Monday, October 31, 2011

Name That Book, Episode 20

 Name that Book is a biweekly game where you get to guess a book title from the photo clues.  Occasionally I offer prizes for those who guess right!

It's a spooky edition of Name That Book, so put on your scary glasses and guess what frightening books these puzzles represent. Leave your guesses in the comments and have a fabulous Halloween!

Book 1:

Book 2:

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Review: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Publication date: September 2011
ISBN: 9780374302108
Source: ARC provided by publicist

Anya Balanchine is no stranger to crime.  She's grown up the daughter of the head of an illegal chocolate empire.  But when her dad was murdered, she was left to care for her brother, sister, and sick grandmother.  At least she's kept them out of the business.  Until the new head of the DA comes to town, bringing his cute son with him, and Anya learns you can never escape from your family.

Things I Liked:
I was sucked into this book right away, and it wasn't necessarily the story.  It was the voice!  I adored Anya from the first - she is full of sarcasm, and strength, and smarts.  I love how she makes tough choices and how she accepts the consequences of them, no matter what.  She was the main reason I kept reading, to find out where she ends up and what happens to her.  I was also in love with the minor characters, Galina, Natty, Win, Scarlet - it was a great bunch of characters that made me care what happened.  Oh, and I really loved how Anya was religious, but it wasn't a big deal.  She just was.  And the story wasn't too bad either, it really had me thinking of hoarding my Snickers!  An awesome dystopian that isn't all about the action or the future world, but the characters.

Things I Didn't Like:
The middle dragged a bit for me, since not much happened, but because of my afore mentioned Anya-love, I was invested enough to keep reading.  I kind of wanted a little bit more about this future world too, since only tidbits and mentions fleshed it out, but I liked how it wasn't really revealed all at once in an info-dump. 

Curse Workers series by Holly Black

Heist Society series by Ally Carter

s-factor: !@

some mild cussing here and there

mrg-factor: X
all talk and no page action

v-factor: ->->
unavoidable in the Mafiya business

Overall rating: ****

Does reading dystopian fiction ever make you take action (like hoarding chocolate or buying up canned goods)?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm a Fantasy Kind of Gal...I Think

So, I've not done any kind of discussion post in...let me check...two months.  I'm not good at them and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  I like lists and reviews - I'm comfortable with them.  Discussions?  Not so much.  Plus, my brain is so fried sometimes at the end of a work day I honestly don't know if I could come up with relatively new and interesting ideas that often.  Even so, here's what I've been thinking.

I decided to do a little stats analyzing (oh, my inner nerd) to see if those genres I tend to like get more 5 star reviews than genres I don't normally like.  And, of course, if the reverse is true of 2 star reviews.  Specifically, I wanted to see if fantasy had more positive reviews and realistic fiction had more negative.  Here's the breakdown from my blog in pie chart form (see above parenthetical exclamation): 

As I expected, fantasy topped the charts as the highest number of 5 star reviews with 31%.  Since I consider fantasy to be my favorite, I thought that was pretty awesome.  I was a bit surprised by how high realistic fiction was too, with 14%!  Then I did the same calculations for my 2 star reviews:

And discovered that fantasy also tops that list.  Mind you, I found that I nearly equally give 2 star reviews to each genre.  In fact, the only genre that seemed to move up a bit in comparison to 5 star reviews was paranormal (which, I kind of expected).  As this kind of disproved my initial theory, I thought I'd better look at my overall reading by genre.  I only did reading for this year since the data was the most complete.

As you can see, fantasy does top my list at 31%, though I was a bit surprised by how low dystopian was on the scale (only 13%).  It feels like I've been reading lots of that, but I guess not in comparison to fantasy and paranormal.  Based on this, it makes sense that fantasy tops both my 5 and 2 star reviews.  I read quite a bit more of that genre than any other, so I should have more reviews in general of that genre, both good and bad. 

If you've stuck with me thus far, bravo for you!  Do you find yourself reading more of a certain genre or thinking you give more negative reviews of a specific genre? 

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review: She's So Dead To Us by Kieran Scott

She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: May 2010
ISBN: 9781416999522
Source: ARC sent by publisher

When Ally Ryan returns to her old town and her old school, she wants to come back to her old friends.  But things will never be the same between them, thanks to what her father did.  She faces the snobbish and nasty things those she was once friends with do to her, while trying to find a place for herself.  It doesn't help that the hot boy now living in her house is being so nice, but also not wanting to step on his friends' toes. Things are so much more complicated than she ever expected.

Things I Liked:
This felt like a guilty pleasure book to me.  It was so full of back-biting and gossip and nasty things said about other people that I couldn't fully "like" it.  That being said, I became caught up in the story and wanted to know what horrible things they would do to one another next.  It was a like an awful soap opera that I simply couldn't look away from.  Horribly, dreadfully addicting.  And with this painful cliffhanger ending that will require you to read the next book.

Things I Didn't Like:
Honestly, pretty much all the things above.  I really hated the guy Ally fell for, because he seemed like a big jerk most of the time.  Acting one way around her and another way around his friends.  Her friends made me want to kick them in the heads, but that is expected.  It was filled with swearing and trash and all that, but I still was not to be able to stop reading it.

The Real Real by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski
Populazzi by Elise Allen

s-factor: !@#$%
with lots of f-words 

mrg-factor: XX
most of it implied or just talked about

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***

And yet I still read them.  Why?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: Can You Survive: Jack London's Call of the Wild adapted by Ryan Jacobson + Giveaway

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
Can You Survive: Jack London's Call of the Wild adapted by Ryan Jacobson
Publisher: Lake 7 Creative
Publication date: October 2011
ISBN: 9780977412235
Source: ARC provided by author

In this choose your path story, you become Buck, a dog about to set out on a perilous journey.  Throughout his travels and becoming a sled dog, the reader is given options to choose just what they would do and then see where they end up. 

Things I Liked:
This was a fast and fun read.  I'm going to admit that I think I've read maybe one other choose-your-story type of book and I honestly can't remember it.  Jumping right into the action of Buck's frontier adventure, kids will lose themselves in the excitement and danger of this cold, deadly place.  Interesting choices are laid before you and following each to see just where you will be was fun even for this boring old grown-up.  I definitely think this book will appeal especially to boys longing for adventures and it's a great introduction to London's classic tale.

Things I Didn't Like:
There were some places here and there that the writing was awkward and might be a bit hard for younger readers to follow.  Also, it was quite violent as the dog faces some very frightening foes.  It might be especially traumatic to animal-lovers and sensitive kids, since being written in second person can make it feel more personal.  I did notice, however, that the author noted the violence was toned down in the final edition.  A fun adventure story, all these things considered!

The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Choose your own adventure books by various authors

s-factor: none 

mrg-factor: none 

v-factor: ->-> 
some incidents of animal fights and animal abuse

Overall rating: *** 

And, I've got a chance for you to win a copy of this book for the adventure-seeking tween in your life (or, you know, yourself).  Open to US only, fill out the form below by November 5th. 

For more stops on the tour, visit Ryan Jacobson's blog.

Were you a choose your own path/adventure/story reader?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, October 24, 2011

Post Read-a-Thon Recovery

Sorry all, I'm still recovering from the read-a-thon.  In lieu of my usual Name That Book episode, I will direct you to the Book Puzzle mini-challenge I hosted on Saturday.  55 people participated and made puzzles, quite a few of which I could not figure out.  So, if you're in the mood for a puzzle today, head there. 

Happy Monday!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let the Reading Begin! (Read-a-Thon Updates)

Hello my crazy 24-hour readin' friends!  I am glad to be doing another read-a-thon, even if I should probably be cleaning my house or doing laundry instead.  Meh.

I'm also hosting the Book Puzzle mini-challenge from hour 3 to the end of hour 6, so be sure to check it out!

Here are my status updates and such like, for those who care:

Hour 20 update: And I'm off to bed after this!

Title of book(s) currently reading: Still going at The Fox Inheritance by Mary Pearson with All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin, handy as well
Number of books completed since I started:  2 (
Can You Survive: Jack London's Call of the Wild adapted by Ryan Jacobson and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick)
Pages read since last update: 58
Running total of pages read since I started: 954 (+ audio book)
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 1 hr 15 min

Running total of time spent reading since you started: 10 hr 5 min
Mini-challenges completed: 6 (see them here)

And here is my intro mini-challenge answers, though all the other mini-challenges I do will be on a separate mini-challenge post.  This post I will use to update my progress (or sanity as the case may be) - see above. 

Where are you reading from today?
Tis my first 'thon in Arizona - it's certainly warmer, so I'll spend some time outside.

Three random facts about me
1-I can wiggle my little toe separately from the rest of my toes (I knew you'd love that tidbit)
2-Speaking of toes, mine are dextrous enough I can pick items up with them if I'm too lazy to bend down
3-I really like to eat cheese 
(wow, I think that's the most random I've gotten before)

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
Here's the photo pile:

There are 12 there (so ridiculous), though a few are quite short.  Plus I've got Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick on audio and a handful of e-books for devouring if I need some screen time.  I always overdo it.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
Hm...I'm going to say I'd like to finish 5 books.  I guess I better start with the short/fast ones.  (Wonderstruck is totally going to get me a huge # of pages in a very short time - is that cheating?)

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Start with a short/fast book so you can finish one and feel like you're doing amazing early on.  And eat lots of yummy snacks.

Any other crazy ambitious read-a-thoners out there? Go forth reading-fiends!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenges

Read-a-thon has ended for the year, so here's my end of event mini-challenge:

Which hour was most daunting for you?
Actually, the morning hours were the hardest for me!  No catching up on sleep like I normally do.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
I was really loving The Fox Inheritance by Mary Pearson and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I like to know what mini-challenges will posted when, so I can be sure to check in those hours.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
I loved the hosts, they did a great job of creating enthusiasm!

How many books did you read?
2 were finished, 2 partial

What were the names of the books you read?
I finished Can You Survive: Jack London's Call of the Wild adapted by Ryan Jacobson and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Which book did you enjoy most?
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Which did you enjoy least?
Oh, they were all pretty good!

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I totally will, as a reader and maybe a mini-challenge host again.

Here is the post where I will do all the mini-challenges I can handle (oh, except the intro one, that is posted on my update post, because I'm weird that way).  And if you so desire, I'm hosting a mini-challenge myself - the Book Puzzle Mini-Challenge from hour 3 to the end of hour 6, so check it out!

Rereading from The Bluestocking Society
Here are some of my fave rereads:

Mid-event Survey
1. What are you reading right now?
Just finished up Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

2. How many books have you read so far?
That makes two :-(

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'm thinking I'll start The Fox Inheritance by Mary Pearson, which I'm excited about!

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
Nah, I didn't really have the whole day anyway, so nothing special to do

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Yah, some visitors, but you just roll with it.  Read when you can.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How very much I expect I'll do and how very little I do!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I like to know what mini-challenges will be when so I know when to check for ones I like to do

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
Seriously, set more realistic goals!

9. Are you getting tired yet?
Yes, but not of reading ;-)
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
I very much doubt I've got something no one else has thought of ;-)

Book Sentence from Midnight Book Gal

Here are my better sentences:

 I shall wear midnight twisted between shades of gray.

 Invisible things don't breathe a word under the never sky.

 Ten things we did with their eyes under the never sky.

And my favorite creepy one: All these things I've done with their eyes twisted under the never sky.  Doesn't make lots of sense, but cool anyway :)

Hodge-Podge from Erin Reads
Rose Accord has spent her life dreaming of flying above the earth. But growing up in the deep south, practically a swamp, her chances of escaping her small town are slim. Trying to fight her way against prejudiced teachers and the deep-set current thinking of her day, she finally makes her way to astronaut training, only to be bested by what she least expected – her own self. In this highly acclaimed novel set in the early 1970s, we see one woman’s struggle against the thinking of her day and the weakness of her own body to triumph in ways she’d never imagined.

State Settings
I've just finished the State Settings mini-challenge over at Avid Reader's Musings.  My three books that evoke a specific state:

Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock for Wisconsin
White Fang by Jack London for Alaska
these is my words by Nancy Turner for old Arizona

Intro mini-challenge is on my update post.

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge: Book Puzzle

Mini-challenge closed and winner chosen! Thanks for playing! 

Welcome reader-a-thon-ers!  I'm super excited to be hosting this mini-challenge again.  Hopefully this will be a fun break from your reading that will let you exercise other parts of your brain!  

For this challenge, you will be creating a Book Puzzle.  Essentially, this is a series of pictures, graphics, or photos that you put together that will describe a book title.  I have been doing a biweekly game called Name That Book where I create book puzzles and let people guess the titles.  Here's an example from that first one:

This series of pictures illustrates the title Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. 

Now it's your turn to create your own Book Puzzle (or you can create more than one - they are quite fun).  Once you've posted your puzzle on your blog, come back and leave me the direct link to your puzzle in the Mr. Linky below.  And be sure to visit others' puzzles - it's lots of fun to guess!  

I'll be picking a winner (randomly of course, I'm not good at judging awesomeness) who will be able to choose two books from photo below (sorry I'm so lazy I just take photos - let me know if you can't read titles).  This is open only to US addresses and you have until the end of hour 6 to enter.  Now go forth and create!

(Don't laugh at my dreadful TBR shelf):

[For more examples or some inspiration, take a look at last read-a-thon's Book Puzzle participants, check out other episodes of Name That Book, or check out Name That Book episodes from Stephanie Reads.]

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, October 21, 2011

Retro Friday Review & Classics Circuit Tour: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

Doing double duty today with the Classics Circuit Tour of Gothic Lit and a Retro Friday review:

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie of Angieville and "focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc."

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Publisher: Various
Publication date: 1794
ISBN: Various
Source: Library

Emily has lived an ideal life with her loving parents, until sorrow is thrust upon her when first one and then the other parent dies. Left alone in the care of an unfeeling aunt, she soon finds herself in the power of the merciless man her aunt marries. Shut away in the gloomy and haunted castle of Udolpho, she suffers afflictions of all kinds. Will she escape from her wicked uncle and the unwholesome company he keeps?

Things I Liked:
This is my first experience with a serious Gothic book (ok, I read Frankenstein and Northanger Abbey, but I'm excluding those).  I admit it was hard getting back into reading a classic, since I'm used to less archaic language.  What totally surprised me was just how creepy the story was!  When it finally got to the interesting stuff (see below for more on that) I was completely enthralled and creeped out!  No wonder young ladies read these with abandon.  All the dreadful and mysterious and unearthly things that could possibly happen to one heroine do.  I really wanted to read this in conjunction with Northanger Abbey, but ran out of time.  But I could see why if Cathy was reading all these Gothic romances she might start imagining and suspecting everyone around her.  It was lurid and disturbing and completely not what I expected.  Which made it quite an enjoyable Halloween read!

Things I Didn't Like:
As I mentioned above, the book really had a slow beginning.  If I hadn't been reading it for the Classics Tour, I'd have given up, which would have been a shame.  But it was about 150-200 pages in before I finally became interested in what was happening.  Enough with descriptions of pastoral scenes and natural beauty!  The story also kind of jumped around weirdly in places, randomly taking us to other characters very briefly to see what they did.  It is definitely a book to be enjoyed by those who aren't daunted by archaic phrasing and pages of description.  A nice abridged version would be great, or even a good movie version!

Definitely Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Anything else by Ann Radcliffe

s-factor: !
perhaps one or two

mrg-factor: none
only some obliquely implied stuff

v-factor: ->
it has a touch of some disturbing stuff

Overall rating: ***

Thoughts on Gothic lit or this book in particular?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison

Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication date: March 2010
ISBN: 9781595142757
Source: Library

Beth the Beast has spent her entire high school career keeping her head down and listening to endless taunts about her ugliness.  But with the voice of an angel, she scores the solo for choir and suddenly finds herself being made over to a beauty by her choir-mates.  When they go on tour in Switzerland, she meets Derek a pale, gorgeous, troubled musician.  They fall into a whirlwind romance that seems headed only for disaster when he keeps a horrible secret from her.  Can their relationship survive the tumult of high school drama and of Derek's secrets?

Things I Liked:
I enjoyed the story, a girl transformed from beast to beauty, but without the whole book focusing on that.  I really loved Beth's friend from home, Scott, who cared about her from the beginning, before the make over.  It was definitely a gut-wrenching sob story that will suck you into caring for the characters and what happens to them all.  I think the musical aspect brought something new and different to a rather well-used story line.

Things I Didn't Like:
It felt rather cliche in places, using some obvious plot devices that you could sometimes see pretty far in advance.  Also, it suffered from some cheese-factor issues as well.  But, if you can ignore some of those things, it's a book that will pull you in and then wring your eyes dry.  To be enjoyed by those who like Nicholas Sparks.

Reminded me of A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (probably anything of his)
Maybe a little like My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

s-factor: !
a few throughout

mrg-factor: X
some implied things and a lot of serious kissing

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***.5 (cause I cried) 

Do you enjoy reading melodramatic sob-stories once in a while? Apparently, I do! :)

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Actually NEED It 11

I Actually NEED It is an extremely irregular feature where I express my desire, or rather need, for certain books that haven't come out or aren't available at my library yet.  To learn about the reason behind the name, check out my inaugural I Actually NEED It post.

I haven't done one of these since June!  And it is way overdue.  I've included a couple of books already out (or about to come out) that I haven't gotten my hands on yet.

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
I really loved Zarr's last book, Once Was Lost and I have been anxiously listening to the many (many!) adoring comments people have made about this one.  It just came out yesterday, so I'm hoping my library will send it my way soon!  October 2011.

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale
Um, anything ever written by Shannon Hale is an automatic read for me.  I liked Austenland: A Novel (AND there's a movie coming), mostly because of my own unfulfilled fantasies about being in Pride and Prejudice.  Sequel?  Bring it.  In January 2012.

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

I've been enjoying Brodi's blog for quite some time now (SO hilarious) and I can't wait to read this one.  Confession: I have it on my shelf.  I'm almost afraid to start it, since I'll have to wait MORE than a year to get the sequel.  Or maybe I'm saving it for an extra special occasion.  Coming January 2012.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
There is a shortage of perfect sci-fi in YA (or maybe I'm just not aware of it - you can enlighten me in the comments, if you desire).  This?  Looks awesome.  Arriving January 2012.

A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Speaking of YA sci-fi (sort of), I really enjoyed Across the Universe.  I know many didn't love it, but this astronomy major still adores an exciting space story.  January 2012 can't come soon enough!

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
I was pleasantly surprised at the depth and non-conformist romance in this paranormal series about angels.  Having enjoyed Unearthly, I'm looking forward to this next installment, coming January 2012.

Faery Tales & Nightmares by Melissa Marr

Melissa Marr's books have been love-hate for me, but just looking at this cover has me shivering.  Her books are always very well written and the plots intriguing.  Looking forward to February 2012.

Fever by Lauren DeStefano
Another sequel here and one I'm eagerly anticipating.  Having been highly engrossed in Wither, I can't wait to read where Rhine is headed next.  Hurry up February 2012!

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
With that wild ending in Delirium, I've really no idea where this series is headed next.  But count me in for eagerly anticipating March 2012.

Anything you actually NEED coming out?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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