Monday, October 31, 2011

Wildwood by Colin Meloy (Wildwood #1)


Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Pages:  541
Release Date:  August 30th, 2011
Date Read:  2011, September 21st-28thReceived:  Own
Rating:  3/5 stars
Recommended to:  11+
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble




Summary -
The day Mac was kidnapped started out as a good, normal day.  But when the murder of crows descended and Prue watched as they lifted her baby brother off the ground, her day went from good to bad.  And then from bad to worse when they disappeared into the Impassable Wilderness, a place where no one ever goes.  Prue can't possible tell her parents what has happened - she can't quite believe it herself! - so she knows immediately that she must venture into the Impassable Wilderness to find her brother, never suspecting what new friends and ugly terrors might lay in those woods.

My thoughts -
As Colin Meloy is a favorite singer/songwriter of mine, I was naturally ecstatic when I discovered he was coming out with a book.  Colin's stories in his songs have never been anything but fantastical, and I've always wanted him to write a book.  I got my wish - but things didn't end up quite as 5-star-he's-a-genius as I'd hoped.

For the record, I enjoyed myself.  There were many scenes that had me riveted and were quite original and/or funny.  However...

For one, the descriptions were lengthy.  Too lengthy, in my opinion.  At first they were beautiful and everything was perfect; but then he just kept going with them, a lot about plants and trees, and I'm thinking, "It's the Impassable Wilderness.  There are tons of plants.  Plants everywhere.  And there are pictures, too, that show tons of greenery.  So, does he really need to keep describing?"

So the beginning was great.  The middle was slow.  All the plant details and lots of getting from on place to another.  More details.  Then, the end.  It was a fun end, well-crafted, and had a great battle.  A few secrets were let out and it was all a great hurrah!  (Well, besides that lame end to Curtis's story.  I hope he's in the second one to make up for that?)

Character notes -
Prue and Curtis were, seriously, great characters.  I loved them, and found that I connected with them.  I noticed a small glitch in Prue (she started out as an indifferent teenager and suddenly became a grateful and super loving and protective older sister), but I could only enjoy her company throughout the novel.  She was quite a catch and very willing to do the right thing, as was Curtis.

While Meloy's descriptions sometimes got out of hand, they were never more enjoyable than when he was describing characters.  The humans, the land animals, the birds... It wasn't hard to picture them at all, with all their differences and strange clothes and/or funny character handles.

Story notes -
This story is bizarre, with a fascinating air of originality and a dark undertone.  It had the feel I'd wanted, but was a bit slower than I'd hoped.  I very mournfully contemplated giving it a break about twice.  (I'd have picked it up again later...)  But I'm glad i finished it all the way through.  It could have been cut down at least fifty pages, and I wish the battle scenes had been more personal, instead of a lot of general action, but it was so fun nonetheless.

In many ways it reminded me of the Chronicles of Narnia, what with the talking animals, one character being deceived by a witch, and a magic forest, but it was also very much it's own story.  I was able to appreciate it, even when I was disappointed that I didn't fall madly in love.

Summing it up -
Descriptive - great, good, and bad.  I definitely enjoyed myself and would like to read Meloy's next book in the Wildwood trilogy - although this time I probably won't spend $17.00 on it; I'll go buy his CD's instead.

For the parents -
Violence and excessive drinking among the coyotes.  Parents may want to take a look at the violence for themselves, because not every 11-year-old likes scary witches.  11+

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wildwood (Quotes)

"Darn, darn, darn," he repeated incessantly.
The dried leaves quickly crumbled beneath his shoes, and the fire was extinguished.  The tip of the lit slow match glowed in his hand.  He stood for a moment, paralyzed by the action around him, and then looked over at the abandoned cannon, its tenders still blade-to-blade with their bandit foes.
"Might as well...," his internal voice decided.
He ran to the cannon and held the lit match to the wick.  In an instant, the fuse caught, the cannon fired, and Curtis was thrown as the gun mule-kicked backward and a shower of smoke and sparks filled the air and the world around him was silenced save for a slight, distant high-pitched ring.
"Wow," he felt himself whisper, though he couldn't hear a thing.

- Chapter 10, page 157

Review on Monday!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cloaked by Alex Flinn


Cloaked by Alex Flinn
Pages:  341
Release Date:  February 8th, 2011
Date Read:  2011, March 24th - 26th
Received:  Own
Rating:  4.5/5 stars
Recommended to:  14+
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble



(This is an old review I wrote for Fairy Tale Fortnight in April, so the layout isn't updated...but rest assured, my feelings are the same!)

Summary -
Johnny is a pretty normal guy.  He lives in Florida and fixes shoes for a living.  Or really, he fixes shoes not just as a living but to pay rent, phone bills, electricity bills, for food, etc.  You know, all the every day things your father usually manages to pay for.  Johnny's father would pay for theses things - but he disappeared when Johnny was a toddler.  Ever since, Johnny's been the man of the house, working to feed and care for his sweet mother who in turn works hard to provide for him.  Johnny would love to become a shoe designer, make millions of dollars, and give his mother the life of ease.  But, how likely is that to happen?  Unless you meet the princess of Aloria, who is filthy rich, thinks you're a good boy, and consequently wants you to find the Prince of Aloria who has been turned into a frog by an evil witch...in return for her hand in marriage and millions of dollars and a life of ease.

Yah...that can be a hard one to pass up.

___________________________________________

My thoughts -

Once again, Alex Flinn knocks us all out with a fantastical fairytale that makes you feel like you've never read a fairytale before in your life.

Talk about original.  I mean, this book was so original it was almost strange.  It was neat, though!  From the ear-piece that lets you talk to animals, to the cloak that transports you to wherever you want to go; from the princess who (apparently) wants to marry the boy from South Beach, to the witch who has a grudge and a slightly evil but really predictable plan.  It was awesome, on all levels.

For a while I thought the Cloak would be like the one from 12 Dancing Princesses, one that makes you invisible.  But no, it was totally different.  And the ear piece was a neat idea and added a "technological" magic twist to the story.  There were a few other fairytales thrown in there that only added, built, and made the story more enjoyable.  The animals that Johnny meets give him quests to test his loyalty and to make sure he's really going to save the prince, which made everything feel a bit more "old fashioned".  This all played in to create an atmosphere that was highly original and definitely Alex Flinn.  I was hooked from the first pages.

Favorite character (character thoughts) -

Meg is such a great character that I just have to say that she's my favorite.  She was strong, honest, and just lovely.  She was deserving and totally inspired me.  She and Johnny's relationship was hilarious at times and sweet at others.  Everything about her made the story all the more lovable.

And while she's my favorite, I can't move on without pointing out my honorable mention, Johnny.  He was quite a character as well.  He compliments Meg perfectly.  He's a klutz (hilarious!), a doubter, and he doesn't follow instructions well.  I found that these things, on top of the fact that he's honest, reliable, and loving, made him a great character.  I loved that he couldn't always see what was right in front of him.  I love a good, teasing love story where you just want to yell at the guy - "SHE'S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, STUPID!"

Also, raise your glass to Alex Flinn herself for creating a character like Johnny who is, specifically, a completely different person than his competitors, Kyle from Beastly and Jack from A Kiss in Time.  I found this extremely refreshing, as I'm sure you will.

Pretty much the only downer in this book for me: I found that I didn't really, at all, like Victoriana, the Alorian princess. She was funny in parts, but I thought she was ubelievable. I couldn't picture her as clearly as the other characters, even her brother Philippe, and I couldn't hear the accent in the way that Alex Flinn typed it up. It just didn't click for me...but maybe that's just me.


Favorite aspects/scenes -

There are too many aspects of this story to choose from, so I will name as many as I can without spoiling anything for you.  The love story was soooo amazing and much more passionate than that of A Kiss in Time.  It was believable and well-developed and gave me strong, gutsy butterflies so many times I lost count.  The tests Johnny has to go through to gain information are also a favorite part.  The lessons Johnny learns...the twist that involves the animals...the amazing shoe quotes that easily become a lovable part of the story.  And the perfect ending to a great story.

Some favorite scenes:  The sunset scenes with Johnny and Meg........  And I was totally taken by the perfectly smooth scene in the beginning during which Johnny realizes that the Cloak and the ear-piece are really magic.  It was amazingly well-told and Johnny's reaction to the magic was normal and hilarious and pretty much perfect.  Bravo to Alex Flinn!



One phrase to sum up this book (final thoughts) -

Wonderfully original are the words that come to mind when I think of Cloaked.  I could not help but fall in love with this book - and I hope you will, too!  I recommend this book highly!

For the parents:  A few kisses, with little or no description.  A handful of underhand jokes directed toward girls, and a couple of direct comments.  None are explicit.  A pretty darn clean book.  Definitely can be read by a younger audience than Alex Flinn's previous fairytales.  I'd say 14 years old is a good age to start.  :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen


Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
Pages:  228
Release Date:  May 11th, 2004 (First published September 1st, 1999)
Date Read:  2011, August 30th-31st
Received:  Own
Rating:  4/5 stars
Recommended to:  16+
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble


Summary -
Welcome to the life of Colie Sparks - once a fattie, daughter of a world-famous workout instructor, and bored for the summer.  She has to stay with her (eccentric) aunt, an aunt who doesn't exactly fit into her small town of Colby, NC.  But what Colie finds in Colby is more than she expected, and it may change her life forever.

My thoughts -
This is a book about belonging.  It's about Cats and Normans, grilled chicken salads, sympathy cards, and sunglasses.  It's about friendships and laughter and growing up.  It was full of real life, great happenings in a small town, and rising above.

It was surprising to me to discover just how inspiring it was.  It had me laughing out loud the entire time, except the times when I was boiling over with anger at the mean girls or holding back tears at the sweet parts.  But mostly, I was laughing.  It had me from the first page.  I began to love it all, including the writing (which was really good), and especially the dialogue.  This is all especially surprising to me since I thought I'd never read a Dessen book (or a contemporary fiction).  But after reading a few rave reviews from my dear friend Laura @ A Work of Fiction, and found this copy for $1.00, I knew it was about time.  What a great way to start!

Character notes -
Every person in this book, from page 1 to page 228, is defined.  Perfectly imperfect.  I was so pleased by this! Colie, with all her baggage she's holding onto; Norman, with all his funny, hippie ways; Mira, the eccentric relative.  Morgan and Isabel, besties who love each other unconditionally despite their hilarious and sometimes hard differences.  Bea Williamson, the town gossip, the ruler of all social standings (in her small, pathetic world).  There was even Cat Norman (as opposed to Norman Norman), who is by far the most fascinating and hilarious cat I've ever come across.

These characters had me laughing out loud and gaining strange glances fro my family.  They made my heart pound, my blood boil, and my eyes grow wide.  There was no end to the realness of them all.  I related to both Colie (I've never been a skinny girl, and I know what it's like to be "new") and Morgan (my drama is ridiculous sometimes).  They all inspired me, though.  Even Isabel with her bad attitude and Morgan with her constant quitting.  Because who's perfect?  Not me, that's for sure, and not these characters.  And that's what makes them so incredibly epic.

Story notes -
I wrapped myself in this story as I would in a bright beach towel after a day in the water.  It took me about four hours, and by the end I was warm, dry, and basking in sunshine.

It really is a great story.  It had the conflict in the beginning, things are hard, Colie doesn't understand, she's hurting, she wants to belong.  Then things lighten up; laughs are shared, lessons are learned.  But darkness threatens to swallow up the happiness.  I loved even those dark scenes, when everything looks grim and depressed.  But they help each other, encourage, serve and love, and together the break through the shadow and into the moonlight.  Sometimes it takes listening to Gloria Gaynor and dancing like a freak, or sitting for a painter for hours and hours.  Sometimes, it just takes a simple word of encouragement.  But no matter how it happens - the darkness is brushed aside, life is reborn, and the story goes on.  There is no "the end".  No, this is only the beginning.

Summing it up -
Encouraging.  A lovely read, no matter who you are or where you are, with characters that inspire and a story that rocks and a depth I was not expecting.  Put it on your list; you will enjoy it!

For the parents -
Brief strong language (GD, B, and a handful of minor cuss words).  A few extremely nondescript kisses.  Some references to what highschoolers do to others when they hate them.  One girl is called some rude nicknames (Hole in One, Slut, etc.).  one stupid man is said to have cheated on his fiancee, married the girl he cheated on, got her pregnant, and was still dating his fiancee!  :/  Recommended 16+.

Read my other reviews!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Keeping the Moon (Quotes)

That first lunch, when Norman and I had stopped to pitch in, was a constant blur of people and noise and food.  Everyone was screaming at each other, Isabel and Morgan running past with orders, Norman flipping burgers and yelling things to Bick, the other cook, who stayed stonily quiet and cool the entire time.  I shoveled ice like my life depended on it, answered the phone and took orders although I knew almost nothing about the menu, and messed up the register so badly it stuck on $10,000.00 and beeped for fifteen minutes straight before Isabel, in a fit of rage, whacked it with a plastic water pitcher.  It was Us against Them, clearly, and for once I was a part of Us.  I didn't really know what I was doing; I had to go on faith.  So I just handed out my drinks and grabbed the phone when it screamed, wrapping the cord around my wrist and stabbing the pen Morgan had tossed me in my hair, the same way Isabel wore hers, and fought on.
"Last Chance," I'd shout over the din.  "Can I help you?"

- Chapter 4, page 50

This paragraph captures the essence of the description so perfectly I couldn't help but share.  Review on Monday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top Ten Tuesdays: Books Whose Titles Or Covers Made Me Buy It




Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This is my first time participating and I'm super excited! :)  (Titles lead to my review, if one has been written.  Pictures lead to Goodreads.)  I feel like I never really buy a book just for the covers (there's always another motive, whether less or more than the cover), but these covers played a big part in why I bought these books...  Enjoy!  (The covers are not in any special order...)




1.  Sylvie and the Songman by Tim Binding.  I seriously love this cover.  It's what caught my eye when I saw it in the bookstore, and the synopsis made it even better.  But still, the cover captivated me like none other.  I asked for it for my birthday and got it - and to this day it is one of my all-time favorite books!


2.  Wildwood by Colin Meloy.  Ok, so not only was I BEYOND excited that one of my all-time favorite singers and songwriters had written a children's book, but this cover was so ridiculously captivating.  It still is.  It's just, the story wasn't as amazing.  More on that with the review...  But either way, Carson Ellis is one talented woman.




3.  Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke.  Ok, I'm a bit of a Funke fan.  A LOT of a Funke Fan.  I get my hands on anything I can of hers.  I've disliked only one of her books that I've read.  The rest were awesome.  The Inkbooks happen to be some of my FAVORITE books in the ENTIRE world.  EVER.  They inspire me every time I read them.  But before I had ever read them...they were just covers.  And boy, are the covers beautiful.  They caught my eye the moment I saw them on a friend's bookshelf, and when I saw them in the store, even though I wasn't that fascinated with the writing or story (yet), I just had to buy them.  I'm so freaking glad I did.



4.  Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel.  When I read Airborn and Skybreaker, I fell in love.  I'm still in love.  With Matt Cruise.  'Cause he's amazing.  And with the covers of these books.  'Cause they're beautiful.  This cover, however, is by far the best.  The way the stars cover the sky in their sheer numbers, and the way Matt and Kate are running in a field beneath all the colors of the gorgeous night time sky...  I mean, who doesn't want a giant poster of this on their wall?  Or the ceiling, to stare up at at night.  And not only that, but these books rock my socks off.



5.  Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.  Before Lauren Oliver, I didn't know I could cry for so long about a book.  Sure, I cry every time I read Inkspell, or Sapphique.  But this was different.  This was like, heart/gut-wrenching sobs for 45 minutes straight.  That was Delirium.  Then I knew that I must read Before I Fall THIS INSTANT before I dropped dead.  But look at that cover.  I mean, seriously.  It's gorgeous.  And thought-provoking.  In fact, this wins the award for most thought-provoking cover.  What is going on in her head?  What thoughts are crossing the depths of her mind as she lies in the grass, her eyes unreadable?  Why is she going to fall?  What has she done?  So I guess both the cover and title had something to do with me buying this book.  And the fact that Lauren Oliver is...Lauren Oliver.



6.  The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby.  My sister and I saw this book at Borders a while ago and decided to use our 40% off coupon on it.  The cover totally entranced us both and I'm so glad we bought it!



7.  The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen.  The cover and the title were definitely huge deciding factors when I purchased this book.  I loved the picture because, well, I would love to live there and in that time.  And the title sounds so mysterious, like there is something unusual about the girl.  Which there was.  But unfortunately, I didn't find the book all that amazing.



8.  Entwined by Heather Dixon.  Honestly, I'd be surprised to find this one NOT on someone's list.  This cover is absolutely one of the most charming covers EVER.  Look at her dress (dirty but BEAUTIFUL and flowy), and her hair, and the flowers surrounding it.  And the castle in the background.  There is no resisting this cover.  I grin every single stinking time I see it.  No joke. :D



9.  Reckless by Cornelia Funke.  Obviously, I have a thing for Cornelia.  I really liked this book (although, it's not as incredible as the Inkbooks), and the cover took me in completely.  It's so intricate and confusing and beautiful and dark and captivating, all in one.  How can I refuse?



10.  Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.  This was more for the name.  I instantly LOVED the name Jonathan Strange.  Norrell is cool, too, but the last name Strange immediately caught my eye.  I have yet to read this book but I've heard great things!



And there you are, my Top Ten for this Tuesday.  Link me up to your posts so I can see what you all said! :Anyone else have the same covers on your list?  :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Dark City by Catherine Fisher (Relic Master #1)


The Dark City by Catherine Fisher (Relic Master #1)
Pages:  384
Release Date:  May 17th, 2011 (First published August 6th, 1998)
Date Read:  2011, October 5th-12th
Received:  Library
Rating:  4/5 stars
Recommended to:  12+
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble



Summary -
Anara is a dark world.  Deserted, or so it seems.  The Makers have left, but their power still lives in the Keepers - or the few who are still alive.  The Watch hunts them, tortures them, kills them.  Galen Harn and his apprentice Raffi are two of the very few still-living Keepers.  Galen has lost his powers as the result of a bad accident and will do anything to get them back.

When the ultimate mission arises, one that means risking everything, Raffi must learn the power of faith, as they are ever hunted, and as they draw nearer and nearer to the dark and abandoned Tasceron, the City of the Makers.

My thoughts -
I first discovered Relic Master in January of 2011, when I came to the end of Sapphique and saw it advertised.  As I'd just finished wiping my tears over Sapphique and marveling in its raw beauty and power and awesomeness, I was absolutely thrilled to learn that I would soon read more by this incredible author.

Catherine Fisher did not disappoint.  And while I found The Dark City wasn't nearly as perfect as Incarceron and Sapphique, I can't help but love what this book holds.  The writing was just beautiful...  It's like old fairy-tale type writing, or a legend or something, and still it has a modern ring to it.  I mean, who can do that?  It's her little niche, and I absolutely love it.

Character notes -
This story comes from the perspectives of Raffi and Carys, but I felt like the book was more about Galen.  It was his quest, his missing powers, his faith, that drove the story.  Raffi, a scared 16-year-old, is not exactly a  3D character.  He came across as flat, which really bummed me out because her other characters are really well done.  Carys was interesting.  I liked the tension she brought - and I still don't know if she's good or bad, which intrigues me.

Shean, the Sekoi, and Galen were all extremely fascinating, each in his own way and to his own purpose.
While Shean had a small part, he really held my attention in that short time.  The Sekoi was so weird but way cool to read about!  They are some of the most original creatures I've ever read about.

And Galen...he may have been a grumpy, bitter old man, but I cared for him.  He was so desperate, so sad without his powers.  When half of you is gone, something you have cultivated for years and years, you would be crazy not to go after it.  Galen's faith, even without his powers, was strong, his prayers spoken in diligence, knowing he would be saved.

Story notes -
The story line was the strongest aspect of this book.  It was full of interesting cities (the world building is phenomenal; I think that's Fisher's biggest strength).  I was sucked in, wanting to explore this world Anara, totally engrossed.  And boy, did I get my wish.  Everything is well-described, while still leaving room for the reader's imagination.

The history of this world, from Creation on, was so fascinating that I can't wait to learn more in the next book.  It was very well developed, with no holes.  The Makers and the Crow all interest me greatly.  The twists and turns in the story kept me thinking even after it was over, especially the end.

The religious aspects of this story were perfect and compelling.  I found it related to Christianity in many wonderful ways; I was very encouraged, again, by Galen's faith.  The prayers (answered or not) and the power of the Relics (the Makers' power) added a beauty I was not expecting...and it made the story even better.

Summing it up -
Dreamy.  The whole book felt like a dream, and I was floating through it, an unseen spectator.  It was as strange and as beautiful as a dream, too.  I'm so excited for the 2nd book!

Nothing for the parents.  12+

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Dark City (Quotes)

Shean sat silent.  Finally he said, "You may be right to rebuke me.  I've lived here too long in the dark, Galen; seen too many martyrs, too many children dragged away.  Under this room so many of their bodies lie, bought from the Watch, secretly buried.  And maybe I've become weak.  Maybe I've thought, if the Crow was here, would he not have saved us from this?  Would he not have risen up and saved the city?"


- Chapter 20, Page 291


That's Catherine Fisher for ya...  Powerful, to the point, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring.  I love her.  Review on Monday!


Another quote I loved:

"The order will survive.  They can never kill us all.  Underground, well hidden, we have knowledge that can outlive the world." - Reputed last words of Mardoc, Archkeeper, from the rack


- Chapter 7, Page 77

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Buys 9/23/11 - 10/14/11

This was such a fun few weeks of book buying!  From now on I'm going to reallyreallyreallllly try not to use my hard-earned nannying/piano teaching money to buy books...so I'm glad my 18th birthday and Christmas are coming up fast. Haha!  But this will probably be my last Friday Buys until mid-November.  So sad!  But good for me.  Sometimes the hardest things are the best things... ;)  Plus, if I spend all my money on books for myself, I won't have the money to host my AWESOME birthday giveaway coming up in a few weeks..........


Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren
Shipped form TBD, read, loved, accidentally dropped into the sink by my sister, and put onto my favorite shelf.  Yah.  It's been through a lot here.
$10.00

The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper
So very excited to read this book!!  Looks adorable!
$3.50 Amazon bargain bin :)


The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
LOVED this book.  Great deal, almost brand new.
$2.00

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Also LOVED this book.  A bit more used than Labyrinth but still in good condition.
$2.00

First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain
Paperback to match the first book, Green Rider!  Now I can get rid of the giant hardcover I have that's taking up too much space!
$.50

I'm going to use the following book to make a clock for my room.  I love that it'll be a clock that says "Victory" on it.  I don't know...something about that is just SO cool. hahaha!  $2.00

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
I haven't read this yet and I'm so excited to!  Brand new copy!
$.50

The Named by Marianne Curley
I kept looking at this one for a long time but I never picked it up.  Finally my sister convinced me and I purchased it.  Used with a few bends.
$1.00

The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer
The synopsis has fascinated me...we shall see if it's any good!  Practically brand new.
$1.00



22.50 total - and I saved $73!!!  Ahhhh...doing the math always makes me feel super great. :)  Link me to  your IMM's and the like - I love to see what everyone's buying! :)
Happy reading, all!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn


A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn
Pages:  371
Release Date:  April 28th, 2008
Date Read:  2011, May 14th-18th
Received:  Own
Rating:  4/5 stars
Recommended to:  15+
Goodreads






(This is an old review I wrote for Fairy Tale Fortnight in April, so the layout isn't updated...but rest assured, my feelings are the same!)


Summary -
Spindles are an illegal device not to be had.  At least, not in Euphrasia.  Euphrasia is a small country near Belgium, and its princess, Talia, has been put under a spell.  A spell that says she will prick her finger on a spindle before her sixteenth birthday, and she will die.  The good fairies tried to change the spell, so now the entire kingdom will fall asleep upon Talia's spindle-pricking.  Until a prince, Talia's true love, comes to the castle and kisses her awake.  Talia's parents have done all they can to secure that Talia would not prick her finger on a spindle, but when the evil witch's curse comes to pass anyway, the entire kingdom passes into a deep sleep, a hedge grows around their small country, and the rest of the world forgets there ever was a Euphrasia...

Until the day when Jack, an attention-starved high-schooler from Miami, Florida, happens upon the hedge of briars during his boring and uneventful trip to Europe.  When he enters the castle and finds Talia, he feels the unexplainable urge to kiss her - not to mention he suddenly knows her name.  When he does kiss her, she wakes in his arms and he is forced to help her - and save his own hide from her angry father, the King-No-More of Euphrasia.  But with Talia convinced he is her true love, he won't be getting rid of her very easily.  At least it'll make his parents mad...

My thoughts -

I devoured this book easily.  It wasn't that the writing was easy to read (however, that is also true), but more so that the story flowed so well I couldn't put it down.  There was no break in the character development or story-line.  I was entranced in the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty as though I hadn't heard it a hundred and one times before.

I was absolutely surprised at how much I liked this book.  Jack and Talia are both memorable characters; the events of the story are well-placed; it is very original for being yet another retelling of a fairytale.  I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the present tense, first person standpoint, which normally really bothers me.  But not this time.  This time I was thoroughly engrossed and loved feeling as though I was there.  And on top of that, this book is funny.  And I mean FUN. NY!  Laugh out loud, giggly, hilarious, whatever you want to call it.  It pretty much made me laugh all the time.  (Especially Talia's reaction to telephones and TV's...and Jack's reaction to the clothes she gives him from her time-period.  They were both so confused!)

Alex Flinn does a great job at comparing and contrasting the culture Talia comes from and the culture that she has now been thrust into.  The innocence of the 16, 17, and 18oo's is greatly played upon.  Talia is disgusted by all the almost-all-the-way naked women at the beach, and is shocked by the half-naked women around town (compared to floor length dresses and covered bosoms...yah, they were practically naked).  She hates how the young girls are flaunting themselves in Jack's presence; how Jack's friends treat each other and themselves (which is terrible); how Jack feels like he can't talk to his parents or sister.  (What a culture we live in, to not know how to use the power of speech!  Talia's point on this is quite driving and really struck me as serious and realistic.)

There was only one (literally, only one) drawback in this story for me.  The love story.  I know, I know.  Sucks, doesn't it?

Well, the love story was good.  It was sweet and innocent.......but a bit choppy.  It wasn't until I was half of the way finished when I realized this.  Nothing much, except the first kiss at the beginning and Talia being beautiful, happened that would make the characters love each other.  (And that's not even very convincing, sorry!)  No deciding factors, no developing thoughts about it.  Just, half-way through:  "I think I'm falling for him."  and  "I think I'm falling for her."  Jack's attempts to save Talia from her curse (read it to know what I mean!) were great but still...there was something missing.  And their moment of discovering that they truly love each other had no spark, no firecrackers.  It was just... "Yay, they love each other."  Not:  "Oh my GOSH they are so in love and are so passionate about each other!!!"  Which kind of disappointed me, since I know Alex Flinn has that capacity.  She did it masterfully in Beastly.  I just wish there had been more of that in A Kiss in Time.

My favorite character -

Jack.  He was great and real.  Easy to get along with, but kind of a push over.  Passionate about things, but afraid to tell his parents what he wants to do with his life.  Blind to his faults, but when they are presented to him, he wants to change...  These are all things that make a character real and human and just plain awesome.

My favorite aspect of the story -

Tali'a's innocence.  Now, she may know that she's drop-dead-gorgeous, but she knows this in a...young kind of way.  The way her "newness" affects the story and Jack's life and makes him a better person is just phenomenal.  I loved that and applauded her when the story was over.

One word I would use to sum up this book  (and final thoughts) -

Cute.  So, so cute.  Everything about it was cute, even the romance.  I think the lack of "passion" in the romance was what made it "cute".  I will most definitely be reading this book again, and hopefully soon.  I am officially a huge Alex Flinn fan and recommend this book to ages 15/16 and up.


For the parents -  Teenage boys will be teenage boys...  About 10-15 short references throughout the book to hot girls, their sizes, and what they're wearing.  But the biggest thing is the party:  drinking and girls.  A bunch of underage high schoolers get together to drink and make out (and possibly more, though it wasn't even referenced to).  Talia is taken unawares when this guy from Jack's school gives her too much to drink and he tries to take her clothes off once he gets her further away from the party.  It's a very quick scene (with minimal description - nothing much happens 'cause the dude doesn't get very far before Talia lashes out), during which Talia realizes her folly, Jack realizes his stupidity in bringing her as a way to get back at his ex, and both learn a huge lesson in maturity.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie (Matched #1)

Matched by Ally Condie (Matched #1)
Pages:  366
Release Date:  November 30th, 2010
Date Read:  2011, September 18th-21st
Received:  Library
Rating:  4/5 stars
Recommended to:  13+
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble




Summary -
Cassia lives in the Society, a near-future government controlled world where everyone lives perfect lives.  The government gives them jobs, free-rec activities, and even Matches - the marriage that will take place whenever a person turns twenty-one.  Nothing is done without an Offical, specific men and women sent by the Government to sort, help, and protect the people.  Cassia lives the perfect life - she is the best sorter of her complex, she has a loving family, and she has just been Matched with her closest friend, Xander.

But when a mistake is made - a cruel joke, perhaps - Cassia finds her attention drawn inexplicably to a young man named Ky.  He has always been there, ever under the radar, but always somehow exceptional.  With the help of her Grandfather, her father, Xander, and ky, Cassia will have to discover what it means to choose, to pick one thing above the other, to decide for herself.  To really, truly  live.  But there have been Infractions.  There have been Aberrations and Anomalies.  The danger is real.  How long before she and those she loves are punished severely for wanting to be free?

My thoughts -
I have heard everything possible about this book.  It seems like everyone's opinions are different.  Some hate the characters; some love them.  Some think the story is pointless; to others, it is everything.  Some thing Ally Condie stinks as a writer, some think her prose is some of the best.  All these different opinions had me wondering for a while, "Do I even want to try this one?"

Me, I'm in the middle, leaning toward a favorite.  Not quite, but I'm sure the series on a whole could someday be at the top of my list.  I'm seriously so glad I read this book.  I really loved the writing.  Her words, the way she placed them in each sentence, made me think about them deeply.  I had a few questions (such as:  what does this Society actually look like?) and a few issues (such as: there seemed to be a lot of someone thinking something and someone else guessing their thoughts to the exact).  But on the whole, I wasn't even a little bit unsure about liking it.  I liked it from the start; and I loved the story from the moment Cassia saw the "snow" in the beginning.  For me, it was as simple as that.

Character notes -
I liked Cassia from the start, even when she was "brain-washed".  The always trusting the Society thing was so hard to break when she'd grown up under that.  But I loved seeing her change.  First from obedient, respectable, Matched girl; to a confused, afraid girl; and finally to a passionate woman who has been and is being refined by love and the beauty of making decisions.

Ky and Xander are just...awesome.  Totally different, accomplishing two completely things, making me love them both.  I prefer Ky, for his bravery, his selflessness, his passion, his patience, and his consistency.  But I also respect and appreciate Xander, for all the same reasons, just in different ways.  They are both remarkable men and I'm so excited to see both of them again.  Especially Ky.  Beautiful, sacrificial, tragic Ky.

Cassia's parents struck me as great characters as well.  I loved their differences as a couple and how they were an example of love and marriage to Cassia.  She had a great relationship with them both, as well as with her brother Bram.  These are all characters I love and cherish and can't wait to read more about in Crossed.

Story notes -
There isn't a whole lot of heart-pounding action.  Actually, there was virtually none.  This whole story is built on suspense, whether with Cassia and the Officials or Cassia and Xander or Cassia and Ky.  I loved this, how the story was built on one secret after another, mystery upon mystery.  Quite a few were stripped bare, even more are still unsolved to leave the reader wondering.  The subtle evil of the Society, how well they had brain-washed the citizens, was chilling.

I also really loved how she used past experiences to help Cassia understand new things that came up.  It also helped me, as the reader, to get into Cassia's mind a bit more, as well as see the consistency in character for everyone.  It was definitely a part of the experience of the book.

Summing it up -
Clean.  White.  Precise.  And red.  Like blood.  I think these things when I see the cover or hear its pages rustle.  It's sharp in my mind.  As I write this I still feel the urge to think deeply about the story.

For those of you who have read it - When I was babysitting after I'd finished the book, the little girl of the family approached me with a soiled napkin and asked me to write my name on it.  I stared at her in shock (poor thing, she had no idea why) and asked her what she needed it for.  "I just do," she answered.  Still surprised at the coincidence, and thinking of Ky, writing his story, I wrote my name on the napkin.

For the parents -  Nothing.  SOOOO clean and highly recommended!

Read my other reviews!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Matched (Quotes)

"Back in my bedroom, I shake the tablets out of the little hollow in the base of the compact.  Then I count - one, two, three; blue, green, red - as I slide the tablets back into their metal cylinder.
I know what the blue and green tablets do.  I don't know anyone who knows for certain what the red tablet does.  There have been rumors about it for years.
I climb into bed and push away thoughts of the red tablet.  For the first time in my life, I am allowed to dream of Xander."

-  Chapter 2, page 22

There are quite a few quotes in Matched that are like this.  They get you to wonder, keep you reading.  At least, they did that for me.  I was very fascinated by the manner of which Ally Condie kept me interested in her story.  Review on Monday!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

AMAZING GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!!!!

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Guys!!!!  OMYGOSH.  Ok, so you need to hop on over to The Read Fish RIGHT NOW and enter into this giveaway!  NINE winners and SUPER GREAT prizes!! :D

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Max by James Patterson (Maximum Ride book 5)

Max by James Patterson (book 5)
Pages:  320
Release Date:  March 16th, 2009
Date Read:  2011, August 29th-30th
Received:  Library
Rating:  4/5 stars
Recommended to:  13+
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble





Summary -
While working for Max's mom's group, CSU, and performing for thousands of people to raise money to save the planet, Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel are attacked by a new kind of robot.  They manage to escape, but barely.  And while the Flock is in a safehouse at a school for actual learning, Max's mom is kidnapped.  Can the bird-kids find her in time to save her?  Or will this new threat the end of everyone - of the whole planet?

My thoughts -
So, this book is definitely much better than the last few books, almost as good as the first.  It had so much more going for it than the others.  But there were some things I didn't quite get (and am questioning about the whole series) - where are all these different bad guys coming from?!  The Director, Uber-Director, Mr. Chu, Itex, the School.  It makes no sense.  Unless these guys are all connected somehow, I'm going to see this as pointless.

Another thing is that I don't understand why Max is no closer to "saving the world" than before.  These new bad guys are always either defeated or about to be.  Where is this going?  And if this turns into a "save the world from pollution" sermon (which is where it might be headed), then I'll be super disappointed.  I love these books because of the sci-fi, and the characters.  If Patterson cuts the sci-fi to be preachy, I'm not going to be very happy.

Besides that...this book was great.  Characters, dialogue, writing, turn out.  Thoroughly enjoyable.  Oh - and it has the most hysterical make out session I've ever read, without managing to squash the passion. Definitely impressive.

Character notes -
Once again, this is the reason I read these books.  The characters are great.  They only get more amazing in this book as they search for Max's mom and uncover secrets.  They are constantly changing and getting new powers, which is really cool.

Fang.  Oh.  That guy...  Kissable, much?

I'm really curious to see who the Voice is.  It's kind of getting cheesy and losing purpose.  Maybe  I'll discover more in the 6th book?  (Entitled:  Fang.  I have a good feeling about this book...)

Story notes -
The story lacked.  It was good fun, of course, but it didn't make me want to keep reading.  (It's a good thing  the characters took that job.)  There were a few holes in the story and some of it was kind of preachy, but I chose to ignore that.  However, I did enjoy most of this story, like Fang/Max, the "BS" military camp, and most of the underwater and submarine scenes.  They were quite fascinating, be assured.  Especially Max/Fang. :)

Summing it up -
Sunny.  The whole book was sunny and (mostly) happy.  Max lets herself love, the Flock become closer, they save the day, and it's set in Hawaii.  Yep, sunny is the word.
I hear that book 6, Fang, is depressing.  So I'm glad for this ray of sunshine before things go dark...  And I think I know the reason why... :(

Monday, October 3, 2011

Leepike Ridge by N. D. Wilson

Leepike Ridge by N. D. Wilson
Pages:  256
Release Date:  May 22nd, 2007
Date Read:  2011, September 1st-3rd
Received:  Own
Rating:  5/5 stars
Recommended to:  All ages!
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble





Summary -
Tom's father is dead, and he and his mother Elizabeth live alone in an old house chained to the top of a rock above a river.  After a frustrating dinner with his mother's suitor, Tom takes a midnight walk to clear his head.  But what starts out as innocent fun and a floating nap on a piece of packing foam turns into a wild ride down the river, under and over a few waterfalls - and into the mountain itself!  It's get out or die in the cavity of a mountain, and with a dead mean lying on the underground shore next to him, Tom's determination to live is fierce.  And what he finds on his journey home may be worth much more than hoards of gold.

My thoughts -
G.E.N.I.U.S.  Have I ever told you how I feel about this author?  The six letters above sum it up nicely.  Maybe even perfect.  Yes, to me, his books are the greatest, and that's saying something, when I have sooo many favorites.  I just can't get enough of his books...his level of awesomeness far surpasses that of all else.

This is my second time reading this book, and even now I know I'll never get tired of the story it holds.  It's so amazing, from front to back.  The writing is like, the best. EVER. The way Wilson views the world if phenomenal (and this is shown by the way he describes things).

This book will have you holding your breath the whole time, but not in the way you are probably thinking.  Don't expect nonstop action; do expect other forms of intensity, such as mystery, intrigue, and suspense.  Rationally trying to find your way out of the inside of the mountain, and how to live on the inside of a mountain for a few years, is extremely gripping, especially if you might be flooded in, and drown, and never get out until the water carries your dead body through its secret tunnels and into the light of day you died to find.  That is the kind of suspense in store.  I loved it; I hope you will, too.

This book as been compared to Robinson Crusoe, King Solomon's Mines, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Odyssey.  I agree.  If you've read any of those and liked them, try this adventure.  If you haven't read them, or maybe you did and didn't like them, still try this adventure.  You never know...and I definitely wouldn't want you to miss out on the possibility of liking one of my favorite books EVER.

Character notes -
These characters (like all of N. D. Wilson's characters) are........genius.  (Did you guess??  Haha!)  They're tangible, wonderful friends (or enemies) who all have a past, a future, a life of their own.

Tom is one lovable kid.  He did exactly what any 11-year-old would have done with a slab of packing foam - tried to float on it.  He is consistent and smart and content with the world.  He and his mother know each other well, and they both miss his father.

Reg, also, was awesome.  I can't imagine the story without him.  He is Tom's perfect counterpart in the story and he also helps to form the perfect ending for the story.

My favorite characters are (1. Elizabeth, Tom's mother.  I could picture her walking through tall grasses, picking up her skirts, her hair in a messy bun; (2. Phil Leiodes.  The bad guy.  He added a lot to the story and made things a whole lot more complicated; and (3.  Jeffrey Veatch.  Stupid, selfish idiot that he was, I just can't help but laugh at his ridiculousness.  I mean, when someone is described as having a saggy chest, chapped leeches for lips, and skinny-man fat beneath the chin, you can't help but laugh.

Story notes -
This story is rich.  Simple and fresh, but so, so rich.  It holds life and the desire to live; it holds friendships and mystery and a boy missing his father, wanting a father figure.  It's about a mother's love, cheeky and selfish suitors, and a man who must pay the price for his crimes.  All this piled into 250 pages, and still it's simple and easy to read and understand.  It's amazing how Wilson does this.

I love the humor this story holds as well.  In the face of Tom being lost under the mountain and the possibility of him never getting out, you have Jeffrey, who says and does the funniest things.  The sarcastic undertone never fails to give me a giggle, even when things are intense.  And after a giggle break, things go right back to being suspenseful.

Every scene is excellently executed and written, in every sense.


Summing it up -
Livening.  Spirited, vivacious.  I could smell the grass, feel the wind, and hear the rush of the river.  I felt and saw complete darkness underground, and the heat of Reg's torch scorched my skin.  I held my breath for more than a minute, swimming in pitch black water to get through cracks in the rock.  I look forward to doing it all over and over and over again!  Enjoy - feast!

Read my other reviews!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September Summary


Reviews

Read the full review!
OMGEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I kind of liked this book a lot...like, a ton...Iloved it!!!  To be completely honest...I mean, seriously!  This book held so much more than the first book.  I came in with lower expectations than I had with the first - and suddenly I was shocked!  Cascade became a favorite about half-way through.  The battle scenes, the escapes, the characters - they were much more real and memorable.  I look back at my favorite scenes and I realize that they amount to pretty much the entire book.  And now I'm thinking the release of Torrent can't come fast enough!...


Read the full review!
Once again, these books are great.  I loved the action and the connection between characters, as well as the outstanding scenery.  But there are two things I didn't love...or even like.
1.  The new bad guys.
2.  The sudden, cheese-ball homage to global warming.  BAM!  Out of nowhere?  Maybe if the series had led up to this, it would've made more sense....

I found this story surprisingly dark.  The kind of dark that involves heartbreak, illness, death, war, and suffering.  No matter which way you look at it, Joan's life was sad.  I also found this book surprisingly good. No the greatest book ever, just solid and secure.  I don't often read historical fiction, and usually when I do it's for the story, not the history.  But this one was different; I came in with no expectations and enjoyed everything about it, including the history parts...

Read the full review!
Some things I liked.  Some things I did not.  I tried terribly hard to enjoy the book with effortless ease, not prying into random details and picking at the story too much.  Btu I just couldn't do it.  There were quite a few things that just would not stop bugging me, and I feel compelled, as an honest reviewer, to share them with you.  Yes, the story was cute; yes, I laughed, smiled, and even got caught up in emotion (although, only toward the end); yes, I was once more inspired by the characters, mostly Beth and Jo.  But there are issues to be addressed....


 Read the full review!
This is one of those books that I can totally see being a great action film.  While I was reading it, I got all these crazy cool ideas of how it could be filmed or who could be in it and the like.  It was really cool.  Definitely a movie I'd like to see.

I didn't really think I'd like the book when I started it (I was coming out of a 4-5 day reading funk) and I had a hard time easing into it.  The writing wasn't (and isn't) the best, but it's clear and gets across a nice picture.  The story was good enough and already packed with interesting stuff and some action in the twenty pages, but I was skeptical.  I almost gave up.  I don't know why, because I was enjoying it at that time....

Read the full review!
At first, it was hard not to compare this book to the movie, which I've seen about ten times.  I still watch it every so often with my sisters to laugh and relive childhood memories, as silly as the movie is.  I wanted the book to be different but...the same.  Same characters, same order of events, same climax and turnout.
I got something completely different, and was at first surprised by this.  I wasn't sure how much I liked it - it lacked the action and intensity I was expecting.  But I soon got over this and found myself in a fluffy, light, floating fairy-tale that involves more silly magic and character development than action....



Friday Buys
(pictures lead to posts)




Libraries VS Bookstores
(either picture leads to the post)

VS


Quotes to Chew on
(pictures lead to the posts)




A Compilation of Inspirations

My new meme, and one I hope takes off!

(click any of the pictures to go to the post)





I hope everyone's month has been lovely!  I know my September has been full of great laughs and good times.  Looking forward to October - only 1 month left until I turn 18!!  Craziness! :D
Happy reading!