Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book Review: Cress, by Marissa Meyer @marissa_meyer

I love The Lunar Chronicles more and more with each book. Cress keeps the overall tension going in the world, while introducing us to new characters to fall in love with.

The fairy tale that Cress is related to is Rapunzel. Cress's tower is a spaceship, and her wicked mother that keeps her there is a Lunar thaumaturge. In fact, she's the head thaumaturge, serving the Lunar Queen. Cress has been stuck on this spaceship for seven years. She's an excellent hacker and she's supposed to be locating Cinder for the Lunar Queen. But, she's sympathetic to Cinder and is trying to keep Cinder and her companions from detection.

This all blows up of course, and Cress escapes from bondage but ends up in a test of survival in the dessert with Thorne.

Meanwhile, Kai is going to marry the Lunar Queen to save the earth. But Cinder has no intention of letting that happen, so she's figuring out a way to stop the wedding and take over Luna.

All the old characters are back, and they end up together working on a complicated plan to save the Earth. It's just wonderful. I couldn't put Cress down, and even though it's over 500 pages, they just FLEW by.

I can't recommend this series enough. I love ALL the characters, even the evil ones. I love the technology, and the political aspects, and the creative plotting. It's just a fantastical story. Cress,as well as Cinder and Scarlet, is so loosely related to the original fairy tale that I hesitate to call these stories "retellings." The connections between the fairy tales and these stories are just purely entertaining.

I cannot recommend this series enough. Meyer is truly creative. I can't wait for the next book, because really, there's a lot that hasn't been resolved yet. And I'm glad, because that means we get MORE Lunar Chronicles books!

Published by Feiwel and Friends, February 4, 2014
ARC obtained from Around the World ARC Tours
550 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Review: Independent Study, by Joelle Charbonneau @jcharbonneau

I am just as fascinated by Independent Study as I was by The Testing. Charbonneau continues to put these teens to the test in an interesting and creative dystopian world.

Our main character, Cia, is at the university and finishing up her first year by taking a test that will indicate which of the five areas will become her life's career. Cia really enjoys science, and hopes to be chosen for Mechanical Engineering. Her least favorite choice is Government. So of course she gets Government. At least she didn't fail the text, because those that do are "Redirected from the University."

Cia has become more and more disillusioned about the entire testing procedure and her university education. Even though her memory was supposed to be wiped, she is remembering more and more about The Testing, and what she remembers is horrifying. Some of her classmates were murdered, and she is afraid that "redirection" produces the same result.

Cia goes to live in the Government dorm, where she faces difficult initiation challenges with some old and new characters. She survives the challenges, but not all of her classmates do, and is assigned an internship (which is yet another challenge.) She feels those in charge of her education are trying to eliminate her, since they have given her nine classes -- she knows of no one else who has more than seven classes.

Cia figures out more and more about the realities of the government and the testing procedure, and all of it makes her want to run away. But, of course, she doesn't.

Cia is such a strong character. And although her relationship with Tomas is also tested, it appears their love is going to survive. At least for now. The new characters add a totally new aspect to the world. There are local students now in the mix that haven't gone through the testing. Cia continues to remember her father's words, "Don't trust anyone." But, to accomplish her goals of taking down the testing procedure she has to have help. Who can she trust, if anyone?

A large part of Independent Study is taken up by a frightful initiation procedure that Cia must survive in order to continue her studies. While I found the tests to be exciting, interesting, and dangerous, this part of the book really doesn't advance the plot at all. I would have rather spent more time with Cia in full-on "take out the government" mode than all that time trying to get through this hazing. This aspect does serve to help the reader get to know the new characters, though.

I'm excited to continue this series. I find it similar to The Hunger Games, of course, but not copy-cat. There are enough unique elements to The Testing that set it apart. I will excitedly recommend Independent Study to my students (as long as they have already read The Testing.)

Published by HMH BFYR, Januray 7, 2014
eBook obtained from Edelweiss
320 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 "Books You Can Read in a Day" Reading Challenge

You can grab this button for your post. If you want to link back to this post, copy the code from the button on the sidebar.
I've hosted this challenge for a couple of years, with little participation. But because I want to keep track of these books myself, I'm offering it again -- even if I'm the only participant. Feel free to participate if you are interested.

I seem to have a lot of little, short books that are being added to my TBR. And there are also some old classics that are short that I still haven't found time to read. So....I'm challenging myself. And, so of course, I'm going to offer the challenge to you too.

What can you read in a day? Well, that's kind of up to you to decide. I don't want to be too rigid about this -- it's supposed to be fun. Most of the books I've chosen are less than 200 pages. However, if it's a novel in verse, it could be longer. Any size graphic novel will probably work. And, if you don't make it in a day, don't beat yourself up. You can still count it if it takes a little longer (not, of course, if it takes several days, though.)

Rules:

You don't need a blog to participate. But you probably need a Goodreads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing account. Someplace you keep track.

Audio (if you can listen in a day) and ebooks are OK.

Books must be adult, YA, or middle school books. No children's or picture books allowed.

No re-reads, however you can count books read for this challenge towards other challenges in which you are participating

Copy the button, create a sign up post and post the link below.

Not required, but very helpful if you would follow my blog. That way, when I do update posts, you will be aware so you can link to them.

Please post at least a few books that you intend to read for this challenge (that my help others add to their lists), but feel free to update your list as the year goes on.

Challenge goes from January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014

Levels:

Level 1 - Read 15 books
Level 2 - Read 25 books
Level 3 - Read 35 books
Level 4 - Read 50+ books


I am going for Level 2. In 2013 I BARELY made that, but I'm going to try for 25 books again. I'm hoping I'll get some ideas from all of you. These are in no particular order, and you will see they are the ones from last year's list that I still haven't got to!

1.  Animal Farm by Orwell
2. Locomotion by Woodson
3.  From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by Konigsburg
4. The Alchemist by Coehlo
5.  This is What I Did by Ellis
6. Blank Confession by Hautman
7. If I Grew Up by Strasser
8. How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Standiford
9. Jumped by Williams-Garcia
10. Chasing Brooklyn by Schroeder
11. Scars by Ranfield
12. Things a Brother Knows by Reinhardt
13. I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Schroeder
14. Tighter by Griffin
15. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Wilde 






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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Review: Perfect Scoundrels, by Ally Carter

Normally, I don't post reviews on Saturday, but I just HAD to get one more review in before the end of 2013! Also, I didn't get ANY books this week, not even for Christmas, so I have no Stacking the Shelves post for today. Enjoy your weekend!

I love the Heist Society books and Perfect Scoundrels is no exception.

This time the heist is more personal. Kat is trying to save Hale. You see, he's inherited the family business, but Kat has been led to believe that the will was not valid. She needs to find the real will. Since Hale is a minor, the company will be run by a trustee, Garrett, until Hale is 25.  But Kat knows that Garrett cannot be trusted.

That's the set up, but things don't go as planned, and there are a lot of surprises. All the old characters are back to help Kat, and a few new ones. I love how these books always make you think all is lost, but somehow they manage to pull it off.

I love Kat. She's feisty and smart. I love Hale. He's mysterious and cute. Although Kat and her crew travel all over the world, the settings are not that important. These books are all about the plot. And, also about figuring out Hale's first name (which isn't revealed in Perfect Scoundrels!) Their romance does move forward, but still doesn't take over the book.

Perfect Scoundrels is a rip-roaring, fun ride that never stops. It reads quickly and makes you feel good at the end. All is well -- at least for the time being! I wouldn't call these books predictable -- there are too many surprises -- but they have a familiar rhythm, ala Oceans Eleven. And to me, that's a plus. The series doesn't need to be read in order, but the prior heists are referred to, so I recommend reading Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals first.

Published by Disney Hyperion, February 5, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
328 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 4/5





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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Book Review: Warrior, by Ellen Oh

When I finished Prophecy, the first book in The Dragon King Chronicles, I wasn't sure I would continue with the series. But when I had the chance to get an advanced review copy of Warrior, I just couldn't pass it up.  Maybe I should have.

My problems with Warrior mostly has to do with my taste in books.  There's a lot of fantasy in these book. To me, it's over the top. I like my fantasy more realistic, I guess. Like Harry Potter. I really was frightened for those characters. I felt the tension and believed their terror. Even though they used magic, it didn't seem to come easily.

In each of these books our main character, Kira, must go on a quest to find a magical object to save the world. She's trying to fulfill the Dragon King's prophecy. She's also in charge of protecting the young prince who is destined to be the next king.

The objects are supposed to be impossible to reach, of course. With every challenge she faces, there are always fantastical magical things that make it possible for Kira and her group to escape. I never had the slightest doubt that her quest would be successful. It was just a question of what magical creature or object would appear to rescue her or tell her what to do to achieve her goal. The demons attack several times, and even when Kira is convinced she is about to meet her demise, I never believed it. Its FANTASY. So just call in the magic.

There's nothing wrong with the writing. The pacing keeps moving and I never felt like it was moving too slow. The main characters are distinct, and you do want them to succeed. But, after about 2/3 through the book, I just started skimming to see how it ended. The ending did not surprise me. It was pretty much as predicted.

I didn't hate this book. I knew going in that it was a long shot, just because of the genre, so this is a case of "it's not you, it's me."

If you enjoyed Prophecy, then by all means you want to get your hands on Warrior. If you haven't started the series, you should start with Prophecy first, and you should really enjoy books about otherworldly creatures and magical happenings. Because this series is all about the fantasy elements.

Published by HarperTeen, December 31, 2013
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
336pages

Rating: 2.5/5





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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!



May you experience all the joys of the holiday season!






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Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

I've been wanting to read And Then There Were None for a long time. I wanted to know how ten people, all alone on an island, can all end up dead!

It's Agatha Christie, so of course it's well written. We are introduced to the ten characters as they make their way to the island. And then they mysteriously end up dying, one at a time.

I won't say too much more about the plot. I can't imagine anyone figuring it out. And, yes, Christie DOES give you the explanation at the end.

And Then There Were None is a very quick read too. It reads easily and is difficult to put down.

If you haven't read And Then There Were None, you should check it out. Especially if you are a mystery fan. Christie is the best.

Published by HarperCollins, 2009 (originally published in 1939)
eBook obtained from the Library
272 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 5/5





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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Stacking the Shelves: My Pile for the Holiday Break

I'm off work for almost two weeks, so I grabbed some books off the library shelves that I've been wanting to read. And, I also got a review book from NetGalley.

For Review:


We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart, from NetGalley

This is an edit: a late addition I forgot when I originally posted this! How could I forget:

Cress, by Marissa Meyer, from Around the World ARC Tours

From the Library:

Perfect Scoundrels, by Ally Carter

Champion, by Marie Lu

In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters

A Million Suns, by Beth Revis

That should keep me busy. Especially since I usually knit or crochet something over break too! So, what did you bring home this week? Are you going to have extra time during the holidays for reading? Leave me a link. Please make sure you visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews too. Happy Holidays!




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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: The Perfect Christmas, by Debbie Macomber

If you're in the mood for a warm Christmas romance, then The Perfect Christmas is sure to satisfy.

Cassie is desperate to find a husband and start a family. When she gets a Christmas card from a college friend with a picture of her perfect husband and perfect children, Cassie is willing to try anything. So, when her best friend Angie tells her about a professional matchmaker, Cassie is willing to fork over the $30,000 required for a guaranteed happy family.

There aren't really any big surprises here. It's fairly obvious from the first meeting with Simon, the matchmaker, how this story is going to end. Angie has a secret romance going on too -- and it's also abundantly clear who the guy is.

But...it just doesn't matter. The romance is cute and heartwarming. And it takes place during Christmas. Cassie learns a lot about herself along the way, and for such a short book, I really became attached to her.

Don't hesitate to sit down by the Christmas tree for a couple of hours and get lost in The Perfect Christmas. Really...it doesn't take any time to read. I've read several Macomber books and, while I couldn't survive on them, I really enjoy her stories once in a while when I feel like snuggling up with a book.

Published by Mira, 2009
Copy obtained from a friend
232 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3/5





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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review: The Red Queen, by Philippa Gregory

Even though I really enjoyed the story of The Red Queen, I really didn't like our main character, Margaret.

The story covers the life of Margaret Beaufort from 1453 to 1485. She is a Tudor (and she'll never let you forget it.) She spends her entire life trying to get her son to be the King of England -- sparing nothing.

As a child, Margaret believes she has a calling from God to be an Abbess. Her mother laughs because Margaret is royalty, and she will marry whomever her parents see fit. Her first marriage produces an heir, Henry Tudor, but he is never raised by his mother. His father dies, and his mother is betrothed to another man. Henry is left in the care of his uncle.

The entire time, Margaret believes she gets messages from God that tell her to do everything to make Henry the king. Even when the Yorks take over England, Margaret still vows that some day Henry will be king. She pretends to follow the Yorks, she plots and plans and cajoles people to do her bidding...even to the point of determining that some people must be killed. ALL in the name of GOD!

The societal norms at this time are just so hard to relate to. The royal lineage meant everything. The most important thing was to be in the good graces of the current rulers (which seem to change on a regular basis, and mostly in very violent confrontations.)

Margaret is extremely whiny and conceited. She has a self-important attitude that is abrasive. She spends hours each day on her knees in prayer, and therefore believes that God's will is that she do anything to make Henry the king. Funny how that works.

So, I didn't like Margaret, but I was mesmerized by the setting and the court intrigue. Also, very thankful I don't live during that time. What a mess.

I so appreciate the research that Gregory does for her books. And the fact that what she writes, even though historical, is still very entertaining. I did get confused about all the royal lineage and all the people that are mentioned. Margaret keeps track of how many steps Henry is from the throne -- and it changes so often. There's a family tree at the beginning of the book that is very helpful.

If you like reading historical fiction from this time period. The Red Queen is not to be missed. And really anything by Gregory is a must read for historical fiction fans.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2010
ARC won (a long time ago) from Carrie @ In the Hammock Book Reviews
387 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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