Thursday, March 31, 2011

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Genre: Young Adult/Steampunk

Author: Scott Westerfield is most known for writing The Uglies Series and The Midnighters. Or, at least, that's what I know him best for. He was born in Texas and now lives in New York City and Sidney.In 2001 he married another author, Justine Larbalestier. He has also written Peeps (I have no read yet but want to) and Evolution's Darling (I have never heard of).

Synopsis: This story is steampunk (alternate history). This one is based during WWI. It is about a.... well.... I found the book trailer which will explain it a lot better than I can. it's a bit complex. ;)

Review: I have never read Steampunk before. This was a first for me but I really enjoyed it. There was no language (well, Deryn cussed a few times but they were made up cuss words like "Blister!!" and odd things like that) and it was very clean. There is some violence because they're in the middle of a war. It was a page turner for me. I loved the "beasties" (the fabricated creatures the Darwin people had) and I totally recommend this book to anyone. It was definitely awesome but I wouldn't expect anything less from Scott Westerfield. :)

Rating:***** Five Stars

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Other Life by Ellen Meister

Genre: Fiction

Author: Ellen was born in Bronx, NY. She graduated with Magna Cum Laude in English from the State University of New York in Buffalo. Today, she lives in Long Island, NY with her husband and 3 children. (For a full bio go here.)

Synopsis: The author has a book trailer. I thought I'd just put that up here. :)

THE OTHER LIFE by Ellen Meister from Ellen Meister on Vimeo.

Review: Let me just be honest. When I was a child I was diagnosed with ADD, dyslexia and reading comprehension problems. Therefore, books have to be very interesting to hold my attention. I had a bit of trouble with this book. It was everyday issues with everyday problems and I had a hard time getting into it. It wasn't much of a page turner for me. I like the author's style of writing though. It was clear and I could totally understand it and connect with the character. I just had a hard time getting into it. I got through chapter 11 or 12 then flipped to the back and read the final chapter and the epilogue and followed everything that was happening. I felt like I missed nothing. She has gotten raving reviews from lots of people though so I'm sure that I missed a lot. I just had a hard time getting into it. There was some harsh language in it as well.

Rating: ** Two Stars

The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman

Genre: Young Adult

Author: See review for Practical Magic.

Synopsis: Rain was born out of sorrow with the strength of 50 men. She was also the queen-to-be of the Amazon women. This is a coming of age story of a girl who was bred to be a warrior yet feels compassion and mercy to those who should be her enemy. She meets a young man and has a little brother who help show her the way to learning her true destiny and finding her own way.

Review: I heard so many great reviews on Alice Hoffman and after reading Practical Magic I thought I'd give her another try. I decided to go with a young adult book because of the amount of language in Practical Magic. I am proud to say that there was no bad language (or very little) in this book. I am sorry to say that it was a similar writing style that continued to make me feel distant from the characters. There was still no connection to them at all. It was a fun story though and I did enjoy it. I just wish I had a better understanding of the main characters in this story.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Genre: Fiction/Magic Realism

Author: "Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

"Hoffman’s first novel, PROPERTY OF, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become PROPERTY OF, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff’s magazine, American Review.

"Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of sixteen novels, two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, HERE ON EARTH, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte’s masterpiece Wuthering Heights. PRACTICAL MAGIC was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, AT RISK, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Hoffman’s advance from LOCAL GIRLS, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. BLACKBIRD HOUSE is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman's recent books include AQUARMARINE and INDIGO, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers THE RIVER KING, BLUE DIARY, THE PROBABLE FUTURE, and THE ICE QUEEN. GREEN ANGEL, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and THE FORETELLING, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. This fall Little Brown published the teen novel INCANTATION, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, SKYLIGHT CONFESSIONS, a novel about one family’s secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Hoffman’s first novel.

"Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay “Independence Day,” a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Weist. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel AQUAMARINE was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts." (Info cam from here.)

Synopsis: This story was about two sisters, Gillian and Sally Owens who were orphaned when they were young and raised by their aunts in Massachusetts.Their aunts were outcasts of the town because of their powers. The sisters' own powers start to surface which makes them determined to leave the little town where everyone knows them as "witches" and to fit into "normal" society. The sisters go in their separate ways. They are only reunited when trouble strikes and they are forced to all work together and embrace their magic to overcome the trouble in their own backyard. 

Review: The movie was one of my favorites growing up and I was sure the book would be just as good if not better. It seems like I should have learned by now that movies are often nothing like the books. Practical Magic was not an exception to this rule. I didn't like the writing style in this. The way it was written felt like the majority of it was back-story. I didn't get any detail or feel like I was there with the characters. There was no chance to connect to the characters in the story and that's very important to me. Not to mention the intense language that kept popping up in the story.

Rating: ** Two Stars

The Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking

Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal

Author: "Austin, MN, United States  Obsessive tweeter. John Hughes mourner. Unicorn enthusiast. Fraggin Aarvarks guitarist. Muppet activist." This is what the author wrote about herself on her blog here. I thought it was so great, I didn't want to reword it. =o)

Synopsis: These books are actually about trolls. I know, weird. I totally wasn't expecting that one. Wendy Everly grew up with her brother and aunt because her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her when she was six years old. At 17, Wendy meets a young man named Finn who introduces her to a whole new world where she learned that perhaps her mother was right.

Review: I loved this story line and I loved that there were no vamps or werewolves in it. Just a lot of trolls. This is another paranormal romance. It is a bit predictable however there are some twists that threw me for a loop. I totally didn't expect them. Amanda Hocking is a self published author. For a self published book, this was an awesome read! It would have been better if she had an editor. There were times that I was wrapped up in the story experiencing a new adventure and then there was a typo or a sentenced structured incorrectly and I was ripped out of the fictional world back to reality to decipher what she was saying. I always figured it out but it was a bit distracting. It was a very fun story though and if you're into paranormal romance and can get over the editing mistakes then I completely recommend this book! =o)

Rating:  *** Stars (because it was a bit cliche and needed editing.)

Room by Emma Donoghue

Genre: Fiction

Author: Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. Since the age of 23, Donoghue has earned her living as a full-time writer. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 she settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner and their son and daughter. (Info came form here.)

Synopsis: This book is written from the view point of five-year-old Jack. Room is all he's known, it's home. However, his Ma remembers what it was like to be free of her prison where she has been for seven years. Ma wants her son to have more than just one room. He's content but he doesn't know anything else so she plans an escape that relies solely on her five year old son and his bravery to save them. If it does work then will Jack survive the real world out of the confines of his safe home in Room?

Review: I didn't think that I would like this book. It's not my style... it's too real. I mean, it's about a woman who was kidnapped for 7 years and has a child while being held prisoner in an 11'x11' room. Does that sound like something I'd like to read? To make it worse, it's told from the point of view of her 5 yo son. Honestly, there were moments when I just wanted to pick up my 5 year old and hold him and cry over him. Despite the sad parts of this book it was an excellent read. It's a story of a mother and son who manage to pull together to make it through adjusting to life in the outside world despite their sudden jump to fame and having to deal with people and sunlight. Poor Jack had never seen anything except the inside of that room. I LOVED this story!! :)Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a 5 year old to go and cuddle. :)

Rating:  **** Four Stars

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

Genre: Non-fiction/Parenting

Author: Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Peggy is a graduate of Oberlin College and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, filmmaker Steven Okazaki, and their daughter, Daisy Tomoko. (Info came from here.)

Synopsis: This book discusses the way that girls are being sexualized now. It discusses how girls transform from sweet princesses to demanding, selfish divas. Granted, not all girls do this but a large percentage of them seem to and this book goes into the way media and home life play a part in the psychology of the girls in today's society.

The title to this book caught my attention while I was walking through Books-A-Million. I came back home and looked it up on my NookColor and found out I could buy the e-book for less than half the price so I got it. It’s a very interesting read written like a blog post with its funny anecdotes thrown in randomly. I love blogs so I didn’t mind it even though others may. This book is about the princess phenomenon that is dominating our female society. This, ‘give-me-now attitude’ and ‘need for attention’ and ‘desire to be beautiful’ and that ‘if you’re not the center of attention and always beautiful then you won’t get your man’ view that seems to be taking over the pre-tween, tween and teen girls. Very interesting!
One quote says, “Princesses avoid female bonding. Their goals are to be saved by a prince, get married, and be taken care of for the rest of their lives. Their value derives largely from their appearance. They are rabid materialists… And yet… parents cannot resist them.”
One point that it brought up was really interesting. It discussed how boys are often complimented on their intelligence. For example, “You are so smart!” But girls are often complimented on their beauty, “You are so pretty.” “You are beautiful.” What are we implying to our children? This really hit home b/c as I observed my own actions I realized that this was true with my own interactions with my son and daughter. I have fixed this however. :)
“Gender [roles] really is all a bunch of socially constructed hooey.”
In it was a section that showed the difference in girls priorities in the last 100 years. Below are two New Year’s resolutions from two teenage girls. The first was in the turn of the nineteenth century:
“‘Resolved: to think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversations and actions. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others.’
And the contemporary girl:
‘I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can… I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got new haircut, good makeup, new clothes and accessories.’”
This book covered the affects of internet use in girls today, Miley Cyrus and other big name girls that end up being our daughters’ idols and the real examples they set for our girls. Something I found interesting was that a lot of these girls had no imagination. That is something that I want to make sure that my kids have -- an imagination. I found some fun toys called Papo Figurines (mentioned in the book). There are princesses in them but there are TONS of others. They aren’t too expensive and they require children to use their imaginations. I really like the idea of getting them for my kids.
Anyways, if you have a daughter then I TOTALLY recommend reading this book. It was tons of fun and gave me a good view of how the media plays a role on my daughter growing up too fast and becoming self-centered. I want my children to have empathy, an imagination, and want to better themselves from the inside out. Hopefully I will be able to help guide them in the right ways so they can be their best! :)

Rating: ***** FIVE Stars

Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead

Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal

Author: "I write urban fantasy novels for both teens and adults, drink a lot of coffee, and am convinced my neighbors are ex-KGB spies. I also think music was perfected in the 1980s. But not clothing." (Info came from here)

Synopsis: This is a 6 book series and yes, it's about vampires. There are three types of vamps -- you have the damphirs. They are half human and half vampire. They do not require blood to survive. In fact, there isn't much "vampire" left in them. They are strong and are generally used as body guards to another group of vampires called the Moroi. This group of vampires are like the nobility of the vampire world. They are closer to the stereotype -- the sun weakens them and they have to have blood to remain strong but they don't kill the humans they drink from. If they do kill a human then they become a Strigoi. Strigoi are the evil bad guys of the series. They are the wicked vamps who kill everyone and are destroyed by sunlight. They are super strong so the damphirs even have trouble fighting them. The Moroi also have powers. They can control the elements -- fire, earth, air, water or spirit. Spirit users are rare but one of the main characters of the story, Vasalisa or Lisa as she is commonly called. She is best friends with Rose, a dhampir who is constantly kicking butt to save the Moroi from the Strigoi. The stories are very complex with romance, violence, politics and some heavy teen subjects. 

Review: Okay, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about the series... I mean, seriously, another books about vamps? But, as soon as I got started I was sucked into the story line and my poor children didn't have an adult playmate for a while. hehe! Don't worry, I dressed and fed them if you're concerned. These were excellent books that will certainly keep the reader turning the page. There was mild language.

Rating: ***** FIVE Stars 

Bonus: A friend of mine does book reviews on youtube and here's her book review on the series.

Fade by Lisa McMann

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy

Author: Lisa McMann was born in Holland, Michigan. She moved to Arizona in 2004 and resides there with her husband and two boys. She enjoys cooking, reading, swimming and hanging out with her family. She also enjoys watching reality TV. Writing has been her dream since the fourth grade.

The idea for The Dream Catcher Series was inspired by a dream. She dreamed that she was in her husband's dream (about rainbows and kittens) and this story spiraled from there.

Other books by Lisa McMann include Wake, Fade, and Gone (all part of The Dream Catcher Series) and Cryer's Cross

Synopsis: This is the sequel to Wake. The series is about a young woman, Janie, who can go in other people's dreams. She works with the police department to help solve crimes but while doing that she's learning more and more about her "gift" and what the long term affects will be on her. Needless to say, it's a little bit scary.

Review: This was a fun read. It was quick and one of those that I just couldn't keep my nose out of. There is some heavy language in it however which prevented me from giving it five stars. However, I think that the story line is great. There is no puppy love that seems to be prominent in today's young adult novels so that was refreshing. The teenager working for the police seemed a bit far fetch but, hey, it's fiction! :)

Rating: **** Four Stars