Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 31st, 2011

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous when I started this book. I had been looking forward to it's release for quite some time, and when I got the NetGalley, I went to Goodreads to check out what people were saying. It seemed that people either loved it, or hated it. There wasn't much in between. I had high hopes for this and I am happy to report that the nay-sayers on Goodreads are wrong! This book was fabulous!

I have only one complaint about this book, so I will get that over with first... I have to wait a REALLY long time for book #2. There isn't even a release date that I know of. Just 2012. Boo. I need to know what happens next!! Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I can get to all of things I loved about this book...

First of all, this book was so well written. It just flowed. Angelini uses such descriptive language, and by doing so, brings you right into the story. You become invested in the plot, the characters, everything about it. Many authors develop characters in a way that (if you're lucky) you develop a connection to the main character(s), while the supporting characters are just kind of there. Angelini develops all of her characters, even the most minor, so that you feel something for everyone in the book. I love that.

Second, the plot was really good. There were some complaints that a good many liberties were taken with the Greek Mythology portion. I can't confirm or deny that since I'm no Greek scholar, but I can say, "Who the hell cares? It's fiction. A story. And it was GREAT!". I found the plot intriguing and I would get sad every time I would have to put the book down to tend to some domestic duty. It really kept you guessing; was not predictable at all. Of course, there are some things that rang "Twilight-esque" or "Mortal Instruments-y", but I'm starting to feel like any Paranormal Romance I read is going to be that way, so that's forgiven. It wasn't a re-telling of those books, like so many other books out there, it just had some elements. I did love that Helen, the protagonist, was not some weak-willed, whiny Bella. I probably would have put it down if she were. And Lucas (the boy), Yum! He was a little bit Edward-ish, but without the lame parts. I predict he will be a book-crush for many, many girls (and women like me). My favorite supporting character was Hector. He ruled, and I will say no more because of that pesky spoiler thing.

I don't want to give this awesome story away, so I will stop here. I promise, that you will enjoy this book (as long as you're not some nitpicky weirdo who expects the mythology part to be textbook). If you liked Percy Jackson, you'll like this. If you like Twilight, you'll adore this (but if you hated Twilight, don't let that stop you from reading this). If you like kick-butt female characters, you'll like this. If you like stories of against-all-odds young love that have a bunch of action too, look no further.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★+

Grade Level Recommendation: I don't think there was much objectionable content here. No sex, although the romance is pretty intense. Hector hooks up a good bit, and that's mentioned a few times. There is a party or two, involving underage drinking, although our protagonists don't partake. I would say this book is Middle School and up (grades 6+). Ages 11+

Review: L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: June 1st, 2009

In L.A. CANDY, nineteen-year-old Jane Roberts moves to L.A. and unexpectedly becomes the star of a reality T.V. show. With fame comes wealth, hot clothes and even hotter love interests -- and Jane′s lapping it all up with her eclectic entourage of pals who are always up for a wild night out and the chance to get a piece of her spotlight. But soon Jane realizes everyone wants something from her, and nothing is what it seems to be.

L.A. CANDY is a fast-paced, honest and entertaining fictional account of what it′s like to come of age in Hollywood while starring in a reality TV show, written by a girl who has experienced it all firsthand: Lauren Conrad.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

The only reason I picked up this book was because it fit a challenge. I've never watched the television show she's in, but I imagine this is loosely based on that? It seemed very autobiographical, from the little bit I know about her. I honestly expected it to be horrible, and was pleasantly surprised. I didn't hate this book! I didn't love it either, but I didn't expect to. I honestly thought it would be so bad that I couldn't finish. Well, I did finish, and I thought it was pretty good. Will I read further in the series? Maybe. Perhaps I will need another challenge book. It's not something I would clamor to read, but it wouldn't be painful either.  At any rate, I felt like Lauren Conrad did a good job telling her story in a fictional format. The writing was competent, the story moved along at a good pace, and if you like tabloid fodder, it was entertaining. I can see why some teen girls would enjoy this. It's the life many of them dream about.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★

Grade Level Recommendation: Grades 9+ (Ages 14+). There are definitely some things in this book that wouldn't be appropriate for a younger girl. There is MUCH underage drinking in clubs, several instances of "going home" with guys and one night stands. There is a bit of language, but that's never been a sticking point for me after about 5th grade.

Monday, May 30, 2011

In My Mailbox Monday (7)

In My Mailbox (IMM)
was started by The Story Siren a few years back, and is a great way for bloggers to give the books they are reading (or are planning to read) a quick mention. 

Okay, so this week was crazy and I hardly had any time to read with the kids wrapping up their school year and all... That said, I still managed to get a few books on my Kindle and from the library. Now that Summer is here, I have loads of time to read them. Yay me!

Bitter EndBitter End
By Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 10th, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
This looks really good, plus it fits my Contemporary Challenge. :)

By Ryan G. Van Cleave
Publisher: Walker & Company
Publication Date: March 1st, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
My daughter asked to read this one, so I have to preview. Looks "message-y".

The Goddess Test (Harlequin Teen)The Goddess Test
By Aimee Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: April 19th, 2011
Goodreads Synopsis
The reviews for this have been kind of mixed, so I decided to wait my turn at the library. I'm pretty excited to finally have gotten it!

By Kate Kacvinsky
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
Another eagerly anticipated book! Woohoo!

Angel BurnAngel Burn
By L.A. Weatherly
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: May 24th, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
I just love the cover of this one! I didn't actually have a clue what it was about when I requested it, but it sounds awesome... :)

Born at Midnight (A Shadow Falls Novel)Born at Midnight
By C.C. Hunter
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: March 29th, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
The reviews of this have pretty much been great. Enough said.

Divergent (Divergent Trilogy)Divergent
By Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2011
Source: Amazon (Kindle)
Goodreads Synopsis
Another of my most anticipated books for 2011. So very excited to read this!

By Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 26th, 2011
Source: Library
Goodreads Synopsis
This is one of my most anticipated titles of the year. I was going to run right out and buy it, but since I was #1 on the library list, I waited, and it took FOREVER for them to get it into circulation. Excited to finally have it!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yay! It's Summer!! Yay!

It's been so busy around here.  End of school year stuff is finally behind us, as are the team parties, dance recitals, and orchestra concerts.  We still have All-Stars softball and swim team, but even with that, I feel myself starting to relax.  No more homework drama, tests to study for, baggie books (don't ask), or the stress of trying to cram dinner in, somewhere between school, homework, and practice.  I'm so relieved that summer is here.  I know I will be singing a different tune in 2 weeks, but...

I've been a total slacker when it comes to writing reviews the past couple of weeks. I've just had really good books going, and I wanted to spend the rare free moment reading.  Now that my schedule's lightened up some, you can expect a ridiculous number in the upcoming week (and now I have to do it because I wrote it). I plan to review L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad (I know you're on the edge of your seat for that, but it really wan't as bad as one would expect.), Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson, Impulse by Ellen Hopkins, Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini, and Heist Society by Ally Carter. I should also probably finish The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell, My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison, and Abandon by Meg Cabot by the end of the week, so look for those in the near future.

The kids are out of school, and it is time for spending my days poolside with my laptop and a book or playing in my vegetable garden! I love summer! Happy Reading!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Introducing... ME! (An Armchair BEA Kick-off)

Hi All!  First of all, if you were a follower before Armchair BEA, thanks!  The book blogger community has been great and I am looking forward to meeting many more of you.  If you are new to my blog, here's a bit about me...

Who are you?
You would think this would be an easy question, but being the profoundly interesting person that I am, it just so hard... :)

Let's see... I'm 34.  Married to my husband David for 13 years in June.  We have three children.  Emma will be 10 in July, and our twins, Sarah and Benjamin, are six.  I'm a stay-at-home-mom with a background in genetics (if I could go back in time, I would become a middle school librarian though).  I grew up in Upstate NY, right between Rochester and Buffalo, but I detest the cold, so as soon as I could, I headed south.  We spent four years in FL (where I realized that I needed seasons), and have been here, in Purgatory, I mean suburban Atlanta, for the past 11 years.  Eventually I would like to have a big piece if land and some horses in the country, but for now, the suburbs are best for all the things that come with child-rearing...  I'm a die-hard Yankees fan, am in love with Jude Law, and a staunch Libertarian.  I also have a love affair with shoes.

What do you like to do (besides read, of course)?
I have several obsessive hobbies, most of them very dorky, but what can I say?  I love birds and run all over the place trying to add new ones to my "life list".  Currently, I have 218 species on my list.  I'm going to Bermuda this summer, where I hope to pick up 6-8 more. Out of my love of birds came a love of photography.  I'm very amateur, but it's something that has kind of snowballed on me, and I think I'm pretty decent for someone with ZERO training (I don't even know what all the functions on my camera are for).  You can check out my stuff at http://www.flickr.com/photos/kjacobstein/.  I also enjoy gardening.  I have lots of flower gardens, but my real passion is organic vegetable gardening.  There's just something great about knowing that you grew the food that your kids are eating.  We grow lettuce, peas, radishes, carrots, beans, beets, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lots of different squashes and melons, and okra.  It's a lot of work, but the rewards are worth it!  I'm a conservationist.  I love nature and want to see it endure, so I try to educate my kids and neighbors about doing things for the benefit of our ecosystem.  My yard is a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat and we make sure to do all we can to preserve our planet and help it thrive.  I cook and bake a lot.  I also love hiking and camping.  I watch A LOT of softball since both my daughters are obsessive players.

What do you read and why do you blog?
In case the title of my blog didn't clue you in, I read almost exclusively Young Adult books.  This hasn't always been the case, but for the past several years Juvie and YA have been it.  My oldest daughter started chapter books at three, so I always had to be a couple of books ahead of her for content.  Because of my extensive knowledge of kid lit, I was drafted to be a book fair chair at her school, where I handpicked the 1000+ book inventory for the 4th-6th grade and Teen sections.  I also led a book group dedicated to finding the best of the best to highlight.  We wanted to make sure every kid left with books they would love and the feedback has been overwhelming.  They will definitely miss me when we change schools in the fall. ;-)  I blog because my friends and family are sick of listening to me talk about books and I need an outlet... I used to run the blog at Emma's school, and when that run ended, I chose to continue on my own.  I love it.  I think my husband hates it because I don't clean as much as I should and sometimes our kids go hungry when I'm reading/blogging.

Favorite book?
All of them!  There is no way I could really pinpoint it.  I could probably give you one for every genre (maybe), but one favorite? No freakin' way.  Some books I love?  Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Elsewhere, anything by Anne Rice, If I Stay, Incarceron, Animal Farm, Graceling, all of Cassandra Clare's books, The Lorax (really anything by Dr. Seuss), Zorgamazoo, 1984, The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy, anything by Neal Shusterman, and the list goes on...

Why Armchair BEA?
Ideally, I would be there, in the flesh, but this week is just too busy.  It's the last week of school for the monsters.  Add to that the beginning of swim team and All-Stars softball (both of which have practice 2+ hours a day, 6 days a week), team parties for the spring season, class parties, and trying to get my house in order before the kids come home for the summer... Basically, I can't be there because my husband, wonderful as he is, would divorce me if I abandoned him this week.  So, Armchair it is.  I think it will be almost as great as being there.

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