Thursday, July 26, 2012

Best Ever Teen Novels?

NPR is holding a Best Ever Teen Novel survey. Out of a list of 235 books, only 100 will make the final cut of best ever novels. Have you voted yet? If not, go and do it now!

So not to sway your votes but here's how I voted! First of all, I only voted on books that, obviously, I had read. When it came to book series, I did not vote on any series that have yet to be completed, no matter how much I love them so far (I'm sorry Divergent and Delirium!) or series that I have yet to complete reading (so so sorry Chaos Walking, I promise to read Monsters of Men ASAP!!).  Without any more babbling, here we go...

My Votes:

Harry Potter - One of my all time favorite series! Pretty sure I reread these once a year! Honestly, if you haven't read these, you need to. I can think of no good reason not to! Thank you J. K. Rowling!

Abhorsen Trilogy - Ok yes, there will be a fourth book in this series (secretly squealing inside, yay Garth Nix!) but on the voting list, it is listed as a TRILOGY, so it doesn't break my rules! Anyways, this is one of the most inventive fantasy series I have read. Love it!

Airborn - Just read this book and loved it! Flying ships, air pirates, mysterious flying creatures and a shipwreck. So much fun and so much imagination from Kenneth Oppel!

Crown Duel - Kick butt heroine who is SMART and capable. Truly delightful fantasy with two main characters who break the mold! I can't wait to read more by Sherwood Smith

Song of the Lioness - Speaking of kick-butt, inspiring heroines! Tamora Pierce knows how to write them and Alanna was the first and closest to my heart. This was my favorite escape in high school and I still go back to visit often!

Enchanted Forest - Hmmm, I am noticing a trend in my last few choices. They all have strong, female main characters who defy genres! Patricia Wrede has written a thrilling and hilarious new bend on the princess fairy tales.

Hunger Games - Like, Harry, I am sure this will get a ton of votes but for a very good reason. Suzanne Collins has created a chilling dystopian world that is most frightening when it hits close to reality. Yes, I love Katniss and Peeta but the side characters are just as deep and intriguing!

On The Jellicoe Road - This is my favorite read of the year. Melina Marchetta is fast becoming my favorite author. I have devoured everything she has written and this is tops for me. The way the story unfolds with seemingly unrelated events that weave together to reveal and amazing history.

Graffiti Moon - This book has taught me two things.   1- I spell graffiti wrong 4 times out of 5.   2. I can actually like realistic fiction books! I love Lucy, Ed and Poet's shifting narration and even more all the art that is spread throughout this story. Absolutely beautiful!

Unwind - Another almost rule breaker because Unwholly is coming out soon! But this was listed as only Unwind, not the series. Anyway, wow, another chilling dystopia. Neal Shusterman uses shifting narration to create a world based on a terrifying premise. This book also includes one of my all time favorite chapters ever! Can't tell you though, spoilers ;)

Anyway, there are my final choices. A lot of tough decisions and a lot of series I wish would have shown up on the list (they must have already been cut) but I am looking forward to seeing the final list! So what are you waiting for?? Go vote now!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Vivid Worlds

Hosted by the very listy Broke and Bookish!

Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds/Settings

1. The Magical and Muggle World of Harry Potter
It's got to be the incredible world of Harry Potter. I have no idea how many years I have spent living on Privet Drive, visiting Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and, of course, attending school at Hogwarts. The way J.K. Rowling weaves the magical world with our muggle world  captures the mind and gives freedom to the imagination. There's a reason why people wait hours in line just to visit Hogwarts at Universal Studios!

2. Panem in The Hunger Games
Another one that I am sure is on a lot of lists, and for good reason, is Panem. Suzanne Collins dystopia world with the capitol and districts is not a place I would ever want to visit for real (I definitely can't imagine a theme park for this that would be kid friendly) but when reading through the Hunger Games and hearing the descriptions of the different districts and their people, the capitol and it's ridiculous dress, it's hard not to get lost in all. It is the description of the games in the arenas though, that always bring such vivid pictures to my head. 

3. Valdemar in Heralds of Valdemar and others
When I was in high school, I would say I spent about 50% of my time living in the land of Valdemar through Mercedes Lackey's books. She created this incredibly expansive world full of different magic, cultures and histories that has yet to run out of stories for the reader!

4. Tortall in The Song of the Lioness Quartet and others
The other 50% of my time was probably spent in Tortall and its surrounding kingdoms through Tamora Pierce's series. I explored and fought battles with Alanna, saw the land from an animals point of view and visited the Carthak Islands with Daine, learned about the Yamani and the north with Kel, and went to the Copper Isles with Aly. Now I get to go back in time and revisit Tortall with Beka! 

5. New Prentisstown in the Chaos Walking Trilogy
 Recently I have been blown away by the colony planet with Prentisstown and New Prentisstown in the Chaos Walking Trilogy. Again, a place I may not want to visit but for a sci-fi world, Patrick Ness does it right! The places Tod and Viola visit are in turn beautiful and terrifying as are the people and Spackle that inhabit it. 

6. The Old Kingdom in Sabriel
The Old Kingdom always fascinated me with its charter magic, necromancy and Clayr. As much as I don't want to run into any of the dead, Nix's detailed description of death and its gates always fascinated me as much as Sabriel and her bells did. I might visit if I could have Mogget at my side :)

7. The Final Empire of the Mistborn Trilogy
The Final Empire, particulary Luthadel were brought to life by Brandon Sanderson through his amazing descriptions. I could see Luthadel clearly with its grand houses and the Lord Ruler's palace. I could also feel the complete loss of spirit that the people living there have and connect to the hope they are given throughout the story. My favorite are the creatures that Sanderson creates to inhabit his world like the Kandra and Koloss. 

8. Eona's World in Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
 In Eon and Eona, Alison Goodman creates a lush world that is a beautiful mix of asian cultures. The Imperial Court and Palace is described in vivid detail as are the people filling it. It is a sharp contrast to the poverty seen outside the court. It was interesting to see it through Eona's eyes as she held different ranks because it gave a more comprehensive view of the world and its many levels. 

9. Farie in Stardust
There are so many books out now about faires and the world of faries but I think the best world faries was in Stardust where Tristan travels from Wall into Farie!  Gaiman's descriptions of Tristan and Yvaines travels through fairy are exciting, funny and one of a kind! 

10. Incarceron in Incarceron
  Incarceron is a living prison and a world inside a world. Catherine Fisher does a neat job of balancing Finn's journey through the many dangers inside Incarceron with Claudia's life on the outside in a world stuck in time. Absolutely brilliant!

Mini Review Bonanza Part 2

Ok, so I let another week or two slip by but here are some mini-reviews from the month of June. My new goal is to get my July reviews up before July is up...

June Series & Sequels

This was definitely a month of series readings for me. I finished Vampire Academy, Hex Hall and Kane Chronicles. Since I haven't reviewed any of the individual books, I am just going to give an overall review for the series. 

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Overall Series Rating: 4.5 Peaches
My Favorite in the 6 Book Series: Last Sacrifice (book 6)

This series started out slow to me, I enjoyed the first few books but it wasn't until the last half of the series that I was officially hooked. I also did not go into this series with high expectations. The same student that recommended this series also recommended House of Night and I couldn't even get through the first book in that series. So what saved this series? For me it was two things. First of all, the world building was a different and exiting take on vampire lore. The vampire rankings from Dhampir, Moroi and Strigoi add an extra layer of depth to this series and more is revealed throughout the books that build on Mead's vampire "history" without contradicting itself. Secondly, the characters, especially our heroine Rose Hathaway. Whenever I think of Rose I always associate this quote from Madonna to her "I'm tough, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a b****, okay." Rose is tough, she is ambitious and for the most part, knows what she wants and goes for it. She goes hard and when she makes mistakes, she doesn't hide from them but grows stronger. Rose's other half is Lissa, who I spent the first few books annoyed with until she began to take on some of Rose's spirit and, I believe, finally became an equal partner in friendship with Rose. Then, of course, their are the boys Dimitri, Christian and Adrian. Is there a love triangle, yes sigh but I absolutely approve of the way it ended. Yes there are many "Team Adrian" but Rose's decision in Last Sacrifice is the most intelligent one I have seen a female MC make in awhile. She doesn't just go with the "hottest" or the bad boy but she chooses the man that challenges her to be a better person and that she challenges in return. Loved it. 
Would I recommend this book? Yes, I definitely would over many of the other vampire books out there right now. 

Hex Hall, Demonglass and Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

Overall Series Rating : 4 Peaches
My Favorite in the 3 Book Series:  Hex Hall

This series is just a good time.  It has so much that I like from a sarcastic main character with a snarky love interest, good old fashioned mean girls, a supportive best friend that isn't afraid to tell it like it is and wonder of wonders, supportive parents! It raises some deeper questions about what makes one evil, there are some great fights and action and lots of laugh out loud dialogue.   I could have gone for a little more character development in some of the side characters and wished we could've known more about the Brannicks and The Eye. What I really want to know, having finished the series, is why is there a black cat on each cover?? Did I miss that in every single book? If anyone knows the answer, I will reward you!  
Would I recommend this series? Sure, especially to my high school girls who enjoy the paranormal!


Overall Rating: 3.5 Peaches
My Favorite in the 3 Book Series: Throne of Fire

I am going to try so hard not to compare this series to Riordan's Percy Jackson series but it's so hard! I love the inclusion of the Egyptian God's, the way Riordan describes them and even modernizes them. Oh, I loved Bast so much. She is exactly how I imagine my cat would be and I would love to take her class on napping. The idea of the House of Life and magicians fighting to control chaos or unleash it was thrilling. However, I just did not fall in love with most of the characters enough to really care for or worry for them. I'm not sure if it was the constantly changing point of view but Carter just felt flat to me, I couldn't truly understand his need to prove himself or believe in his leadership while Sadie always just felt selfish and a little too boy-crazy what with the possible end of the world. 
Would I recommend this series? Yes, in fact I have given the first book to several students and the school library but I always tell them to try Percy Jackson first!

Following are books in a series that I have not completed or am just beginning!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

My Rating: 4 Peaches

Oops! I actually read Lola and the Boy Next Door before reading Anna but I guess they are more like companion novels than sequels. However, I did already know a little about Anna and St. Clair from Lola but I was excited to get to know them better and super excited that this story takes place in Paris. After reading Anna, I wish I could have gone away for a year abroad in High School or college and I definitely need to plan a trip to Europe. Anna and St. Clair were fun, lovable characters and the romantic tension was pretty fantastic. What I would like now is for Perkin's next book (Isla and the Happy After which I hear is going to include Josh from Anna) to have two main characters and love interests that fall in love not already be in relationships with other characters. That was definitely my least favorite plot point from both Anna (St. Clair had a girlfriend) and Lola (Loal had a boyfriend). How about some love for the single people?
Would I recommend this book? Of course! I am not really a fan of realistic fiction but Perkins is slowly changing my tastes!

A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan

My Rating: 3.5 Peaches

I always love it when boys at my school recommend a book for me because it's usually not something I would pick up. This is definitely the case with Cirque Du Freak. It was a fun, strong beginning to a fairly long (12 books, I think) and  very popular series. The descriptions were perfect and had the effect of making me shudder and gag at certain points. I have to say my biggest turn-off was the spider, and that's a personal problem! I can definitely understand why middle school boys would devour this series! If I get a chance, I will probably read the rest of the series but I won't be going out of my way to get the books. I will also probably try to see the movie, if only because of a young Josh Hutcherson, also known as Peeta...
Would I recommend this series? I would pass this around to some of the middle school boys and some of the girls as well!

Playing With Fire (Book 2) by Derek Landy

My Rating: 4.5 Peaches

Oh Skulduggery, you are probably my favorite find of the year and I am enjoying surprising others with your complete and utter awesomeness. What do I love most about you? It has to be the way you talk to me, all sarcastic and arrogant like. Here let me show you:

"What would a thing like you know about honor? Only a heathen would bring a gun to a sword fight.' And only a moron would bring a sword to a gunfight.”

“If things go wrong, I'll lead them away. Once it's clear, get back to the car. If you don't see me in five minutes, then I've probably died a very brave and heroic death. Oh and don't Oh, and don't touch the radio--I've got it tuned right where I want it and I don't want you messing that up.”

“Is he all scarred now? Magic gets rid of most physical scars, but I like to think I scarred him emotionally.” 

Was it a test?" she asked. "I mean,I know I'm still knew at this,I'm still a rookie. Did you hang back to test me, to see if I'd handle it alone?" "Well, kind off" he said. "Actually,no,nothing like that. My shoelace was untied. That's why I was late" "I could have been killed because you were tying your shoelace?!"An untied shoelace can be dangerous,' he said. 'I could have tripped.' She stared at him. A moment dragged by. 'I'm joking,' he said at last. She relaxed. 'Really?' 'Absolutely. I would never have tripped. I'm far too graceful.”

Ok, ok, I'll stop now but only because I need to go order book 3 right now...
Would I recommend this series? Yes, go buy it, right now!

June Stand Alone Novels

Snowed in Together by Ann Herrick

My Rating: 2.5 Peaches

Wow, apparently I only read one stand alone book this month and it was a short story that I downloaded free for my kindle at that, bad me. Anywho, Snowed In Together was not my kind of story, probably because I was never a socially inept, horny, high school boy (thank God!). However, if I were I might have felt some connection to this story. I can understand it and see how it might be realistic and a dream for some guys but overall, not for me. 

Would I recommend this book? Nope, can't really think of any reason why I would. :(

Phew, and with that I am officially caught up to the month of July! Now I have a week to get reviews up from this month!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mini Review Bonanza!

Wow, two whole months of slacking. That may be a record for me! I'd love to blame it on a number of factors but basically the call of the beach was too much for me. So in order to catch up, I'm going to do mini reviews for each of the books I have read over the last 2 months...

May: Stand Alone's

Callum & Harper by Fisher Amelie

My Rating: 3 Peaches

This book made me feel bipolar. I wanted to love this book at so many points and at other points I wanted to rip it into tiny pieces (except that it was an ebook, so I guess the worst I could've done was delete it). The relationship that grows between Callum and Harper, the struggles they face and overcome, their wonderful friends and the ending had me smiling like a fool. However, it seemed like it was just one struggle to many. I mean, seriously, these poor kids could not catch a break. On top of that, I did not like the cop-out "two years later" jump. I had a hard enough time believing that Callum and Harper hadn't fessed up to their attraction and feelings and having this time jump told me that the author couldn't keep up the facade either so she just skipped it. I am always willing to suspend belief for stories, that's part of their draw but this took me completely out of the story and I was never able to get back in. I am completely split on this book. 
 Would I recommend others read it? I won't be singing it's praises to my High School or Middle School students, but I wouldn't discourage others from it...

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

My Rating: 5 Peaches

Now this book I loved from the very beginning and it never let me down. You've got luxurious airships, dangerous air pirates, mysterious air creatures and so much action you can't put it down! On top of that, Oppel has written some fantastic characters. I would go exploring with Matt and Kate any day of the week.  Their struggles, interactions and relationships are completely realistic and connectable. Readers will easily put themselves in either Kate or Matt's shoes and love every minute. I especially think middle school boys would just devour this book but I will also be passing this name on to all my students as a must read! Plus it's a great, light intro to the genre of steampunk with little bits of steampunkyness spread throughout. I can't wait to read more! 
Would I recommend: Oh yes and to everyone with absolutely NO reservations!

My Rating: 4.5 Peaches

What! A Robin Hood retelling where Will Scarlet is a girl disguised as a boy! First off, I love retellings of classic stories and Gaughen does a fantastic job re-imagining Robin and his band of thieves, especially Scarlet. She is brave but not fearless, loyal but still has issues with trust, strong and decisive but with a heart that confuses her and breaks over her mistakes. All in all, a relatable heroine who isn't perfect and doesn't try to be. So why not a full 5? Eh, love triangles (again) and I wish there would have been a little bit more of the history. Also, I just wish there was more! I hated to see this book end. 
Would I recommend Scarlet?  Most definitely, there is some violence and references to sex but nothing that should keep this book out of the hands of middle schoolers and up!

May: Series and Sequels

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Sequel to Divergent

My Rating:  4.5 Peaches

I waited very, very, very impatiently for this book to come. I had it pre-ordered several months before it came out because I loved Divergent so much so I had super high expectations for Insurgent. It picks up right where Divergent left out and I think my favorite think about Insurgent was getting to learn even more about the other 3 factions (besides Abnegation and Dauntless): Amity, Candor and Erudite. Tris and Tobias spend time amongst each faction and learning more about them helped me to better understand Tris's world and why she is the way she is. As for who Tris is, Insurgent really added depth to her character by showing more of her weakness and how she doesn't let them slow her down. She mourns her mistakes but she also learns from them, grows from them and turns them slowly into strengths. Right along side her is Tobias and as much as their relationship struggled and fought in this book, it became that much more believable to me. Tobias and Tris don't just accept each other for how they are, but  they challenge each other to become better and stronger individuals. I think that is rare in YA fiction these days. My one gripe is the ending. It's supposed to be this huge, cliffhanging reveal and, judging by some other reviews, for many it was. However, I just didn't feel the urgency or the surprise. I can't say much more without risking spoiling it for those who have yet to read it. Despite that, I am still, again very impatiently, waiting for  the next book to come out and joining in on all the title predictions, my money's on Convergent... 
Would I recommend Insurgent? The only people I wouldn't recommend this to are those who haven't read Divergent yet because they need to get off their butts and get down to the bookstore to buy it!

Linger and Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Sequels to Shiver 

My Rating: 4 Peaches and 5 Peaches

Honestly, these books started off slow and finished with a bang. The character's struggles, relationships, failures and triumphs resonated so much with me in this book. The inclusion of more Cole and Isabelle showcases a different relationship from that of Grace and Sam, one that is just as powerful and just as difficult. I love relationships that require work and actual effort and a sprinkling of snarky sarcasticness :) The evolution of Sam and Grace as individuals and partners throughout the books has left me with a completely different view of them since the first book, when I saw them as so one-dimensional. Especially Grace. I really did not like her character in the first book and now I find her completely relatable! Along with amazing character development, the action is increased and even more tense in both books. All in all, a great end to a series. I am looking forward to reading more by Stiefvater now! 
Would I recommend this series? Yep, to my high schoolers. There is some sex, cursing and violence but all in a realistic sense that adds to the story. 

Coming Soon: June Reads!