Thursday, July 24, 2014

Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson & the Olympians #004) by Rick Riordan is a pretty solid continuation of the Percy Jackson series. 

I'm going to be honest (and I might have mentioned this in my review of The Titan's Curse), but I just feel like I'm missing something with this series. Like the story lines are fine--they have a pretty good adventure, and they're basically plots you can map out from the get-go, but that's not always a bad thing. The characters are alright: I tend to be a little underwhelmed by them. I find Percy kind of annoying, but I really rather enjoyed Nico over this book and what little part he had in Titan's Curse. The writing isn't bad, but it doesn't give me shivers. I have yet to mark a page number down to say "this quote!! omg this is soooo goood." I just feel steady about this series, I guess. Battle of the Labyrinth was no exception.

The story starts with Percy's high school Freshman orientation (in June--is that a thing that some places do??). Of course, he's attacked by monsters so he has to run away to Camp Half-Blood. Annabeth is finally be chosen to have her own quest--find Daedalus in his Labyrinth so she can get him to help them instead of Lucas. Mischief ensues.

I like these books fine, and I'll continue recommending them to a younger set of readers. I'll also be finishing off this series with The Last Olympian.

Prequel / Sequel Challenge Points: 62 + 2 = 64 points!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hello Lovelies!! So I've literally been pondering this week's top ten for two weeks and I'm still just putting it all together now. So brought to you, as usual, by The Broke and the Bookish, this week's Top Ten is...

Top Ten Characters You'd Want on a Deserted Island

So I've put an absurd amount of thought into this one. So let me do a walk through.

Katniss Everdeen: The girl can shoot a bow and arrow and hunt animals, so if it's a human-deserted island that's still populated by animals, I'd want her there with me. We wouldn't starve. And if it was actually a faux island that was manipulated by a huge government, she'd get us out of there in a split second.

Iorek Byrnison: Why would I pick an armored bear? Because if this was an artic deserted island, he'd be able to protect me and keep me warm. And Iorek is like my favorite character from that whole series, let's be real.

Lihn Cinder: If there was anyone who could make something out of abandoned items on a deserted island, Cinder would be it. Plus she could swoon with me over Kai.

A : Who is the mysterious A (from Pretty Little Liars?) I have no idea. But whoever they are, they're conniving enough to help me get off an island. They've got to be mega resourceful.

Tinkerbell: Peter Pan might be a terrifying creature of the night who still has his baby teeth, but he also has Tinkerbell, and Tinkerbell can fly. Plus she's sassy as all get out.

Daenarys: As long as she brings her dragons. And doesn't let them eat me. And let's them fly us out of there.

Thomas: From the Maze Runner. If said deserted island was in fact a giant maze. (And if he was Dylan O'Brien -- as he is-- because damnnnnnnnnnnn that's my future husband.)

Percy Jackson: Because his dad's the god of the sea, and that's got to count for something, right?

Hermione Granger: Because she is the brightest witch of her age and could get us out of there in a split-second.

And if nothing else, Park Sheridan (from Eleanor & Park) because he could woo me with punk rock music.

So what about you lovelies? What characters would you want with you on an island?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wow. Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick is one of those books which isn't pleasant to read, but after you finish, you want to immediately have everyone read it.

It's a somewhat novelized memoir of Arn Chorn-Pond's experience surviving the Cambodian Genocide of 1974-1979. McCormick's Author's Note at the end explains why the book is marketed as historical fiction instead of a biography. Part of the reason includes the fact that McCormick writes the book from Chorn-Pond's point of view. It's written in a style of broken English which gives readers a very distinct view of the narrator. English is clearly not the narrator's first language, but they speak it fluently enough to give description that can tear your heart in two. Sometimes I would feel myself choking back tears after reading a single sentence.

I honestly didn't know much about the Cambodian Genocide--it was before my time, and it was never something I heard about in school. I could recognize the name Khmer Rouge as a Communist group, but I had no idea how terrible it had gotten. Never Fall Down begins with an epigraph that ends by saying: "It is the worst genocide ever inflicted by a country on its own people." But even reading the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on the subject is heart-breaking: "one and a half to three million people were killed [...] deaths of an estimated 25 percent of the total population [...] Up to 20,000 mass graves known as the Killing Fields have been uncovered."

Arn Chorn-Pond's survival is incredible. He somehow manages to more-or-less grift his way through forced labor camps, forced child soldier acts, and horrible atrocities. I think it's an important book to read--even though it's not easy--because we (as a people/world) don't want these things to keep happening (even though they do). I kept saying to my roommate, "This is so sad. It's too sad to even cry about." Instead, I just feel this ache deep in my soul that people have to endure such tragedies. I would recommend that everyone read this book.

Favorite Quote: "You not living. And you not dead. You living dead."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Titan's Curse (the 3rd installment in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series) by Rick Riordan is a fun-filled adventure. 

I will admit that I had to struggle to remember bits of the second book (It's been over two years since I read The Sea of Monsters!), but Riordan does a good job of reminding readers of the important plot points.

I read this book in an evening, and I really enjoyed it. I'm excited to read the final two novels in the series! I feel pretty solid about this series. I don't love it, and I don't feel like I immediately have to pick up the next two (although I will since I'm borrowing them from a friend), but it's enjoyable. I can see how younger readers would really empathize with the characters and feel the deep connection that I'm missing.

Prequel / Sequel Challenge Points : 60 pts + 2 = 62 points!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I was a wee bit underwhelmed by Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan.

Maybe it's that I grew up in Montana where the most exciting night you can have involves Civil War Beer Pong and costumes or getting your truck stuck in a ditch. (This may be two sides of the same coin, although not with most of my friends.)

Maybe it's that I found Norah annoying but weirdly relateable?

Or maybe it's that I apparently don't know (or like???) enough "Punk" music?

I have no idea. I guess I just was expecting so much more. And it's been several years since I've seen the movie, but I really remember liking it quite a lot. So I'm not sure why the book just didn't do it for me. Although if I went back and watched the movie now, I'd probably be angry with things they changed. I guess there's no pleasing me. (But if you've been around, you know that's the case, haha)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Blarghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Hello lovelies. I'm feeling super overwhelmed by life since I'm doing Camp Nanowrimo and trying to move and find a place to live 2600 miles away. So that's my excuse for missing last week. But now you get two weeks in a row. So this week's theme (hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish) is...

Top Ten Favorite Movies 

(And I picked Scary Movies)

I have a secret. Or I guess I had a secret. And that secret is that I love scary movies. Like anything that plays on gross special effects or melting walls or sudden appearances--I'm totally down for it. (This has only back fired on me once--when I had a panic attack watching Saw 2--I don't wanna talk about it...)

So in no particular order, movies that really impressed me with their scare factors:

1. Thir13een Ghosts -- there's this scene with a glass door that is ingrained in my brain. 
2. Haunting in Conneticut -- aw man, this movie is sooo good. I actually got scared in my own basement after I saw this movie for the first time. 
3.Saw -- This is just like a whole separate world for scary movies. And I loved it. 
4. Cabin in the Woods -- I may or may not have written my Honors undergraduate thesis on Whedon, so is it any surprise that I loved this one?
5. Gremlins -- My friend and I argued about whether this was actually a scary movie, but it's like a horror-comedy. 
6. Nightmare on Elm Street (the original!!) -- I've definitely had a Freddy Krueger nightmare before. Terrifying. 
7. The Ruins -- I'm seriously scared of vines because of this stupid movie. I can no longer sit on my parents' porch. 
8. Final Destination -- Oh man, I loved Devon Sawa when I was younger. And this movie was just so good. 
9. The Frighteners -- Another horror/comedy. It's hilariously delightful. 
10. Army of Darkness -- All I remembered of this movie for the longest time was that a guy had a chainsaw as an arm. And what's not to like about that?

And if you're curious here are my book blogging confessions from last week. 

1. I work at a used/new bookstore so I'm particular about weird facets of book conditions: Absolutely no broken spines or water damage. But I'll occasionally dog ear pages if I don't have any paper scraps handy and I'll write/highlight in favorite books (or school books).
2. I'm trained as a teacher so whenever I'm reading a part of me is thinking would I use this in a classroom? How?
3. I have so many books which I bought at library sales when I was like a freshman in high school which I don't think I'll ever read. I'm finally culling them for my cross-country move.
4. But I keep buying new books, and I tell myself it's okay because I can use them for my classes.
5. I'm going back to school for Children's Literature and Library Science, and I'm so nervous. I worry about maintaining this blog alongside my homework.
6. I don't have any friends on Literally, but I try to keep it updated anyway (hint hint friend me!!).
7. The last two "contemporary adult" books I've read, I've hated. (P.S. I wrote this a week ago before I read Landline (yeah yeah I wrote this down last week and never posted it) which was amazing.).
8. I worry that by reading YA novels I'm stunting my growth or something. (Like how if you didn't eat the right foods or drank too much coffee as a kid.)
9. I'm going to have to ship my books to Boston and I'm worried about both the expense and the impact on my books.
10. I feel guilty when my reviews are super short. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I've been trying to think of a way to describe my feelings for Rainbow Rowell's Landline for literally hours. And I just...can't. Every thing I write seems insufficient to explain my feelings for the book. So I'm going to try something a bit different for this review. This is gonna get a little personal.

Dear Rainbow Rowell,

It's been a year. One year, more or less exactly, since I read Eleanor & Park -- the first book of yours that I read. I had recently been let go from a job which I didn't adore, but I'd been hoping to work at for at least two years, and I was working an extremely part-time minimum wage job. Eleanor & Park made me like life again. It was five months until I read another one of your books. I had found a full time job which I adored, but it was Christmas / New Year's time, and I was spending it all away from my family for the first time in my life. I'd received a copy of Fangirl for Christmas (which I was ecstatic about) and I decided to start reading it. Fangirl reminded me of all the different paths life can take, and that I'm not alone in keeping up on online activities which I'm sure my parents thought I would leave behind in high school. It reminded me that I happiness might come from weird sources, but as long as I'm happy it shouldn't matter. I read Attachments in May. It reminded me that some people take their time to find love, and that it's okay if I'm one of them. Maybe someone's loving me from afar (which is not as good as loving me from up close in my opinion, but it still makes me feel better about myself).

And now Landline. I've been feeling really terrible about life lately. Yes, I got into my only choice for graduate programs, but I'm trying to move from Montana to Massachusetts, and it's really hard. And I'm living alone at the moment which I only enjoy so much. And I'm still single. And I wanted so badly for this year to be better than the year before. But I feel like I'm spinning my wheels and not going anywhere in life. And Landline just came at a perfect time. I felt Georgie's discontent and her confusion. How do you figure out where you went wrong in life when it just seems to be a perpetual downward slide? And how do you make sure that the people you love know you love them? And how do you live without someone you love (or someone to love)?

I just feel like your books save me from myself every time. You are my favorite author. And I think that's why it took me almost a year to read your three books before Landline. I knew I could only read them for the first time once. They've all taken spots on my favorites shelf, so they'll be reread and recommended and loved. But first reads are always a little bit different than rereads, aren't they? So thank you for Landline. And for everything else you've written and will write.

Forever Grateful,

TL;DR Landline is amazing and fantastic and you should all read it.

Favorite Quotes: "Don't pigeonhole me, Georgie. I'm infinite."
"I always knew you were you."
"You don't know what it really means to crawl into someone else's life and stay there. You can't see all the ways you're going to get tangled, how you're going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten--in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems."

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo was another wondrous journey through DiCamillo's poignant view of life.

The Magician's Elephant tells the tale of a young orphan named Peter and an elephant which is accidentally summoned by a magician. How do the two connect? Through at least seven other characters. 

DiCamillo connects each individual flawlessly. She connects every single character to their dreams. 

I wasn't as fond of this one as her others, but it was still a delightful read about achieving the impossible and trusting the universe to work even when it seems like it won't.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin was just as mind-bending and interesting as the first book in the series. I'm going to be real honest here and admit that I basically read this one in two sittings. If I hadn't had to go celebrate the Fourth of July, I definitely would have finished it in one.

I'm still reeling a little from finishing this book. To be fair, I devoured both books in three days, so I think I deserve a little WTFing right now. This sequel took so many unexpected turns from the original book that I have no idea what's happening or what's going to happen, but in a good way? Like the first thing I did when I finished it was to text my friend who had pushed it on me in the first place (heyyyyyy Melissa!).

I can't wait for The Retribution of Mara Dyer to hopefully clear some things up for me in the future (November!!). As it is, I can feel I'm going to spend a lot of time thinking about this one. Fans of the first one should really like the second one.

Favorite Quotes: "Words have power. And I may be privileged and have a higher IQ than any of our former teachers, but when people look at me? They see a black, male teenager. And there is nothing quite as frightening to some folks as an angry young black man."
"Fuck seventeen. If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them."

Prequel/Sequel Challenge Points: 58 + 2 = 60 points!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin is a whirlwind ride of a horror novel. I read it in about three hours, but let me warn you, you might start to feel a little bit crazy yourself if you take this route. 

Mara Dyer is the main character of Hodkin's novel, and the novel begins with Mara losing her best friend, her boyfriend and her boyfriend's sister in a bizarre accident where a building collapses on them. Mara is the only person to escape, and she does so relatively unscathed. 

Emotionally, however, Mara's a mess. She has symptoms of PTSD--hallucinations, losing track of time, and other effects. Her family decides it might be best to move away from their home town and start over. So that's how Mara Dyer ends up at Croyden Academy in Miami, Florida. 

Honestly, I have no idea what to say about this book. It was really good--as evidenced by the fact that I devoured it. But I can also see how some people might not like it. It has a very horror-movie-esque reading experience. Hodkin is great at describing the sort of scenes horror films love to include--y'know, dripping walls, seeing things that aren't there out of nowhere, the sort of jumpy scenes which I love and other people abhor.  I would recommend this book to people who are also scary movie lovers who appreciate romance in the story as well. 

I was so focused on trying to figure out what the heck was happening that I didn't take the time to write down any favorite quotes. Ooops. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ellen Hopkins' Perfect is a fantastic companion novel to Impulse. While Impulse tackles the world from the viewpoint of three teens who have ended up in a psychiatric hospital, Perfect tackles the world from the view of four teens who are struggling with the kind of behaviors that can eventually lead to a psychiatric hospital.

Cara has parents who demand perfection, and she's been striving for it too. Then she finds herself falling in love with a girl. But her boyfriend seems like the perfect guy.

Sean, Cara's boyfriend, is an all-star baseball player. He gets a little help from the pharmaceutical world.

Kendra is an aspiring model who just wants to be a size two and can demonstrate the control needed to get there.

Andre has fallen in love with Kendra's sister, Jenna. Jenna likes to party a little too much, and also, her father is a racist--a pretty big problem when Andre's black.

Over all, I enjoy the way Hopkins writes. I don't read many novels in verse, but her books always manage to affect me. Perfect was no exception. I enjoyed Impulse more, but Perfect is definitely a good read too. My one major flaw with this book is there is a pretty good chunk of background woman shaming. It's largely directed at Jenna, so it more floats out of the background than dominates the foreground, but it is annoying. Also Hopkins does have the tendency to get a little preach-y. But usually I don't get too irritated because it's topics which I tend to agree with.

I couldn't really choose favorite quotes for this one because a large part of the appeal to Hopkins quotes are her formatting which would have been disastrous to try to recreate out of context.

This is considered a sequel to Impulse, so 56 + 2 = 58 points!

Hello Lovelies! Yes, once again, I am a day late and a dollar short when it comes to Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish). But here they are anyway. This week's topic is 

Top Ten Classic Books I'd Like to Read

So, in no particular order, here they are.

Moby Dick : I feel like even saying that is guaranteeing myself torture, but a semi-reliable source thinks it's amazing, so I'll give it a try.

Little Women: I watched the movie because it's one of my best friend's favorite movies and found it enjoyable. I can only imagine that the book will be better (isn't that usually the case?).

Three Musketeers: Another one which I've seen adapted in various ways, but I want to read the book for myself.

Count of Monte Cristo: I tried to read this in high school but I gave up pretty early on. I think I've learned how to be patient with my reading by now, and I'd like to try it again.

Dracula: I love vampires, but I've never read this classic--what's wrong with me?

East of Eden: My best friend adores this book, and I actually liked Grapes of Wrath in retrospect, so I'd like to try it. 

Watership Down: I know, I know, how'd I miss this one? I was more of a Redwall fan when I was young. I never made it around to Watership Down.

Oliver Twist: I love Dickens. I can't wait to get to reading this one.

Great Expectations: It's a honker, but I think it'll be worth it once I try to tackle it.

I know why the Caged Bird Sings: I've had this on my shelf for ages and with the recent passing of the author, it seems appropriate to finally read it.

What classics are on your list, lovelies? Which of these should I read immediately?? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Touted as, "Harry Potter for grown-ups," The Magicians by Lev Grossman seemed to be right up my alley. Boy was I wrong.  Right now, I'm trying to think of a book about magic which I have hated more than The Magicians, and absolutely nothing is coming to mind.

So what was wrong with "the best urban fantasy in years"?

EVERYTHING. First of all, while the characters can be relateable, they're all horrible people. And even the good people are horrible. Like I spent most of the book wanting to place all the main characters in a circle and just running around the middle of a circle with a chair in my hands, smacking every single one of them across the head with it. And the writing might not be bad, but Grossman has the tendency to just skip huge chunks of time. By my estimate, the book covers about seven years? And you would think that most of those years would need a lot of explaining, but Grossman would disagree. He also has the tendency to focus on the most obnoxious things--some readers might say this is an effect of being inside the mind of the main character a boy in his late teens, but to that I say WRONG. And finally, the plot just seemed so absolutely unnecessary. Like basically the entire book negates itself.

I don't know that I would recommend this book to my worst enemy.

Favorite Quotes (yes, despite all my problems with the novel, I did enjoy a few lines):
"In Fillory things mattered in a way they didn't in this world."
"The real problem with being around James was that he was always the hero. And what did that make you? Either the sidekick or the villain."
"He'd spent too long being disappointed by the world--he'd spent so many years pining for something like this, some proof that the real world wasn't the only world, and coping with overwhelming evidence that it in fact was."
"Things like this didn't happen in Fillory: there was conflict, and even violence, but it was always heroic and ennobling, and anybody really good and important who bought it along the way came back to life at the end of the book."
"Look , who's the talking bear here? [..] Is it you? Are you the talking fucking bear? All right. So shut the fuck up."