Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Thoughts On: Dark Souls by Paula Morris

Dark Douls by Paula Morris
Published by Point
Publish Date:  August 1, 2011

292 Pages
My Source:  ARC/Borrowed

Dark Souls by Paula Morris 

Welcome to York, England.
Mist lingers in the streets.
Narrow buildings cast long shadows.
This is the most haunted city in the world. . . .
Miranda Tennant arrives in York with a terrible, tragic secret. She is eager to lose herself amid the quaint cobblestones, hoping she won’t run into the countless ghosts who supposedly roam the city. . . .
Then she meets Nick, an intense, dark-eyed boy who knows all of York’s hidden places and histories. Miranda wonders if Nick is falling for her, but she is distracted by another boy — one even more handsome and mysterious than Nick. He lives in the house across from Miranda and seems desperate to send her some sort of message. Could this boy be one of York’s haunted souls?
Soon, Miranda realizes that something dangerous — and deadly — is being planned. And she may have to face the darkest part of herself in order to unravel the mystery — and find redemption.  -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  Dark Souls is a ghost story with a bit of mystery that also has a quite a bit of history thrown in. It is a relatively short book, and quite enjoyable if you enjoy darker-type stories. The story starts after a family has been coping with tragedy and needs a change of scenery. This change of scenery happens to be a family vacation to York, England where Miranda sees ghosts--lots of ghosts--and is enlisted to solve a paranormal mystery or two. 

The author did an amazing job of choosing her setting with this book. She described her location well. York, England is a very old place and rich with history, so it was a perfect place for Morris' ghosts to come alive. The language used by the author in her descriptions of the streets, the gates of the city, and the buildings made it easy for me to create a rather gray and almost creepy depiction in my mind. If stories were a color, this one would be gray, which is perfect in this case. I applaud this author for setting this story up in this way. I love it.

I also really liked the characters in this book. Miranda was a great protagonist. Not only is she is trying to heal from what she went through previously, but she also has new issues that she is secretly learning to cope with. Not everyone understands what it is like to be able to see ghosts walking around, and keeping this to herself is wearing Miranda pretty thin. It is easy to see her feelings of loneliness and isolation, and to connect with her as she tries to deal the best way she knows how. Her brother Rob was conflicted about the role he played in the prior tragedy and I felt connected with him, as a reader, while he went through a bit of a healing process while on this vacation. Despite the difficulties Miranda and Rob both were facing when they arrived in York, there was some healing that took place while they were there, and this was so awesome to experience in the story. 

There were some fun secondary characters as well, and my favorite of these is Nick. Miranda meets the very mysterious Nick while exploring York on her own, and she has an interesting attraction to him. She finds herself developing a bit of a crush on him, but unfortunately it seems that this is as far as it goes. If Miranda was going to spend so much of her time crushing on Nick and looking for him when she was not with him, I would have loved to see a little more development in the relationship...particularly given that Nick also had feelings for her as well.

Dark Souls was a bit of a departure from what I typically read, but it was fun and I am certainly glad that I read it. I have decided that if I am going to read a mystery, this is the type of mystery that I enjoy. In my opinion, however, the best part of this book--the selling point for me, if you will--is the setting. I recommend this book to readers who love a story with history woven throughout and readers who love an amazing setting. I also recommend this book to people who enjoy ghost story. It was a fun, quick, and easy read. 

*I borrowed this book as part of Around The World Book Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Thoughts On: Supernaturally by Kiersten White

Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Published by HarperTeen
Publish Date:  July 26, 2011

336 Pages
My Source:  ARC/Borrowed

Supernaturally by Kiersten White

Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.
But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.
So much for normal.     -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  I read Supernaturally a couple of days after breezing through Paranormalcy (read my thoughts here), and I enjoyed this book as much as the first one. 

Evie isn't working for the IPCA anymore. In fact, she finally has a normal life...well, as much normal as a paranormal girl can have. Of course, this does not last long and Evie is once again thrust again into the world of faeries, werewolves, and vampires as she battles the bad guys like the butt-kicking champ that she is. 

This story is so entertaining. Just like Paranormalcy, it is a quick and light read. And just like before, the author did a splendid job of marrying paranormal and YA romance. Kiersten White has a knack for writing a great story and making it funny. I found myself reading with a smile on my face, and even chuckling out loud at times. 

We know from reading Paranormalcy that White's characters are incredibly charming...even the secondary characters. But the new characters in this story are awesome. There's this guy, Jack, and....well, I can't give too much away, but he gripped and ripped my heart from the beginning of the book until the end. 

One of my favorite things about this book is the way the author gave some back story about some of my favorite characters. I found out more about Arianna, Evie's vampire roommate. Learning how she became a vampire made me feel more connected to her in this book whereas I did not really like her as much in the first book. We also find out more about Reth and his motivations and intentions for pretty much all of the mysterious, vague things he does. I loved the mystery surrounding him in the first book, but I love him even more now that I know a little more about him. 

I don't think I would change anything about this book. Evie's use of the word "bleep" in place of swear words got on my nerves again for a few minutes (as it did in Paranormalcy) until I remembered that all people have mannerisms that get on our nerves and if we really like/love those people, we learn to overlook those little pet peeves. I really like Evie, so I learned to ignore her use of the word "bleep." 

I just had a great time reading this book and am thrilled that I had a chance to participate in a book tour supporting it. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a fun, light read--just make sure to read Paranormalcy first. 

*I borrowed this book as part of Around The World Book Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Thoughts On: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Published by HarperTeen
Publish Date:  September 1, 2008

419 Pages
My Source:  Gifted/Won from
Jacinda, The Reading Housewives of Indiana

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More. 
Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all. 
In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.    -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  I chose Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta as one of my choices for the 2011 Award Winning Reads Challenge because of the RAVING reviews I've heard, seen, and read from some other trusted bloggers in the past few months. I had heard Melina Marchetta's name on many blogsites, but I had never read any of her books before, so this seemed like a perfect chance for me to become acquainted. Well, let me just say...WOW.

I have thought on this book for a couple of days since I have read it and I have come to this conclusion:  I do not really know how to share adequate thoughts on it for a couple of reasons. First of all the plot is so complex it would be way to complicated to try and type out without giving away spoilers. Secondly, and probably most importantly, I don't really know how to use a short blog post as a medium for a description of this book like it truly deserves. That would be unfair to the author and unfair to the integrity of the story. So, if you read this you will just have to trust me when I say this--

I started reading this story after promising that I would finish it no matter what. Anytime someone asks me that, my curiosity is automatically at a high point and I'm wondering what I have gotten myself into! But I never felt--at any time--like I did not want to finish Jellicoe Road. I will admit, in the first few chapters, I was completely confused...but I think it took that long for the story to lay the foundation of its structure. Once I got a few chapters in, I was hooked.

There were so many characters to keep up with in this story, and I really loved them all. I had favorites:  The Hermit and Jonah Griggs. In this book, I would have loved to know more about The Hermit-his thoughts, his strengths and weakness, and his inner turmoil. He played such a large part in Taylor's life, and one of the only things I would change about this book is that I would put a little more of him in there. Jonah Griggs could have a volume of fiction all to himself. (Can we get a Jellicoe Road #2, Ms. Marchetta??) He is incredibly complex as a character, and it would be very interesting to have his point of view on the events of this book.

I was extremely invested in these characters...all of them. I laughed with them, I felt fear for and with them, I cried for and with them. When they were devastated at more than one instance, so was I. I got chills at more than one place in this book. This book wrecked me. But it felt wonderful. It felt so incredible to know the people in this book that well...in their good times and bad times, in their happy times and sad times. I feel like they are a part of me, and I feel like Jellicoe School is a part of me. Writer John Kieran once said, "I am a part of all I have read." This book is a perfect example of that.

My first experience with Melina Marchetta was exhausting, but it was exhilarating. For an author to make me feel absolutely every single emotion possible in a span of 400+ pages of a beautiful book, with every character in that book...I'm an instant fan. Marchetta's imagery was exquisite and I'm pretty sure I could draw a map of Jellicoe School and its surrounding area, which I love.

I absolutely and completely understand why this book was an award-winner. It is incredible. From one reader to another, you just need to trust my recommendation if you love a complex story with raw emotion. If that sounds like you, then I recommend this book to you. But stick with it and read it all the way through. This is not a light and easy, fresh and breezy book. But it is SO WORTH the time you will invest in it.

Jellicoe Road is the recipient of the 2009 Michael L. Printz Award.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Thoughts On: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey
Publisher:  HarperTeen

Publish Date:  September 20, 2011
336 Pages
My Source:  NetGalley

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey
When her boyfriend, Danny, is killed in a car accident, Wren can’t imagine living without him. Wild with grief, she uses the untamed powers she’s inherited to bring him back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy she once loved. 
Wren has spent four months keeping Danny hidden, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school and somehow, inexplicably, he can sense her secret. Wren finds herself drawn to Gabriel, who is so much more alive than the ghost of the boy she loved. But Wren can’t turn her back on Danny or the choice she made for him—and she realizes she must find a way to make things right, even if it means breaking her own heart.   -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  Wren is completely devastated after the loss of Danny in a car accident. Because Wren is special (meaning, she has special powers of some sort), she figures out how to bring Danny back to life. Life with Danny after his death isn't what Wren was expecting, though. So Wren does what any other young, teenage girl would do in this situation--she stashes Danny in a loft in her elderly neighbor's garage where he won't be seen or heard until she figures out what to do with him. Days pass and Wren becomes more stressed about her situation when Gabriel enters the picture. Gabriel is cool, good-looking, and doesn't think she is a freak because she has special powers. At this point, what was a mess becomes a colossal mess.

Let me break my thoughts down in list form.

  1. Confusion. I was first confused when I started reading this book. I did not understand what Wren was and what gave her the special powers. But then I realized that not only did she not understand, but her sister didn't understand either. So my confusion moved more into the way of...
  2. Irritation. I couldn't stand Wren's mother. I don't know if that is the intention of the author or not, but to me, she was not likable. (I am not a huge fan of the not-so-great parents in YA literature.) Mom's failure to share the details of the paranormal-ness of their family meant that I, as a reader, was not privy to it either. So BOO to you, Wren's mother. 
  3. Immaturity. Wren made some poor choices and as a result, had to do some damage control. But instead, she kept putting it off, which made her have to make more choices and do more damage control. It was a cycle, a vicious cycle. Thank goodness for Gabriel's help. 
  4. Gabriel. The crush. I really liked Gabriel, and I liked Wren with Gabriel. The more I read about them together, the more I wanted to see this relationship go somewhere. Gabriel's character was a super-nice guy and extremely likable. But there was that little problem of Danny. 
  5. Danny. I love zombies. Danny is not your typical zombie, and that is okay. But he was creepy, for sure.  I understood Wren's conflict after bringing him back from the grave. 
Cold Kiss is an easy read that I finished in almost one sitting. It was a little bit predictable, but that is okay. It started out a little bit confusing for me, and some of the confusion stayed through to the end, but my overall impression of the book was a positive one. I would have loved a little bit more from this book: a little bit more explanation, a little more character development. But it is okay, because when it was all said and done, I enjoyed it. Why? Because the entire time I was reading it, it was playing out in my head like a John Hughes* movie! And FOR THAT REASON--despite whiny teenagers, despite poor choices, despite bad parents--I totally enjoyed reading it. 

*Some examples of John Hughes movies you may/may not be familiar with:  The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles...

**A digital copy of the publication was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts & opinions. I received no compensation for this review. Thank you, HarperTeen!

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Thoughts On: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

*Due to the potential for spoilers, I recommend that you skip my thoughts on this book if you have not read Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater.*

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher:  Scholastic Press

Publish Date:  July 13, 2010
360 Pages
My Source:  Library
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

the longing. Once Sam and Grace have found each other, they know they must fight to stay together. For Sam, this means a reckoning with his werewolf past. For Grace, it means facing a future that is less and less certain. 
the loss. Into their world comes a new wolf named Cole, whose past is full of hurt and danger. He is wrestling with his own demons, embracing the life of the wolf while denying the ties of being human. 
the linger. For Grace, Sam, and Cole, life is a constant struggle between two forces - wolf and human - with love baring its two sides as well. It is harrowing and euphoric, freeing and entrapping, enticing and alarming. As their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?      -(summary from the book jacket)

My Thoughts:  After being reluctant to read Shiver because I wasn't a huge fan of wolves, I ended up really liking it. Actually, I ended up really being a fan of Maggie Stiefvater's writing style and liking the story enough to find out what happens next. With Linger, I was not disappointed. In fact, I think I liked this second book even better than the first. 

Here are some of the things I loved about Linger:  

  1. The Cover. Once again, the cover art is dazzling. The theme of green worked well for me after the coldness of the blue cover in Shiver. Because the cold is not as much of a struggle for the characters this time around, the green does not incite as much of a reaction as the blue did (At times, I actually felt cold when I was reading Shiver. Very cool marketing and design.) Still, the green is beautiful as is the tiny splash of red in the title. 
  2. The Inside. Once again, the print inside of the book matches the color scheme on the cover. This is so pleasing to the eye of the reader! 
  3. The New Guy. There is a new wolf in Mercy Falls, everyone, and his name is Cole. He used to be the frontman for a pretty popular band before he was turned...before he decided that he didn't want that life anymore. Now, with Beck's help, he is a wolf and is trying to adjust to a life that is not really working out like he thought it would...Cole's character is complex (just like I love them) and goes through some wonderful development throughout the course of the book. While he still has some work to do on himself, I really fell hard for him, and found that I was actually most excited about his character more than the others. Great addition to the cast. 
  4. The Switch. In Shiver, the point-of-view alternated between Sam and Grace. Seamlessly. Stiefvater did a fantastic job of making sure the reader knew exactly who was doing the speaking and thinking and narrating. I never felt confused...With Linger, she does a fantastic job as well. There are four POV's in this book, but they are still seamless. I never felt confused...Because all four of the main characters in this book have different viewpoints, it is important to hear from them all. Brilliant writing. 
  5. The Music. Music plays such a MAJOR part of this book in more than one way. Of course, we know from Shiver that Sam constantly writes. He is a bit of a poet, and we love his character in part for that reason. But Cole is a musician too. It is interesting that these two very different guys can have this one universal, amazing thing in common. 
  6. The Books. I always love bookish things written into plotlines. I loved that Sam was a big fan of reading in Shiver. I loved that he worked in a bookstore. I still love that. 
  7. The End...WHOA. I'm not sure that this qualifies as a cliffhanger ending or not, but it certainly was the most exciting part of the book in terms of my heart rate. I'm not sure what my emotions are after finishing Linger. I'm not sure if I am sad or happy...I'm honestly not sure. I just need some closure. 
I was really excited to see where the story of Sam and Grace went. I was not-so-excited to see that Grace's parents are still less-than-great. I love the love that Sam and Grace have for each other, though, and find myself cheering them on even though they are doing things that are sort of socially wrong. 

I got really caught up in the on-again, off-again crush/relationship between Cole and Isabel. Isabel is such a rebellious girl, and it is clearly because her parents are pretty awful too...not to mention that she has had some pretty heinous times with the way she lost her brother in Shiver. But when she found Cole, I wanted there to be a spark there. And I think that there is. But they need to do something about it. Because deep down inside of that bad boy, I believe that there is something good inside of Cole. And I really like Cole. So I'm really pulling for the two of them. 

This is not my favorite series ever in terms of the story itself, and I still am not the world's biggest fan of wolves. HOWEVER, I am increasingly in awe of the writing style of Maggie Stiefvater. After reading two of her books now, I am amazed that someone can make prose sound so poetic. The words on the page sound like classical music or a beautiful waltz. Her words tell a profound story, and even in the most climactic times the words are a gentle as butterfly wings. I suppose in my very corny and nerdy way, I am just saying that I am a fan of this author and that if you have not read any of her work, I think you should give it a try and see if you agree. At the very least, you should at least experience the colorful words on the pages. Because they're awesome. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

In My Mailbox {4}

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. She uses this time to tell about the books she receives each week either to review, from the library, or from a purchase. Kristi is kind enough to let us all in on her fun and here is my little piece of that!

Borrowed from Ashley @ Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing:
The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

Gifted from Arianne Cruz as a Random Act of Kindness:
Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer 

Won from Jenn @ Books at Midnight:
Legacy by Cayla Kluver 

From Waterbrook Multnomah:
The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick 
(see The Parchment Girl's review here)

From HarperCollins:
 Irma Voth by Miriam Toews 

From HarperCollins Childrens:
Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Thoughts On: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Publisher:  HarperTeen

Publish Date:  August 31, 2010
335 Pages
My Source:  Library
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal. 
Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures. 
So much for normal.  -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  This was such a perfect book to read on my vacation! It started out with a funny scene and was quite hilarious throughout the entire book. The main character, Evie, is lovely. Abandoned as a child, she lives and works in the same place. She has a tutor, carries weapons, fights like a guy, and isn't afraid of vampires or werewolves. She's no ordinary girl. Evie also loves girly clothes, the color pink, and her favorite television show, Easton Heights, where she gets to watch other teenagers have normal lives.

I loved this author's take on paranormal and YA romance. I loved the way all of the different types of paranormals were thrown in there together:  faeries, vampires, werewolves, a handsome shapeshifter and a bunch of other beings. I loved the secondary characters. I loved Evie, but I also really liked the other characters. The author did a fantastic job developing them, particularly the ones who will be sticking around for the next book.

Most of all, I loved how the scary scenes (if you can even call them that) and action scenes were interwoven so well with the funny scenes. It made me really want to keep reading to find out what would happen next. I'm very excited to be reading/reviewing Supernaturally (Paranormalcy #2)in a few days. There were some things left that could be explored in the next book, and I'm eager to see what is next for Evie and the fate of the IPCA.

This book is definitely a Young Adult fiction book, so I recommend it for fans of YA. It would even be great for younger YA fans. (As I am adult myself, I think it would be super fun if this was written as a more adult-age series.) I also recommend this to adult-age readers of YA fiction that are looking for a fun, bubbly, or quick read. This would also be a fantastic book to read after reading a heavy literary fiction piece. (Y'all know them, we all read them, and we all need books like THIS to help us unwind from them!)

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Thoughts On: The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma

The Reading Promise:  My Father and The Books We Shared
by Alice Ozma
Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing

Publish Date:  May 3, 2011
288 Pages
My Source:  Library

The Reading Promise:
My Father and The Books We Shared
by Alice Ozma

When Alice Ozma was in 4th grade, she and her father decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights. On the hundreth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate, but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their storytelling ritual. So they decided to continue what they called "The Streak." Alice's father read aloud to her every night without fail until the day she left for college...     -(taken from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  Where do I start with this a book like this?

When I first saw this book, I wanted to read it simply because I thought it was a book about reading books. But it was really much more than that. Alice did chronicle The Streak as best as she could from memory-with a little help from her father-but she also included a lot of her father in the book. What I mean is that she not only paid tribute to The Streak, but she paid tribute to her father as well. And in return, reading this book proved to be one of my most emotional experiences lately.

Why? Because I am one of those people who are deeply committed to reading. For me, it is much more than something I enjoy. Like many of you, I think about books and reading and bookish things all the time...if I can't be reading, I'm thinking about reading. I'm thinking about my husband reading and my children reading. I'm thinking about our next trip to the library and about which books I am sure my children will enjoy. I want my children to understand how important reading is to society and to culture and to existence and to growing up. I want them to know at the end of my life, among other things, that their mother was a lady who loved to read, and that she was happier because books were in her life. And hopefully, hopefully, my children will carry their love of books on into their lives as well.

Alice's father spent his life working as an elementary school librarian. He felt it was important to create an atmosphere in his library that allowed the children to love their time there, so he filled his library with well-worn rugs, couches, and lamps. He read aloud to his students everyday. Alice talks about how her father was much like an actor; he practiced reading the books out loud so he would have the different voices mastered perfectly and often had the books memorized so he did not even need to look at the pages as he was 'reading.' Even after reading to students became banned in the library, Mr. Brozina would huddle them together in the back of the library and read to them in secret.

Alice's stories of her father reading out loud at home are even more wonderful. The Streak continued for thousands of days and not a single day was skipped...not even when divorce shattered the family or when Mr. Brozina had laryngitis. No matter what the circumstance or what the event, this exchange between father and daughter occurred every single day. The very last day of the streak was Alice's first day in her dorm as a college freshman...as soon as all of her belongings were unloaded and placed in her room, Alice and her father found the most secluded spot they could to read the final installment of The Streak.

I can say with absolute honesty and truth that I have never sobbed as fiercely before over a book, and I've read a ton of emotional stories. But this story tugged at me for a couple of reasons:

  1. I was distraught at the way society has changed their opinion on books and libraries, and how it affected Mr. Brozina so personally. I know this happens, but I have never read it from the perspective of someone who works inside the industry and has made it their life's work. 
  2. After the divorce of her parents when she was still quite young, Alice and her sister were raised by her father, which can be somewhat awkward. It was very evident in reading this book that these two shared a very close bond and love for each other, and this was only increased by their shared love for books. Not only that, but it was precious to me how Mr. Brozina used the stories he read out loud to teach life lessons, to counsel, to entertain, to lessen life's blows. He was relating to his daughter in the best way he knew how. The little things he did to show his girls that they were first and foremost to him made that book almost radiate with fatherly love. 
  3. I have three children who are the perfect age to start a reading promise or a streak, or whatever they want to call it. My children are some of the most bookish children around-they get it honest from me-but they still love it when books are read aloud to them. I love to read to them before school in the mornings during the school year. But now that I, as a parent, have read what it can mean to a child to have books very present in their lives in a very big way, it just makes me want to read to them even more. I don't know that my family will do a streak that ends up being 3,218 nights long like Alice's was, but I definitely see a streak of some sort beginning in our very near future. It is very exciting, and I'm thankful to have been inspired. 
I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who loves books with every ounce of their being, just as I do. I would recommend it to parents with younger children, because it is inspiring. I would recommend it to fathers, if they aren't afraid of a little bit of emotion. I would recommend it to people who love their fathers fiercely. I am not exaggerating when I said that this book tugged at my heart. I tried to read it by the neighborhood pool while my kids were swimming...by the third page in the Forward (not even into Chapter One yet, y'all), I was a dripping with tears and the other mothers were asking me if I was okay. 

Alice and her father, Jim. This is the picture on the back of the book.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Thoughts On: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory

Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory
Publisher:  Penguin

Publish Date:  July 26, 2011
208 Pages
My Source:  NetGalley
Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day 
by Ben Loory

My Thoughts:  I have never really been one for reading short stories...until now. Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is a book full of tiny little stories that left me longing for just a little more. In a book of about forty stories, there were some happy, some sad, some scary, and some that were just plain...strange. On more than one occasion, I read stores over again immediately after finishing them because they were just that great.

One of my favorites is the story of an octopus that leaves the ocean and lives among people in the city. After a visit from a couple of members of his family, he rethinks his decision to move away from the ocean. Another favorite is the a story of a duck who falls deeply in love with a rock despite being ridiculed by each of his fellow ducks. I read both of these stories out loud to my husband with a huge smile. When I got to the UFO love story, however, I read out loud with actual joy, and at some points, with actual laughter.

I'd love to say, too, that I love the cover of this book. In fact, I chose to read this book initially because of the great cover. There is something so intriguing about a cover that boasts both a sea creature and a UFO at the same time.

This book is wonderful for those times when you have a few minutes to read a few pages, because each of these stories is but a few pages in length. Each of them are so different and so great. If you are open to reading short stories, I highly recommend you grab this book and add it to your collection. If you are like I was and are not particularly a fan of short stories, perhaps this is a great place for you to start. I enjoyed every word of this book and cannot wait to read each of these stories again.

*A review copy was generously provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. Thank you, Penguin!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I've Been Living In Your Cassette {12}

Tune In Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by Ginger at GReads! 

Well, you guys, this week begins a 90's theme over at GReads! 
This, I can do. I do SO love me some 90's music - of all types. 

THIS WEEK I have chosen a FAVORITE 90's band of mine. 
Over the last decade or two they haven't gotten quite as much love, 
but their rotation on my iPod HASN'T CHANGED A BIT. 
In fact, I'm sure I listen to them more now. 

This is not their most popular song. 
This is probably not their second most popular song. 
But it is the song I chose for today. Why, you ask?
Well, there is something ULTRA COOL about a mixed tape. 
And this song is about a mixed tape. 

When I was younger I made them all the time. 
I'm making some now, in fact. Some habits never die. 

I sing these songs so loud and so hard I LOSE MY VOICE. 
I hear this song and I flail and dance and surely look STUPID. 
Sometimes the song ends and I start it right OVER AGAIN. 

Isn't this the makings of a great song? I should think so. 

"Singing In My Sleep" by Semisonic
A personal favorite of mine
an ode to mixed-tape lovers everywhere.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Thoughts On: Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster

Publish Date:  January 5, 2010
412 Pages
My Source:  Library

Chasing Brooklyn
by Lisa Schroeder 

Brooklyn can't sleep. Her boyfriend, Lucca, died only a year ago, and now her friend Gabe has just died of an overdose. Every time she closes her eyes, Gabe's ghost is there waiting for her. She has no idea what he wants or why it isn't Lucca visiting her dreams. 
Nico can't stop. He's always running, trying to escape the pain of losing his brother, Lucca. But when Lucca's ghost begins leaving messages, telling Nico to help Brooklyn, emotions come crashing to the surface. 
As the nightmares escalate and the messages become relentless, Nico reaches out to Brooklyn. But neither of them can admit that they're being haunted. Until they learn to let each other in, not one soul will be able to rest.  -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:   Chasing Brooklyn was my first ever verse novel. I was challenged/inspired by one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Ashley, to read a verse novel by Lisa Schroeder. This was the only one of Schroeder's books checked into my library at the time, so I grabbed it and here I sit, spilling my thoughts out to the world.

Here are my thoughts on Chasing Brooklyn:

1.  Alternating POV. Sure, it can backfire when it isn't executed well...but in this case the author did a great job. The story is told in what appears to be journal or diary entries by both Nico and Brooklyn. Each entry is really short and is labeled with the date and person speaking. Not only that, but the first line of each entry is brilliantly printed in what appears to be the handwriting of either Nico or Brooklyn. I wasn't sure how I felt about this in the beginning; I initially thought I might think it would "junk" up the page...but the further I got into the book, the more I realized that it went with the flow of the story. And it actually looked beautiful on each page.

I know it is hard to see here, but the left side features Brooklyn's handwriting and the right side is Nico's. There was never a point in this book where I felt confused as to which person was narrating. It doesn't always happen this way with alternating points of view. I do not know if this is typical of verse books or Lisa Schroeder, but I definitely thought it worked well in this case. It was seamless. 

2. Shorter in length. Even though this little book was 412 pages in length, it was actually much shorter than most of the prose novels that I tend to read. I attribute this to the absence of "fluff" language in the story. The author used the brevity of the verse to be straight to the point and tell us exactly what she wanted to say. She did not feel it was necessary to add extra explanations or words and lengthen the story. This felt amazing to me. In most books-even the really awesome ones-there are natural hills and valleys with our excitement and focus. Not here. Every word was necessary to the story and had me on the edge of my seat. No fluff. No extras. Just the information I needed to know. In actuality, it took almost no time to read this book...and I actually made myself read it slow to make sure I really gave it a chance. It was shorter, but it packed a powerful punch. 

3. Writing style. Reading Chasing Brooklyn made me feel like I was sitting in a cloud. Or floating on a raft in a gentle stream. Or something super soft and flow-y. In all of my cheesy-ness, what I'm trying to say is that the author's words were soft and gentle and kind and compassionate and careful. The subject matter of grief after losing somebody you love is to be approached in a very loving way, and the words Ms. Schroeder used were just so...loving. She did a great job choosing her words well. 

4. Lovely story. This is absolutely contemporary YA fiction. I'm VERY used to reading fantasy stories or dystopian stories or even paranormal stories, so this is way different than what I'm used to. This was really real, very true to life. This can really happen to people and in fact, it does all the time. So I think it sort of got me in the heart and the gut a little bit. It is much different than what I'm used to, but I'm open to reading more like it. 

Well, Ashley, you were successful in two ways:  1) You accomplished making me like a verse novel. 2) You got me to read another contemporary YA author. I needed to broaden my literary horizons in both of these areas and this book helped me. I definitely plan to read more verse novels. I'm not sure that I'm the biggest verse fan out there yet, but I am certainly looking forward to picking another one up. So that's good, right? AND with the whole contemporary thing...I have a LONG way to go before I think I can carry on an intelligent conversation about YA contemps, but at least I can add this book to my list. It's a start and I think I'm headed in the right direction. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness...from July!

                                    Book Soulmates

Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) is a super awesome event 
created by the ladies over at Book Soulmates to help all of us promote 
bookish goodness and kindness all over the world.


The Host by Stephanie Meyer from 
Jennifer @ The Book Nympho

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins from 
I also sent out two excellent books; 
one to Minnesota and one to Norway. 

Thanks to the fabulous ladies who sent me books! And thanks to the fabulous ladies who host this awesome event! 

In My Mailbox {3}

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. She uses this time to tell about the books she receives each week either to review, from the library, or from a purchase. Kristi is kind enough to let us all in on her fun and here is my little piece of that!

You Guys!!! This is my first video blog! I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So here goes.

From April @ Good Books and Good Wine:

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Miss Perregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
7th Sigma by Steven Gould
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Fury by Elizabeth Miles
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

From Rodale Books:  Cheat On Your Husband With Your Husband by Andrea Syrtash

From Jacinda @ The Reading Housewives of Indiana:  Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

From Algonquin Books:  When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

From Simon and Schuster:

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

From Jennifer @ The Book Nympho:  The Host by Stephanie Meyer (for RAK)

From Jennifer @ Waiting on Sunday to Drown:  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (for RAK)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Thoughts On: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger
Publisher:  Orbit Books

Publish Date:  October 1, 2009
357 Pages
My Source:  Library
by Gail Carriger
Without a morsel of exaggeration, its publisher describes this debut novel as "a comedy of manners set in Victorian London full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking." At the center of Soulless's "parasol protectorate" is Miss Alexia Tarabotti, a young woman who lacks not only a suitor but also a soul. And those are not her only problems: When she accidentally kills a vampire, it begins a series of events that she must set out to resolve without the help of any proper authorities. A charming mass market original.   -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  It took me a couple of days to get into this book because of the way Miss Alexia Tarabotti speaks. She is quite the proper Englishwoman, after all. But once I got used to it, I fell in love with Soulless and devoured it.

This book is set in Victorian London, which I love. It's a paranormal steampunk romance, which is a little strange but somehow works. It's a debut novel for Gail Carriger, which is amazing considering the genre is so unusual. Soulless is really just a fun, fun book and I'm really glad that I took the time to read it. Also, it is the first book in The Parasol Protectorate series, so it MUST be great with a series name like that one, right?

As a character, Alexia is so much fun. She is a 26-year-old half-Italian spinster. Although she still dreams of falling in love and marrying, Alexia divides her time between being a socialite and investigating the disappearances of local vampires. Because I get all excited about secondary characters, I got all excited about this book. Alexia was wonderful, but all of her friends were just as exciting. They were funny, and they had really wonderful characteristics and quirks.

I spent a lot of time laughing out loud while I was reading this book. Genuinely laughing, even if I was the only person in the room. That does not happen very often to me while I read books. I absolutely adored the cover of the book and I adored the synopsis. The only negative thing I can say about the book, if it is a negative at all, is that it took me a time to get adjusted to the British-ness of the book. That's not really a bad thing at all; it just slowed me down a bit after coming off of a couple of fast-paced young adult novels.

Miss Alexia Tarabotti is a strong female character who is funny and somewhat complex. She is a quick thinker, which I love. She champions being learned and educated, which is awesome. She kicks vampire butt with her silver-tipped parasol and travels with wooden and silver hairpins in place. She is a preternatural, having been born without a soul. She believes herself unworthy of love, but in fact is the object of Lord Maccon's desire. She may end up being one of my favorite female book characters.

I cannot wait to read the next couple of books in this series. I have the next two, Changeless and Blameless, checked out from the library right now. I recommend these books to anyone who loves paranormal or  steampunk. There is a romance component to them and they tend to get a little steamy toward the end. While I think young adult readers would enjoy these books a great deal, parents should exercise caution for their younger readers.

By the way, this book is a 2010 ALA Alex Award winner. This award is given to books written for adults that have a special appeal to young adults.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Thoughts On: Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok
Publisher:  Riverhead Hardcover

Publish Date:  April 29, 2010
293 Pages
My Source:  Library

When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to  Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life - like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family's future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition - Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles. 
Through Kimberly's story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about. Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant - a - a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation. -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  I have been thinking about this book almost daily since I finished reading it a few weeks ago. It is so remarkable, so beautiful, so well-written. I want everyone to read it so they can experience it. I've told so many people about it in hopes that maybe one or two will pick it up and give it a try. 

This is going to be a bold statement, but I think this book has changed my life a little bit. Or rather, I think it has changed the way I think about my life. What a massive thing to say about a fiction book, right?! But here we have this young girl...She looks different. She dresses differently. She does not understand our language. Even when she does understand our language, there is a language barrier. She has an Asian accent that she cannot shake, even if she wants to. Everything about her is different from everything about me, and yet everything is kinda the same: she just wants to find her place in this world and be successful.  

Kim tries as hard as she can to meld herself into the American way of life, into our customs and culture, but she can only go as far as the people around her are willing to let her go. The kids at school make fun of her. They laugh at her clothes and the way she talks. She is not invited to parties or other social events. She is not invited to sit with the cool kids at lunch or sleep over on the weekends. The boys do not notice her. And she is the ONLY Asian kid at her largely-white private school. 

Ma works as hard and as fast as her fingers and arms will let her, sewing and mending clothes at the sweatshop in Chinatown where she works for substandard pay. What she earns for her above standard work is not enough to provide for herself and Kim, so Kim rushes to the factory every day after school to help Ma meet her quotas just to make ends meet. Still, even with both of them working very late into the night every night, they never can afford enough extra to place glass in the paneless windows in their apartment or to have the heater repaired. To this end, Kimberly grows up in Brooklyn, New York with no heat and no glass on her windows. (Can you imagine the snow blowing into the apartment?) Kim and Ma keep their stove on to heat the kitchen, and they spend all of their time sitting at their kitchen table to keep warm, dressed in layers and layers of clothing. 

Mixed in with the double life of trying to rise above at school and trying to make ends meet illegally at the sweatshop, Kim does fall in love. She falls in love with an Asian boy, but he does not dream of getting out of that lifestyle of squalor. Matt is perfectly content to stay within the confines of Chinatown and live just below what Kim considers the American Dream. She struggles with her love for Matt and her desire to make life better for herself and Ma. For years, she dreams of a life with Matt. It is the realization of Matt's desires, his expectations, his hopes for Kim that enable her to make the biggest decision of her life and vow to stick with it, no matter how hard it may be. 

I can appreciate this story so much because of the struggle Kim and Ma went through just to be in this country. They wanted to be in America so much that they were willing to endure things that I cannot even imagine. I spent a great deal of time wading through this story, thinking about each part and reading it over the course of a couple of weeks. To this end, I really felt like I became attached to Kim and Ma. I don't remember a time lately when I have pulled so hard for a book character to overcome obstacles and struggles. There were times I would have to stop for a little while and let my pulse and breathing return to normal after becoming emotional-either with happiness, sadness, or righteous anger that people in my own country live that way. 

I read recently that the author made Kim's time in America mirror hers in several ways. The author came to America at a young age and lived in poverty and overcame great obstacles as well. In the end, Ms. Kwok ended up at an Ivy League University and has been able to rise above the circumstances she has written about. Now that I think about that a little bit, I think this knowledge somehow makes me like the book even more. 

This debut novel won Jean Kwok the 2011 ALA Alex Award in literature. This award is given yearly to ten books that are written for adults but may have special appeal to young adults. I find this interesting because my husband and I have discussed this book often since I began it (he has not read it but finds the story fascinating). He has wondered why it wasn't written as a young adult book or marketed to a young adult audience. Regardless of the answer to that question, the Alex Award is proof that a younger audience would enjoy it as much as an adult audience would. 

I really want people to strongly consider adding this book to their TBR list, hopefully near the top. It would make an excellent choice for a book club. It would be an excellent book to just read by yourself. I have recommended and will continue to recommend this book to young adults and adults because I think it is suitable, interesting, and perfect for either audience. I cannot see this one floating away from my thoughts any time soon. This book is indeed a favorite of the books I've read so far this year.