out in 2003, I had read about four years ago, and borrowed it from my sister to re-read. It sat on my shelf for months as I worked through other novels all summer, as I debated about whether or not I should read it again. I remembered tiny bits and pieces of it and couldn't remember if it was worth a revisit. Finally, I opened it up two nights ago and couldn't put it down.

The Guardian begins as another beautiful but slightly predictable Nicholas Sparks romance novel. In the prologue, Julie has recently lost her husband at a very young age, and is feeling lonely, when an unexpected Christmas gift arrives. It turns out that Jim, her late husband, before he died arranged to have a puppy sent to Julie to comfort her in his absence. Julie names the Great Dane Singer, and he becomes her companion for years to come.

Four years later, Julie still misses Jim but is ready to find love again. She begins dating but has no luck. All the while, Jim's best friend Mike is right in front of her, head-over-heels in love with her, and Julie doesn't quite realize how perfect they are for each other. She begins to date a wealthy, seemingly perfect man named Richard, who takes her to the theatre and picnics on the beach. He seems absolutely wonderful...but maybe not exactly her type. Julie attempts to nicely break off the relationship, and finally pursues Mike, the man who has been there for her all along.

However, this is where the novel takes a thriller twist. Richard is not the kind of man who takes being dumped easily. Julie sets off a chain of events that put her and everyone she loves in danger as Richard flies into a jealous rage. In a Fatal Attraction type twist, Richard pursues Julie with everything he has, as he attempts to convince her of his love and win her back.

This novel was absolutely insane and kept me on the edge of my seat, even while reading it for a second time. There was a lot that I had forgotten and I was surprised by some of the same things I had been the first time, so the novel isn't completely predictable. Sparks successfully combines romance with terror and suspense, even better than in Safe Haven. He taps into the unbalanced mind of Richard Franklin and gives his readers a glimpse of insanity. The story is a quick and fantastic read that will keep your mind whirling late at night....that is, if you can even put the book down and try to sleep!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Book #42: Safe Haven




Book #42: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
5/5 stars

Hello All! This time I'm blogging about a book that I read a few years ago, but recently re-read as a refresher before the upcoming film is released. That's right, yet another Nicholas Sparks book turned movie is in production and set for release this February, right around Valentine's Day. The book is fairly new (2010), but in case you missed it or passed over it as yet another sappy Nicholas Sparks novel, take a second look. This novel differs from his others as it dips into a more suspenseful genre alongside the romance.

It centers around a young woman named Katie who has recently moved to a small town in North Carolina. She doesn't know anyone there, and doesn't volunteer much information about her past or personal life. She scrapes by, working double shifts at a local restaurant, and then goes home alone to the modest house she rents at the end of a road. No one really knows the shy woman's story, and she won't let anyone close enough to really get to know her.

The other main character is Alex, a widow with two young children. He runs the town store which sells everything from gas and snacks to travelers passing through, to groceries for the locals, to fishing rods and burgers hot off the grill. He's a charming, well-liked guy in the town, but still struggles with grief over his wife's early death and being a single dad.

Of course, as in all Nicholas Sparks novels, these two characters find their way to one another and, over time, begin to open up and find love that they didn't know they could have. But this novel goes deeper. We finally learn the truth about Katie and the dark secret that haunts her, why she is so guarded around people, where she came from, and why she left.

Of course I can't tell you the answers to these questions; you'll just have to read the book! But I will tell you that when I first read this book two years ago, it literally kept me up at night. Even when I was finally able to put it down and try to get to sleep, it haunted me. This novel reaches for a new level that Sparks usually does not attempt, and it is a success. As with all of his characters, you will fall in love with Katie and Alex and root for them against all odds, as they try to find love, faith and hope in this crazy, scary world.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book #41: The Shadow of the Wind





Book #41: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (translated by Lucia Graves)
5/5 stars

I know, I know, I've been a bad reader. I've been super busy and have therefore been reading much slower than usual. However, it worked out well in a way, because The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is not a novel that can or should be rushed through, but rather devoured slowly and enjoyed thoroughly. Thank you to Grace Hobbs who recommended this novel to me in my "Book Suggestion" box. I hope that others continue to recommend me great books because I would have never known about this incredible novel without her tip!

The Shadow of the Wind was originally published in Spanish, and translated to English and sold here a few years later. I was shocked that a translated version of a novel could read so beautifully. Each sentence has clearly been crafted with thought behind it, and this is not "lost in translation" if I may. =)

The story follows Daniel from the time he is ten years old. His father takes him to "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books", which is basically heaven for someone like me. Daniel is allowed to pick from hundreds of books in the shop and take one that speaks to him, to be his special book for life. "According to tradition, the first time someone visits this place, he must choose a book, whichever he wants, and adopt it, making sure that it will never disappear, that it will always stay alive. It's a very important promise. For life." - Daniel's father, pg. 6. Daniel selects The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, and when he takes it home that night, he devours it much in the same way that I often do. Also, like me and many other avid readers, once Daniel has finished and fallen in love with the novel, he is eager to find more works by the author. However, he is met only with dead ends and mystery. It seems that there are few, if any, copies of Carax's novels left intact, because a mysterious man is obtaining and burning all of them.

Daniel, now intrigued by the author and this mystery, sets out on a journey over many years to discover why these incredible works are being destroyed, and who is doing so. However, as his questions lead him to different people who have been involved in this mystery over time, answers simply lead to more questions, and deeper mysteries. Along the way, Daniel encounters many different people, of different ages and backgrounds, who give him little pieces of the story that he must try to put together. With the help of an eclectic mix of friends, (including an intelligent but eccentric man named Fermin, who believes that television is the "Antichrist" and who has no sense of modesty at all) Daniel pursues the story of Carax, stopping at nothing to uncover the truth.

There is so much I could say about this novel but it would take forever. The characters are beautifully created; the story contains so many subplots within subplots, yet it is still easy to follow and intriguing until the very last page; the language is breathtaking. This novel is a masterpiece. There were times when I gasped or laughed aloud. I fell in love with Fermin, Daniel's crazy older friend and accomplice. He was a fantastic comic relief character who also had depth and was a wonderful addition to the novel. The quick mentions of Carax's fictional works caught my attention and made me wish that they were real, because the plots sounded so awesome! Daniel's perseverance is the strongest I've ever seen, in a novel or in real life, as he spans years searching for the true story of Carax and the mysterious man who burns his books. The Shadow of the Wind contains intrigue and mystery, but also love and heartbreak, comedy, tragedy, and history. Above all, as my friend Grace who recommended this book to me so beautifully put it: "It's a love letter to books and writing." Daniel, who aspires to be a writer himself, has such a beautiful perception of Carax's writing and of the world. He loves books as much as I do, which connected us immediately. This book was an incredible journey from start to finish. Leave yourself some time to read it, because it is best read slowly and carefully, partly to catch all of the clues, but mostly just so that you, as a reader, can fully recognize and enjoy the brilliance of this novel.

Note: Apparently this is the first is a series by Zafon. The second book is a prequel called The Angel's Game and the third is entitled The Prisoner of Heaven, though I don't know where in time it is supposed to take place. I can't wait to find out though!

Monday, July 23, 2012

"If you do nothing else as a teacher, develop able and passionate readers." - Rafe Esquith

This is my career goal. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book #39: Insatiable

Book #39: Insatiable by Meg Cabot
5/5 stars

"Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper."

This is a great read for those interested in vampire fiction somewhere in between the now infamous Twilight series, and the classic yet antiquated Bram Stoker's Dracula. I have always been interested in vampires but the recent Twilight pop culture explosion kind of ruined it for me, until now.

For anyone familiar with the original Dracula, the name "Meena Harper" might ring a bell...it's a play off of the character from Stoker's novel named Mina, engaged to a Jonathan Harker. Her name being from the famous mother of vampire novels sets the stage for a novel that isn't quite as sappy and over the top as Twilight, but more rooted in the older legends, with a modern twist.

This novel was published in 2010, so there are veiled references to the vampire pop culture with which we have become familiar. Meena writes for a soap-opera called Insatiable, and while she loves her job, she cannot stand the ridiculousness that has become vampire pop culture. It's everywhere; it's inescapable. So when Meena's new boss/archenemy decides that what the show needs to gain better ratings is a vampire story-line that competes with the vampires on a rival soap opera, Meena is disgusted. Vampires were already in our faces, and now she was going to have to write scripts about them.

Ironically, though, what Meena doesn't know is that she is about to meet a real-life vampire, and not even know it. Lucien Antonescu, a Romanian prince, is in town, "visiting his friends", who also happen to be Meena's neighbors. Mary Lou, the wife of the couple that live in Meena's apartment building, insists on having a party in the hopes of setting Lucien and Meena up. There is an instant attraction between the two fof them and they quickly become involved.

I should also mention that Meena has a special "gift"...she can tell when people are going to die. Strangers, her best friend, anyone. As soon as she comes in contact with a person, she knows when and how that person will die. However, she can't see any details about her own death....or Lucien's. She soon discovers, after Alaric, a strong-willed Palatine Guard (vampire hunter) straight from the Vatican, practically breaks down her door for information, that Lucien is not what he seems. The flowery language that he uses is not simply because he is from Romania. The references to vampires are not because he has recently been watching True Blood. Lucien is a vampire. And not just any vampire. He is the Prince of Darkness, AKA: ruler of all vampires. Oh, and he's the son of Dracula. Yeah, Bram Stoker's Dracula. That one.

Meena's world is turned upside down as more and more people become involved in the craziness that her life has become. Her infatuation with Lucien fights her will to protect herself and everyone she knows from an impending vampire war. Is Lucien the kind, peaceful vampire that he claims to be, or does he have something to do with all of the murdered women who have been popping up throughout NYC parks, drained of blood?

This novel was a great read. Meg Cabot combined equal parts comedy, romance, action, and more into one fantastic novel. Parts of it may be a little on the Twilight side as Lucien can be sappy sometimes, but the reader gets more of the feeling that it's simply because he's older than dirt, so his language is not quite up to date with this century. And while Meena is swayed sometimes by Lucien's incredibly good looks and sexy demeanor, she is not a pushover. She's an interesting, many-dimensioned character who loves fiercely and isn't afraid to fight for what she wants.

In looking up more information about the novel, I discovered that there is actually a sequel. Though it seemed as though all loose ends were tied up at the end of Insatiable, I'm excited to have the chance to read more about Meena and her adventures. The sequel, entitled Overbite, was published last July, so it should be readily available in libraries and at the bookstores. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who might have lost their faith in vampire lit. It's perfect for adults (probably mostly women haha) who are looking for a fantasy novel that still ties into our modern world. It's funny, different, and absolutely entertaining. I look forward to reading the sequel!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

“Reader's Bill of Rights


1. The right to not read


2. The right to skip pages


3. The right to not finish


4. The right to reread


5. The right to read anything


6. The right to escapism


7. The right to read anywhere


8. The right to browse


9. The right to read out loud


10. The right to not defend your tastes”



-Daniel Pennac

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book #37: Between the Lines

Book #37: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
5/5 stars


Between the Lines is a brand new (I believe it came out last month) YA novel written by the amazing Jodi Picoult and her daughter, Samantha Van Leer. I was excited to read a different kind of novel by Picoult with the addition of her daughter's ideas. This book is very much a YA novel. It doesn't have the depth that Never Fall Down or Looking for Alaska have, yet it is still a worthwhile, entertaining read.

Between the Lines is the story of 15-year-old Delilah. She stumbled upon a children's fairy tale book at her school library (titled the same as the novel) and becomes obsessed with it. She identifies with the main character, Prince Oliver, because both of them grew up without a father, and they are around the same age. Also, based on the pictures in the book, Delilah has a little crush on Oliver. She hides the book for fear of becoming more of a social outcast than she already is, but indulges in it when she is alone, and lets her imagination run wild.

However silly Delilah may seem for being so into a child's tale, the story runs deeper. Have you ever wondered what happens when you close a book? While you're reading anything from Goodnight Moon to War and Peace, the story will take you on a journey to places you may have never been, and you can meet characters that you'd never find in real life. But what happens when you're taking a break after a chapter, or have finished the book, and close it? It turns out that Between the Lines tells a story similar to the famous "Toy Story" films; after a reader closes a book, the characters come alive. Every time someone opens the book, they rush into place to tell the story the reader is expecting. But "offstage" when the book is closed, the characters live out their real lives. So, when the book is closed, the handsome price Oliver isn't really in love with the beautiful princess he rescued. The "bad guy" is actually an accomplished artist, and Oliver's "noble steed" suffers from self-image issues.

However fun and interesting the characters' "offstage" life may be, Oliver has always wondered about the world that lies outside of the story that he acts out over and over. When Oliver and Delilah suddenly make a connection, both of their world are turned upside down. They fall for one another, but there is the problem of Oliver being held captive by his own story. Together, Delilah and Oliver try to free the prince from the story so that they can have their own happily ever after.

Though this description may sound a bit childish, the book is definitely worth reading. It's a quick read, and it takes you back to the time that you believed in fairy tales (if you don't still now haha). The writing is occasionally accompanied by gorgeous color drawings of the fairy tale world, or black and white silhouettes in the margins that were cool to look at. I loved the "Toy Story" aspect of what happens within the pages of an unopened book. It's interesting to consider this actually happening in any of the books you've ever read. When you close the pages of a book do Harry and Voldemort sit down and have tea together? Does Juliet get sick of Romeo's overly romantic and dramatic nature? Is Dracula just a misunderstood, kindred spirit who can never get a tan? I loved imagining the secret lives of beloved characters that reside on my bookshelves.

It was also interesting to see a different side of Picoult's writing. True, she co-authored this novel with her 15-year-old daughter, but it was an interesting combination of Picoult's suspense and emotions seen in her adult novels, and Van Leer's young yet mature vision of real life versus fairy tales. I hope that the mother-daughter duo continue to write more novels together. Between the Lines was a fun, entertaining read that kept you laughing and intrigued.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012






Hanging out at the Silver Bay library over the weekend at the family reunion. =) I've always wanted a window seat like this to read at!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

An update...

Hi all! I'm continuing to devour books on my way to reading 100 in a year; just finished #36 yesterday - an Alex Cross book. It was awesome!

In other news, yesterday I was also published online on the Times Union blog On The Edge, about some good reads to  catch up on. You can find the post here!

I'm heading off to a family reunion this weekend so there won't be any updates for a few days but trust that I will still be reading. =)

In the meantime, please continue to suggest books for me to read, or write a little guest blog about your favorite book! Happy reading! <3

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book #34: Never Fall Down

Book #34: Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
5/5 stars

I read this novel at the beach this week during my vacation, but it is definitely not a light-hearted novel. If you read my review of Sold by Patricia McCormick here, you will know that while she is an amazing writer, she does not shy away from the darkness in life. McCormick tackles topics that are very real in today's world but not necessarily written about and almost never directed at a YA audience. This book was tough to read in that I couldn't imagine these horrible things actually happening, but they did. Never Fall Down is based on the very real story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a man who was just a young boy in Cambodia in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge, a dangerous Communist group took over his country, separating families, destroying towns, and killing innocents, all in the name of Communism. You don't need to know anything about the Khmer Rouge to appreciate this book. I myself was not quite familiar with the history behind this novel, but after reading a first-person account of what happened, I think I learned more than I would from this novel than I would from any history book.

Never Fall Down is comprised mostly of first-person account stories as told by Arn to McCormick, with a few additions from research, and McCormick's own imagination. When Arn was 11 years old, his village in Cambodia was overtaken by soldiers dressed all the same in black clothing. They warned the people that Americans were going to bomb their land, so they must all evacuate and walk for three days, then they could return. Arn and his family gather their few possessions and flee their town, expecting to return soon. They never do.

Arn and his family become separated over time until young Arn is completely alone and must fend for himself in this new time, which the Khmer Rouge refer to as "Year Zero." Everything that has happened in the lives of these Cambodians up till now must be forgotten. They must live in a new world where everyone is equal, and anyone of higher status will cease to exist. For the first time in his life, Arn, who has lived in poverty, is equal to everyone else. However, the conditions under which Arn must now live are far worse than any he had experienced while living poor in Cambodia. Arn must learn to keep his head down in order to survive. As he watches friends and enemies fall around him, he repeats his mantra: "never fall down."

Though this sounds terribly depressing (and while it may be at some points) McCormick's writing skills combined with Arn's raw, true stories keep the reader hooked. Obviously, since Arn was around to tell McCormick these stories, he does live through the reign of the Khmer Rouge, but to find out how exactly he does so when so many others were killed, you have to read his amazing story. Told in a first-person voice, with the realistic broken English of a Cambodian child, readers will be sucked into this story as if Arn himself was telling it.

There is a light at the end of this dark yet incredible story. Arn is not only alive and well today, but he has dedicated his live to speaking out about the violence that was inflicted upon him, and telling his story. Arn has founded Children of War, and Cambodian Living Arts, as well as Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development. He has received many awards for his work for humanitarian causes. He is truly a voice to those who would not otherwise be able to speak and share their stories. For more information about Arn and Never Fall Down, check out this YouTube video of a conversation between Arn and Patricia McCormick about the book and the true events that inspired it (warning: video may contain some spoilers, so if you don't want anything to be ruined check it out after reading!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-A_Y1kjJww

Monday, July 2, 2012

An inspiring story...

 My mom emailed this to me a few months ago and I wanted to share it with all of you. What a beautiful story...


From A School Principal's speech at a graduation..

He said "Doctor wants his child to become a doctor.........
Engineer wants his child to become engineer......
Businessman wants his ward to become CEO.....
BUT a teacher also wants his child to become one of them..!!!!
Nobody wants to become a teacher BY CHOICE" ....Very sad but that's the truth.....!!!

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.
One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued,
"What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

To stress his point he said to another guest;
"You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Teacher Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,
"You want to know what I make?
(She paused for a second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't
make them sit for 5 min. without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make ?
(She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them how to write and then I make them write.
Keyboarding isn't everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math.
They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need
to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they
were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life

( Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make , with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make ?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN ALL YOUR LIVES, EDUCATING KIDS AND PREPARING THEM TO BECOME CEO's, AND DOCTORS AND ENGINEERS..........

What do you make Mr. CEO?

His jaw dropped; he went silent.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book #33: Picture Perfect





Book #33: Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
5/5 stars

So the last time I posted about a book in my 100 list was a few weeks ago. Since then I've read five books, but nothing really worth blogging about. This, however, was amazing and I felt the need to write about it. I realize that I'm a little behind the times by just reading Jodi Picoult starting this year; many fans of hers I know have been reading her books for years. However, I know there must be people who haven't yet discovered her amazing, wrenching novels. If my review of The Pact didn't convince you, or if it did and you haven't discovered Picture Perfect yet, you need to read this book.

The novel opens on a woman who has just woken up in a cemetery, not knowing who she is or how she got there. She is rescued by a kind, brand-new to the area policeman, Will Flying Horse, who is of Native American descent. Will brings this woman down to the station where she realizes who she is...her name is Cassie, and she is the wife of wildly famous heartthrob movie star, Alex Rivers. Even upon seeing this man, she barely remembers him. Cassie goes home with her husband to one of their three residences (he's a mega movie star) and bit by bit begins to remember things from her past. She's an anthropologist, and a great one at that. She teaches at UCLA. She met Alex in Africa while he was shooting a film, and she was working. Oh, and there's a dark secret in her marriage that no one but Cassie and Alex know about.

As Cassie remembers more and more about her seemingly "picture perfect" life as a successful anthropologist married to a handsome movie star, her life begins to seem less and less perfect. She questions how and why she left that night before she become unconscious, and whether she should have ever come back.

Just when Picoult twists the plot so that the reader can barely breathe, she switches back in time to explain how Cassie and Alex met, and how their life came to be the way it did. Though it killed me to leave the "present" of the story, Picoult provides the reader with crucial information and plays with the reader's mind even further.

This novel, like all of Picoult's I've read so far, controlled my emotions for the few days I read it. I felt strong flashes of anger and fear, and had to tear myself away from the pages to go on with my daily life. Her characters, both protagonists and antagonists, draw you in and won't let you go, even after you're done. I especially loved the Native American culture that comes in spurts throughout the book, both through Will Flying Horse, and occasional Native American legends that parallel the events of the novel. This is definitely a quick read, but a worthwhile one as well. The book poses important questions about reputation, love, and honesty that will keep you thinking for a while after you finish the story.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Guest Blog by Jessica Pyle: My Life as An Experiment


Blog Post by Jessica Pyle

My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs

Devin just got it from his brother for his birthday but Devin's currently reading another book... so it looked interesting and I started reading it. I'm over half way through and LOVE it. It's just like the title says it is. It's kinda like Morgan Spurlock's show "30 days". Where he takes an idea or a way of living and tries it for some span of time, a week, a month... he even spent a year and lived biblically following every rule of the bible as literally as possible. The bible one is a separate book though. I hope you get a chance to read My Life as an Experiment and/or The Year of Living Biblically. Let me know how it goes!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

“I love books, by the way, way more than movies. Movies tell you what to think. A good book lets you choose a few thoughts for yourself. Movies show you the pink house. A good book tells you there's a pink house and lets you paint some of the finishing touches, maybe choose the roof style,park your own car out front. My imagination has always topped anything a movie could come up with. Case in point, those darned Harry Potter movies. That was so not what that part-Veela-chick, Fleur Delacour, looked like.”  - Karen Marie Moning, Darkfever


So true! As much as I love the Harry Potter movies, Fleur didn't look anything like that in my head! Do you agree?