Thursday, December 30, 2010

Teen Review: ANGELS AND DEMONS by Dan Brown

Final Grade: 99/A
736 pages
Available now
Personal copy
Rated PG-13

BLURB: Deep inside the walls of Vatican City, a bomb is ticking down its last 24 hours. While at Harvard University, a symbologist named Robert Langdon receives a phone call about a brand burned into the chest of a physician. Fearing the worst, Langdon goes to a Swiss laboratory. There, he finds the body branded with an ancient organization’s name, The Illuminati. Following an ancient trail, Robert rushes to save Vatican City.

REVIEW: Together, Robert Langdon and Vittoria Vetra try to catch a killer who’s kidnapped four cardinals and placed a bomb inside Vatican City. I thought ANGELS AND DEMONS was a very fast-paced and extremely exciting book. I really enjoyed it because of the way the author wrote it. He put in just the right amount of detail so I could picture it in my head and not too much that it became boring. I also enjoyed the parts when you didn’t know who the characters could trust and who they couldn’t. It was set up so that all parts of the story are important and connected, making none of the parts boring. I really liked this book.

Robert Langdon is definitely my favorite character because he’s the most adventurous and gets into the most trouble. I really didn’t like the Camerlengo who was in charge of the Church after the Pope died and before a new one was elected. He was the kind of person who just has a lot of people doing what he says and seemed a little selfish.

TEEN REVIEWER SEBASTIAN: Student, blueberries, reading, soccer, wants to become an engineer when older, wants to get into a good college, likes math.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teen Review: WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson

Final Grade: 90/B
YA Contemporary
278 pages
Available now
Personal copy
Rated PG-13

BLURB: “Stupid/Ugly/Loser/Fat”
“33 missed calls”
“…found dead, alone in a motel room…”

How does one deal with the loss of an old friend, a control freak of a mother, and, to top it all off, anorexia? Lia already had enough on her place and then her best friend dies. No one knows how it happened. Was it murer? Was it suicide? Was it a drunken mistake? How will this affect Lia? Already stressed enough with the hallucinations and voices in her head, what will happen to her?
“Stay strong…”
“Lose weight…”

REVIEW: This book was very interesting, I must admit. I honestly didn’t want to put it down until I was finished it. Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite authors by far because she really knows how to keep the reader wanting more and her books never make you lose interest.  She allows you to basically become the character and feel every experience.

Emma, Lia’s half-sister, was my favorite character. She was a bit na├»ve but she was only eight or nine, so it was excusable. But I liked her because she brought a nice little light into the dark mood of the book. Lia was just too dramatic for my taste, and she had a sort of “I know everything and I’m smarter than you” attitude to her.

My favorite part of the book was when Lia was in the movie theatre, and she cut herself with the razor blade she bought. She made the situation almost like a joke, saying, “I taste like dirty quarters.”

TEEN REVIEWER JAZZMINE: Loves: Drake. Kevin Fitzgerald McDougal. Flirting. Talking. Being late. Hugs. Emoticons (: Saying Fbook instead of Facebook. Cheerleading! My monkey named George.

Monday, December 27, 2010

In My Mailbox (8)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by the fabulous Story Siren.

This week, I got a couple of books for review from the awesome folks at Egmont USA (I just love the books they're putting out!):

They look so absolutely adorable--I'm sure they'll satisfy my sugar cravings (one of my resolutions for the new year is to eat less sugar and I'm hoping I can replace cookies and cake with sweet books! Haha).

I also received two rather interesting collections for review from Bell Bridge Books:

As you can see, my little bit, Fiona, is intrigued by them:
The UNBIDDEN MAGIC series by Marilee Brothers
The HAVEN series by Kalayna Price (I loved her GRAVE WITCH)

And I won (yes, me--now I can't say I never win anything!) this one from LibraryThing's First Reads program:

Happy Reading to everyone!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Winner!

Oh, I do love a good giveaway--and to do it on Christmas makes it even better! Even though the Midwinter's Eve Hop was a quickie, I had a ton of fabulous people who entered. But someone has to win, right? With the use of the handy-dandy, entry #112 was chosen and the winner is...


Congratulations! I've sent you an email. 

And to everyone out there, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a sparkly New Year!

Is everyone watching A CHRISTMAS STORY? I am! I'm to the part where Ralphie said the dreaded F-word and ratted out his friend. Love this movie. It wouldn't be Christmas in my house without at least one showing of it!

Hope Santa brings you wonderful things! Eat, drink & be merry, my friends.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Teen Review: GEEK MAGNET by Kieran Scott

Final Grade: 100/A
YA Contemporary
308 pages
Available now
Personal copy
Rated PG

BLURB: At school, KJ is important during Spring Musical time. It’s the time when she gets all the attention from the geeks and, more importantly, from the most popular and feistiest girl in school, tama. When tama sees how the geeks flock to KJ (well, kind of “attack” her), Tama trains KJ in the skill of getting rid of the geeks. With Tama’s training, KJ gains crushes, friends and respect.

REVIEW: To me, this book is the best at explaining some of the very girls in our everyday lives at school. It’s filled with all the drama I crave (especially when it doesn’t have to do with me). It’s all about romance, family, and friends. I think many people can relate to this book because of all these things. This book is more than just drama, it’s a lesson about how what you say and do really matters.

I like how it sounds like something that happens in real life, not just in fiction. I can really relate to this story. Besides KJ, I really liked Robbie Delano. He helps KJ sort through her feelings so many times through this story. He helps her with her hardships and becomes her best friend. Now, Glenn, I didn’t like him. He’s just a pain to KJ, always making things difficult for her and her friendships.

TEEN REVIEWER BRITTANY: I have been singing ever since I could talk and, shortly after, learned how to play piano. I also love to dance! If I’m ever bored, I always start to dance. I’m random and funny and always find a way to crack someone up. If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be happy! J

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway: ARC of DROUGHT by Pam Bachorz

I'm giving away an ARC of DROUGHT by Pam Bachorz 
(check out my review on Goodreads!). 

Ruby Prosser dreams of escaping the Congregation and the early-nineteenth century lifestyle that’s been practiced since the community was first enslaved. 

She plots to escape the vicious Darwin West, his cruel Overseers, and the daily struggle to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive and gives Darwin his wealth and power. But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient that makes the Water special: her blood.

So she stays.

But when Ruby meets Ford, the new Overseer who seems barely older than herself, her desire for freedom is too strong. He’s sympathetic, irresistible, forbidden—and her only access to the modern world. Escape with Ford would be so simple, but can Ruby risk the terrible price, dooming the only world she’s ever known?

Don't forget to hop on over to another blog & enter another contest! (See the full list below or visit our fabulous hop hostess, Kathy, over at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer for more information.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Teen Review: THE AMARANTH ENCHANTMENT by Julie Berry

Final Grade: 100/A
YA Fantasy
320 pages
Available Now
Personal Copy
Rated PG

BLURB: When Lucinda Chapdelaine was a small child, her parents left for the royal ball and never returned. Ever since, Lucinda has been stuck in perpetual servitude at her evil aunt’s jewelry store. Then, on the very same day, a mysterious visitor and an even more bizarre piece of jewelry both enter the shop, setting in motion a string of twists and turns that will forever alter Lucinda’s path. In this magical story filled with delightful surprises, Lucinda will dance at the royal ball, fall under the Amaranth Witch’s spell, avenge her parents’ death, and maybe—just maybe—capture the heart of a prince.

REVIEW: This book gets a 100/A. I liked that this book had a lot of twists in it. While reading, I thought one thing was going to happen but a completely different thing happened. The story was interesting, romantic and ironic. I’d love to read more books like this one.

My favorite characters were Lucinda and Prince Gregor—it’s just so sweet between them My least favorite characters were Peter, at least some of the time, and Lucinda’s aunt. Peter does these things that made me want to ask him why, why did he do that. Lucinda’s aunt doesn’t treat Lucinda with respect. I mean, she treats Lucinda like she’s dirt, like she’s nothing.

I loved the romantic story in this book—it’s very, very interesting. VERY interesting. When I say that, I mean there are lots of twists and turns on the characters’ romantic path, one of the things I really like about this story.

TEEN REVIEWER TAYLOR: Loves to read, babysit, swim and play soccer. Wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up. A friend, helper, all-around cool-awesome person.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Interview: Author Kate Messner

I'm so pleased to welcome Kate Messner, the author of SUGAR AND ICE, to The Book Swarm today. You can read my review of this fantastic middle grade novel HERE. She also wrote THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z., another great middle grade novel which won the E.B. White Read Aloud Award.

For the past twelve years, Kate has been a teacher of middle school English. When she's not teaching or writing books, she's usually hanging out with her family, taking her kids to soccer and ice skating practice, playing Scrabble, riding bikes, skiing, swimming, hiking, exploring, reading, and eating chocolate. (You can read more about her on her website HERE.)

What character traits do you share or wish you shared with Claire, the main character of SUGAR AND ICE?
I definitely share Claire’s love of learning (we are both fascinated by Fibonacci numbers!), her fondness for Indiana Jones, and some of her determination, I think.  Sadly, I don’t share her skating talent!

I know your daughter skates and that a basic skills skating camp for her sparked the idea for SUGAR AND ICE. So, what about you? How are you on the ice?
I never learned to skate until I was an adult, so I was wobbly in the beginning. Living where I do in Northern New York, though, you really have to appreciate winter sports to make it through the season  here, so I’ve gotten much better at it. I can’t do anything fancy in terms of figure skating moves, but I can do forward and backward crossovers, and I love skating on Lake Champlain when it freezes in the winter.

What’s your writing process—how do you go from the idea to writing that final draft?
I usually carry an idea around with me for a while – often months – before I start writing, so when I sit down to write that first draft, it tends to come out pretty quickly. I generally let the draft sit for a while, then read through, make notes, and revise. After I’ve done that a couple times, I share with my critique group to get their feedback and revise again before the manuscript goes to my editor. Then she gives her feedback…and guess what…more revision! That’s all good, though, because revision is my favorite part of the process.

What’s your biggest distraction when writing?
I’m kind of unusual in that I’m rarely distracted while I’m writing because my time to write is so precious. Since I teach full time, too, and have a family, I generally only write a couple hours a night, and by then I’m so excited to get to my keyboard that not much can distract me. (Awesome focus!)

Favorite fuel for writing?
Chocolate! And green tea.

Since you’ve been published, what’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you?
May I choose two coolest things? (Of course!)
Meeting young readers and talking with them about my books has been the absolute best.

But at the IRA Conference in Chicago last year, I also got to meet one of my favorite authors when I was growing up, Judy Blume, and that was pretty amazing, too! (That's so awesome--she's one of my favorite authors, too!)

What draws you to a book?
I’m definitely most likely to read a book that’s recommended by a friend or a student. 

Favorite books of 2010:
Oh dear…I have so many!  How about if I stick to books for middle grade readers and name a few I’ve loved lately?
Sharon Draper’s OUT OF MY MIND
Rita Williams Garcia’s ONE CRAZY SUMMER
Deborah Wiles’ COUNTDOWN
Cynthia Lord’s TOUCH BLUE
Loree Griffin Burns’ THE HIVE DETECTIVES
Laurel Snyder’s PENNY DREADFUL

…and a lot more that I can’t remember this second. There were so many great books this year! (I agree. So many great books--and more next year. Yay!)

You have so many great projects coming out: SUGAR AND ICE (Dec. 2010), MARTY McGUIRE (May 2011), and two picture books, SEAMONSTER’S FIRST DAY (July 2011) and OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW (Fall 2011). What are you working on these days?

My next book with Bloomsbury/Walker is a weather-related dystopian novel called EYE OF THE STORM, about a future world where there’s been an increase in the intensity and occurrence of tornadoes, and four kids at an elite science camp work together to discover the truth about why it’s happening.  I’m finishing up revisions on that book now, and it’s due out in Spring 2012. (Ooh, that sounds wonderful. It's definitely going on the to-read list.)
Junior Library Guild Selection 
Winter 2010-2011 Kids IndieNext List   
An Best Book for December

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family's farm. But all that changes when Russian skating coach Andrei Grosheva offers Claire a scholarship to train with the elite in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire realizes that her sweet dream come true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want to see her fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review: SUGAR AND ICE by Kate Messner

Final Grade 98/A
288 pages
MG Contemporary
Review copy purchased
Available Now
Rated G

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family's farm. But all that changes when Russian skating coach Andrei Grosheva offers Claire a scholarship to train with the elite in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire realizes that her sweet dream come true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want to see her fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

MY THOUGHTSFabulous story. Within the first three paragraphs, I was already exclaiming to my dogs, who love to hear about the books I’m reading, about the incredible voice in this book. I could hear Claire and her mom talking in the sugarhouse, smell the sweet maple syrup cooking, and feel the chill in the air. The imagery was beautifully done.

As was the story itself. Claire is offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train with an awesome coach and skaters who are the cream of the crop. Despite some trepidation and uncertainty, she takes it and sets off down a path she never expected. I don’t recall reading if Kate Messner competed in sports or anything when she was younger, but this book certainly reads as if she did. She does an amazing job detailing the intense mental and physical pressure athletes and high-caliber competitors face every day as well as showing the dedication and sacrifice it takes to be elite.

Claire herself is a great character and an excellent role model for girls. She’s kind, brave, and willing to work hard for what she wants. Plus, she loves math—there’s a whole sub-plot revolving around Claire’s math project which involves Fibonacci numbers. Though I’m more of an English chick, I really enjoyed Claire’s fascination with Fibonacci numbers and how she even connected them to skating (I love when everything intersects like that in books).

There were so many things I loved about this book: how supportive Claire’s parents were, the flirtation between Claire and a cute skater boy, the sports psychologist who helps Claire when she has trouble with her jumps, Claire’s best friend and her love and care of her honeybees, the description of the skaters on the ice, and Claire’s new skating friend and her love of fantasy and paranormal novels. All these elements blend beautifully into the overall story.

If I had to fuss about something, it would be that the “bad” guy was a little obvious. Well, to me, at least. It’s probably because I’ve had experience with uber-competitive girls and have been stabbed in the back by them so, when Claire’s saboteur is revealed, I wasn’t too surprised. However, I’m thinking that the girls who read this novel will be surprised, (thus negating my complaint).

One of my favorite books of 2010, SUGAR AND ICE is a sweet spin with a perfect double toe loop around the ice.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Teen Review: OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB Vol. 13 Story and Art by Bisco Hatori

Final Grade: 97/A
200 pages
Available Now
Personal Copy
Rated G

REBECCA’S BLURB: Haruhi, a poor girl, was forced to enroll into a high school full of rich kids. By an unfortunate accident, she must pay a debt of $80,000! By paying off the debt, she is forced to work in Ouran High School’s very own Host Club as a boy. No one can ever find out that she’s a girl working in an all-boys club. As she works in the Host Club, she discovers each of the member’s personalities and quirks.

As Mei, one of Haruhi’s closest friends tries to help Haruhi realize her feelings for one of the boys, Mei has Haruhi do a checklist from a magazine to determine whether she is in love or not. As Haruhi finishes the checklist, she realizes that maybe her heart has been taken by one of the boys in the Hose Club and she didn’t even know it.

REVIEW: I give this book a 97/A! In this volume, my favorite characters were Harui and Hikaru. I loved the beginning of this manga. It was funny and romantic at the same time. The denial that Haruhi is going through about her true feelings was priceless. I also enjoyed the cliffhanger ending and was left dying to know how Haruhi would react to Kikaru’s question.

My least favorite character in this manga would have to be Kosaka. She seemed too suspicious in the story, and I honestly thin she’s up to something. My least favorite part in this manga was the chapter on how the Host Club and some other small clubs went on a hunt to discover what the map they found meant. I really didn’t understand how that chapter related to the story. Other than that, I found this romatinc comedy manga quite enjoyable and very entertaining, leaving me to wonder what will happen next.

TEEN REVIEWER REBECCA: Love to read, write, and dram. Really good at drawing and would love to work in the arts. Youngest of my family and have two pet snakes. Enjoying having friends and family around me 24/7 and look to them for support and advice.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Are You in the Holiday Spirit?

Or are you feeling Grinch-y like me? I swear, I just can't get into the swing of it this year. No decorations. No tree. I don't even have the first present purchased yet. *sigh*

*perks up* I know what will help! Muppets! Singing!

Okay. That helped a little. Can't go wrong with Beaker. But I still need a little more Muppets (this one isn't holiday-ish but it does have penguins which, in my book, counts).

Totally reminds me why I loved The Muppet Show when I was a kid. The Muppets rock. Happy Holidays, y'all!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Mailbox (7)

It's been a slow week new-book-wise over here at the hive. Which rocked, because I got caught up on a lot of my reading. Oh, don't get me wrong, my TBR pile is still a leaning tower of Pisa but at least it's a little smaller!

Anyway, here's what was in my mailbox this week (hosted by the fab Kristi, The Story Siren):

Sarah Bennett Wealer sent me a stack of signed bookmarks for her new book RIVAL--yay! (Oh, I will be offering these to y'all soon, btw) I'm extra excited because, before her fabulous-sounding book releases, she's going to be visiting The Book Swarm to do an interview.

Received for review from Penguin, THE OUTSIDE BOY by Jeanine Cummins looks really interesting--an Irish gypsy boy whose life and lifestyle completely changes when he and his father settle down in a town after a life of roaming the country in a wagon. I'll let you know. (Hey, it's $6 on Amazon right now, if you're interested!)

Can't wait to see what you're excited about this week!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

FCSS Review: GHOST TOWN by Rachel Caine

I'm joining Amber over at Down the Rabbit Hole in her First Come, Second Served month-long drive to clear off some of the sequels sitting around on our bookshelves. This week, I read GHOST TOWN by one of my favorite authors, Rachel Caine (she's got two awesome adult series: the Weather Wardens and Outcast).

Final Grade: 97/A
335 pages
YA Paranormal
Review copy provided by publisher
Available now
Rated PG-13

BLURB: While developing a new system to maintain Morganville's defenses, student Claire Danvers discovers a way to amplify vampire mental powers. Through this, she's able to re-establish the field around this vampire-infested Texas college town that protects it from outsiders. 

But the new upgrades have an unexpected consequence: people inside the town begin to slowly forget who they are-even the vampires. Soon, the town's little memory problem has turned into a full-on epidemic. Now Claire needs to figure out a way to pull the plug on her experiment- before she forgets how to save Morganville...

MY THOUGHTSI read the first several books in this series and, for some reason, haven’t picked any up again until GHOST TOWN, which is the ninth book in the Morganville Vampires series. A lot has happened to Claire and her friends since last I visited them. Claire and Shane are in full-on boyfriend-girlfriend mode (it must be lurve!). Michael is no longer a ghost (as he was in the first book)—he’s a rock-n-roll vampire who’s dating the awesome goth chick, Eve. Love her. Claire is as brilliant as ever and is working for a mad scientist vamp. She’s learning lots, when she isn’t terrified that Myrnin might eat her.

One thing I really liked about this book was how easy it was to get sucked back into the story, even though I’d jumped ahead several books. Sure, things had happened that I was clueless about (Michael was a rock star? A crazy robot-vamp tried to kill Claire?) but that just made me want to go back and read the entire series. I also appreciated how the author didn’t go through a long recap of what happened in the previous novels; she just picked up where the story had left off and trusted her readers to catch up. But the story’s so well written, it was a snap to pick up and dive right into. I think, even if I hadn’t read a couple of these, it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out what was going on and enjoy the story.

Claire is a fantastic character. Even though I would have no desire to live in a town run by vamps, I wouldn’t mind having Claire as a friend and my backup in a fight. That girl can kick some serious booty, and she defends her friends to the death. Which is why I felt so bad for her when everyone in the town starts to lose their memories, going back three years. Three years ago, Claire wasn’t in Morganville. As the townspeople lose their memories, they forget about her and all the positive changes she helped implement. Things are returning to the way they were—which is very, very bad for the humans.

I also really liked the relationships in this book. For example, while Claire and Shane are teens in love (read: always kissing, hugging, and touching. Ah, to be young and in love!), it’s not a shallow relationship by any means. Their relationship started out as lust and attraction but, over time and all the trials they’ve been through, it developed into something more. There’s an undercurrent of support, trust, and friendship that runs deep and strong through their relationship. In fact, the same undercurrent is there between Claire and her other friends, Michael and Eve, too. It’s what allows them to survive and even (sort of) thrive in a town like Morganville. After returning to Morganville in GHOST TOWN, I remember why I liked this series so much.            

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winterlong: A Random Magic Book Tour

Music is a strong theme in Random Magic -- so strong, in fact, that one of the celestial characters Winnie and Henry meet is Efterpe, the Muse of music.

In celebration of the winter season, here’s a fun blog hop to check out. You’ll find lovely songs with wintry themes that also match some of the
important themes in the book.

Come sit by the fire and enjoy a musical feast for friends with us...

You are here: #3 of 10 (The Book Swarm)

Stop the Cavalry - Jona Lewie
Song and book themes: Fortitude - Quirkiness

Random Magic quote:

“There’s a slight possibility that I’m dead,” he said calmly. “I might have been scared to death.”
   Winnie kicked him.
   “You’re alive.” (More)

Watch Random Magic trailer - More Random Magic: Browse

Bonus: Free MP3s (as avail.): Classical sampler (album) and Angels We Have Heard on High - Point of
Grace and Sugarite - Abra Moore

Check out music stop #4 of 10: Take me there 

(If you enjoy a particular music pick, please consider buying the track to help support the person or group that created it for everyone’s
enjoyment. River of Light is the unofficial soundtrack for the 2010 Random Magic winter season tour, Random Magic: Winterlong. Happy listening!)

For the impatient, here are all the blogs on the hop:

#1 of 10: Spellbound by Books (@Meeka_21)
Themes: Buoyancy - Good Cheer

#2 of 10: Geeky Blogger (@thehistorychic)
Themes: Reflection - Spirituality

#3 of 10: The Book Swarm (@marybrebner)
Themes: Fortitude - Quirkiness

#4 of 10: Elbit Blog (@MeriGreenleaf)
Themes: Tenderness - Devotion

#5 of 10: The Reading Lassie (@ReadingLassie)
Themes: Mystery - Magic

#6 of 10: A Reader's Adventure (@ReaderAdventure)
Themes: Celebration - Humor

#7 of 10: vvb32 Reads (@vvb32reads)
Themes: Love - Geniality

#8 of 10: About Happy Books (@abouthappybooks)
Themes: Comedy - Creativity

#9 of 10: The True Book Addict (@truebookaddict)
Themes: Hope - Light

#10 of 10: The Fluidity of Time (Twitter n/a)
Themes: Art - Beauty - Inspiration

Reader note: You're invited! Do you have a favorite tune for the winter season? Feel free to share some of your top tunes in the comments,
maybe everyone will find a great new song to check out. 

Book Blogger Hop: 12/10-12/13

Book Blogger Hop
It's been a while since I've done this lovely meme hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy for Books but I always enjoy meeting new people!

"What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs?  Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?"

I love reading the reviews and the posts about upcoming releases--it gets me all excited about books and I usually end up adding a bunch more to my already-towering TBR pile.

What about you? (What don't you like?)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Teen Review (2-for-1!): MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins

Jessica’s Final Grade: 100/A+
Austin’s Final Grade: 98/A
YA Dystopia
398 pages
Available now
Personal copy
Rated PG-13

BLURB: Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Kattnis, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12.  (Blurb from Goodreads)

JESSICA’S REVIEW: [Warning: mild spoilers] This book really wowed me and kept me wanting more. All in all, I read the complete series in a total of three days. I loved this book. The details were awesome. I felt like I was there. I felt like I could be Katniss Everdeen in the flesh. The action was so detailed in some parts, I wanted to close the book. But what I loved the most was the real life reference. It made the book feel even more real. It kind of sounded like the end of the world.  My favorite characters were Katniss and Peeta. I loved Katniss’s bravery and care for her friends and family. Peeta was so sweet and heartfelt; I feel like he reflects the type of guy every single girl wants. It was really sad he was hijacked and changed.

What I didn’t really like were the multiple overly dramatic scenes. While they really contributed to the book, they left me slightly confused and feeling left behind. I had to reread some sections (which I hate). I also didn’t like that we never got to find out what happened in the last Hunger Games with Snow’s grandchildren.

This was an extremely good action book. If you read this book, be sure to start with the beginning of the series. I guarantee you will love it.

AUSTIN’S REVIEW: This is a book that boys and girls will both love. The suspense and cliffhangers will have you biting your nails trying to figure out what is going to happen. The girls will like the book because, throughout the story, Katniss is constantly trying to decide whether she loves her long-time friend and hunting partner, Gale, or whether she loves the baker and Hunger Games partner, Peeta. She can’t seem to make up her mind because right when she picks one, something happense to make her lost in confusion again.

The boys with like this because of the non-stop action and suspense. Throughout this story, there are mutts trained to decapitate the rebels, and many more things that will stop at nothing to wipe out the rebels. There is non-stop fighting and something is always creating a big band. The only thing I didn’t like was the ending. I was expecting something huge but that didn’t happen. There seemed to be things that didn’t get tied up and it seemed to be missing some crucial details.

Despite that small complaint, I give this book a 98/A.

TEEN REVIEWER JESSICA: I’m a horrible typist but I LOVE to read. My favorite thing to do is swim. If I could breathe underwater, you would never see me again because I would live under there. I am an awesome friend, and I do the stupidest stuff sometimes. I love the Korean food kimchi. I am Black, Indian, Asian, and others. I love SpongeBob, and I don’t care what anyone says: Being immature is awesome. Also, how do you find out stuff if you don’t ask questions?

TEEN REVIEWER AUSTIN: Loves to eat big, cheesy hamburgers with a Monster Energy drink on the side. When I gro up, I want to do something where I can build thinkgs like skateparks, though it would be nice if I could go pro with my skating. I love to listen to music, hang out with friends, and skateboard.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: BITTER MELON by Cara Chow

Final Grade: 85/B
YA Realistic
224 pages
Available Dec. 28, 2010
Review copy provided by Egmont USA
Rated PG

BLURB: Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to med school. But is being a doctor what she wants? It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her?

REVIEW: When I was growing up, my mother and I had some seriously epic battles. But they’re nothing compared to the battles between Frances and her mother. Poor Frances. The pressure she's under is enormous. Because her mother works long, hard hours paying for Frances’s education, Frances is burdened not only by cultural dictates but by her mother’s expectations as well. Up until she walks into that speech class, she bows them. But Ms. Taylor emboldens Frances, encouraging her and supporting her efforts to become her own person. By branching out, she learns more about her own desires and capabilities and realizes she doesn’t want what her mother wants.

I had to restrain myself from yelling at Frances's mother (besides the fact it would have scared my dogs, I didn't want to look like a complete loon). She was hideous--a very well-written antagonist for Frances. In her reality, I think she really believed what she was doing was good. She didn't really care if Frances was happy or not, she just wanted Frances to be the perfect daughter to her. In Frances's reality however, her mother was both mentally and physically abusive, controlling and mean.  

This story was a departure from my usual fare and, I have to say, I enjoyed my trip to San Francisco and Frances's world. BITTER MELON reminded me of a YA JOY LUCK CLUB (by Amy Tan), which I read years back. There are a couple of students I have in mind who will love this book--can't wait to pass it on to them.

I really like this cover, which goes with the Kindle edition and was the cover for the ARC:

Skip Day: Muppet Break

I love the Muppets. Yes, I say it proudly. I'll even admit to having recently purchased all of the Muppet Show on DVD. So, for today's Skip Day, I give you three of my very favorite Muppets and one of the few Christmas songs (more of a tune, actually) I like (yes, I'm a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas music. Not a big fan, sorry.).

Ringing of the Bells by The Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Teen Review: DON'T JUDGE A GIRL BY HER COVER by Ally Carter

Final Grade: 98/A
YA Adventure/Mystery
288 pages
Available Now
Personal Copy
Rated PG

BLURB: When Cammie Morgan, a.k.a. “The Chameleon”, gets invited to visit her roommate, Macey McHenry, in Boston, she sees it as the best way to end her summer break. I mean, think about it, seeing the father of one of your best friends get nominated for vice president of the United States has got to be pretty exciting. And, to top it all off, nothing can possibly go wrong with the Secret Service there. For these Gallagher Girls, this incredible opportunity is about to put them to the test.

Cammie and Macey soon find themselves trapped in a kidnapper’s scheme with only their spy training and skills to get them out. As she begins her junior year, Cammie tries to figure out why someone was after Macey and who it was. With the help of her best friends and an old flame, Cammie gets closer and closer to the shocking truty behind this mystery. But she isn’t sure she can handle the truth—especially if it involves the possibility of her losing someone she loves.

REVIEW: I thought this novel was a very amazing story. I loved the fact that it contained a lot of mystery, danger, and love. Cammie, who was trying to solve one of the biggest mysteries in her life, was willing to put herself in danger to make srue that Macey was safe. Her friends and her lied and broke a lot of rules while trying to stay by Macey’s side. Their dangerous adventures led them closer and closer to solving the mystery but, of course, got them into some trouble.

My favorite character in the book was Cammie because she was a very loyal friend who would do anything to keep her friends and family safe. She is also a very good spy, who learned more and more about herself as the story went on. My least favorite character was Macey’s mom, Mrs. McHenry. It seemed like she was more concerned with looking professional and nice for the cameras and during the campaign rather than with her daughter’s personal life and feelings.

Ally Carter is a wonderful author, and I really enjoyed reading this book. I just can’t wait until I get the chance to read the next one. My final grade for DON’T JUDGE A GIRL BY HER COVER is a 98/A.

TEEN REVIEWER SHAELI: Loves to play basketball, draw, read, and hang out with friends and family. Hopes to play professional basketball and/or be an artist when she grows up.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

In My Mailbox (6)

This week brought some absolutely amazing books to my door. I wish I had more hours in the day to read them (well, I've already devoured one and have moved on to another so I'm not doing too badly with 24 hours!).

First off, Mr. FedEx dude (who might now be my first love) left me this little present to find when I got home from a (very long) day at work:

I squeed so loud, I scared the dogs. Then scared them more when I danced around the house, clutching it to my chest. I think I actually kissed it at one point...

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis (ARC from Penguin for review)

And now, I must say I love you too, Mr. UPS man. I salivate like Pavlov's dog when I hear the distinctive sound of your truck engine. Mr. UPS man (and Amazon--yes, I'm still ordering from them despite all the recent kerfluffles. I can't help it. It's an addiction) brought me:

MATCHED by Ally Condie (purchased)
BLACK HOLE SUN by David MacInnis Gill (purchased)

Last but not least:

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins (purchased)

I had to go to two Books-A-Million (trust me, if we had Indies in Columbia, I'd shop there but we're a big-box mecca here). The first BAM was CLOSED because Sarah Palin was signing there FOUR hours later! I was highly annoyed. But then, I purchased and read it and all was right with the world.

So, what'd you get in your mailbox that you'll stay up late to read 
and be bleary-eyed at work the next day for?