Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Graffiti Moon

Graffiti Moon
by Cath Crowley

My Rating: 5 peaches

Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she's going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He's out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy's stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she's managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they're suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can't see is the one thing that's right before her eyes. (goodreads description)

Wow, I think this is only my second 5 star book for this year (my first was another Australian author's, Melina Marchetta, Jellicoe Road) and I don't know if I will be able to control the gushing that is about to occur.  "Mum says when wanting collides with getting, that's the moment of truth. I want to collide." Basically, I ran headfirst into this book and it knocked me off my feet!

The Juicy
"Her words are paintings, and I'm painting them on the wall in my head as she talks"
Oh, the words in this book, the dialogue, the poetry, the sarcasm, the banter, the flow. If only I had the words to describe how this book made me feel but I don't so I'll let Crowley do it for me ~ "And every time he stared I felt like I'd touched my tongue to the tip of a battery. I was nothing but tingle. After a while the tingle turned to electricity, and when he asked me out my whole body amped to a level where technically I should have been dead. I was pretty sure we had nothing in common, but a girl doesn't think straight when she's that close to electrocution." The words in this book are electricity and they light you up as you read. 

While the plot of this book is basically based on the telling of a  lie and the withholding of the truth between the two main characters, it is the brutal honesty about life and the relationships that define it, which captured my heart. So many different relationships dominate this book, friendship, brothers, parents, marriage, grandparents, role models and mentors and of course love. They are real, they are ugly, they are beautiful, they are binding and devastating, they are hopeful and freeing. I just can't say enough or say it right what this book speaks to me, so again, I will let Crowley say it better: "I like that about art, that what you see is sometimes more about who you are than what's on the wall. I look at this painting and think about how everyone has some secret inside, something sleeping like that yellow bird." This book is art and while you bring a piece of yourself into every reading, I think you will leave with something more. 

The Pits
Honestly, I can think of nothing. Maybe I am just on the high from finishing, or in the honeymoon phase and something will jump out at me during a later reread (of which I am sure there will many)...

Awkward Fuzz
~ language (some f-bombs)
~ broken families
~ gangs/violence (small bit)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Hooky!

Ohh, this week's topic makes me want to misbehave. We are looking at the Top 10 Books to play hooky with... If it only it weren't standardized testing week...

Ash's Top Ten Books I'd Play Hooky For

1. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta~ I got this in the mail last week and after drooling for several seconds over the cover, I began to worry over it's slightly huge size and the fact that between soccer practices/games, bible studies, meetings and my undeniable need for sleep, I don't know when I can start it! You can't rush a Marchetta book, like chocolate, they need to be savored. 

2 and 3. Cascade and Torrent by Lisa Bergren ~ I read the first one and it was a fabulous escape to ancient Italy. I would love to take these down to the beach and finish off the series (I may need two beach days for that)

4. Crossed by Ally Condie ~ I have a waiting list of students and teachers that want my copy of Crossed once I am finished! I should probably give my self a day off to help others by getting this book done and out to them :)

5. Variant by Robinson Wells ~ Hooky days are great for escape and this seems like the perfect book to escape into. It's been sitting on my shelf since Thanksgiving (yikes!) and each time I read the reviews I swear to pick it up. Maybe my next hooky day will be its turn!

6. Virals by Kathy Reichs ~ Not only do I want to read this book but I also want to use some of my hooky day catching up on Bones. I am a whole 2 seasons behind now! This living overseas has wrecked havoc on my love for Booth and Bones.

7. The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness ~ After the killer cliffhanger in book 1- The Knife of Never Letting Go- I don't know how I have gone this long without reading the sequel. Just thinking about it makes me want to walk out of my classroom, go home, grab it off my shelf and spend the rest of the day reading. I think my class would understand, the school admin, not so much...

8. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley ~  Got this from the libary, have it for the next 2 weeks, must take a day off to read it. So far (three chapters in) I am hooked. This seems like it would be a great coffee house read. I want to drive down to Climax Coffee, sit in their comfy chairs and drink coffee while I drink in Cath's amazing words. 

9. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy ~ An odd choice to add to my list but a 5th grader highly recommended this book to me, as did his teacher. Maybe instead of playing hooky, I will drag out our Drop Everything And Read time for the whole day so I can read it...

10. The hundreds of kindle daily deal/ .99 cent books that are clogging my Kindle!! I tried to pick just one but I think I may have gone a little overboard the past few months. I received several amazon gift cards for Christmas and they seem to last forever when books only cost .99 cents! So, I may need to take a year off from work and spend everyday reading...someone please pay me to do this...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: Matched

by Ally Condie

My Rating: 4 peaches

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. 

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.  (description by goodreads)

FYI, I received Delirium and Matched around the same time, I am going to try my best to avoid comparisons...

Anywho, after Hunger Games and Divergent my appetite was slightly shifted towards dystopia novels. I love the idea of what our world could be like if certain things were different. In Matched, the government has almost complete control of lives. They tell you what you will eat during the day, what your job will be, who you will marry (if you marry), how many children you can have, where you will live and even when you will die. 

The Juicy

Watching Cassia go from excitement about her matching ceremony and future occupation to beginning to "wonder" and asking questions of her society drew me into her life quickly. The inclusions of songs and poetry and the importance of words and even art points to how integral creativity and expression is to our lives. I found it interesting how both Matched and Delirium's worlds had strict rules and regulations based around art, music and literature. To me this speaks of its power to change and inspire. Condie herself has a way with words and this book is full of delicious quotes that made my highlighter extremely happy! Also, I liked the inclusion of the artifacts and the three little pills...

The Pits

I know this is a major plot device of the story, so it's not like it surprised me, but I still passionately despise love triangles, sigh. I wish I felt more for both boys as Cassia does. At least they are described and given some room to grow and are not just "hot" but I still wish for a little more substance in the relationship, especially with Ky. Mayhaps in book 2...
Also, while I said above the words in this book are beautiful and moved a part of me, there is very little action. Things happen in the story to Cassia and around her but nothing is really done by her. I saw this book as sort of a waking up for Cassia and hope that, now that she is awake, there will be more action in the sequel. So this wasn't really a pit for me, but I can see that the lack of action may be a sticking point for some readers. 

Awkward Fuzz

~ planned deaths

Review: Eighth Grade Bites

by Heather Brewer

My Rating:  3.5 peaches

Junior high really sucks for thirteen-year-old Vladimir Tod. Bullies harass him, the principal is dogging him, and the girl he likes prefers his best friend. Oh, and Vlad has a secret: his mother was human, but his father was a vampire. With no idea of the extent of his powers, Vlad struggles daily with his blood cravings and his enlarged fangs. When a substitute teacher begins to question him a little too closely, Vlad worries that his cover is about to be blown. But then he faces a much bigger problem: he's being hunted by a vampire killer. (description by goodreads)

I have been wanting to read these series since I saw a middle schooler carrying them around. I have really been enjoying books written from a male point of view lately and decided to see what vampires look like from their eyes. This first book is a great middle grade book, especially for boys! 

The Juicy

Vlad has a great voice, he sounds/thinks just like most of the middle school boys I know. He isn't quite sure of himself yet but you can see his confidence grow through the book. His friendship with Henry is interesting enough that I want to read the rest of the series to see where it goes. Some new vampire lore is introduced that is hilarious. especially the snack packs and sunblock! Good doses of action mixed in with the ho-hum and humor of everyday school life. 

The Pits

It's a middle grade novel and the first in a series so it's somewhat simple for the adult reader but that makes it just right for its intended audience. 

Awkward Fuzz

~ supernatural aspects (vampires, obviously)
~ violence
~ death of parents
~ bullying

Review: Juliet Immortal

Juliet Immortal
by Stacey Jay

My Rating: 2.5 peaches

The most tragic love story in history . . .

Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love. (description from goodreads)

I adore retellings and re-imaginings of familiar, much loved stories. When I read the description that this was a sort of continuation with a twist on Romeo and Juliet in combination with the beautiful cover (love the red dress and her pose in front of the ocean), I had to read this book!

The Juicy

I enjoyed Jay's  foundation of light versus dark, love versus hate continuing throughout time being fought or helped by the "ambassadors".  I enjoyed the romance between Ben and Juliet and how Jay used Ben's family and his relationship with them to give Ben more depth. I thought it was interesting how Juliet came in as an "outside" perspective into Ariel's life and saw Ariel's own perceived ugliness and weaknesses as beauty and strengths. The way Juliet used her lives of experience to improve Ariel's relationship with her mother was a welcome addition to the story as well. 

The Pits

Sadly this book had a few more pits than it did juicy parts and most of them, for me, revolve around the ending. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a happy ending but I would rather be satisfied than happy. Without giving away any spoilers, the ending seems like a cop out to wrap everything up in a nice happy pink bow. I don't want a pink bow, I want to feel resolution. I want my cathartic release. 
As for the rest of the book, I would think after living so many lives that Juliet wouldn't be quite so indecisive. I can give her a little leeway because it's harder to make decisions for yourself than for others, but seriously, some of her waffling and choices were just ridiculous. 

Awkward Fuzz
~ Violence (in a school setting)
~ Some Cursing
~ Idea of reincarnation and alternate worlds

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring Books

This week we are looking ahead to books we want to read this spring. Since so many great books are being published this spring that I have been waiting for, my list will come from those, so here we go:

Top Ten Books On My Spring To Read List

1.  Insurgent by Veronica Roth ~ Out May 1st, 2012
I've been waiting for this book since I read Divergent in one day last August! I can't wait to see what comes Tris and Four's way next. 

2. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore ~ Out May 1st, 2012 (this will be a very good day book wise)
Ok, so technically I still need to read Fire (it's sitting on my shelf), but Graceling wowed me. I read the 1st chapter online for Bitterblue and my expectations are high!

3. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter ~ March 13th, 2012 (yay!! It's being shipped to me now)
The last in the Gallagher Series (sniffle), I have loved everything about these books, the covers, the girls, the spying, the boys, just everything. I will be sad to see it end but I'm enjoying her new series, Heist Society. 

4. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers ~ Out April 3rd, 2012
A first book in a new series by an author I have never read. The cover for this book and the descriptions on goodreads has me hooked. Go, check it out and join me in pre-ordering!

5. Fear by Michael Grant ~ Out April 3rd, 2012 
I have stuck with the poor kids of Perdido Beach through Gone, Hunger, Lies, and Plague. Bring it on Fear!

6. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare ~ Out May 8th, 2012
Cassandra Clare just continues to get better and better with each book she writes. Clockwork Prince has been my favorite so far but we will see after this comes out. Poor Jace, no one deserves a vacation more than him...

7. The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan ~ Out May 1st, 2012 (May 1st is going to kill my wallet!)
The end of the Kane Chronicles (I hear it's only supposed to be a trilogy) I have enjoyed learning more about the Egyptian Gods. I haven't connected quite as well with Sadie and Carter as I did with Percy, Annabelle and Grover, but I am excited to see how this one ends!

8. Revived by Cat Patrick ~ Out May 8th, 2012 
Another first book in a new series by an author I have never read before. The premise is new and exciting to me- the main character has died several times but is a test subject for a new drug that brings her back. Color me intrigued...

9. Croak by Giana Damico ~ March 20th, 2012
Another book on it's way to me that will be brand new. I had to get this when I read the preview and saw the cover. It looks on the darker side and I'm really hoping that Lex's voice will be slightly snarky and sarcastic.  

10.  The Girl in the Clockwork Collar ~ May 22nd, 2012
I'm in the middle of the Girl in the Steel Corset and really enjoying it, so I am going to have to go ahead and pre-order this one. Plus I love steampunk! A new obsession of mine...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday's: Fantasy

This week's list is a genre choice. While dystopia and paranormal romances seem to be flooding the market, I've decided to go with fantasy and look back over ALL (or at least as many as I can remember) the fantasy books I've read since I began reading! Fantasy is where my slight obsession with reading began and it's been my bread and butter since. I may leave it for a time but I always come back...

Top 10 Fantasy Books of My Life

1. Redwall by Brian Jacques ~ Probably the book that started my love of fantasy. Talking animals, adventure galore, ancient riddles, good vs. evil, a wonderfully bad villain and a brave underdog hero make this book a must read! 

2. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson ~ I just read this series last year and I already can't wait to go back an reread it. Sanderson has created not one, but two absolutely imaginative new forms of magic. The Steel Inquisitors rock my socks visually and terrify me at the same time. The Kandra's mythology is fantastic. All in all the world building is epically enthralling. You can't leave the world till the very last page and then you are dying to get back. 

3. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey ~ While this isn't the first book set in the world of Valdemar, it is the first book I read and I was hooked from the very beginning. I love the idea of companions and watching Talia grow into my favorite kick-butt kind of heroine will always bring me back for rereads. Plus it opens the door to all of Valdemar. 

4. Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede - Warning: this book has an obstinate princess, witty dragons, annoying princes, magic and evil wizards that will make you laugh out loud. Cimorene will always be my favorite princess for turning the world of ideas of a "classic" princess upside down.

5. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta ~ All I can say is if my copy of the sequel, Froi of the Exiles, doesn't show up in my mailbox soon, there will be much pain and suffering...

6. Sabriel by Garth Nix ~ This is a very different type of fantasy. Sabriel is a necromancer. Using her magic bells she sends the undead back where they belong. I adore this book and almost squealed when I heard he is writing a fourth...

7. Graceling by Kristin Cashore ~ Katsa literally kicks every butt that comes her way, love it. 

8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine ~ I adore retold fairy tales and this version of Cinderella is the best. If you have seen the movie and liked it, you have to read the book because it's even better. If you have seen the movie and hated it, you have to read the book because it is so much better!

9. Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce ~ Pierce probably shaped many of my views on women and their ability to do anything that they dedicate themselves to and work hard for. The world of Tortall is a wonderful escape but easy to connect to and full of mostly positive messages and role models (especially for teenage girls).

10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling ~ The entire series should be read by all, but it was the fourth book where I went from like to head over heels in love. Pretty sure my mom realized I was insane when she found me sobbing in the car over it...

I wish I could keep going and I'm sure I have missed some of my favorites but these have been staples for me and if you are looking to hook a student and turn them into a reader, give one of these a try!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday's: Cover Love/Squirm

This week it's time for some Cover Love and some Cover Squirm! I already did my top 10 covers of 2011, so I think for this Tuesday I am giving you five covers that I keep hidden away and five covers I carry with pride!

Top Five Covers I'm Glad I Have My Kindle For 
(in other words, covers that are embarrassing to be seen with!!)

1. Darkfever by Karen Moning

Why yes world and every student I pass in the hallway, it appears I am reading what appears to be a naughty, naughty romance novel...

2. Vampire Diaries - The Return: Nightfall by L.J. Smith

Why does this embarrass me? Because I'm no longer a 16 year old girl (which is how old I was when I began the series, wasn't so embarrassing in 98...)

3. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Granted, the HBO tie in book cover is not so bad but when my friend told me I had to try this series and gave me this book, this was the cover I got. Why are they floating?? Did not go on to read anymore of this series but I can't blame that all on the cover...

4.  Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost 
Wait, I think I am seeing a theme... 

5. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Love it or hate it, you know people are judging you when 
they see this cover in your hands...

Top Five Covers I Carry With NO Shame

1. Zombies Vs. Unicorns by various authors

I will never be ashamed of my paranormal love for zombies and a new found love for unicorns. I only wish I had a better picture of the full cover. It's fantastic! 

2. The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

I love fantasy. I have always loved fantasy and this cover 
just screams it! Plus the design is raised so my love of textures
is happy too.

3. Soulless by Gail Carriger 

See, I'm not embarrassed by all my paranormal romance covers. 
This one is fantastic from the quirky parasol, to the fantastic hat, tight 
dress and odd body positioning. Also, there is pink and purple, not 
my favorite colors but I really like it on this cover.

4. Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Doesn't look like a sci-fi book what with the "kissy" faces, 
but I absolutely love the way they are arranged with the galaxies
and stars behind. Honestly, the more I look at it, the more I even like
the way the faces are posed, as if breathing for each other...

5. Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

No surprise here. I love books with kick-butt females and this
is probably my favorite cover that tells you exactly what you
are in for. Love the sword, the glare and of course the bruises!

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola and the Boy Next Door
by Stephanie Perkins

My Rating: 4.5 peaches

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. 

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. (goodreads description)

I loved this book. I loved Lola because she was real. She struggles with knowing who she is, she struggles with her parents, she struggles with making choices and she struggles just with life. Even with Lola's love for fashion and out this world "costuming" she still connects with the reader. 

For as much as I loathe the bug he is named for, I love Cricket (the boy next door) and not because the author tells us we should or because he is supposed to be hot and thats all the MC talks about (which is being way over done in most books these days). Nope, I love Cricket for all his quirks and personality that makes him Cricket. Perkins explores Crickets character through Lola's eyes and again gives us something real and believable! 

I love Lola's parents and I love the way Perkin's presented them. Lola has two fathers and this book doesn't get preachy or over the top, it just presents it as fact along with their love, concern and pride in Lola. 

If you are hesitant about getting into realistic fiction, this is a great starter book. It has some true individual (but believable) characters and it's easy to connect to. I found myself hopping right into Lola's head and her fabulous outfits! The romance is honestly just right. No drowning in angst or wondering why in the world the characters are drawn to each other. Makes me  want to go out and find Perkin's other novel, Anna and the French Kiss