03. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Andrea, Fiction, Romance

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1) by E.L. James, 514 pages, read by Andrea, on 11/30/2012

My curiosity got the better of me when I decided to read this book. With all the hype still surrounding it, I just had to read it. The book was poorly written, as most romance novels are. It seems they are more focused on quality of story and steaminess than quality of writing, and that is fine. The most important thing in a romance novel is usually the storyline and the characters’ relationships with one another. In my opinion, Fifty Shades of Grey certainly had all of the important things a romance novel should include. Rich, hot man falls in love with a shy, somewhat introverted girl. I don’t think I know any woman who hasn’t daydreamed about the whole senario of meeting a rich man, falling in love, and becoming a wealthy wife. The only thing that bothered me was the whole BSDM. Not a fan. Not even a fan of erotica. But I pushed that aside and focused more on Anastasia and Christian’s relationship. Now that I am swept up in their interesting “arrangment/relationship,” I will now have to go against my better judgement of not really liking erotica and read the second one…and probably the third one as well. The story of Ana and Christian is quite interesting.

26. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker #1) by Paolo Bacigalupi, 352 pages, read by Andrea, on 11/23/2012

Ship Breaker tells the story of Nailer, a teenager living in a futuristic society where large, beached ships are stripped for their materials. Nailer works on the “light crew,” pulling copper out of the abandoned ships to meet the quotas of his boss. One day he finds a large clipper that has only one survivor–a beautiful, young, swank (rich) girl. Suddenly Nailer has to make the decision to break the ship down for all its worth and become instantly rich, or save the girls’ life.

I enjoyed this book as it is the first dystopian novel I’ve read that actually made me think the way Nailer lives could possibly be the US in the near future. A loose representation of the decline of culture, government, and social classes, this was a very interesting dystopian novel. I look forward to seeing what happens to Nailer in the next book.

26. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller/Suspense

Watcher in the Woods (Dreamhouse Kings #2) by Robert Liparulo , 292 pages, read by Andrea, on 11/17/2012

The first book left off with the kidnapping of Mrs. King. In Watcher in the Woods, the King Family commences their search for her, quickly realizing that they must learn more about the worlds behind the mysterious doors and have a well thought out plan before they just jump to the task. Unfortunately, they must also pretend everything is normal at home and go about their daily lives to avoid attracting unwanted attention. When a stranger appears and tries to force them to sell the house, their desperation to find Mrs. King is doubled. This second book was just as good as the first. Full of suspense and of course ending in a really exciting cliffhanger, I am looking forward to reading the third one.

15. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by A.J. Hartley, 448 pages, read by Andrea, on 11/13/2012

After the death of his parents, Darwen Arkwright moves from his home in England to live with his aunt in Atlanta. From the prestigious school he attends to the bullies he must deal with, everything is different than the life he once had. On a shopping trip to the local mall, Darwen meets Mr. Peregrine, owner of Mr. Octavius Peregrine’s Reflectory Emporium: Mirrors Priceless and Perilous. He gives Darwen an old mirror that turns out to be a magical portal into Silbrica, a world that turns out to be full of magical creatures, beautiful scenery and several portals that connect special mirrors on Earth to Silbrica. But, like Earth, life in Silbrica isn’t perfect and Darwen, along with his new friends Alexandra and Rich, finds himself caught up in a dangerous adventure to save both his world and Silbrica.

This fast paced adventure was certainly a page turner, suitable for children and adults alike. It kept me interested to the last page. Although this was A.J. Hartley’s first book for younger readers, I hope it isn’t the last one.

15. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance

Austin and Emily by Frank Turner Hollon , 310 pages, read by Andrea, on 11/08/2012

Austin and Emily is a very strange love story within a twisted Wizard of Oz tale. Emily (Dorothy) is a 23 year old stripper stuck in a rut. She does her job, but she feels like she is missing something (and it’s not her clothes). Austin, a 347 pound man with a very dry sense of humor and a special love for canned ham (his job as a canned ham salesman provides him with an endless supply) stops in the gentleman’s club Emily works at and notices her beauty. From there it is love at first sight. Emily leaves her life as a stripper behind and decides to travel with Austin to California (their Oz). Emily has a friendly demeanor with a sunshine outlook on life, while Austin is very cowardly and withdrawn (cowardly lion). Hopping into Austin’s car they begin what becomes a very strange and somewhat disturbing journey to the west coast. They pick up a few friends along the way, who oddly resemble characters from Oz as well. At some point I almost stopped reading this strange novel, but was glad I finished it. It is certainly charming in its own weird way, leaving readers with the age old message that love almost never turns out to be what one expects.

07. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler , 378 pages, read by Andrea, on 11/06/2012

Before Hudson Avery’s dad left, she thought her life was all about figure skating. She had her future all planned out. Win regionals, go on to the Olympics, become a pro skater. Then she finds out her happy family isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Now, Avery’s a girl who’s had her hopes dashed and her heart broken, no longer skating or following her dreams. Baking cupcakes and dreaming about what could have been, Avery works at her mother’s diner to help make ends meet, and avoids facing her past.

When she receives a second chance to fulfill her dreams of becoming a professional skater, she must discover what she wants and decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to get there. A quick read, this book is all about sacrifices, understanding what is truly important in life, and realizing that your decisions do affect more people than just yourself.

02. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Death Cure (Maze Runner #3) by James Dashner, 325 pages, read by Andrea, on 11/01/2012

Picking up right where the last book ended, Thomas has just recovered from his time in the “white room” within the WICKED headquarters after their journey across the Scorch. As expected, everyone who survived the grueling trial across the Scorch is told they are heroes and what they have done is for the greater good of everyone. However, in order for the last part of WICKED’s experiment to work, they have decided to give everyone their memories back. Thomas, thinking he would rather live without the terrible memories he knows were in his past, declines as does Newt and Minho. However, WICKED decides this is not an offer but a demand. The three boys escape the forced Swipe reversal and things escalate from there. Thomas, Newt, and Minho are caught up in a race to find the others who have gotten their memories restored and stopping WICKED. The last book finally explained who WICKED was and where the Flare came from, but it didn’t really elaborate on some of the situations that may have given readers a clearer understanding of everything that happened. I felt like this last book was all about Thomas and him running for his life rather than the whole WICKED situation and the Flare. It kind of just skated over that. A little bit disappointed about the ending, but overall, it was a good teen dystopia book series.

29. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, 260 pages, read by Andrea, on 10/28/2012

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

Dash finds a red Moleskin notebook amongst the bookshelves in his favorite bookstore with that on the first page. Deciding to continue, he is led on a mini series of dares within the bookstore and eventually around all of New York City. Lily (the original owner of the notebook) and Dash begin a humorous tradeoff within the pages of the red Moleskin. From quirky dares to shared dreams, they begin a sort of romantic relationship without even having met one another. However, one question remains: will they be able to connect face-to-face? This was written in the style of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the last book I read by the duo. However, I thought this one flowed better and worked better as a story because, like the book (Dash’s section was written by Levithan and Lily’s section was written by Cohn) the notebook was was passed back and forth as well. Neither one knew what the other was doing – the book only explained why Lily wrote what she did and Dash’s response to her entry and vice versa. In Nick and Norah, the book would repeat itself by explaining the same situation but in the eyes of Nick and in the eyes of Norah. Storyline was pretty much the same but it was more exciting than Nick and Norah’s story. I think this book should have been turned into a movie before Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

September is a twelve-year-old girl who lives in Omaha, NE. Her life was full of ordinary things until her father was shipped overseas to fight the war and her mother goes to work in a factory. Everything for September changes one day when the Green Wind blows through next to her kitchen window and invites her to take a ride to Fairyland with him on his flying leopard. It is at that moment the adventure begins. From a Marid named Saturday to an evil Marquess, September meets several memorable (and oftentimes loveable) characters throughout Fairyland during her journey to retrieve a special sword for the Marquess. A lovely tale full of wit and whimsy, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was a delight to read all the way to the last page. It had just enough at the end for me not to get discouraged about the wait for the next one (sadly I’m number 2 on the waiting list) but left enough of a cliffhanger that I’m curious about September’s next journey.

23. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Dystopia, Fiction, Teen Books

Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth, 525 pages, read by Andrea, on 10/19/2012

Tris Prior is back and life is just as bad as it was in the last book for her. Her life as a new Dauntless initiate has been turned upside down from the battle between the seemingly innocent Abnegation and the rogue Erudite/Dauntless army led by the evil Jeanine (leader of the Erudites). Her parents and good friend are dead and it seems Tobias is barely speaking to her. From the second book, it is clear that the Abnegation used to have something secret that the Erudite didn’t want any faction to know. Abnegation, being the selfless types they are, believed it was the people’s right within each faction to know what was being kept secret for so long. Whatever the secret is has Erudite all bothered and willing to kill innocent people just to make sure it is destroyed. Sadly, it ended with another cliffhanger and has left me wanting more information about why the four factions were started in the first place and how important the Divergent, which is what Tris is, are to all four factions and possibly all of humanity. Here’s to waiting for Fall 2013.

15. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, 371 pages, read by Andrea, on 10/12/2012

After reading the dustcover, I thought this book would have a lot more about Louise Brooks, who really was a rebellious woman of Hollywood in the 1920’s and her early days before becoming famous in New York attending Denishawn School of Dancing not all about her fictional chaperone, Cora. This book centered upon the themes of life lessons and 1920’s history. Cora is Louise’s chaperone in New York right as the socially acceptable ways of life are beginning to change. Although both women are from Wichita, their personalities are like day and night. While Cora is a socially upright woman with very high moral standards, Louise is a young girl with free, liberal views on life.

As Cora’s time in New York progresses, she learns more about herself than she ever thought possible. Louise, although differing in beliefs and ideals, teaches Cora about accepting modern thought. From contraceptive methods for women to lifting prohibition, everything that Cora once denounced doesn’t seem so socially unacceptable in her eyes any longer. Despite the pressure to conform to the popular thoughts of her friends once she returns to Wichita, Cora is able to accept others and herself. This was a good book that balanced the real life of Louise Brooks with a little fiction and what life was really like for people with unconventional thought in the 1920s.

10. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Apocalyptic, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

12.21 by Dustin Thomason, 326 pages, read by Andrea, on 10/08/2012

It’s two weeks before the 21st of December, the end of the world for many 2012-ers. For Dr. Gabriel Stanton, a prion researcher at the CDC, it’s just another regular year. L.A. is quiet, and everything seems to be normal. However, by the end of this normal day, Stanton has discovered a prion disease that threatens to wipe L.A. and possibly the rest of the major cities in the world off the map. Chel Manu, a descendant of the ancient Mayans and a Guatemalan American researcher at the Getty Museum possesses a stolen Mayan codex that coincidently was acquired through two men who are now dead from the newly discovered prion disease. After translating the first few pages, she starts to believe it holds the secret to why the ancient Mayan kingdoms of her ancestors vanished. A race to save all of humanity begins as Gabe and Chel attempt to combine their knowledge together to understand the Mayan tragedy and discover a cure to the disease that threatens to extinguish modern day civilization.

12.21 was a great read from beginning to end. Thomason combined medical knowledge and Mayan history into an action-packed book that was difficult to put down.

04. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Apocalyptic, Dystopia, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner #2) by James Dashner, 360 pages, read by Andrea, on 10/03/2012

So the Gladers went from a horrible maze with creepy, blob-like creatures to a wasteland of endless desert wracked with solar flares, lightning storms and crazy humans that have the Flare, a virus that apparently eats away at the brain and makes people irrationally violent and very dangerous. The desert, better known as the Scorch, is the Gladers next trial. They must make it across the Scorch in two weeks to a safe haven – about 100 miles of dry land to cover. Even worse, there is another group consisting of all girls that went through a maze trial very similar to the one the Gladers endured and they are out to get Thomas, the main guy from the first book. I feel with this book the reader becomes more aware of who WICKED is and what the group’s role is in all of the “trials.” It was more informative than the first one as they reveal more of Thomas’s lost memories. I was certainly more excited about the second book, as it goes further into detail why the things in the first book happened the way they did.

 

21. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Drama, Graphic Novel · Tags: , , , , ,

Zahra's Paradise by Amir & Khalil, 272 pages, read by Andrea, on 09/21/2012

With all of the negative media attention the Middle East has gotten lately, it is sometimes hard to separate the good people from the evil. Zahra’s Paradise, although fictional, is a good way to bring what is happening over there back into perspective. This story served as a representation of what many Iranian families went through during the revolution and are going through now under a corrupted Islamic Republic. Most of the Middle East we see in the media is a bunch of angry extremists yelling and marching and burning the American flag. This story is an attempt to show Iranians are a compassionate people (no matter their religion, age, or sex) and have a strong desire to live in freedom. Their leaders are the ones who have turned religion into a cover for gaining wealth and power. Not everyone in Iran likes their country, not even Muslims as the book reveals, but they are forced to, or risk possible prison time or execution.

Basically, this heart-wrenching story is about a mother and her son (the narrator) who journey together throughout Tehran in search of Mehdi, their son and brother. Along the way, the reader is introduced to the horrors of Iran. From prisons to hospitals, morgues to cemeteries, the reader is reminded that what is shown on American news is unrelated to what Iranians go through every day. Most have no time to “hate America” or protest in the streets about the Western world. The book actually makes light of this generalization at some point. Many, as we do here in the US, are simply trying to live. What this book does is show that humanity lies even in the darkest corners of the world despite the way it is represented as a whole.

The two authors withholding their names (for very obvious reasons) kind of makes the fear Iranians live in every day that much more realistic for me. In the end of the book is a large list of people who have died under the Islamic Republic. Kinda goes to show that as far as the effects of war on a country go, we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg yet domestically.

21. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, 183 pages, read by Andrea, on 09/20/2012

Sometimes collaborative books can be awesome. However, they can also be a little choppy and thrown together in places. This is what Nick and Norah’s story was for me. I did like Norah’s character from the beginning of the story. She was cheeky, borderline introverted, and had a very dry sense of humor. I didn’t care for Nick, but in the end he grew on me. Asking a random girl to pretend to be your girlfriend for five minutes just to make another girl jealous is pretty low. That two second request and five minute interaction was basically the beginning of Nick and Norah’s crazy all-nighter out and about in New York.

Choppiness aside, what kept me reading was the randomness of how Nick and Norah met, and the fact that their brief interaction blossomed into so many possibilities. They were two young adults that basically went wherever their random half-joking thoughts took them.  From a random “cabaret” with dancing/half naked nuns singing Edelweiss to a steamy almost hookup in a random hotel ice room, their night together was far from boring – and it started around 3 am. To top that off, Nick did eventually shape up and basically got over his ex gf and fell in love with Norah all in the same night. A typical, lovely, whirlwind of a teen romance…or something more perhaps. I liked how the book was open ended and left you to guess where Nick and Norah’s relationship went from there.

Apparantly Cohn and Levithan wrote alternating chapters by passing the manuscript back and forth to one another. All they had was an overall idea of the story and how they wanted the characters to develop. As a result, the book seemed a little choppy in a few places. However, I did like the fact that it was clear both characters had their own voice. I enjoyed reading the chapters and finding out Nick or Norah’s feelings about the situation. I’ll watch the movie – perhaps it will overturn my belief that the book is always better than the movie that is based on it. Maybe it will have better transitions from one character’s thoughts to the next.

18. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Children's Books, Fiction

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, 180 pages, read by Andrea, on 09/17/2012

Georges (the “s” is silent) and his parents move from their house to an apartment in Brooklyn when his dad loses his job. His mom, a nurse, decides to work a double shift at the hospital. His former best friend is now part of the “in-crowd” a group Georges or “Gorgeous” as most of the people in that group call him. Not only is Georges’s home life falling apart, his school life has also become barely tolerable. After noticing a random poster advertising a Spy Club in the basement of his apartment building, Georges, after encouragement from his dad, decides to take a chance and check it out. There he meets Safer, a boy around his age, and Candy, his younger sister. Just like the works of Georges Seurat, the painter he was named after, Georges learns from Safer how to look at the world bit by bit instead of always looking at the world as a whole. With that knowledge he is able to face his biggest fears and accept what is happening in his life.

Liar & Spy is a story that teaches readers of all ages. It teaches the value of mustering up the courage to stand up to bullies and the fears that threaten to drag you down. It teaches the value of understanding your friends and realizing they are more important to you than you think.

06. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Graphic Novel, Memoirs

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, 232 pages, read by Andrea, on 09/05/2012

This was an interesting book. A memoir of her life, Fun Home describes what it was like in Alison Bechdel’s life from around age 10 to when she was in college. From discovering she was a lesbian and coming out to her parents to understanding her relationship with her father and his death, Bechdel weaves a story of self-discovery and -acceptance. It is kind of graphic at times (she is not shy about describing, very specifically through words and illustrations, her personal life), but I really thought it was well written and illustrated, and had a nice, almost philosophical feel to it. She describes her relationship with her family in such a cold and distant way, but then shows how her and her father become close in their own, rather odd way. The memoir she writes and draws is quite a detailed account of her life and really makes you connect with her and want to understand the process she went through to learn how to trust herself so she could start trusting others. I could not relate to her coming out problem, but the ideas she had of self-acceptance and understanding was beautifully written.

31. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Autobiographies, Graphic Novel · Tags: , ,

Persepolis: The Story of a Return (Persepolis #2) by Marjane Satrapi, 192 pages, read by Andrea, on 08/30/2012

Marjane is back with her black and white drawings to tell the story of her growing up. It opens with her school experiences in Austria and eventually going back home to Tehran. It showed the struggles she went through knowing her family and friends were still in a war-stricken country while she was safe in Europe and the transition she had to go to when she got to Europe and then when she finally came home. Just as she got used to the fudamentalism of Iran she went to Europe where everything was open and more liberal. Then just as she got used to Europe, she had to go back to Iran where Islamic law was already in place. As Marjane understood more in this era of her life, it was a little more depressing than the first book. She knew what it meant to be under a regime and understood the consequences of disobeying it. Due to her experiences in Austria, Marjane is not a naive little girl anymore and is almost bitter when she returns to her home country. It was interesting to read a little more about Iranian history during the 80s and 90s and see how Marjane uses her experiences in a positive way to become the stronger and more independent woman she wants to be.

30. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Autobiographies, Graphic Novel · Tags: , ,

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Persepolis #1) by Marjane Satrapi, 160 pages, read by Andrea, on 08/28/2012

With simple black and white drawings, Marjane Satrapi explains a very painful part of her childhood. Persepolis is a memoir of what it was like for her growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, while explaining what the country’s people went through during the war with Iraq and with the religious revolutionaries. It chronicles Marjane’s struggles from about the time she is 10, when the revolution begins, to age 14, when she moves away at her parent’s request from the dangers in Iran to live and go to school in Europe.

Although it was a little slow in some parts and the illustrations didn’t really intrigue me, Persepolis really did give me a quick glimpse of Iran in its early days before it became the country everyone knows now. Marjane explains very simply the major transitions Iran has gone through over the last 4 decades and how it has divided its people from one another and the country as a whole from the rest of the world. The thing I like most about graphic novels is how simplistic yet powerful they can be. If Persepolis was simply a nonfiction book, it wouldn’t have had the same impact for me as the graphic novel was able to give. Overall, a good, quick read with a bit of educational info about Iran.

28. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Graphic Novel, Paranormal, Teen Books

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol , 221 pages, read by Andrea, on 08/27/2012

Think back to the good old days of high school. Wouldn’t you love to have the answers to the exams, to know when the principal was coming around the corner while sneaking cigarettes or a forbidden cell phone? Anya has that and more. After falling into an uncovered well in the park while trying to cut class, Anya finds herself trapped and, surprisingly, not alone. Lacking in the friend department, Anya is pretty desperate for companionship. Finding a ghost in the bottom of a well who looks like she could be a pretty good friend is not really the type of friend Anya had in mind, but when her new friend helps her find a way out of the well, their frienship starts to blossom. However, as time passes, Anya begins to wonder just how literally her new friend means to take the title BFF.

Very interesting book. I actually found myself really creeped out with the ghost’s obsessive, maniacal behavior. A good read, I think Brosgol did a good job convincing the reader (well at least me) that it is ok to be a little quirky and not be exactly like everyone else. It is normal to feel a twinge of jealousy for someone as well. But it is very important to remember that someone you envy may have more problems than you think and, in all actuality, he or she may be wishing for your life. That message is so important in my opinion.