Friday, October 30, 2015

Reviews, Reviews


Hello Lovelies!!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a billion reviews to catch up on. I probably should be doing homework, but I'm at that midsemester slump where everything sounds terrible. So I want to do anything besides homework.



So here's more of what I've been reading lately.


Published: 1964
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Received: Bought a kindle edition!

I remember doing a unit on this book in the 6th grade. It was so much fun, and I loved it, even though I hated the old movie. And when the newer film came out, I still wasn't a huge fan. There's something about putting this story into a visual tale that changes it. 

Charlie Buckett wins a chance to visit Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory -- a place which no one has entered in years. He brings along his grandfather. Together the two of them see amazing things and watch misadventure after misadventure occur. 

I still really enjoy this book. It's imaginative and funny. Now that I'm older, I can see how didactic Roald becomes about television -- I can only imagine what he might say about the internet and smart phones. I would recommend this book to every one who enjoys a little humor, particularly on the darker side. 




Published: January 1, 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Received: Borrowed from the library!

Cassel's brothers are curse workers. His whole family is, actually. Everyone but him. And he's not allowed to tell anyone because curse workers are illegal. So he brushes off incidences as coincidences, and he keeps running his gambling ring. But at night he dreams of a white cat who reminds him of a girl he killed years ago. The only girl he ever loved. So when Cassel starts to question his life, he has to follow the questions to answers he might not want to know.

I really enjoyed this book! It's my first venture into a Holly Black novel (although I've read a few of her short stories). While I found this book to be largely predictable, I liked watching it unfold. The ending surprised me! I'm excited to see what happens next in the series. Black really excels at world-building. I totally believed that magic was a somewhat normal aspect of the world, and that magic would of course lead to mobs. 

I would suggest this book to fans of fantasy books with magic and good characterization. 



Published: 1954
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.
Received: Bought a copy for class!

Half Magic is one of those books for young readers that is at turns witty and amusing but because of its dated publication can also be a little bit problematic.

When the eldest of four siblings realizes a coin she had picked up causes wishes to come true--or at least half true--the siblings have a series of misadventures featuring knights, aliens, gold, ghosts, and a half-talking cat. This book delights in figuring out how to twist wishes to be half fulfilled and equally revels in the kids figuring out how to double wish for what they want. Like Phantom Tollbooth, Half Magic tries--and mostly succeeds--at making learning fun and natural. I was disappointed in the few instances of casual racism involving an Arab man and some "Indians". Overall, the book is worth reading, and worth reading to children, it just also involves a bit of mediation.

I would recommend for fans of The Phantom Tollbooth and Five Children and It





Published: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Received: E-galley at Netgalley. Thanks Disney-Hyperion!

Liddi Jantzen is the only daughter of the Jantzen family and surrounded by papparazzi. Her family members are leaders in the tech-world, and Liddi is expected to follow in their footsteps. But one night her brothers go missing. And when she asks the manager of their company to look into it, Liddi ends up on the run for her life, unable to say a single word.

Lewis' retelling of the The Wild Swans had me entranced. I loved the sci-fi world building. I loved how problems of today's society were neatly integrated, creating a feeling of familiarity and current-ness, even though the book was feasibly set in the future. Lewis does a fantastic job of focusing and maintaining priority of the sibling relationship. While there is a bit of a love story, it's unobtrusive and seems natural. 

I really enjoyed this book. I have been recommending it, and I can't wait to pick up Lewis' other novel, Stitching Snow. I would recommend this book to fans of retellings, readers who want a little (easily-accessible) science fiction, and people who want relateable female characters.




Published: 1975
Publisher: Bradbury Books
Received: Borrowed from the library

Katharine meets Michael at a New Year's Eve party, and within a short while they are dating. Katharine is so serious that she picks up birth control from Planned Parenthood. Michael invites her over to his sister's empty apartment. And well...you know what happens next. But even though they are devoted to each other and plan to go to college together, their parents insist they spend the summer apart. 

I thought I might have read this book about six years ago, but I wasn't entirely sure. So I picked it up to reread it for class. It wasn't until I got to the very last chapter that I realized, I had in fact read it. While this book is fairly descriptive in its sexual scenes, I don't feel like there's much else to it. I don't think it's particularly interesting--in fact, I find it very boring. It's also obviously dated. It's forty years old! I know it was ground-breaking, and in many ways, other novels have not been as clinically descriptive. However, it just doesn't do much for me anymore.

I would recommend it to teens who want to know more about sex and romance as part of a broad spectrum of books.




Published: 2005
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Received: Own a copy!

Miles Halter is finally going to have an adventure. He's memorized the last words of famous people, but he's ready to actually experience life. He's switching to a boarding school. At Culver Creek, he finds himself becoming friends with a group of people who aren't afraid to break rules, to pull pranks, and to get disgustingly drunk on disgusting alcohol. One of these people is Alaska Young, a girl who Miles has fallen head over heels in love with. But she has a boyfriend, and as their year moves forward, life changes everything.

I first read Looking for Alaska about six years ago. It had been out, and my friend loved it. So I gave it a shot, and I wasn't entirely sold. This read-through, I loved it. I think for some people the format and context can be startling. This time I knew what was going to happen, and I was prepared. I wasn't trying to guess the twists and turns (it's not a mystery novel, calm down Sherlock [I say to myself]). I know many people find fault in the book because they come to it after reading Green's other novels. However, this book has some really lovely prose and a lot of heart. 

I would recommend this to fans of Green's other works, as well as contemporary fiction fans. 



Okay, that's all for now, Lovelies! I have to do real life things like make dinner and write a paper. Let me know if you've read any of these in the comments! Is anyone horribly offended that I'm not a Forever fan?















Thursday, October 22, 2015

Now I'm BACK from OUTER SPACE


Hello Lovelies!!

Whoa nelly it's been ages since I've written a post (almost two months exactly...oops). But my guilt from not writing finally overcame the minimal free time I have to do anything that isn't directly school related. So here I am. 

I'm in my second to last semester of grad school, and the courses that I have this semester (plus my part time job at a high school library) have made this blog slide to a back burner for a little bit. But I haven't forgotten you!! Also I've been stacking up all my books to review. Let me tell you guys, there's a million. This is going to be another set of mini-reviews broken down over several posts. And at least for the next seven weeks or so I can about guarantee that's all you'll be getting. So without further ado, let me catch you up on just a couple of the books I've read lately...

As you might remember, I was doing a Harry Potter reread this summer. And I did manage to wrap that up before my semester started and killed me again.

by J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Published: June 21, 2003
Received: Library copy (but I own it 2000 miles away)

Order of the Phoenix sees Harry at his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry now has several things on his mind: the death of Cedric Diggory which he witnessed at the end of Goblet of Fire, plus the fact that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as been brought back to life. And then he gets attacked by Dementors over the summer which causes him to be brought before a committee which wants to kick him out of school. Basically, life's rough. 

And then when he does get to Hogwarts, he must deal with the most truly evil person in the whole entire series: Dolores Umbridge. This book shows how those who want to remain in denial are more dangerous than anyone else in society. 

Many people feel like Harry gets too angsty in this book. I don't feel that way at all. He is traumatized. He's reacting in a totally reasonable manner to a situation that is so far out of his control and comfort zone. People forget that Harry was literally locked in a closet for most of his youth. He might have been dealing with attempts on his life for the last four years, but he cares less about himself than anyone else. This book also shows how Harry's heroic tendencies can be fatal. Harry is such an intensely good person at heart, and his enemies aren't afraid to use that against him.

This book gets increasingly dark. And death becomes an even more prominent part of the narrative.




by J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Published: July 16, 2005
Received: Library Copy (but I own it too)

In Half-Blood Prince, Harry returns to Hogwarts for his sixth year. Times are a-changing. The Death Eaters are back. Harry's dealing with the loss at end of book 5. Dumbledore has convinced one Professor Slughorn to return to Hogwarts to teach Potions which means Snape has taken over Defense Against the Dark Arts. This year, Harry discovers He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's goal of creating a mythical object known as a Horcrux. Dumbledore takes Harry with him to track down significant objects. Meanwhile Draco has Harry on edge. He's acting suspicious and Harry wants to know why.

Of course, the ending of this book astonished everyone. I still can't type it out. And I cry every time. This book just gets me right through the feels (actually this whole series does). 




Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (#7)
by J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Published: July 21, 2007
Received: Library copy but I own it too.

In the final book of the series, Harry does not return to Hogwarts for his final year of school. He's been left a mission bigger than education. He needs to track down the Horcruxes in order to kill He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named once and for all. Hermione and Ron accompany him through the trials of trying to look for something that they don't even know what they're looking for. In the meantime, Death Eaters are taking over the Ministry and Muggle-sympathizers are on the run. 

This book really digs into the adventure side for me. There's a lot of downtime, but it's all very high tension. And so much happens that it doesn't seem like it's moving slow. I love the end of this series so much (except the Epilogue which I refuse to acknowledge). 

This series formed who I am as a human being, and I can't explain how much it means to me. 




Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Published: May 12, 2015
Received: Borrowed from library then bought

I love everything about this graphic novel. From the dedication ("To all the monster girls"), I knew I was going to adore this book. I've followed Stevenson on my Tumblr for years, and I've watched this publication process as Nimona moved from a self-published online comic to a graphic novel published by one of the top five publishing houses. Even though I don't know her personally, I'm so proud of her success. 

Nimona is the story of Nimona, a young shapeshifting girl who wants to be sidekick to the evil Lord Ballister Blackheart. Blackheart, however, does not want a sidekick. And he certainly doesn't want one who is so young and meddlesome. But Nimona is stubborn and she'll help Blackheart take down the saintly Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin if it's the last thing she does.

Nimona is hilarious and delightful and every page made me fall more in love. I have been constantly recommending it ever since I finished it. If you like stories about finding yourself and the ambiguity of good and evil, then you will love Nimona. 




Publisher: IDW
Published: July 1, 2003
Received: Borrowed from Library

This book was one of the summer reading choices for the high school I work at. I was trying to read all the books over the summer (that didn't actually happen), but this one was at my local library when I stopped it so I picked it up. 

I didn't feel it.

This book mostly left me feeling bored and a little bit floundering. The romance felt contrived and false. Maybe because religion played a different role in my life growing up, I didn't feel that connection to the story. I don't need to see myself reflected in a story to like it, but with this style of quiet narrative it just didn't draw me in.



Lumberjanes Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke A. Allen
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Published: April 7, 2015
Received: Purchased!

Things that I love: ensembles and girls. Things that Lumberjanes is: ensembles and girls. It makes complete sense that I would love Lumberjanes. Lumberjanes is a fun, Girl Scout-esque group for girls. Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five friend surviving Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types. They're figuring out themselves and how to be friends to each other along the way.



by Anne Bishop
Publisher: Roc
Published: October 1, 2001
Received: Borrowed from a friend

Some of you might recall that Anne Bishop is one of the few adult authors who I read immediately. This was one of her series that I had missed out on, so I went back and read the first book. 

It was a bit tougher to get involved in than other Bishop novels. However, once I got a decent way through, I could hardly put it down. I love the way Bishop interweaves stories, not telling one narration straight through but switching between by chapters. I also love books with witches and magic (which Bishop's books have plenty of!).

Ari is one of the last few witches. She protects her family's plot of land, an Old Place, and helps out the village with small magics. Ari accidentally takes a Fae lover to whom she becomes bound for a certain amount of time. This makes her the target of not only the human village but the fairy royalty who she has unwittingly angered. But bigger things are happening. 

I loved this book a lot. I would definitely recommend it to fans of the slightly historical witchery like Tamora Pierce's Tortall series and Mercedes Lackey's Heralds series.




Publisher: Knopf
Published: September 9, 2014
Received: Borrowed from the library

I have recently realized that I have a distinct problem reading books that deal with the end of society. I have no problem with books set after the apocalypse. But ones that look at diseases or outbreaks or anything like that just freak me out. 

Station Eleven follows different story line at different points in time. One of an EMT the night the pandemic strikes. One of a young woman in an acting troupe after the pandemic has swept through. The thing that I loved about this book was how the stories were interwoven. It's a narrative technique I really admire, and Mandel does it almost flawlessly. I wished the connections would have been explicitly stated earlier on, however. Part of what I enjoy is watching characters after their connections have been revealed. We don't see much of that here. 

Overall, I enjoyed the story, but there were also bits that bored me. Part of that, I think, comes from it being an adult book. I just usually don't care that much about adult books. Another part comes from the end of the world aspect which just had me squirming every time that part came up. If it had just followed the story after the world had ended, I would have been more comfortable. 




The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Published: June 21, 2004
Received: Borrowed from the library

This nonfiction text tells the story of David Hahn, a young boy who was fascinated by nuclear energy. Hahn decided to build a nuclear reactor in his backyard shed. Something he spent years and endless bits of money attempting to achieve. Of course, building a nuclear reactor is a difficult venture, and eventually the EPA found out and stepped in to take out the unsolicited project.

Silverstein writes in a compelling way. He makes the difficult science easier to follow and comprehend. This was another text I read from my high school's summer reading list, and I can see how it would be compelling for teens. It doesn't talk down, but it does simplify. 




Never Fade (Darkest Minds #2)
by Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Published: October 15, 2013
Received: Borrowed from the library

Ruby is now a leader of dangerous children. She's working to take down the government by allowing another group to direct their dangerous powers. But when she's given the directive to track down a flashdrive that appears to be with Liam Stewart, Ruby isn't sure what to do. She can't take facing the boy she left behind, the boy she memory-wiped to forget her. 

I read Darkest Minds many, many moons ago. So it took me a moment to recenter myself in the universe. Especially because Bracken doesn't do the typical thing of recapping the entire previous book in the first chapter of the book. However, within a few chapters, the world started coming back to me. 

This book ended on a massive cliffhanger, and I don't know why I didn't immediately go for the third. Someday I'll finish this series. It's not that I don't like it, I do enjoy it an awful lot. I just don't adore it. 

Would definitely recommend to fans of dystopian novels and novels with superpowers.




Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
Published: 1902
Received: Bought a Kindle copy

I read this book when I was young (eight or nine), and I reread it for my Science-Fiction and Fantasy course at school. This book is such an interesting look at what children will wish for and how wishes can backfire. The sammyead is an interesting creature. I don't necessarily think it's malevolent, but it could be.

Five Children and It follows five siblings (well, really only four) and their wishes with a sand fairy. There's adventure and mayhem. Each wish gets thwarted in some way or another. 

Well worth the read, and an excellent choice for fans of Edward Eager or P.L. Travers. 



Publisher: Knopf
Published: January 16, 2001
Received: eBook from the library

Pobby and Dingan is the story of Kellyanne Williamson's imaginary best friends who go missing. With their disappearance Kellyanne becomes more and more ill. Told through the eyes of Kellyanne's brother, Ashmol, Pobby and Dingan becomes a question of who and what are real and who and what gets privileged in our lives. 

I read this book for a Science Fiction and Fantasy course, so I think that made me like the book less than I otherwise might have. I did not read it as a fantasy text, so I had a hard time reading it in that mind set. 

I'm also not sure who the intended audience is. I suspect it's actually more geared for adults than young people, which is another issue I had reading it. 


So there you go. An even dozen reviews to help catch up my blog. I might have to post another dozen tomorrow (and the day after and the day after), but I promise I'm not deserting this blog. I'm just a little busy. What have you all been reading?? I promise to make time for comments!