Monday, May 20, 2013

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
5/5 stars

Finally got around to re-reading this amazing novel, in time for the film to hit movie theaters! So if you're still undecided about seeing the film version of this classic novel, maybe you can read the book first and see how you like it. =)

I remember reading this book in high school, but remembered next to nothing about it. The one plot point from the end that I thought I remembered must have been from a different book because it never happened! However, once I began reading this amazing novel again, I couldn't believe that I hadn't fallen in love with it when I first read it years ago.

The story is narrated by Nick, who just moved into a modest house situated next to a mysterious Mr. Gatsby's mansion. He has a few friends in the area, namely Tom and Daisy Buchanan, but they are unhappily married, as Tom as a mistress. Eventually, Nick is invited to one of Gatsby's lavish parties, and becomes involved in a crazy, drama-filled summer once he befriends the millionaire. It turns out that Gatsby has a past even more interesting than Nick imagined, and that he lives this over-the-top lifestyle in order to try to impress the one woman who got away. The drama intensifies as all of the characters' lives become intertwined and all of their feelings come to light.

This novel is a short read: only 180 pages! The language is dated since the book's original publication was in 1925, but it's not very difficult, so it's a good classic to read if you don't normally read them. I loved the book; I thought it was fast-paced and a great classic that was still easy enough reading. I'm now super excited to see what Hollywood has done with the film and if it does the book justice! If you're undecided about this story, save yourself the $12 movie ticket, and borrow the book from your library first, and I hope you'll fall in love with it like I did. Happy reading =)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Guilty Wives

Guilty Wives by James Patterson and David Ellis
5/5 stars

Wow, it's been an embarrassing amount of time since I've blogged. But I've still been reading! I absolutely ate this book up, and I wanted to share it with everyone because it's a great read for summer, which will be upon us soon!; it's a quick read, fast-paced, and perfect for the beach. It can be hard to navigate James Patterson's books, since he has about a bazillion of them. However, this is a standalone novel (not part of a series), and fairly new (2012), and definitely worth a read.

This novel starts out with a prologue that will make you wonder what the heck has happened, as it takes place with the narrator in a French prison, which is a living hell, and it seems as though her best friend, who is also there, is in major trouble. It then jumps back and tells the story of four women, wives and mothers, who went on what was supposed to be a relaxing, exciting girls vacation in Monte Carlo. However, they wake up after a wild night on a yacht to find the police everywhere, and the women are arrested! There are piles of evidence against them for a crime they did not commit, and the vacation of a lifetime definitely becomes a memorable one.

This was something different for Patterson, as he and his co-author formed a novel that is different from Patterson's usual stories of serial killers and detectives. Those are also great, but this was a breath of fresh air, as the novel focused on these women who claim to have been framed, and are helpless victims to the laws of France. The usual short chapters featured in Patterson's novels create a super quick read that is impossible to put down. The European setting was also different for Patterson, and really interesting to read about, especially when it came to dealings with the French government. There is enough ambiguity to make the reader wonder the whole time whether the narrator and her friends are truly innocent, and the stakes are sky high.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and it really is a great beach (or anytime!) read. If you read this and enjoy it, I would suggest Patterson's Alex Cross series, which is awesome!

What I'm reading now...

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Storyteller

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
5/5 stars

It's no secret that I'm a huge Jodi Picoult fan. I admit, I did resist reading her for a while because I heard that her books were super sad, but after reading Salem Falls a few years ago, I was hooked. The Storyteller is her newest novel, brand new this year in fact. Before getting too deep into a summary of this amazing novel, I do want to give a disclaimer. This is a plot point not mentioned on the book's jacket synopsis, but I was glad that I heard whispers of this before I started reading or it would have caught me way off guard: This book deals extensively with Holocaust stories. I know not everyone feels comfortable reading about such tragedies (in fact, had this novel not been written by Picoult, I probably wouldn't have picked it up myself for that reason), so I just wanted to give fair warning. This book is beautifully crafted, but it is graphic and quite sad at times, so if you don't think that you would be ok reading this book, I understand. For those of you who are still interested though, you are in for a truly incredible, haunting tale.

The novel focuses on Sage Singer, a super shy young woman with a slight disfigurement from a car accident, who works the night shift at a bakery and tries to avoid human contact most of the time. However, she finds a friend in an elderly man named Josef, who also seems to be a loner. The two engage in great conversations, but then Josef reveals something dark about himself, and asks Sage for a favor (I will leave this ambiguous since I already gave away a bit of the plot :) ). Sage becomes caught in a serious moral dilemma as a result.

As the novel continues, about half of it ends up being graphic, tragic, yet beautifully written (and well researched!) flashbacks of the Holocaust from two characters' very different perspectives. At times it was hard to read, especially because I knew that these horrific things had really happened, but Picoult's style is so compelling that I couldn't put the book down.

The novel is also interwoven with a piece of short fiction that one of the characters had written as a young girl, which ends up being an interesting allegory for the Holocaust. This was a really cool touch and also helped give the reader a break from the tougher parts of the novel.

I wish I could say more about the plot, but since I already gave some away, I'd rather you all just read the book for yourselves and learn along the way as I did! It is truly a captivating tale about love and hate, hope, justice, family, and forgiveness. I won't lie, it was tough to get through at times, especially since I don't often read Holocaust literature because the subject really bothers me. However, I knew that I could trust Jodi Picoult to write a wonderful novel that would have a satisfactory ending that wouldn't leave me feeling upset or sick. Shocked maybe, but in a good, thoughtful way, as she always does.

Please let me know if you decide to read this, and what your thoughts are! This is a very different novel from anything I've read by this author, and in fact, different from what I normally read in general, but so worth it. Happy reading! =)

What I'm reading now...

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (sci fi) [I'm re-reading it :)]

2. Daddy's Gone A Hunting by Mary Higgins Clark (mystery)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dark Tide

Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes
5/5 stars

I'm baaaack! =) And boy do I have an incredible book to share with you all. Remember my review of Into the Darkest Corner, AKA: The Scariest Book I've Ever Read?! (If this isn't ringing a bell, you had better check out that review and read that book!!) This is the second novel by Elizabeth Haynes, British author and police intelligence analyst. As soon as I finished her debut novel, I couldn't wait to read more of her work; I was so excited to get my hands on this novel a few weeks ago from my local library, as it is brand new in the U.S.! Dark Tide had a completely different plot than her first novel, but packed just as much suspense.

 It follows the story of Genevieve, a young British woman who has recently purchased and moved into her dream home: a houseboat. Named "Revenge of the Tide", the boat is a perfect escape for our heroine, who is taking a year off to fix up the boat and take a break from life. However, after her "housewarming" party a few months after she moves in, an old friend turns up at the marina...dead. We come to find out that Genevieve has an interesting past that includes being a dancer on the weekends at a gentleman's club in London, in addition to her sales job, in order to save money for the boat. Genevieve came in contact with some shady characters while working at the club, and despite wanting to spend her year off in peace and leave the past behind, it seems that this is not an option. The novel flashes from the present back to the year or so before during which Genevieve tried to balance her two jobs, as well as figure out her relationships with those at the club...who is a friend and who is a foe? Who might be worse than a foe?

Haynes impresses once again with her suspense and multidimensional characters. Genevieve is quite different from the heroine of Haynes' first novel, but that just proves that the author has more than one good story in her. I haven't read anything like this before, and I just ate it up. The flashbacks to Genevieve's time at the club were so interesting to read about, and the present day drama that she dealt with made the book a page-turner. As you get closer to the end, the suspense and danger build, until you have to stay up all night until you finish the book and find out what will become of Genevieve and those she holds dear. The idea of having a houseboat as the main setting was definitely out of the box and I loved it. While Genevieve seems to be in her safe haven, she's also so vulnerable, out there in a marina in the middle of nowhere.

Overall, this book was a fast-paced, sexy thriller and I loved it! I can't wait to see more from Elizabeth Haynes, and I will be sure to review anything else I read by her. Happy reading! =)

Note: Haynes' third novel, Human Remains, is out in England but will likely take a few months to be released here, as with her previous novels.

What I'm reading now...

1. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Friday, April 5, 2013

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”- Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, March 31, 2013

I'm Still Reading (and Blogging)!

Hello all! It's been a slow reading month for me and I haven't really read anything worth blogging about, but not to worry, I'll be back on schedule as soon as I have something interesting to share. =) In the meantime, feel free to recommend books for me and/or send me your reviews of what you're reading!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Other 50!

Here's the list of the second half of the 100 books I read this year! For the first half, click this link: If you are interested in more information or my opinion on any of these books, just ask! The ones that I reviewed on this blog are click-able links, in case you missed that particular review. Happy reading. =)

51. 9/7 Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott 5/5 stars
52. 9/8 Go Ask Alice by Anonymous 5/5 stars
53. 9/12 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 4/5 stars
54. 9/12 Forever... by Judy Blume 5/5 stars
55. 9/15 Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle 5/5 stars
56. 9/17 Dark Places by Gillian Flynn 5/5 stars
57. 9/20 Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson 5/5 stars
58. 9/24 Keesha's House by Helen Frost 4/5 stars
59. 9/25 Stolen by Lucy Christopher 5/5 stars
60. 9/28 The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier
61. 10/1 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 4/5 stars
62. 10/4 Dare Me by Megan Abbott 5/5 stars
63. 10/9 American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang 4/5 stars
64. 10/10 Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen 4/5 stars
65. 10/11 The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier 5/5 stars
66. 10/22 Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge 5/5 stars
67. 10/22 Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky 4/5 stars
68. 10/31 Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi 4/5 stars
69. 11/1 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 4/5 stars
70. 11/5 Every Day by David Levithan 5/5 stars
71. 11/6 A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz 5/5 stars
72. 11/15 Impulse by Ellen Hopkins 5/5 stars
73. 11/17 The Wave by Todd Strasser 5/5 stars
74. 11/19 Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume 4/5 stars
75. 11/28 The Maze Runner by James Dashner 5/5 stars
76. 11/30 Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe 5/5 stars
77. 12/2 The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez 4/5 stars
78. 12/7 Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson (an Alex Cross novel) 5/5 stars
79. 12/13 Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes 5/5 stars
80. 12/18 Boy Toy by Barry Lyga 5/5 stars
81. 12/20 The Giver  by Lois Lowry 5/5 stars
82. 12/26 Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult 5/5 stars
83. 12/28 My Point...And I Do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres 4/5 stars
84. 1/7 An Adundance of Katherines by John Green 4/5 stars
85. 1/9 The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (The Maze Runner Trilogy Book 2) 5/5 stars
86. 1/12 Teach Me by R.A. Nelson 4/5 stars
87. 1/16 The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer 5/5 stars
88. 1/17 Matched by Allie Condie 5/5 stars
89. 1/25 Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty 4/5 stars
90. 1/28 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 4/5 stars
91. 2/1 How They Met, and other stories by David Levithan 5/5 stars
92. 2/4 The Death Cure by James Dashner (The Maze Runner trilogy Book 3) 5/5 stars
93. 2/12 Crossed by Ally Condie (Matched trilogy Book 2) 4/5 stars
94. 2/15 Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson 4/5 stars
95. 2/16 Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott 4/5 stars
96. 2/19 The Funny Thing Is... by Ellen DeGeneres 5/5 stars
97. 2/23 The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Leguin 2/5 stars
98. 2/23 Monster by Walter Dean Myers 5/5 stars
99. 2/26 Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson 5/5 stars
100.2/28 Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson 4/5 stars

Book #98: Monster, and Book #99: Speak

Book #98: Monster by Walter Dean Myers
5/5 stars
Book #99: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
5/5 stars

I'm reviewing these two novels together because they are pretty closely related. Some of you may remember reading one or both of these novels in high school. I decided to revisit them, now a few years older, and I still love them just as much, maybe more.

Monster is the story of Steve Harmon, a 16-year-old African American boy on trial for murder. He claims not to have done it, but no one believes him, because plenty of people are testifying that he was involved as a lookout. He is on trial with a man who seems to definitely have been involved, which makes him look even worse. Steve, an aspiring filmmaker, writes Monster in screenplay format, with a few of his journals in between. It's a quick, fresh read, that will keep you questioning until the very end.

Speak is about a high school freshman named Melinda, who has a terrible secret that no one knows. Something happened at a summer party to make all of her old friends hate her. She begins high school alone, and quickly becomes a selective mute. The only thing that seems to help her cope is her art class. As the novel goes on, you learn her secret, and see the struggle that Melinda faces on a daily basis.

Both of these novels are considered modern Young Adult classics. They're two novels that are often taught in high school and actually loved by students. They deal with the struggles of two teens whose voices are being silenced, a feeling that many people, teen and adult, can probably identify with from one point in their lives. While these two novels are presented in different ways and deal with different struggles, both are deep and easily draw readers in. They're timeless YA novels that appeal to adults as well, and approach issues that aren't always acknowledged as much as they should be. If you haven't read these, give them a try. If you have, why not revisit an old friend? Happy reading. =)

What I'm reading now...

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (sci fi)

2. Literacy and Longing in L.A. by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack (fiction)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book #95: Bury Me Deep

Book #95: Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
4/5 stars

After reading Dare Me by Megan Abbott a few months ago, I was psyched to check out some of her other work. I found out that Dare Me was kind of a step out of the box for her, because Abbott is actually known more for novels like this one, that are 1920s-1930s thrillers. It's very different from her newest novel, but still enjoyable.

The novel is loosely based on a true crime from 1931! It follows innocent Marion Seeley, a nurse, who gets in with the wrong crowd. She makes some friends that are crazy party people, and while her husband is out of the country indefinitely, she starts to get into some trouble, including an affair with a smooth talker named Joe: the man whom all the ladies fawn over and all the guys want to be. But something happens between Marion, Joe, and her new friends that will change everything. I can't say more than that; you'll just have to read it and find out what happens. =)

The novel starts out a bit slowly, and takes a while to get into the crime part of it, which I wish I knew earlier. However, once the crime is committed, the story picks up quickly and becomes hard to put down. The glamorous characters and time period are so fun to read about, and Abbott has a gift for suspense. I prefer Dare Me, a modern thriller, to this particular novel, but Abbott has definitely earned her Edgar Awards. I look forward to reading more of her work.

What I'm reading now...

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (sci fi) 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book #94: Merry Christmas Alex Cross

Book #94: Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson
4/5 stars

This will be a brief entry, because I don't want to give too much away for those who haven't yet started the Alex Cross series (though what they're waiting for I have no idea!!). However, since this is a fairly new novel (Nov. '12), I wanted to review it for those who are Patterson fans but have not yet read this novel.

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross is different from the past books of the series mostly because it takes place in less than a two day period, over the Christmas holiday. While some Cross novels move quickly, I don't remember any of them having this much action packed into such a short amount of time. It made for an interesting, fast-paced read. It was, partly, a continuation of the story in the previous novel, Kill Alex Cross, as it contained one of the "bad guys" from the previous book who made it out alive, and refused to give up her terrorist ways. I was not a fan of this character, so I wasn't thrilled to see her back, which is why the novel didn't get the usual 5/5 star rating that I give Alex Cross novels.

However, this novel deals with not one, but two major crisis situations over Christmas. Cross also has to report to a major hostage situation, in which a scorned, ruined ex-husband is holding his ex-wife, her new husband, his kids, and a neighbor hostage on Christmas Eve. He is becoming more insane by the minute, completely drugged out and crazy with rage.

I read this book in about two or three days as I do most of Patterson's novels. The short chapters and crazy, action-packed situations make for a page turner for sure. This was not my favorite of the series, but I am still a huge Cross fan. I enjoy hearing about his family, and I found that by the end of the novel, Cross is really starting to face the effect that his work has on them. I expect that in the next Cross novel (recently released) that something will have to be done before his family falls apart.

What I'm reading now...

1. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Leguin (sci fi)

2. Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson (nonfiction)

3. Monster by Walter Dean Meyers (classic YA)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book #91: How They Met, and other stories

Book #91: How They Met, and other stories by David Levithan
5/5 stars

So back in the beginning of the month, I read this short story collection by the amazing David Levithan. John Green fans will love this guy, in fact Green and Levithan wrote a book together (which is on my extensive list of things to read). Levithan is a YA writer who is great at writing about all types of love. I think he's a gay individual, which will explain the fact that many of his characters in this and other novels are often gay, but he doesn't treat it as much different than being straight, which I love. You love who you love, and in the end that's all it is: love.

Levithan writes in his introduction that these are all short stories that he's written over the years, all around Valentine's Day, because they all deal with some form of love or relationships. However, these are not all cliche, happy ending stories. There are some where the two people end up together, but there's also a wide variety of other kinds of stories. There are 18 total stories, and no two are the same.

There's a few stories about the prom, which are quite different from one another, a story about people who are in a dance company (which, of course, I LOVED!), one about meeting the love of your life on a airplane, one that involves a painful situation of homophobia that is told beautifully, and of course, stories of heartbreak, in different ways. I can't say much about these stories without giving them away, because they're short stories, but they are beautifully crafted. Some I liked better than others, but the collection as a whole was great. Also, if you're like me and super busy, reading a short story collection is great, because you can read just one at a time and be satisfied, and not have to end on a cliffhanger chapter like in a novel! Happy reading!

What I'm reading now...

1. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Leguin (sci fi)

2. Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson (nonfiction)

3. Monster by Walter Dean Myers (YA award winner)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book #90: Frankenstein

Book #90: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
4/5 stars

After literally years of saying "I should read that..." and looking at it sitting on my shelf collecting dust, I decided to give the classic monster novel a try. Having read only one other novel by Mary Shelley beforehand, which I despised, I was a little concerned about reading her famous novel, but felt obligated to at least try it as a lover of reading and future teacher.

Frankenstein is in fact NOT the monster's name, but the last name of his creator, Victor. The creation doesn't have a name, so I'll just refer to him as the monster. The novel begins with letters from a man at sea to his sister, and the former eventually comes in contact with Victor, as he and his men save the scientist from the ice. Victor tells this sailor his story, which is the majority of the novel. It starts off with Victor's background, how he came to be interested in science and ultimately attempt to create human life. Finally, it gets to the conception of the monster, who quickly runs off when his creator is repulsed by him.

Victor is haunted by the image of his monster, and is even more distressed when his young brother turns up dead, apparently strangled. He fears that it was the monster who did it, and blames himself for it. He slowly goes insane and frightened, until he comes face-to-face with his creation. The monster tells his story to Victor about where he's been for months and what has become of him. Lonely and ashamed of himself, the monster begs Victor to make him a mate with whom he can live happily in companionship. However, Victor is not quite as keen on the idea of creating another monster, a "Bride of Frankenstein" if you will, despite his monster's threats to ruin his life and everything he loves.

I will warn you, the first third of the book was brutal for me. I pushed through it, hating Mary Shelley and her dense language. However, I figured I should finish it, and I'm glad I decided to, because once the monster became a more prominent character, the story picked up. I was intrigued by the monster, despite my confusion and disbelief when he spoke quite eloquently. Anyway, once he told his story and became directly involved in his creator's life, I was more invested in the story, and finished it pretty quickly. It was definitely worth reading, but you must be a fan of classics because it isn't an easy read. If you do like older novels though, give it a try, because despite my annoyance with Victor's character, the monster has a great story to tell, and it's interesting to see where all of the horror films and Halloween costumes stemmed from. The monster might not be as bad as Hollywood has made him out to be.

What I'm reading now...

1. Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (mystery)

2. Crossed by Ally Condie (YA dystopian)

3. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin (sci fi)

4. Shakespeare: The World As Stage by Bill Bryson (nonfiction)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book #88: Matched

Book #88: Matched by Ally Condie
5/5 stars

I know, I know, another YA dystopian trilogy?? But trust me, I only read the good ones. =) I had heard many good things about this series, and when my sister got me one of the books for Christmas, I knew it was time to give the Matched trilogy a try. I am sooo glad that I did!

The novel follows Cassia Reyes, a 17-year-old girl who is approaching her "Matching Ceremony." When people reach the age of 17, they are "matched" with their perfect partner. The government decides, based on a number of factors, with whom you are most compatible. From there, you would begin a courtship process, also determined by the government, and be married at a certain time. You may also "apply" for children between certain ages. Doesn't sound romantic at all, huh? But it's all these people know in this future society, and they don't question the "perfection" of the Officials that govern them. The Officials also deem where people work and when they die. Everyone dies at the same age, so that they do not have to suffer from old age, though most cancers and other fatal diseases have been eradicated by this point.

But to get back to Cassia, at her Matching Ceremony, she finds that she has been Matched with her best friend, Xander. Everything seems wonderful; obviously these two are comfortable with one another, having been friends for years, and are excited to be Matched. However, when Cassia looks at her disk later that has personal information about her Match, there is a computer glitch, and a new face shows up: Ky. Cassia knows Ky from school, but is confused by the glitch. Who is her true match?

She is later assured by Officials that the glitch was just a glitch, a mistake, and that Xander is her match. She should just forget ever having seen Ky's face...but she can't. Cassia gets to know Ky better over the course of the book, therefore playing with fire as she is bending the rules of those who govern her. Over time she begins to question which boy is better for her, but it goes deeper than a shallow romance novel. This future society is used to having things done in its "perfect" orderly way, and Ky and Cassia are disrupting that peaceful, yet brainwashed way. Things are about to get ugly.

I really enjoyed the romance in this novel combined with the dystopian feel for danger and adventure. Romance is explored a bit in the ever popular Hunger Games books, but it is more central in this novel, which I liked. I also was interested in seeing how yet another author created a dystopian world. This one, like others, was meant by the government to be a utopia, where everything was perfect. No disease, your perfect match, and only 100 books, 100 poems, 100 songs, etc. as not to overwhelm people with too many choices...hmmm interesting. Condie has created an intriguing world and offered suggestions about our future world that were fun and a little frightening to read about. If you liked The Hunger Games trilogy, definitely check this series out. The novel ends on a cliffhanger, so I'm psyched to start the second novel, Crossed, and learn what becomes of Cassia.

Here's a fun little book trailer if you're interested:

What I'm reading now...

1. Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (mystery/thriller)

2.Shakespeare: The World As Stage by Bill Bryson (nonfiction)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book #87: The House of the Scorpion

Book #87: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
5/5 stars

Does anyone else remember reading this book in middle school? I certainly did when my YA lit professor showed it to us in class, but I didn't remember much about it other than that it was a sci fi novel, and one of the few of this genre I had read as a kid. Published in 2002, House of the Scorpion captivated me as a young reader, and then again 10 years later as an adult. That's the sign of a good novel!

The novel is set in the country of Opium, land located between Mexico and the United States. Opium is run by powerful, greedy drug lords who grow, you guessed it, opium, and sell it for obscene amounts of money. The drug lords "employ" would-be illegal immigrants trying to cross the border to or from the United States and Mexico who have to cut through Opium to get where they're going. Those who are caught (and most are), are turned into "eejits", who are basically turned into zombies who only have the capacity to do a specific simple job or two. One of the most famous and powerful drug lords and owner of countless eejits is a man called El Patron, who is well over 100 years old. However, he's not who the story is about.

The House of the Scorpion is about Matt, El Patron's young clone. He grows up with one of El Patron's servants for a time, Celia, who becomes a mother to him, but also shelters him excessively. Finally, around the age of six, Matt experiences the outside world and finds that it is cruel to him, because he's a clone, he's "different". Yet, when Matt meets El Patron, everything changes for him. The man loves him, as he is a vain man who sees in Matt a chance to give his clone the life he never had as a youth. However, most people still treat Matt with disrespect and disgust when El Patron isn't around.

Things start to change as Matt grows up. He falls for a human girl, but struggles with the fact that he is a clone, and therefore lesser. He finds a secret passage through the house and begins to learn the secrets of El Patron and his family and "friends". And finally, when El Patron is in the poorest health of his long life to date, Matt starts to realize the reasons behind his existence, and tries to escape the darkness of Opium.

Even from there, Matt goes through even more adventures and such, but I can't give it all away. Guess you'll just have to read and find out! =) The novel was quite suspenseful, and the science fiction element was not as strong as one might think when dealing with clones and such. The novel had about as much sci fi as The Hunger Games if that helps put things in perspective. So it was interesting, but not too much science fiction for those of you like me who like "softer" sci fi. Because of the location of the setting, there were elements of Spanish in the novel, which some readers might find interesting as well. I think any reader would enjoy the quick paced action interspersed with touching relationships. It was a great novel to read 10 years ago, and great to relieve again with a new perspective. Fun fact: In researching this book, I found out that Farmer will be releasing a sequel to this novel called The Lord of Opium in Fall 2013! So I guess that gives you until then to get a hold of The House of the Scorpion and find out what becomes of Matt.

What I'm reading now...

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (classic)

2. How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan (YA short stories)

3. Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (mystery)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Book #84: An Abundance of Katherines

Book #84: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
4/5 stars

Yes, another John Green novel! Gah I love this man. If you haven't read one of his novels yet...really...what are you doing with your life? Go to your local bookstore, library, anything, and find one of his novels asap. He will change your life. =)This is the fourth book I have read by Green out of his five currently published novels. It was not my favorite of his (The Fault in Our Stars was), but it was still an enjoyable read nonetheless. Once again, Green introduces quirky, unique characters that make him stand out, not only in the YA world, but overall as a great author.

The story follows Colin, a recent high school graduate, and child prodigy, though not a genius (yes, there is a difference!). In order to become a genius, and give his life a little more meaning, he is searching for a "Eureka!" moment, that will change everything. Oh, and another quirk: he only dates girls named Katherine. Not Katie, and definitely not Catherine, only Katherine. As of his latest breakup, he has dated 19 girls named Katherine. And they have all dumped him.

Reeling from his most recent breakup, Colin agrees to go on a road trip with Hassan, his funny, Muslim best friend who is just a little obsessed with Judge Judy. Talk about quirky. However, their road trip is cut short when they encounter Lindsay Lee Wells in Gutshot, Tennessee, also known as the middle of nowhere. The boys soon become friends with Lindsay, and are offered summer jobs working for her mother, Hollis. As Colin starts to become attracted to Lindsay, he struggles with the fact that not only is she dating a jerk also named Colin, but that she is not a Katherine. This leads him to a "Eureka!" moment, that causes him to spend his summer trying to come up with a theorem that explains his relationships with Katherines, and people's relationships in general. But their summer (and the novel) doesn't spend its entirety involved with the Theorem, no worries. The three friends get up to plenty of adventures, including hunting wild hogs, and interviewing all kinds of crazy characters to learn about their lives in Gutshot.

The Theorem is probably what caused me to not love this particular novel as much as Green's others, but it was still in Green's own class, so different from other YA novels. The characters are unpredictable, strange, and lovable, and the plots are different, often hilarious, and heartfelt. I admire Green for exploring such a different idea in this novel, while still maintaining his recognizable style. If you haven't experienced John Green's work yet, I'd suggest starting with his first novel, Looking for Alaska, but definitely take the time to check this one out as well for a light, funny story about a crazy group of friends and their unpredictable summer.

What I'm reading now...

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (classic)

2. How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan (YA short stories)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book #83: My Point...And I Do Have One

Book #83: My Point...And I Do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres
4/5 stars

As a huge lover of Ellen and all that she stands for, I've decided to read all of her books (I believe there are three to date), and I figured why not start with the earliest one. As you can tell from the cover, it's a bit dated. It was published in 1996! However, her humor still resonates and it was a hilarious experience reading this book. And, it's actually non-fiction believe it or not! And I rarely read non-fiction, but this is the type of non-fiction that I could actually enjoy. =)

Contrary to my original belief upon picking up this book, it is not an actual memoir. It pretends to be one, but upon reading it you come to find out that it's a hilarious comedy sketch that spans 224 pages, telling "true stories" from Ellen's life. To get a feel for the tone of the book, here's an excerpt from the beginning:

Dear Reader,
I was awfully excited when I was asked to write a book. I was however, nervous. I was afraid I didn’t have anything important to say. But when I began writing, I realized that although I don’t know a lot about any one thing, I know a little about a whole bunch of things: baking a pie; dancing; curing the common cold; running the Iditarod–it’s all in the book. And I realized I notice things that maybe some people don’t notice (or they don’t notice that they don’t notice). That’s all in the book, too.

This is just a small sampling of the randomness presented in Ellen's book. The chapters have wacky titles, and they each explore a different idea presented in Ellen's comedic, ridiculous voice. I could almost hear her in my mind saying what was written because it was written like she talks on her show. Ellen looks at how we act in elevators, fashion trends, how to explain the birds and the bees to kids, and gives her recipe for her favorite Real Frenchy French Toast. 

This book was unlike anything I had read before; it was almost like attending one of Ellen's comedy shows, with all the randomness and laughs you would expect from her. It was a quick, light read, and great for people like me who are not normally non-fiction fans. I'm looking forward to reading her other two books, and will be sure to review those as well!

What I'm reading now...

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (classic)
2. Matched by Ally Condie (YA dystopian fiction)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Book #82: Change of Heart

Book #82: Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
5/5 stars

Once again, Jodi Picoult delivers in her 2007 novel that tackles tough subjects such as religion and the death penalty. If you aren't hooked on her novels yet, what are you waiting for?!

June, a woman who has suffered the loss of a husband and child gets no break, when her remaining child, who never got the chance to meet her father, is growing weaker by the day. Her daughter is desperately in need of a heart transplant, yet she is racing against time, as she comes closer to death every day that she waits for a donor. Meanwhile, Shay, the murderer of June's husband and first daughter resides in jail, as the first death row prisoner in New Hampshire in over 60 years. He is simply waiting to die, having lost all of his appeals.

However, things start to change in the jail, and people start to wonder if Shay is not in fact a bad person, but perhaps a Messiah. Shay even has a priest who was on the jury that convicted him doubting whether he was truly guilty. Yet Shay is also in a battle with time, as his life is drawing to a close, in a very different way than June's daughter. He finds a chance for salvation before death, but it involves the cooperation of June, who is having an understandably difficult time in life, and who is not receptive to helping the man who screwed everything up for her.

I wish I could say more, but what I love about Jodi Picoult is that her novels include so many twists and so much suspense, up until the very last page. What I can say is that this novel poses some deep questions about organized religion and the death penalty. It really made me think, and I wanted to talk to everyone about the book because it has some great discussion points. The novel is told from four different viewpoints: June's, Father Michael's (the priest previously mentioned), Lucius's (a fellow inmate of Shay's), and Maggie's (a lawyer who becomes involved with Shay's case). The changing narration makes the story move quickly and offers different ways of looking at the intense situations presented. Plus, it helps keep the suspense of, something that Picoult has mastered.

I am a lover of all of Picoult's novels, and Change of Heart was certainly no exception. I love that she stares controversial subjects right in the face, and clearly does her research, in this and all of her novels, making them so much more realistic. This would be a great novel for a book club, or just to read on your own...just make sure to find me or someone else who has read it when you're finished, because there's so much to discuss! Happy reading =)

What I'm reading now...

1. White Swan, Black Swan: Stories by Adrienne Sharp (short stories)

2. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (YA Science Fiction)
3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (classic)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book #81: The Giver

Book #81: The Giver by Lois Lowry
5/5 stars

Somehow during my middle school career I missed out on reading this classic by Lois Lowry: The Giver. However, after reading it I'm glad that I read it for the first time as an adult, rather than an ignorant fifth or sixth grade student. I don't think that young middle school students are at the level of understanding that this book requires. Though they can understand the language, this as one of the earlier dystopian novels is better for older middle school readers, even high school and adult readers. While some people that I've talked to remember hating the novel as a child, as an adult, I thought it was wonderful.

I didn't know much about the novel before beginning it. I just remembered some of my peers reading it when I was young, and that there was an old man on the cover. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a dystopian novel, from way before The Hunger Games was thought of. It presents the society first as a seemingly utopian one, where everything is perfect and everyone is content. The society has become less and less diverse, and proclaims "Sameness", which erases basically all emotion and individuality. People seem robotic, apologizing for wrongdoings in a specific way with a robotic forgiveness automatically given. Families share their dreams each morning, dissecting one another's dreams until everything is rationalized. Each year for twelve years, children partake in a ceremony in which they are acknowledged as being one year older and receive something to show everyone that they are a specific age. For example, one reaching a certain year, children receive bicycles.

Jonas is reaching his twelfth year, in which he will be assigned the job that will define his adult life. He isn't sure what he wants to do or where he will be assigned, but he is shocked to learn that he will be the next Receiver. This is a job that is chosen very rarely, because there is only one Receiver at a time, and a new one is hard to choose because it is a demanding job that requires specific traits in a person. Jonas goes to train with the current Receiver who will be retiring once Jonas is ready to take over. He asks Jonas to call him "The Giver", and he begins to share with Jonas with secrets and burdens of their "utopia." His training is not easy, and it makes Jonas wonder about why the world is the way it is, and what happened to all of the things that the Giver shares with him, such as feelings, especially love, and other parts of the way life once was.

This novel was a quick read and a fantastic one! Though dystopian literature has exploded since The Hunger Games, this novel was published in the early 1990s, and Lowry was probably one of the founders of many of the ideas present in current dystopian lit, even in The Hunger Games. The idea of this society is fascinating, and he parts of our current lives that this futuristic society as chosen to do away with are interesting to consider. Can you imagine life without feeling? No love or hate, not even the feelings of being hot or cold. The Giver presents a strange community that is supposedly perfect, but in fact they seem to be living in ignorance, which is only questioned by Jonas and the Giver. The ideas are deep, yet the novel reads quickly and isn't difficult at all. Whether you read this novel as a kid or, like me, missed out, give it a try, whether it'll be your first or second time reading it. It's a wonderful, well-written novel that really made me think. From what I've heard, there are three subsequent novels after this, the most recent having just been published, but be aware that they are not sequels, but companion novels. This means, as far as I know, that you won't see Jonas after this novel. But I still plan on reading the other novels, and I'll be sure to share what I think. Happy reading!

What I'm reading now...

1. White Swan, Black Swan: Stories by Adrienne Sharp (short stories)

2. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (YA science fiction - sequel to The Maze Runner)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Book #80: Boy Toy

Book #80: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
5/5 stars

This was quite the controversial YA novel in my YA Lit class this past semester, so I'm interested to see what other readers will think about it! I will warn that it is not for everyone as it deals with a mature subject matter: a relationship between a teacher and student. As you might have been able to tell from my reviews on Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls and Patricia McCormick's Sold, to name a few, I love reading YA novels that deal with tough subject matters, and this novel fits right into that category.

Josh is now eighteen, and still haunted by memories of Eve, his seventh grade history teacher with whom he once had a sexual relationship. Since then, she has been found out and put in jail, and Josh has been seeing a therapist. However, he is not "back to normal" by this point. He often experiences what he calls "flickers", which are memories of his time spent with Eve that make him appear zoned out to those around him, and he hasn't really dated since his time with his teacher, because he feels uncomfortable about being with girls in that way, not because they're actually his age, but because he hasn't ever learned how to properly date a woman. As he is approaching gradation and trying to deal with his past, he finds out that Eve has been released on parole for good behavior. This opens the gates to all of his suppressed and unsuppressed memories of when he was twelve years old and was manipulated by his teacher.

The novel flashes back to the time when Eve, then twenty-six, and Josh first met as teacher and student, and follows the progression of their relationship, up until her arrest and trial. I will warn that this does get graphic at times, and is hard to stomach at points, but you have to get through it to finish the story, and I couldn't put it down because I wanted to find out what happened to Josh. You can be comforted by that fact that you know that it stops eventually, that Eve is caught and punished. Eventually, the novel gets back to the present, and though I won't give anything away, I will say that it continues to follow Josh at eighteen through the end of his senior year, focusing on where he's at now, and where he's going.

This novel definitely didn't shy away from the controversial, and I admire that the author took risks. Not many will write about such a topic, and Josh's voice at twelve and eighteen was believable and the difference in Josh over time was clear. The author was able to explore a dark subject without making me too uncomfortable to go on, yet not shying away from risks. The novel sparked some great conversations in my class, and everyone who read it was made uncomfortable by it at some point, yet did not regret reading it, because it's a really great novel. When it ended, I felt satisfied with the ending and where the characters were at. It felt real, and that's a sign of a great book.

What I'm reading now...

1. White Swan, Black Swan: Stories by Adrienne Sharp (short stories)

2. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (YA fiction)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book #79: Into the Darkest Corner

Book #79: Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
5/5 stars

Happy New Year everyone! For those who found my blog a little later, yes I am trying to read 100 books in a year, but I wasn't smart enough to come up with the idea last January! Therefore, I still have until March 1 to finish my 100 books, and since I recently finished #83, I think I can do it! And something else little before I get to the review...just for fun, as a new little feature I've decided to add at the bottom of my posts a list of what I'm currently reading so you can get a feel for what's coming up in the blog. Sometimes it'll just be one title, sometimes more than one, as I like variety, depending on my mood. =)

Alright, so now...this book is one that I teased out on my Facebook a few week ago, describing it as one of the most terrifying novels I've ever read! This novel was recommended to me by a friend, who warned that it kept her up at night, but that only intrigued me. =) This is the debut novel of a British police intelligence analyst turned author, so it includes some frightening situations that the author may have pulled from her own job, and they are played out in realistic, terrifying ways.

The novel begins with a trial transcript from 2005, in which Lee is on the stand, testifying that Catherine is basically crazy, and that he did nothing wrong, but ends with a cross-examination that leaves the reader doubtful and confused. The novel then flashes back and forth between 2007 (the present), and 2003, in the life of Catherine Bailey. In 2003, she seems to be a healthy, fun-loving young woman who doesn't necessarily lead the safest life, but is enjoying herself. But in 2007, it seems as though we are looking at a different character, because Catherine has developed a debilitating form of OCD and some definite paranoia, that does not allow her to have close relationships, and forces her to spend hours checking that various parts of her apartment are secure. When a nice man moves into the apartment upstairs, Catherine struggles with her feelings for him, as he seems safe and friendly, but she cannot let go of her past. Just when life seems to be taking a turn for the better, Catherine gets a phone call that changes everything.

We come to find out through the flashbacks to 2003, leading up to the present, the reason that Catherine has so changed: Lee. Catherine's relationship with Lee starts out great, but the reader is on his or her guard because of the court transcript from the beginning, and the obvious change in Catherine just a few years later. It turns out (and don't worry, this isn't a spoiler!) that Lee is not the perfect man that he originally seemed to be, and Catherine becomes more and more frightened of him, yet can't seem to shake him from her life. The entire story is later revealed, and the suspense is insane!

It's so hard to describe this novel without giving all of the good stuff away, so I guess you'll just have to read it! What I can tell you is that despite the length of this novel (416 pages), it was a quick and seriously chilling read, up until the final page, which left me shivering. This book is not for everyone; I will warn that there are some very graphic scenes that not every reader may be able to stomach, so make sure you can handle it before you start this book, because once you begin it, you won't be able to put it down! It is absolutely the best suspense/psychological thriller novel I've read in a long time, maybe ever. I would love to talk about it with someone, so if you decide to read this book let me know, because so far no one I know has been brave enough to try it! Happy reading =)

What I'm reading now...

1. Cutting and the Pedagogy of Self-Disclosure by Jeff Berman and Patricia Hatch Wallace (nonfiction)

2. White Swan, Black Swan: Stories by Adrienne Sharp (short stories)

3. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (YA fiction)