Thursday, June 27, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Last June I was going through a very rough time in my life. I was dealing with a ginormous family emergency and I was trying to move to a new city, locate a new job, help my family as much as possible, and trying to deal with the fact that I would not be going back to graduate school in the fall. I had a rough damn summer in 2012. However, one of my bright spots of that summer was reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. I loved the escape that this book gave me from all of the hardships that I was experiencing in my own life at the time.

Read my full review of Silver Sparrow.

Happy Thursday! I'm actually writing this on Tuesday (and I wrote yesterday's review of Ender's Game on Tuesday as well) since I am set to have my first round of two oral surgeries tomorrow morning. I get to have two wisdom teeth pulled tomorrow and then I get to go back in a week later and have perio scaling and root planning done on three teeth. Despite all that fun oral surgery I'm in for, I'm still having a better summer this year than I did last year! Hopefully when this gets posted I'm not in too much pain and I'll be able to post my Friday Reads tomorrow. I've got to finish Tell The Wolves I'm Home for Book Club and I started Legend by Marie Lu last night and I am desperate to get back to that one as well as starting Cinder by Melissa Meyer. Anyway, happy Thursday and keep reading!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: Ender's Game

Earth has been twice attacked by alien forces known as "Buggers". In response the government has started training children as warriors to defend Earth in the event of another attack. Andrew (Ender) Wiggin is the third child in his family and is the only one drafted to prepare for war as a student in the Battle School located on a ship that orbits the Earth. Ender is a natural leader and he advances quickly which isolates him from his peers. Soon the survival of Planet Earth rests solely in Ender's young hands.

Ender's Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Series: Ender's Saga (Book 1)
Publication Date: 1985
Publisher: Tor Science Fiction
Number of Pages: 324
Where I Got It: Target, Mooresville, NC
Dates I Read It: June 10 - June 16, 2013
Number Of Stars: 5/5
Read For: The Movie's Coming

The first thing that I noticed about this book is how Ender (and really all of the children in the book) thinks and speaks older than a six year old should. At first it was overly distracting for me but as I kept reading I realized that there is so much pressure on the children in this novel.  The children are not allowed to be children- they are expected to be and forced to behave like small adults. Once you can accept that this is the case for children in the future, you can really start to appreciate what these characters have to endure, Ender especially. This kid has the patience of Job; he is constantly bullied and betrayed and yet he perseveres each time. His brother and sister, Peter and Valentine, get their own subplot a little over halfway through the book. I loved this story line as it was very advanced for the time that the book was written-they used the Internet!
All of the characters in the book were very well written. The emotions were raw and exposed through this entire book. Card has a gift for getting readers to feel empathetic even towards some of his most despicable characters. Everyone in this book has a motivation and everyone else knows how to play on those motivations to manipulate.

I am not normally a huge fan of science-fiction books and that is why it has taken me so long to read this book. Confession: I probably would have never read this book if it was never made into a movie. I am so glad that I did get to experience this one, though. I was surprised how how beautifully it was written. It has everything that I look for in a book: excellent character development and a beautiful writing style. Normally I don't care to read about intergalactic warfare but this book was highly engaging. I was blown away by how real it felt. The technology is very accurate so it is hard to believe that this was published in 1985. This book is the grandfather of today's ever popular dystopian fantasy fiction.

Another thing that did trip me up as a first-time reader of science-fiction, there was a lot of battle strategy and political talk which was very difficult to decipher at times and the descriptions of the battle arenas were hard for me to picture. Some of the terminology was way over my head and difficult to pick up and picture. This can become distracting and can interrupt the flow of the book but it is not too hard that it would cause one to give up on the book. If I can make my way through it and enjoy it as much as I did, then surely anyone can do it!

Probably my favorite part of the book is the setting. For seven years I lived in and went to college and graduate school in Greensboro, NC which is where Ender's family lives! Card also lives there and is somewhat of a local celebrity. I also loved the Battle School. As I pictured it in my head while reading I kept picturing it as Serenity from Firefly!

This book was a fun, violent, exciting, action-packed vision of the future with a twist ending that will knock your socks off. I recommend this to everyone who likes to read and I hope that people will read this before the movie so that they can fully experience the ending the way that I did. Five out of five stars!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2013 (So Far)

image from New Adult Addiction
TTT is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish
10. The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

9. The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

7. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

6. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

5. Ender's Game (Ender's Saga Book 1) by Orson Scott Card

4. City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments Book 1) by Cassandra Clare

3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

1. Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Meme: Seven Deadly Sins of Reading Tag

For my first Monday Meme I am going to borrow from a BookTuber. Malyza adapted a tag for reading called the Seven Deadly Sins of Reading. Check out her original video here:

1. Greed: What is the most expensive and the least expensive book that you own?
The most expensive one is probably... hmmm.... my copy of The Joy of Cooking is going for $35... I know, not very exciting, but really I try to buy books used or in paperback whenever possible because I'm poor.

The least expensive one is any of the $1.00 or under books that I have picked up over the years at some of my favorite used bookstores (Ed McKays, The Last Word)

2. Wrath: Which author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
For me this one is defintley Jodi Picoult. I have found that I either love or hate her books. For instance, I LOVED My Sister's Keeper which was the first book of hers that I read and I HATED Perfect Match which was about the fourth or fifth book of hers that I read.

3. Gluttony: What book have you deliciously devoured over and over again?
I have read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman more than once. It's difficult for me to read books more than once though I would love to do a Harry Potter re-read at some point. There are so many books in the world that I find that I feel guilty if I read a book more than once. I feel like by reading that particular book a second time then I have decided NOT to read another book for the first time. It's weird, I know, but it's a tough thing for me to get over so..

4. Sloth: What books have you neglected to read due to laziness?
Les Miserables. So. Huge.

5. Pride: Which books have you talked about the most to sound like an intellectual reader?
Anna Karenina. Yeah, I read it! And that shit was loooooooooooooong!

6. Lust: What attributes do you find the most attractive for male and female characters?
Males: The protective nature that some males have for their friends, family, and leading ladies.

Females: Bad-assery.

7. Envy. What books would you like to most receive as gifts?


Stay tuned tomorrow for the top ten books I've read so far in 2013!

A Post A Day Keeps The Boredom Away!

In my last post (review of A Fault in Our Stars by John Green) I mentioned that I spent last week at the beach with my mom and my aunt. While down there we had a rainy day so we decided to spend that day shopping. I picked up a journal to better keep track of what I'm reading and what I want to do with the blog and since it is finally summer I have decided to work on daily (well at least Monday-Friday) updates. Each day will have a theme and I am hoping that this will help me be more regular and to update even when I don't have a book to review. Here is what I hope to do for each day:

Monday Meme's (tags, lists, etc. from around the interwebs)

Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish)

Wednesday Reviews (reviews, duh)

Throwback Thursday (what I was reading a year ago today)

#FridayReads (what I'm currently reading and my thoughts on it so far)

Viva La Summer!!!

Review: The Fault In Our Stars

Hazel Grace Lancaster has Cancer and even though she has been taking a miracle drug that shrinks the Cancer cells for years, she is still dying. Wanting her to interact with other people, her mother forces her to go to a local Cancer survivor support group. Here she meets a new friend, Isaac and a new love, Augustus, Gus, Waters. The book is Grace and Augusts’ story of falling in love despite the fact that they both suffer from a disease that will ultimately kill them.

The Fault In Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publication Date: 2012
Publisher: Dutton Books
Number of Pages: 318
Where I Got It: Target
Dates I Read It: June 16 & 17, 2013
Number of Stars: 4/5
Read It For: YA Pick- June 2013

I have wanted to read this one for a long time. I've been hearing amaz-ball things about it and it seems that every blog I read and every YouTuber I watch has read, loved and reviewed this book. I am 100% in love with John Green. So, I quit waiting around for the paperback to come out or for the library to get in a copy so I did something that I rarely do- in the hopes of this book being as amazing as everyone kept telling me that it would be, I bought a hardback copy! Last week my mom, my aunt and I went to the beach for a week and this was one of the books that I took. In fact, this was the one book that I read entirely while at the beach (I also finished Ender's Game and started Tell The Wolves I'm Home). I was able to read it in two days partly because it was a YA book which means not as long as an adult fiction book and partly because it was really good. It wasn't the mind-blowing, change-your-life, read-a-million-times book, but it was pretty damn good! As a warning, I'm going to include "spoilers" throughout this review so if you've not read it yet and you want to go into it with fresh eyes, then stop reading now and go pick up your copy. 

So we have a few select characters and I loved each of them. What was so amazing about the characters is that they were still real kids at heart despite these awful diseases that were claiming their bodies. They played copious amounts of video games, they watched copious amounts of mindless television, they dealt with annoying and overbearing parents, they fell in love and they got their hearts broken. I was pretty blown away by the dialogue between the characters. Several of the reviews that I either read or watched for this book also mentioned that the vocabulary and the manner of speaking that the teenagers used was pretty distracting and very unrealistic. Despite the fact that the way of speaking was not entirely true to life, thanks to John Green’s genius, it was still really well done and beautifully written. Another thing that I was somewhat disappointed in was Hazel’s lack of character development. Every other character in the book developed in major ways throughout the course of the story, yet Hazel didn't seem to join any of them and she remained somewhat flat for me for the duration of the book. Hazel was a difficult protagonist for me because she was very likable but she wasn't very believable, especially towards the end. She was confronted with so many dilemmas that I thought for sure that she would grow the most and I was very disheartened when she developed the least. One thing that I adored about this book was the fact that unlike in most YA novels, the parents were not just background figures but they were actual characters in the story themselves with actual plot lines and secrets of their own. Augustus was himself until the end. He was a fully developed character from the beginning and it will be hard for any female reader to not fall in love with him. Isaac was very endearing. If I ever lose my sight I hope that I can take it as well as Isaac does. In typical teenage fashion, he was more preoccupied with a break up! Peter Van Houten is the author of Hazel’s favorite book. I love when writers write about writers. Though we don’t get a great deal of interaction with Peter, he remained true to character and was douchy til the end, yet as readers we can’t fault him for it and I ended up liking him very much.

I really enjoyed the story and french-a-llama if I didn’t cry! I’m grateful to this book because it made me very grateful for what I do have. It was beautifully written and the pacing was well done. I loved how it ended; it was foreshadowed that the book would end this way throughout so I was expecting it (both the events as well as they stylistic choice to end it where he did). At its heart this is a story about falling in love and what it’s like for a teenager to be in love with a dash of disease and death thrown in. Despite what I thought going into the book it is not a book about death or dying or disease, but about living, however brief it may be. It’s about finding yourself or in the case of some of the characters, re-discovering yourself.

Like I said earlier the dialogue was somewhat distracting as it was very unrealistic for teenagers to engage in conversation the way that these characters did. John Green’s writing style is all his own which is to say exceedingly sharp and engaging. What really amazed me in this book was how well he wrote a female protagonist, he did it better than many female writers! Having read Will Grayson, Will Grayson (and loving it) and now being impressed with this novel, I started researching Mr. Green online and I discovered his YouTube channel that he does with his brother, Hank, called Vlogbrothers and if you've not experienced this yet then you have been missing out! I encourage you to leave my blog and stop reading my review and go to watch his videos right now. That’s how good they are! He also does a series called CrashCourse in which he explains significant events in history and literature and science in a humorous and relatable way! After you've watched all of the Vlogbrothers videos and come back here to finish the review, I now encourage you to leave again to go see CrashCourse. And speaking of leaving the blog and going to watch other things I wanted to include Elizzebooks review of the Fault in Our Stars because she is able to capture John Green’s writing style perfectly:

The story was set in Indiana which really didn't matter to me, this was a story that could have been set anywhere in the US and it still would have rang true. The theme is universal and everyone can relate whether they be a Cancer patient, survivor, teenager, or someone in love. At one point in the novel the characters get to go to Amsterdam and I didn't like this part of the book while I was reading it, but after finishing the novel and reflecting on it, this was actually perfectly done. Amsterdam was the best setting for what happens there and it was an amazing crescendo for the characters to climb to before the end of the book.

I am very glad that I finally joined the bandwagon and read this book and I encourage you to as well. There is something that everyone can get from it. It wasn't as earth-shattering as I had hoped, thus the only 4 stars, yet it was terrifically done and beautifully written and it did invoke an emotional reaction from me.

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings."                     –William Shakespeare from Julius Caesar

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: City of Bones

Title: City of Bones (Book #1 in The Mortal Instruments series)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publication Date: 2007
Publisher: McEldery Books
Number of Pages: 485
Where I Got It: Work Library (SMS)
Dates I Read It: May 17 - June 3, 2013
Number of Stars: 3.5/5
Read it For: Just for fun!

Clary Fray is our main female protagonist in the series and one night while out at the Pandemonium club with her BFF Simon she witnesses an altercation that leads to a stabbing between a group of Shadowhunters (Nephilim (1/2 angel, 1/2 human entities)) and a demon. As a human, Clary shouldn't be able to see these beings since all humans are under the influence of glamour which keeps them blind to the magic world that these beings live in. Clary's mom is then kidnapped by the bad guy demon so naturally Clary has to hook up with the Shadowhunters to fight demons, vampires, werewolves, fairies, and each other in order to rescue Mom and to obtain the Mrotal Cup and discover why Clary is immune to the glamour.

I was drawn to this series because of the covers. The covers are beautiful and colorful.I kept shelving these books and each time the books circulated I would think to myself how awesome the covers look. Finally towards the end of school I checked out City of Bones and started reading the series. Good timing too since the movie is coming out in August!

One of my favorite things about this book was the characters. Each character is fully fleshed out and serves his/her/its purpose perfectly- almost, at times, to a fault (unfortunately, sometimes I found the characters a little too predictable). I didn't have a character that I did not like and that I could not relate to, which is rare for me in books, especially lately for some reason. I liked each character for who they were and I connected to each character. Each character is believable and each character has their strengths and weaknesses which definitely added to their believable-ness (not a word). Clary is so immature at times, I get infuriated with some of the decisions Jace makes and I was sympathetic towards Simon and Alec. I am hoping for some extreme development and growth throughout the series, especially in regards to Clary's character.

This book revived my enjoyment of YA books. The dialogue can get a bit odd at times and sometimes it was not very true to nature. At times the book became too lengthy and the 485 pages might scare off some readers, especially younger teen readers. I am more excited for the Infernal Devices series but with the City of Bones movie coming out soon I decided to read this series first. After finishing this book I turned to the BookTube community for reviews and most people recommend readers to read this one first as it addresses and explains several elements of the downworld that the characters inhabit. 

I enjoyed the story, overall. However, I have to say that I am so over the whole paranormal love triangle bit that is plaguing YA literature lately. I am getting a little bit tired of the werewolves and vampires, etc. I did enjoy the fast-pace of the story and I liked how the characters got themselves into some funny, sticky, tricky situations. There was an air of mystery to the novel as we were never really sure what was going on or where Clary's mom really was. The series was only supposed to be a trilogy, but now there are six books. I wonder if this will make the story get messy in books 3-6? One super plus with regards to the story was that it was not confusing and was well explained which doesn't always happen with paranormal fiction. 

The story is set in NYC which was neat as it allowed us to get away from the dystopian setting for a bit. I liked that there was a paranormal story happening in a real life place while the real world spun on. As someone who works with teens I kept getting distracted by wondering how Clary and Simon were able to literally just disappear for days on end? Was this book supposed to be set in the summer when no one would notice that the characters were gone for days at a time? Did they not have to check in to school? I guess I just need to let the teacher in me suspend her disbelief for a bit and flow with the go!

Overall I really did enjoy this book and I am very excited for the next installment in the series, The City of Ashes. I am also pretty excited to see the movie, even though it is coming out in August right when school starts back up- ugh!

Review: The Phantom of the Opera

The Paris Opera House is haunted, everyone knows it. Christine Daae is the new hot ticket at the Opera House and the ghost has set his sights on her. However, Christine's childhood sweetheart is back and is offering the phantom some competition. As this early 20th centruy Perisian love triangle plays out we discover who will eventually win Christine's heart.

Title: The Phantom of the Opera
Author: Gaston Leroux
Publication Date: 1909
Publisher: Pierre Lafitte and Cie.
Number of Pages: 360
Where I Got It: Barnes and Noble- Huntersville, NC
Dates I Read It: May 20 - May 27, 2013
Number of Stars: 3.5/5
Read It For: Classics Club Spin #2, The Classics Club

I actually finished reading this book over a week ago, but I have had no drive to write this review because though the book was good, it just didn't stick with me. As you can see, it only got 3.5 stars from me, and that was generous. It wasn't that this was a bad book, it was just not very memorable for me. This book was #6 on my Classics Club Spin #2 which means that it fell into the category of "books I feel neutral about". I started out feeling neutral about this book and I ended it feeling the same way. It was just as I had expected it to be. I wasn't blown away by it, nor did I hate it, it just was. Am I glad that I read it- not really. Do I recommend it- only perhaps to someone who is seeking a degree in French Literature. It was nothing special, and it was only somewhat entertaining.
Everyone knows the story of the Opera Ghost that haunts the Paris Opera House and falls in love with a beautiful singer yet he is so hideous that he can not be with her in his true form. However, sometimes the writing took on a tedious tone. This is especially true when Leroux goes into long descriptions of the Opera House and all of it's underground tunnels and chambers. Another distraction to me with regards to the writing was that at times it would feel rushed and very disjointed. I would have loved more in depth background information about Erik (the Phantom) and how he ended up the way that he did, both physically as well as emotionally. It was extremely difficult for me to feel any sympathy for Erik. Had the reader been given more information on his motives and perhaps some scenes from his point of view, I think that I would have cared more for him and I would have felt more development happen with his character. I began this book having never seen the musical or any televised translation of the book, expecting to feel sympathetic towards the misunderstood phantom; instead, I ended up loathing him. The phantom turned out to be a manipulative kidnapper with a torture room- who is this guy, Christian Grey?!
One thing that I do have to praise about this book is the fact that aside from the long descriptive passages, the book overall did flow very well, especially for a translation. The book had some great elements of romance and suspense yet there was still something very much lacking for me.