Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

Whatever your plans are for this weekend, I hope you have a happy and safe New Years!
Happy Reading!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Night Date Night

Friday Night Date Night is a feature on my blog that showcases movie review (mostly movies that were adapted from books).  Hopefully some of these reviews will help you decide what to watch on your date night or a night of chillin with the girls.

I read the novel Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See a long time ago.  I completely and utterly fell in love with it.  The writing was beautiful and the story touching.  While others describe the amazing bond two girls/women can share, now one does it quite like Lisa See and her novel.   
I held off seeing this movie for a while because I was scared that the movie wouldn't do the story justice.  And while I did enjoy the movie, you know how the saying goes...the book is always better than the movie.  The screenwriters took some major liberties with the book, like creating a parallel story line that is set in current times.  It is the story of Nina and Sophia who are laotung (“old sames”) just as Snow Flower and Lily are in the book. A laotung is a special relationship between girls who are essentially soul mates and are sworn to love (friendship type love) each other and always be there for one another.  

In both the book and the movie, I loved the aspect of a loatung.  It shows the female relationship as a thing of beauty and strength.  Often times books and movies will pit female characters against one another, but this book/movie instead celebrates that relationship.  

At the start of the movie Sophia gets into an accident and upon arriving at the hospital Nina finds a manuscript about Sophia's ancestor, Snowflower and her laotung, Lily.  The movie goes through Nina reading this story as it comes to life.  This manuscript is essentially the story written by Lisa See so the movie connects back to the book in that way.

I must say that the movie itself was gorgeous and lyrical.  I almost felt as if I was watching an opera.  I was moved by the beauty of the film and while I still suggest you read this book, the movie was visually stunning.  

One of the harder things about watching this movie was the foot binding scenes.  I had an extremely hard time reading this section in the book and it was even harder watching it come to life.  I actually almost turned off the movie because I couldn't stomach that part at all.  I had tears streaming down my face throughout the entire scene and would cringe every time Snowflower or Lily would walk on their "Golden Lily" feet.  Does this practice still go on today? 

One of the nice surprises in this movie was Hugh Jackman...need I say more!'s the trailer?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review of The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Title: The Mockingbirds
Author: Daisy Whitney
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 332
Source: Library
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★★★★★

Summary from Goodreads:
Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.
In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

Every once in a while you come across a story that speaks to you.  The Mockingbirds didn't speak to me, it yelled.  This is the type of book, though at times was emotionally difficult to read, stays with you long after you put it down.  It motivates you and makes you want to make a difference in the world.  Though I love the classics, it books like The Mockingbirds that I think would be more beneficial for required reading in school.  The situations and the messages are something students relate to, understand and hopefully by reading novel like this they can come away with a powerful life lesson. 

Daisy Whitney gave the main character, Alex, the perfect voice.  She made Alex come alive by not only giving her strength, but also giving her doubt.  Throughout the novel Alex continues to struggle with complex emotions that she doesn't even understand.  Alex is the true type of heroine because as difficult as her life has become, she hasn't given up.  Instead she decides to fight, and not necessarily for herself but to protect others and help prevent what happened to her from occurring again.   

While Alex has her battles to fight, she didn't have to do it alone.  She has The Mockingbirds!  And while I'm sad that an organization like this has to exist, because of the administration's blind-eye antics, I'm glad it was there for the students at Themis Academy.  (Seriously, I really hope schools do not operate this way currently.)  I love that Alex's big sister started this group and named it after To Kill A Mockingbird.  That story had a big role in this novel and I loved the parallel scenarios.  Plus I just think that Alex's big sister rocked.  She was definitely one of my favorite side characters along with The Mockingbirds. 

What a powerful novel.  I highly suggest you add this to your TBR pile.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review of Scary School by Derek The Ghost

Title: Scary School
Author: Derek The Ghost
Published by: HarperCollins
Pages: 237
Source: Author
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★★★★

Summary From Goodreads: 
You think your school's scary?

Get a load of these teachers:
Ms. Fang, an 850-year-old vampire
Dr. Dragonbreath, who just might eat you before recess
Mr. Snakeskin—science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
Mrs. T—break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry Tyrannosaurus rex!

Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch

The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost!

This novel was aimed for younger readers than my usually reads, but I'm really glad I read it because it was so much fun.  Scary School is a mixed school of humans and monsters.  While you may learn a lot from the fang baring, fire breathing staff, at the same time you could always be eaten by your teacher for giving the wrong answer.  This novel had such a unique concept and I think it will appeal to younger readers.  It was action-packed, fast-paced, and there was always something usual happening.

This story is a told by Derek the Ghost who was once a student at Scary School.  The story revolves around all the students at Scary School and their unique abilities.  I really enjoyed that the author was part of the story.  We do get to learn a little about how Derek became a ghost, but mostly Derek the Ghost talks about what is happening in preparation for the Ghoul Games where the students will face off against other schools in various games.  The only problem is that the other schools enroll only monsters and the winners get the choice of eating the losers.

While this novel reminded me of the Wayside School novels with the quirkiness, it still felt like it was missing that spark to make it spectacular.  Don't get me wrong, it was a great story and I was laughing throughout reading it, so I'm guessing it has more to do with me and my age, than the story itself.  If I could transport myself back to about 10 years old, I would have fallen in love with this story.  For me there were a couple of things that got a bit repetitive, like Derek the Ghost telling us that we would learn more about that in the next book, etc. 

Overall, I did really enjoy this book and would recommend it for older children and preteens or anyone who likes a quirky and fun story.   

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011 Giveaway Hop

Wow, the year is almost over and what a great reading year it was.  I met some great authors, read some amazing books and overall just had a wonderful year.  I thought I would share with you some of my favorite books that I read in 2011 and give you the chance to win one of them.  That is why I joined the Best of 2011 Giveaway Hop hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer

Here is what you can win:

Giveaway Rules:
The contest runs until Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 11:59pm (CST)
You must be 13 years of age or older to enter
You must fill out this FORM!
This contest is only open to participants both from the US and internationally
Once the email is sent to the winner they will have three days to respond or a new winner will be choosen
**I am not responsible for any lost or damaged items.  (I haven't had any lost or damaged and I really hope that none will be)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Night Date Night--Holiday Edition

Friday Night Date Night is a feature on my blog that showcases movie review (mostly movies that adapted from books).  Hopefully some of these reviews will help you decide what to watch on your date night or a night of chillin with the girls.
This week I'm cheating (and I can do that because this is my blog).  Instead of featuring a movie review I'm going to leave you with a couple of my favorite Holiday movies.
Hey if ABC family considers it a Holiday movie so do I
I absolutely adore this movie and could watch it over and over again.
My mom and I used to watch this every year together.  It brings back awesome memories.
I cry every time I watch this movie.
This little girl is just too darn cute.
This movie is so funny that I watch it even when it isn't the Holiday Season.

Those are some of my favorites.  What about you?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review of Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Title: Bloodlines
Author: Richelle Mead
Published by: Razorbill
Pages: 421
Source: Won from Books With Bite
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★★★★

Summary from Goodreads: When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

When the Vampire Academy series ended I knew I would miss Rose fiercely, so I was beyond excited when I heard Richelle Mead was going to be doing a spin off series!

While we get to learn a little about Sydney in the VA series, Bloodlines is from her point of view as an alchemist.  I really like Sydney.  She is neat, organized, compassionate, and extremely smart, yet has a tendency to doubt the alchemists' ways and disregards the rules when she needs too.  While she may not be the life of the party, I still admire her for who she is.  In fact, I feel like I am her a little bit.  I'm always been "the good child."  I was the one who never skipped school, got good grades and generally followed the rules.  Yet, if I believed there was an injustice I stood up for what I believed it.  Plus with her mixing up her remedies I felt right at home, like I was in my lab doing some experiments myself.  Though I have to admit her concoctions to remove poison, end teenage acne problems and create a fire charm sound a lot cooler than studying the chemistry behind the deterioration of varnishes on 19th century paintings. 

My connection to Sydney may be the reason that while I liked the story, it felt like something was missing.  I miss the spunky and spontaneity of Rose.  I wanted some fearless and totally kick-butt heroine, not someone like myself.  It wasn't until the end that Sydney really came into her own and decided to "screw the system" and I was there cheering her along...come on I need to live vicariously through someone right?

Another thing I was really looking forward to in this novel was Adrian.  I loved Adrian and while I knew Dimitri was the guy for Rose, I still wanted a great ending for Adrian.  Adrian drastically grew up in this novel.  To tell you the truth I hopelessly kind of miss his bad boy ways.  Where is that cocky, sarcastic charm of his? 

The storyline was intriguing and it keep you guessing at what was going to happen.  You had an idea of the bad guys, but never knew to what extent they would torment Sydney, Jill and the others.  You end up being suspicious of everyone and always second guessing the characters motives. 

Overall, Bloodlines is a great start to a series that I'm sure is going to be fantastic. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review of Night Journey by Goldie Browning

Title: Night Journey
Author: Goldie Browning
Published by: Storyteller Publishing
Pages: 367
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★★★

Summary from Goodreads: Zan and Emma’s romantic weekend at a haunted hotel goes horribly wrong when a bizarre accident leaves Emma in a coma. Her soul is catapulted backward in time to 1938, where she meets Ivy and Harry—a Depression Era Romeo and Juliet—who will someday become Zan’s grandparents. Night Journey is an eerie tale of ghosts who weave in and out of life, past and present, from fact to fiction.

I fell in love with this novel from the first chapter. It was so mysterious and intriguing and like nothing else I've ever read before.  There were multiple storylines intertwined, but I never got lost and instead of interfering with each other they only added to the magic of this novel.

While I enjoyed Zan and Emma and wanted to fight for their love and survival, my favorite characters were Zan's grandparents, Ivy and Harry.  I loved the story of them meeting during the Depression Era and how they fought to stay together against all odds.  Terrible things happened to both of them, but they knew they loved each other and were willing to make sacrifices just to stay together.  Though Ivy was privileged, she was willing to risk it all for a poor boy who stole her heart. 

This novel has something for everyone; ghosts, fighting, epic love, secrecy, passion and conniving.  Mix those altogether and what do you get...blown away. They story was so well written that by the end everything was connected and instead of multiple storylines they all merged into one fantastic story. 

While the story was set around this spooky, haunted hotel, it wasn't a scary story.  In fact, it was a story so bursting with love that you couldn't help but feel giddy inside.  With vivid descriptions and a gripping tale this is a must read.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

Today I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #3)1. Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward.  I can't wait to hear Zsadist's story.  Everyone I've talked to said his was their favorite story of all the brothers.  There is something appealing about his dark behavior because you know that deep down it must hide his pain.

2. Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren.  I read Waterfall a while ago and since then I really want to finish the series.  I've heard such wonderful things about the next two books in the series so it would be nice to finish them. 

3. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan.  I want to know what happens now the Percy woke up.  I love that Rick Riordan made this a spin off series because we not only get to visit our favorite characters again but we get to meet some pretty awesome new ones too. 

4. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.  I've heard wonderful things about this novel and I can't wait to read it.   

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor.  This is another book that has been getting lots of hype and I'd love to see if it lives up to everyone's high praise. 
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1) 
6 and 7. Saving Francesca and The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta.  Both of these books are on my list of all time favorite reads.  I have an audio copy of each, but I want physical copies to add to my bookshelf. 

8. Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia.  This novel sounds beautiful and haunting and downright delicious.  I can't wait to read this one. 

9. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.  Another book that I've heard amazing things about and would love to add to my library. 

Bitterblue (The Seven Kingdoms, #3)10. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (preorder).  I absolutely adore Kristin Cashore's novels.  Her imagination knows no bounds and she creates these worlds that are so fascinating you can't help but fall for them and the characters too, of course.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review of If I Tell by Janet Gurtler

Title: If I Tell
Author: Janet Gurtler
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 256
Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Format: ARC ebook
Rating: ★★★

Summary From Goodreads: Jasmine Evans knows one thing for sure... people make mistakes. After all, she is one. Jaz is the result of a onenight stand between a black football player and a blonde princess. Having a young mother who didn't raise her, a father who wants nothing to do with her and living in a small-minded town where she's never fit in hasn't been easy. But she's been surviving. Until she sees her mom's new boyfriend making out with her own best friend. When do you forgive people for being human or give up on them forever?

If I Tell is the kind of book that captivates you from the first page on.  The opening scene is Jaz finding her best friend kissing her mother's boyfriend, and then the next scene is her mother telling Jaz that she is pregnant.  Talk about drama. 

Though I do appreciate the drama at times, I had trouble with the moral issues behind keeping such a big secret.  I can't imagine what Jaz was going through emotionally, because I as a reader was stressing over what I'd do in that situation.  I had to really think about what was right.  Everyone always says truth is the best option, but is that always right...even if it ruins people's lives?

One of the interesting things about this novel is that there is not just one secret going around.  There are many and as each person gets more entangled their lives alter just a little.  I guess that is the thing about secrets...they are a web and at times they may trap you. 

I often felt caught in the web of lies and I was trying to figure out how I would handle each situation.  This book really made me think about my own actions even after I was finished reading it.  The only thing I hope is that I'm never in a situation like Jaz's.  She had to grow up far before her time and deal with issues that I don't even want to think about dealing with.  She's one tough lady and I admire her for that. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why Buy the Cow? Reading Challenge

Who doesn't love free things...especially books?  I've often tried to go on book buying bans and other things like that, but ultimately I've never explored how many free books are actually out there.  What a better way to read some new authors and hopefully discover some awesome books (without spending a dime), than to join the Why Buy the Cow? Reading Challenge hosted by Missie at The Unread Reader and Kelly at Reading the Paranormal.

What are the rules:  Read at least 12 ebooks that have all been LEGALLY obtained for FREE.  Review these books, making sure to state where and how you obtained the books, and link up the reviews!    

I have no idea what I'm going to read yet, but I'm excited for the challenge!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Night Date Night

On Fridays I wanted to do something a little different then what I normally do.  I decided that on Fridays I'm going to do movie reviews.  I'm hoping to review mostly movies adapted from books, but I'm sure other movies that were not based on books will pop up every now and then.  Hopefully some of these reviews will help you decide what to watch on your date night or a night of chillin with the girls.
A Christmas Carol
So as I've mentioned before I'm not really feeling the whole Holiday spirit thing this year.  I've tried decorating the house, listening to Christmas music, baking, shopping for presents, and reading Holiday books, but still I'm kind of a Scrooge.  So I thought what better movie to watch than A Christmas Carol to get me out of my funk.  I've seen many versions of this movie and my family used to go see the play every Holiday season, but I haven't seen the Disney version with Jim Carrey so I thought I'd give it a try.   
Being a Disney movie I was hopping for a happier, lighter spin on this classic, but I was sadly mistaken.  I was actually a little scared at times and thought the movie was kind of dark.  It is sad to admit this, but I was often frightened by the ghosts and instead of Scrooge just being grouchy and old; he looked a little decrepit.  In fact, all the characters freaked me out a bit.  I don't think I like the animation of humans looking too...human.  I know this sounds silly, but it was just weird to see these animated beings looking so real.    
Maybe I'm just getting old, but I also had a hard time understanding what the characters were saying at times.  I felt like I should turn on Closed Caption or something and tell the characters to get the marbles out of their mouths. I'm proving I'm getting old.      
As for the story, it is still a wonderful story with a great ending.  It's uplifting and reminds us about what the Holiday season should be about.  I must say that I'm not feeling as Scroogish as before, but I think I'll need a couple of more Holiday movies until I'm finally feeling this season.
So I ask you now...what's your favorite Holiday movie?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review of Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Title: Return to Paradise
Author: Simone Elkeles
Published by: Flux
Pages: 302
Source: Bought
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★★★

Summary from Goodreads: Caleb Becker left Paradise eight months ago, taking with him the secret he promised to take to his grave. If the truth got out, it would ruin everything.

Maggie Armstrong tried to be strong after Caleb broke her heart and disappeared. Somehow, she managed to move on. She's determined to make a new life for herself.

But then Caleb and Maggie are forced together on a summer trip. They try ignoring their passion for each other, but buried feelings resurface. Caleb must face the truth about the night of Maggie's accident, or the secret that destroyed their relationship will forever stand between them.

Some people like ambiguity.  I am not one of those people, so when Leaving Paradise ended the way it did I was heart broken.  I needed to know more about Caleb and Maggie so I quickly went out and bought Return to Paradise.

This novel was so raw and full of emotions that I was laughing one second and crying the other.  Simone Elkeles is one of the most amazing writers I've met.  I love her characters to pieces because they are not perfect, in fact, they are far from it, but they are real.  She always gives us a bad boy, who may not actually be a bad boy at all.  Isn't that the perfect combination! 

Caleb is quite a bit rougher in this novel.  He's definitely been through some hard times and not really sure how to control the  roller coaster of his life.  I really fell hard for Caleb in this novel.  I'm not sure if I can really explain it besides saying he became real to me.  He was no longer a character in a book, instead he represented something bigger.  I know I'm probably not making sense right now, so you'll just have to trust me and read the novel yourself.

Maggie is a girl I admire and look up to.  I love that she really found her inner strength and confidence.  She's definitely got some fire in her and she is one pissed off girl.  She wants one thing from Caleb...the one thing he is not willing to give her...and she's going to fight until he gives in.  I'm going to miss this girl something fierce!

Simone Elkeles is my hero...Read some of her books and she'll be your hero too!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review of The Beginning and Deception by Kelvin O'Ralph

Title: The Beginning (LS #1) and Deception (LS #2)
Author Kelvin O'Ralph
Published by: CreateSpace
Pages: 316 and 314
Source: Author
Format: ebook
Rating: ★★ and 1/2

Summary from Goodreads: When Stephen Wilson meets Lisa Morgan at his new school in Sloutenville, it is the simple act of extending his hand in greeting that flips both of their worlds upside-down. With the gesture, both discover that in some way they are connected, and that they share the ability to manipulate the elements, fire and water. Though their abilities vary, they share the gift of telepathy allowing them to communicate without words, which creates a bond between them stronger than either had expected.

As the two begin to spend more and more time together, David, Lisa's ex becomes wild with jealousy, launching multiple attacks on Lisa. In the fight against the dangers that await them around every corner, Stephen and Lisa soon discover that they are up against much greater odds than they had originally known, and that their struggles are far from over.

 I really liked the idea behind this book.  The whole thought of two people carrying around powers that don't manifest until they meet each other is cosmic.  I loved the X-Men type vibe I got from both Lisa and Stephen's abilities.  We don't know much about their power, since they themselves don't know much either, but it seems like they are polar opposites.  One can manipulate fire and the other water, and as we all know opposites attract.

As for Stephen and Lisa, I had a hard time connecting with them.  They were both ridiculously rich and amazingly beautiful.  It seemed the only hardship they had was connected to their powers, and the fact that someone was trying to kill them.  I wish both of these characters had a little more depth.  The one thing I thought was nice was the slow development of their relationship.  Of course they were attracted to one another, but they took things slow and very innocent.

Overall I was a little confused by why Stephen and Lisa had powers and where they came from.  As I said before we only know as much as they do so it's kind of a learning curve we have to work with.  The Beginning ends in quite the cliffhanger, so if you want to read this book make sure you have the next book on hand.     

Summary from Goodreads: Lisa and Stephen are back together as a new school year kicks off. This time, they're much stronger than they've ever been, plus their love life gears to the next stage. Everything seems perfect as they learn about Lisa's new abilities, until Lisa's father, Ben Morgan is attacked while receiving an award.

In this instalment of LS, the two lovers face what seems to be their greatest challenge. As they uncover the mystery behind the attacks on their lives, they are left to make a final decision. It's time to fight back.

Deception picks up right after the ending of The Beginning.  In this book Lisa's powers expand until she is doing really awesome things such as teleportation, telekinesis and mind control.  The questions is why are her powers expanding and what is she going to use them for?

I was a little disappointed in Lisa in this novel.  I felt she took advantage of her brother and abused her powers against others.  I'm sure if I had cool powers like these I'd want to test them out, but I felt like she didn't really have a problem invading others personal space or thoughts.

Stephen is one of those guys who are considered the nice guy.  He's thoughtful, considerate, and quite a catch.  I'm glad he's around to keep Lisa in line at times.  I think he really understands the need to balance his powers with respecting others.

There is a lot more action in this novel and we get to learn some more about Stephen and Lisa's powers.  As with The Beginning, Deception leaves us with another cliffhanger, but this time we'll have to wait until the next novel comes out to find out the rest of the story.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

So let's try this challenge one more time.  I have a habit of collecting books and never reading them (as I'm sure most of you do too).  Well, there are some really great books on my shelf that I do want to get around to reading this year.  That is why I signed up for this challenge hosted by:
Evie from Bookish - @SeoEvie
from All I Ever Read - @Nicoleabouttown
from Hands and Home - @HandsHomeBlog
from Book Passion For Life - @BookPforLife
from WatchYA Reading - @caitlingss
from Mission To Read - @missiontoread
from Books, Biscuits & Tea - @alouetteuette
from Hooked On Books - @ChristasBooks
from Fans Of Fiction - @fansoffiction
from Mermaids Vision - @mermaidvisions
 The level I'm going for is A Friendly Hug, which includes reading 11-20 books.  The reason I picked this challenge compared to other challenges is that I can change the books I want to read from my original awesome is that.  I tend to change my reads according to my mood so this is perfect for me.  I picked a lower level of books because according to the challenge I can always move up a level but not this year I don't want to fail this challenge (hence starting on a low level). 

Here are some of the books on my TBR shelf I want to least at this moment: 

My Life Undecided

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)

Cum Laude

Wish me luck...I am determined to finish a TBR challenge this year.  I better not make it a New Year's resolution or I'll never keep it. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

2012 YA Contemporary Challenge

Angela from Reading Angel and Katie from Katie's Book Blog are hosting a YA Contemporary Challenge for 2012.

I love YA Contemporary Fiction so hopefully this challenge will be a breeze for me.  I'm going to be ambitious and sign up for Level 3; which is 15+ books. 
Here are some of the books on my list (I'll figure out the rest later since I'm a mood type reader)...
The Fine Art of Truth or Dare
Someone Else's Life

The Princesses of Iowa

In Honor

Second Chance Summer

Flirting in Italian

Breaking Beautiful