Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I've Got a Vampire Series for You...and it's Better Than Twilight

Yup. I said it. Better than Twilight. And don't get me wrong. I LOVE Twilight; even have my own Team Edward Shirt. But after the initial craziness over Edward and Jacob, there are a few things that annoy me about the series. Like Bella. She's so whiny and insecure. She totally drives me nuts. And, since I'm a total action freak, I was so disappointed when there wasn't an all out battle at the end of book four. Anyway, a friend of mine tipped me off to this new series, which I had never even heard of: Vampire Academy.

Title: Vampire Academy (Book 1)
Frostbite (Book 2)
Shadow Kiss (Book 3)
Blood Promise (Book 4)
Author: Richelle Mead
Reading Level: YA
Rating: between 4 and 5 (since I'm rating all 4 together here)
Summary: After two years on the run, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger...and Strigoi are always close by. Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever... (taken from the back of Book 1)
Review: I must first say that I LOVED THESE BOOKS! And I'm pretty sure you will too, especially if you're into vampires, love and action. So I actually don't want to give too much away and it's a bit hard for me to review book 1 only considering I read all four but I will say that Mead does an excellent job blending intricately detailed fantasy with a contemporary setting; teen-relevant issues and a great cast of characters. Rose is a far more interesting character than Bella. Tough, a bit edgy and a serious bad-a. Much more my style. :0) And for those of you who love the love, there is some seriously good stuff going on in these novels. :0) I almost died at the end of book 3! So, lest I give anything else away, I'll stop here. So, if you're looking for an awesome summer read, check out Vampire Academy. :0) By the way, Spirit Bound (Book 5) is being released May 18th and the final book of the series Last Sacrifice will be released December 7th.
Oh, and I'm sorry again for not posting in so long. I had to get my lil' guy through surgery number two and it took some time to get back in the swing of things.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unwind, Plus a Few Others...

Title: Unwind
Author: Neal Shusterman
Reading Level: YA
Rating: 5 (because the concept blew my mind!)
Summary: This harrowing novel is set in the years following the second civil war in the United States, known as the "Heartland War." Shusterman imagines a world in which today's debate over abortion ultimately lead to armed conflict between the pro-life and pro-choice armies. And just as there is no clear winner to the argument today, the two sides come to a compromise that fails to adequately address the situation. As a result of the agreement, human life is inviolable until the age of 13, at which point any children who are unwanted can be effectively and retroactively aborted. They're not exactly killed, however. Thanks to recent medical advances, every single body part is donated to those who need (or who can at least afford) them; thereby allowing that child to continuing living on, simply in a different form. This process is known as unwinding.
At the beginning of the novel, three teens are set to be unwound: Connor - a trouble making teen whose parents have signed the irreversible unwind order. Risa - a ward of the state who is not quite talented enough to continue her life as is. And Lev - a boy who is being offered up as a tithe.
Review: As I stated before, this book totally blew my mind, specifically for the concept. I'm all about a good thought-provoking, controversial, arouse some serious discussion novel. And this is definitely that. I'd love to see what a group of teenagers would do with this one. I mean, it's all there: political issues, war, coming of age, oppression, standing up for what you believe in. And it's easily attractive to both guys and girls. The characters were well-developed and the book itself was well-written and moved at a fast pace. And yes, it's a bit creepy, but I seriously give Shusterman props for creating such a thought-provoking novel.

~ And here are just a few of the others I've read over the past couple of months; in abbreviated form:

Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Reading Level: Adult
Rating: 5
Summary: click here
Review: I've been meaning to read some of the classics I somehow missed while in school and let me say that Jane Eyre was just beautiful; the writing, the love story, everything. Yes, it took me about 50 pages with a dictionary before I was used to the 1800's English, but after that I was simply awed at the description and use of the English language. I wish we still spoke that way. If you've never read it, please do. It defines the term "classic."

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Reading Level: Adult
Summary: click here
Rating: 3.5
Review: This one was nominated as the top book of 2009. It's a story of three women in 1960's Mississippi, and how their lives intertwine. It's a lovely story set during the Civil Rights movement. Though some character development was lacking, it was a good first novel for Stockett.

Title: Beautiful Creatures
Author: Kami Gacia & Margaret Stohl
Reading Level: YA
Rating: 4
Summary: click here
Review: I really enjoyed it. A love story with magic. And the beginning of a trilogy. Could it be the next Twilight?

Title: Three Cups of Tea
Author: Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
Reading Level: YA - Adult
Rating: 4
Summary: click here
Review: A beautiful account of one man's mission to change the lives of young girls in the small Pakistani village of Korphe. Want to be inspired? Read this!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Hunger Games

Ok, so let me start with the two I just finished - simply because they're fresh and because they so completely rocked my mind. I finished each (since they're a series) in one day; burning through the night, ignoring my child, reading while cooking and while my kid took a bath. Please don't judge. Books just kind of do that to me sometimes. Even Stephenie Meyer was quoted saying she brought Hunger Games with her to dinner and read under the table! Anyway, here they are:

Title: The Hunger Games; Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Reading Level: YA
Rating: AMAZING!
Summary: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen- year- old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games...Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Review: W-O-W! This book totally blew me away. I could NOT put it down! And even when I finished, I couldn't get it out of my head. The story was excellently told, and constantly moving. And once the Games began, it was just awesome. I really don't want to give anything away, so all I can say is to go get it and read it! ASAP! And if you love books like I do, get it in hardback. It's totally worth it. :0) Book 2 is just as good and I am anxiously waiting for the final book of the trilogy due out in August. My only complaint is that there's an Edward-Bella-Jacob triangle that annoys me. Those never turn out well.
If you've got a reluctant reader, these books could get him/her interested. I'd definitely put it on the summer reading list for my high schoolers if I was still teaching. It's a great war, coming of age story.
So, check it out. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Ok, I'm Back...

Man, it has been a crazy few months. I never intended to stop posting, but sometimes life just has a way of making you crazy! And though I haven't posted, I HAVE been reading, and some definite winners too. Um, Hunger Games seriously rocked! But more on that later. Just give me a day or two to remember all the books I've read in the last few months and I'll post my reviews here along with some other challenges I've joined. See ya soon!

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm Joining Booking Mama's Shelf Discovery Challenge!

Ok, I couldn't be more excited about this challenge hosted by Booking Mama! It stemmed from the new book by Lizzie Skurnick called Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. It's a "reading memoir," as Booking Mama describes, that features over 70 MG and YA classics all with Skurnick's unique impressions. The pieces included are so great and totally bring me back to my young gal years with authors like Judy Blume, whom I completely adored :0)

So, as part of the challenge I must list the 6 books I'm going to read over the next 6 months. I'm all giggles just thinking about reading some of these. Oh, to be a kid again... Anyhow, some I've read before and some I haven't but know I should have so...here they are:

A Wrinkle in Time by Medeleine L'Engle - I love this piece. Such a classic and one I haven't read in a long time.

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume - I can't believe I actually haven't read this one! I know, how could I have missed it?

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett - I remember reading this book over and over as a girl. And the movie too. I watched it like a hundred times. I actually still have the VHS.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews - I remember this piece really affecting me as a kid. And a few of my students re-read it over the summer as part of their summer reading and they had quite a lot to say about it. So, I'm excited to go back a read it, especially with such a different perspective now.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - Another one I somehow missed!

The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts - Again, loved this one.

Ok, so there they are! My challenge is set. To find out who else is participating in the Shelf Book Challenge and to sign up yourself, visit Booking Mama! And if you're curious to see which other classics are included in Shelf Discovery click here!

Some Lit. For The Kiddies...

It's been some time, I know, but my lil' one had surgery and so I devoted all my time to him these past two weeks. Anyhow, spending that time with my lil' man reminded me how much I adore children's lit. Even took some classes in college. So, I figure I'll review some here for any moms (or dads) who are looking for some great pieces (old and new) to read to their kids...

This first piece comes from John Burningham, the man behind the masterpiece classic picture book Mr. Grumpy's Outing. It offers an answer to a common childhood mystery: Where do pet cats go when they leave the house? Little Marie Elaine, curious to find the answer, follows her kitty Malcolm into the city one special night. The covert trek leads to a night of fantastical discoveries and adventure. The story is whimsical and the artwork beautiful. An elegant trip into the imagination.
THE INFO: It's A Secret by John Burningham. (Candlewick) Ages 3-6
A couple others your child may like:

Japanese Children's Favorite Stories by Florence Sakade and Yoshisuke Kurosaki (Tuttle).
~All of these short stories teach smart lessons. A great way to encourage discussion and talk with your child about the meanings afterwards.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)
~ A spellbinding mystery with very cool filmlike illustrations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In celebration of National Reading Group Month (October), the Women's National Book Association has, for the first time, named 9 Great Group Reads. These books were chosen for their appeal to reading groups and their ability to generate lively discussion. "The committee also made a conscious decision to focus its attention on under-represented gems from small presses and lesser-known mid-list releases from larger houses." In other words, the books chosen here are listed to help book lovers find excellent reads that may be overlooked by the national bestseller hoopla. :0)

So here are the books on the inaugural Great Group Reads list:

Resources for and details on all the titles can be found at the National Reading Group Month website. So, if you host a book club or would simply like some good books to read, check out the site. Happy reading!