Friday, February 28, 2014

Review - Insurgent

by Veronica Roth

Divergent #2
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction - Dystopia, Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Edition: Hardcover
Page Count: 535
Source: Library

 Goodreads Synopsis: One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

I had high expectations for Insurgent before I even checked it out of the library. I read the first book in two days and completely fell in love with it. I just KNEW it was going to be one of those series that I would talk about over and over again. After enjoying the first book so much, I was a bit worried that book number two would not be able to stand up to the high standards I now have for Roth's work. However, I was thrilled to find that it was still very well written, and a good book. Sure, it was not as good as the first book, but I find that it is usually difficult for that to happen in any series. The first book opens you up to the world and characters, making it difficult not to enjoy it. 

As we start out the second book of the series, it is obvious that the characters have grown since book one. It would be impossible for them not to after what they went through in book one. Tris still seems to struggle with determining who she is though, especially when she sees what some of the Dauntless have been capable of. Along with that, Tobias is obviously struggling a lot as well. Dauntless has been his home for a bit now, and he has realized what people he lived with were capable of doing, and now he must figure out what to do about it. It is obvious that a lot of the characters are dealing with a great deal of stress in book two. 

The romance in this book is completely frustrating. While Tris and Tobias obviously still love each other, they are having a very tough time showing it. They are both so independent that it causes quite a few rifts between each other when they do not feel the need to share important information with the other. At one point, Tobias believes that Tris has become too careless with her own life, and gives and ultimatum. Their relationship is back and forth and very rocky throughout the whole book. While it makes perfect sense, it's still plenty frustrating for those of us who love their relationship! 

Ultimately, the only thing that really bothered me about Insurgent was how much the characters moved around through the novel; mostly happening at the beginning and quickly. It makes sense that it would happen, of course, since they are trying to stay safe from the Erudite and Dauntless. First, they use the train to make it to Amity in hopes of being safe, and meeting up with the others that managed to escape. Then they have a short run in with the factionless, stop by Candor headquarters where they stay for awhile, some of them end of at Erudite, and then ultimately they go back to their home at Abnegation. It's a bit of a whirlwind! Still, as long as you can get through the constant change of location, the book is still a very good read and leaves me satisfied with the series. 

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review Blitz - Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki

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Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.
Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.
Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.
Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.
The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.


Book Review: 

Five words that I would use to describe this book are:

Usually I am not one to pick up any book that does not fall into the category of Young Adult. I remember that I used to think that there were no books about characters "my age," but obviously I was very wrong about that. When I saw this book labeled as New Adult (NA), I was a little unsure. Then I read the synopsis, and I was completely sold on the book. It was enough to pull me in, and I could not wait to read the book. 

Despite not usually reading NA books, I was pleasantly pleased with how much I enjoyed this book. It was a wonderful read, in fact. The plot was amazing, and I love the world that the authors created for us. If you have been around the blog for any amount of time you know that I am a fan of anything dystopian, and this book certainly gave me my fix for that. The book also kept me on my toes, which I always like. It is not enjoyable to read a book where everything is put out there for you and holds no surprises. With this book, every time I thought I had things figured out, it changed completely once again. It was frustrating in a very, VERY good way. 

The main characters were amazing. From the beginning you feel for Lexi, and that is something that continues through the whole novel. She has been through so much herself, yet she still cares so deeply for other people. It is amazing to me how strong she can be as she goes through everything that she has to deal with. Of course, a lot of it is due to the help of her guard, Cole. From the beginning he is difficult to read and understand, but you quickly come to love him (even if his behavior makes you angry and annoyed at some points). There romance is perfect and forbidden, which just makes it that much better. 

Overall, I think that this is a book that anyone would enjoy if they like reading upper YA or NA books. It has a little bit for everyone; however, it is very dark and intense. It has to be, of course based on the story line, but some of it catches you a bit off guard and leaves you feeling even more shocked and fearful of the characters. Ketner and Kalicicki did a very good job of writing a book that made me want to continue turning the pages (or hitting the arrow on my Kindle, same thing). I would certainly recommend reading it!

About Abi and Missy

  Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

Abigail Ketner


Is a registered nurse with a passion for novels, the beaches of St. John, and her Philadelphia Phillies. A talented singer, Abi loves to go running and spend lots of time with her family. She currently resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband, triplet daughters and two very spoiled dogs.

Melissa Kalicicki

Missy Kalicicki

Received her bachelor’s degree from Millersville University in 2003. She married, had two boys and currently lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Aside from reading and writing, her interests include running and mixed martial arts. She also remains an avid Cleveland sports fan.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Inspiration: Sarah Dessen

As a writer, I believe that we all have at least one author who becomes our inspiration for writing. In some way, they had an impact on us at one point in our life or another, and we find ourselves saying "I wan to write just like her someday." For me, Sarah Dessen would be that author. Like I have mentioned before, I used to have a lot of trouble with reading when I was younger. It was a complete struggle for me, and it took some independent classes (and missed recess) in order to help me develop better reading skills. After that point, reading had seemed like a bit of a chore for me, so I did not do it nearly as much as I should have. It was not until I read my first book by Sarah Dessen (That Summer), that I fell in love with reading once again. After that, I would pick up any book that I could get my hands on and give it a chance.

Since then, I have continued to buy and read all of Sarah Dessen's books. In fact, aside from my Harry Potter books, Dessen's books are the only ones that I buy in hardcover within the first month that they are out. (Hardcover books are pretty expensive, after all, and I'm on a teacher salary so I usually stick to e-books, library books, or wait until they come out in paperback). Every time I read another one of Dessen's books, I am even more inspired to make my own book become a reality. I hope that it is a point that I will eventually reach, too.

At this point, Dessen has written eleven books, and they have all been amazing. Of course, there are some specific things about some of them that really inspire me and give me ideas for my own writing. I won't talk about all eleven (I don't want to bore you!), but here are a few of them.

The Moon and More - Published June 2013 
This is Dessen's most recent book, and I think that it is wonderful. I love that YA novels seem to be moving towards having the strong, empowered female characters. Emaline, the main character in this book, can certainly fall into this category, too. Along with a strong female character, Dessen gives a new look into the typical love triangle. You have the ex-boyfriend, and then the new, intriguing guy. However, she shows us that sometimes the new guy isn't as great as he seems, and might not be who is best for you.

 Dreamland - Published May 2004 
This is one of the books that I read first by Dessen, and I was intrigued by it. Naturally, there was a great main character, Caitlin, but she was not as strong as most of Dessen's lead characters usually are. It was nice to read about a character who was more vulnerable and scarred. In this novel, Dessen discusses a difficult topic that I am sure happens to more young girls than we want to think about - abusive relationships. Instead of giving the typical teen romance that we see in a lot of YA contemporary novels, Dessen gives us a story about falling in love with the wrong person, and what can come out of that situation.

Lock and Key - Published April 2008
This one by Dessen is really, really good. In the novel it introduces the main character Ruby, who goes to live with her sister after being abandoned by her mother. It is a huge change for her, and she really struggles. Then she meets Nate, the boy who lives next door. He has some issues of his own, though he does not actually want to talk about it. You really cannot help falling in love with them. It is nice to see the two of them stick together and help each other get through their struggles.

Along for the Ride - Published June 2009
Out of the eleven novels that Sarah Dessen has written and published, Along for the Ride is definitely my favorite! (I know that I have said all the others are really good, and they are, but really I mean this is my favorite!) We are introduced to a main character, Auden, who is one of my favorite character EVER. She is wonderful, and you just cannot help but to root for her. She has family issues and goes to stay with her dad for the summer where she meets Eli, the shy, conflicted boy. The whole story is beautifully written, and it is wonderful to watch things evolve between the two main characters.

I just wanted to share a little about what inspired me to begin writing. What has inspired you to write/read?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND

Happy Tuesday! I'm linking up today for Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish. This weeks prompt is REWIND: pick any of the previous topics that you want to do again or that you may have missed. Since I just started the link up last week, there are quite a bit of them I could choose from. I decided to pick the prompt from January 28th: Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In OR Top Ten Characters I'd NEVER Want To Trade Places With. I am going to focus on the characters one.

So, without further ado, The Top Ten Characters I'd NEVER Want to Trade Places With: 

1. Draco Malfoy - Harry Potter Series (J.K. Rowling)
Draco is one of my favorite characters in the HP series, but I also know that I would never want to switch places with him. He has to deal with a lot of pressure throughout the whole series, and I do not think that I could deal with having the parents that he had. Along with that, he always had to worry about getting the consequences of his parents messing up with the Dark Lord. He is pulled into things when he is too young, asked to do too much, and ultimately spends most of the late part of the series terrified (and no one can blame him for that!). At least he is very nice to look at, thank you Tom Felton!

2. Isabella Swan - The Twilight Saga (Stephenie Meyer)
This one is more because of the world that Bella happens upon, and not because of her actual character. The Twilight series was okay, and I liked Bella's character well enough; however, I am not sure I would enjoy living in a world of vampires and werewolves. Along with that, she has very few people that she can speak openly to about everything since they have to keep the whole vampire thing as a secret. I suppose later in the series we could relate a bit more, but I would not want to be Twilight or New Moon Bella.

3. Charlie Scorsoni - The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is, by far, one of my favorite books. Chbosky certainly wrote a masterpiece with this one, but I also know that I would not want to switch places with Charlie, at least in most aspects. I love the way that  he eventually falls in love, but there is so much more than he has to deal with. I do not believe that I could deal with everything the way that he did (and he wasn't always great at it!). Despite all of the difficulties, he is still incredibly charming, and it's hard not to love him. I just wouldn't want to be him!

4. Peeta Mellark - The Hunger Games Series (Suzanne Collins)
Poor, poor Peeta. Throughout the whole series I feel pretty awful for the boy. In The Hunger Games, he is obviously devastated when his name is drawn at the reaping, and he goes through the whole thing knowing that there is a very good chance that he will not be the one to come out alive. In Catching Fire, he struggles with getting closer to Katniss, despite knowing that she might still not love him. And in Mockingjay he has to deal with being brainwashed and tortured by the Capitol, and then is unable to stop himself from wanting to kill the girl he loves once he is rescued. I pity the boy, and I definitely don't want to be him.

5. Tris Prior - The Divergent Series (Veronica Roth)
I LOVE Tris Prior. She and Tobias are two of my favorite book characters ever, and I love their relationship. I do know that I would not want to be Tris, though. This one has more to do with the world that she lives in as well, and everything that is hidden from them for so long. She goes through so much; losing her parents, being betrayed by her brother, and dealing with the pressure to protect other people. It is a lot of stress, and I know that I could never handle it the way that she does.

6. Liesel Meminger - The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
If you have read this book, the whole description part here is probably pretty obvious. I could not believe everything that this little girl went through during the novel. Sure, I understand what was happening in the time period that the book was written, but it is still so hard to read about. While Liesel seems to try to make the best of her situation once she adjusts to her new home, there is still so much fear that is constantly in her life. I cannot imagine being that young and having that much to worry about.

7. Hazel Grace Lancaster - The Fault in our Stars (John Green)
This is another book that I absolutely LOVE! People spoke so highly of it for so long, and it took me awhile to read it. I am SO glad that I did though. Hazel is amazing, and in some aspects I do wish that I was like her. She is so brave and realistic, and I do believe that could be a very good quality to have. I do not think that I am strong enough to go through and deal with everything that she went through, though. No spoilers, but I definitely would not be able to handle what she wen through at the end of the book.

8. Susie Salmon - The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
Another amazing book, another young girl that I would not be able to be. Of course, through the majority of the novel Susie is already gone, but that does not make her any less THERE in the novel. She goes through so much, and has so much to figure out even once she is dead. Along with that, she has to go through actually dying. Obviously I am a wimp (you can probably tell that much just from reading this post!). I would be a complete mess if I was ever in her situation, and she at least tried very hard to get away.

9. Deuce - Enclave (Ann Aguirre)
Once again, this one has more to do with the world, though Deuce is really just a confused and conflicted character through the whole book (I have not read book 2 or 3 in the series yet). The world she lives in with zombies or "Freaks" is not something I would want to deal with. Flesh eating sort-of humans? No thank you! Along with that, Deuce seems to have a huge identity crisis throughout the whole novel. She keeps saying she is a "Huntress" and that seems to be the only thing that defines her. Honestly, she's a bit frustrating.

10. Severus Snape - Harry Potter Series (J.K. Rowling)
To begin and end with a Harry Potter character seems like a wonderful idea, doesn't it? (I am addicted to HP...which is why our dog has the name Sirius :). Severus was always one of my brother's favorite characters in the series, and he was positive he was going to end up being great. While I like Snape, I would not want to be him. After learning about his life, there is obviously so much pain and stress there. He had to go through so much just to lose the girl that he has always loved. Talk about rough! He is still a wonderful character, though.

There we have it! What characters would you NOT want to trade places with?

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Monday! What are you Reading? [1]

Happy Monday! I have decided to start participating in the It's Monday! What are you Reading? link up over at Book Journey. It seems like it will be fun to start off the week with what I have been reading, and what I intend to read this week.

This week, I will be reading: 

1. Branded (Sinners Series #1) by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
NA - Sci-Fi (Dystopia), Fantasy, Romance
I started reading this book Saturday, and got about thirty percent of it read, staying up until midnight because I could not put it down (I usually go to bed by ten at the latest, so this is a BIG deal). I am reading it on my kindle and enjoying it very much so far! Make sure to stop back by the blog on Thursday to see the promo blitz and new cover for this book.

2. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer
YA - Sci-Fi (Dystopia), Fantasy, Romance
I began reading this book last week, but things were a bit crazy at work (as often happens when you teach 130 middle school students every day), so I did not have a chance to finish like I had hoped. However, I am half way through and intend to finish within the next couple of days. I am loving this book, and cannot wait to pick up a copy of the next book in the series once I finish. I also convinced one of my middle school girls to check this one out of the library this week.

3. Divergent Thinking: YA Authors on Veronica Roth's Divergent Trilogy
Editor: Leah Wilson, Many YA authors contributed 
I received an e-arc of this book through NetGalley, and the publishing date is March 4th. So far, I am really enjoying this book. Different YA authors are contributing their ideas and thoughts on the ideals and themes we see in the Divergent Trilogy (which I am in love with). I'm not sure if a lot of young adults would enjoy this as it talks a lot about psychology and science, but I am enjoying it very much so far. Look out for a review next week.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review - Fixing Delilah

Fixing Delilah
by Sarah Ockler

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: Dec. 1, 2010
Edition: Hardcover
Page Count: 308
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: Things in Delilah Hannaford's life have a tendency to fall apart.

She used to be a good student, but she can't seem to keep it together anymore. Her "boyfriend" isn't much of a boyfriend. And her mother refuses to discuss the fight that divided their family eight years ago. Falling apart, it seems, is a Hannaford tradition.

Over a summer of new friendships, unexpected romance, and moments that test the complex bonds between mothers and daughters, Delilah must face her family's painful past. Can even her most shattered relationships be pieced together again?

Rich with emotion, Sarah Ockler delivers a powerful story of family, love, and self-discovery.

Review: When it came to wanting to read this book, I first came across it on Goodreads. It was one of those days where I was spending far more time on the website than I should have, and came across the book. I have always been a fan of YA contemporaries, so I decided that the synopsis sounded intriguing. I wanted to know about the secrets that seemed to be going on in this family. When I tried another library around home, I went back to my TBR list on Goodreads and located the novel on the shelf. It still sounded pretty good, so I decided to take it with me. I am very glad that I made that decision as well because I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 

From the very beginning of the novel, the main character Delilah becomes very easy to relate with. She has recently gotten into quite a bit of trouble, and now is going to spend the summer with what is left of her family at her grandparents' own home. Needless to say, she is not thrilled. Still, you can tell that she is not a bad person, just going through a rough time. From the very beginning, Delilah was a very believable and relate able character.  I can see some of my middle school students in her, in fact. The growth of the character throughout the novel was wonderful as well. Sure, Delilah still had her problems at the end (that is what keeps her human as a character), but she learns to accept things and move on. 

The romance in the novel is AMAZING. Shortly into the book we are introduced to Patrick Reese, who used to be known as "Little Ricky" when Delilah and her family would travel to her grandparents' home in the summer. Meeting up with Patrick, and falling back into their friendship, is the only thing that seems to keep Delilah going as she deals with so much. Still, Ockler did a wonderful job of creating conflict between the two of them - conflict that needed to occur in order for the story to seem real. I know a lot of people do not enjoy contemporary books because the love interests get together and then nothing happens, and they live happily ever after. Ockler does a good job of creating a realistic young adult relationship, especially with Delilah having a "sort of" ex on the side.  

Ockler wrote the book in First Person narration, allowing us to see everything that happens through the eyes of Delilah, which I think worked out quite well. I could not put the book down, always wanting to know what Delilah does next, what she is thinking about what just happened, and ultimately how she is going to deal with everything thrown at her. The writing overall was quite good, and I did not find parts to be too slow where I wanted to stop reading. In fact, I read the book in a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon. It was a quick read, and very enjoyable. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading Young Adult Contemporary. Even if you are not the biggest fan, you should consider giving this book a chance. There are wonderful relationships strewn throughout the whole book, and not just between the main character and her love interest. The whole theme of the book revolves around the family, and accepting the people that you love despite their flaws and mistakes. This is a lesson that I think that everyone can read and get something out of. 

Rating: 4.0/5.0
Find the book here:
Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Review - Mockingjay

by Suzanne Collins

Book Three (THG Series)
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction - Dystopia
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: Aug. 24, 2010
Edition: Hardcover
Page Count: 390
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis:  
My name is Katniss Everdeen.
Why am I not dead?
I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

Review: I had big hopes for this book (HUGE, in fact). I think that is common when it comes to the final book in every series. You have spent time and energy reading more than one book about the same characters and plot, and you hope that it will all come together in a way that leaves you satisfied. NOTE: I do not mean that no one should ever be killed off and they should all live happily ever after. I DO believe that the ending should follow along with the ideas that were created in book one and beyond. Due to this, there were quite a few things that happened in this book that I was not happy about at all. I will be sure to make my point without giving any spoilers, I promise.

When District 13 first came into play, I was mostly confused. Sure, I guess that it made sense that they may not have all died when the Capitol tried to destroy them,  but it seemed a little unbelievable that there was suddenly a whole town of people living undergrounds and avoiding the wrath of the Capitol. Some people might believe that this was just fine, but I am still trying to make complete sense of it in my mind. Despite the threat of possible weapons, the Capitol does not seem to fear anyone, so I'm just a bit surprised by the whole thing. 

Certainly, this book proves the point that corruption leads to more corruption. You want to believe that there is a good guy somewhere, but they seem to be difficult to find. I guess this bothers me. I know that we have Katniss as the heroine, but everyone else is a little wishywashy, and seems to remain this way through the entirety of the novel. You want those characters that you know are trustworthy,  but it is difficult to find them throughout the novel, leaving our main character much more vulnerable than I think was fair to her. 

Speaking of Katniss as the heroine, I have a hard time believing that is the case after I finished the series. I wanted to believe it, desperately I wanted to, but it was not there. I suppose I was thinking back to book one, and focusing on what things Katniss wanted badly; enough to volunteer as tribute at the seventy-fourth Hunger Games. I expected the ending resolution to be something with that desire, with her need to complete her mission. I believe that Katniss is left to flail and fail as a hero in the novel, and that does bother me a lot. We want to inspire our readers, especially young adults, and I feel like the ending lacked a lot of things they would hope for in the novel. They do not see that sometimes tough things are possible, they just learn that life is always going to tackle you, and you might be lucky if you get up again. 

Honestly, the whole ending bothered me altogether. Once again, I promise that I will not give any spoilers, but I was not happy with how the novel was wrapped up. Or how it was not wrapped up, actually. There were a lot of loose ends that were not tied up, a lot of questions left unanswered, which left me as a frustrated reader when I was done with the series. I feel that the ending was quite rushed, far too much, and there were several more details that I wanted to see at the end that I was not given. It was upsetting after reading through three books. 

Of course, the book did have some redeeming qualities. Finnick became one of my favorite characters after reading/watching Catching Fire, so I was thrilled that we received his back story in Mockingjay. That may have been one of my favorite parts of the book, in fact. Finnick is so charming that it is difficult not to fall in love with him, I think. He certainly made the book much more enjoyable. Along with that, I have always been a huge Katniss fan, and she showed herself as strong and protective, despite all that she had to go through. Overall, I wish that a lot of things would have been written differently in this book, or perhaps that we could have received much more detail towards the end. 

Rating: 2.0/5.0

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Reader/Book Blogger:

Today I am linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for my very first go at Top Ten Tuesday, and I am very excited about it! (I wish I could have posted it this morning, but as I have an hour drive to work, I didn't have time to get it together.) Anyway, it is still Tuesday, so here we go!

1. I love being a reader because...books can create so many different worlds when you open them and begin to read. Sometimes, the best way to deal with stress is to find a way to get away from it for awhile. Reading a book is a great (and fairly inexpensive) way to go about doing this. After a long day at work, I love to lay in bed and read before I allow myself to drift off to sleep. It's one of my favorite parts of the day.

2. I love being a book blogger is something completely new for me (literally, within the last couple of weeks). I am starting to realize that sometimes new = very, very good. This book blogger thing definitely falls into that category. It has gotten me out of my comfort zone a little, and I think that is a good thing.

3. I love being a reader makes me a good role model for my middle school students, and for my own future children. I fear that reading is becoming less and less popular with the new generations, and it is not something I want to disappear. When I tell my students why it is so important to read, I can back it up. Never has a student been able to say "Why do we have to read if you don't?" Plus, sometimes we have read the same books, so we can discuss them and build a relationship.

4. I love being a book blogger is a step in the right direction for me (at least I feel that way). Ultimately, my goal is to become a published author. One of the best things to do in order to achieve that is to write as much as I possibly can. My blog will give me the ability to do just that, and I am looking forward to it.

5. I love being a reader because...who doesn't need a hobby? Honestly, I went through a reading rut, and after awhile I realized just how tired I was of watching television. I can only take so much of it now. Most weekends, I would rather turn off the television now and read a book, and I love that feeling. I love that I have a hobby that is impacted me in a positive way, and helping to build my knowledge.

6. I love being a book blogger is nice to have a place to write about what I think of the books that I read. To get my thoughts down, and have the chance that someone else might want to read it (even if it's just my family...and maybe due to slight obligation ;). Sometimes it is really nice to just get everything out. While I have always journaled about these things, it's nice to get them out there on the web as well.

7. I love being a reader because...I love falling in love with characters. I also absolutely love hating characters. It is amazing, reading books and making up your mind about the different characters based on their personalities and actions. You feel everything they feel (or so it seems), and feel a connection to them despite them being fictional characters. I just love that feeling!

8. I love being a book blogger is great to meet people that have the same interests as I do. It is always wonderful to find more people who would be okay with talking about books almost constantly (which I feel like that is what I do lately, even at work). I know that there are wonderful communities of people online, and I look forward to meeting more of you through the book blogging community.

9. I love being a reader inspires me. Like I said, I do hope to be an author, and it is only because I fell in love with the words of other writers that I wanted to do this. Books can speak so much to you, make you feel so much, and it is a wonderful thing to experience as you read. I only hope to be able to cause people to experience that with my books in the future.

10. I love being a book blogger opens you up to brand new opportunities. Perhaps getting to talk to an author you love (the thought of that is just completely exciting), you get to read books before other people, and then tell them about how wonderful it is and how they should pick it up when it is released. There are so many great things about blogging about books.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Book Haul - 1

Lately, I feel like I'm having trouble getting enough books to keep up with my reading habit. Because of that, I have been spending a lot of time at different libraries. The one in my own town isn't great, as it is still a fairly small town, so the town is pretty small itself. However, our small town resides right outside of a bigger city, and I can use my hometown library card to get books from one of their libraries as well. I just went to the Arlington library for the first time last week, and boy was I pleasantly surprised! Along with that, I am able to get books from the library at the school I work at (sometimes I feel like we read the books more than the students do!). Here are the books I have checked out of the many libraries the last couple of weeks. (I'm not supposed to spend much money for a couple months, so for now the library will have to suffice!).

Mansfield Public Library:

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins [here]
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein [here]
Cinder by Marissa Meyer [here]

Southeast Arlington Public Library: 

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons [here]
Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler [here]
Pretty Girl - 13 by Liz Coley [here]
Outpost by Ann Aguirre [here]
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi [here]

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Book Review: Enclave 

Enclave is the first book in the Razorland series by Ann Aguirre. I first picked up this book because a friend and coworker told me that I should read it. I had just finished the Divergent series and needed something a little more light hearted (no spoilers, I promise!). I decided to give it a try, though I would usually steer clear of any novel that has zombies in it, that's just not my thing. The book wasn't quite my style, but I did want to stick with the series to give it a shot. I am currently about halfway through the second book.

Goodreads Synopsis: New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters - or Freaks - who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight - guided by Fade's long-ago memories - in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs.

Ann Aguirre's thrilling young adult novel is the story of two young people in an apocalyptic world- - facing dangers, and feelings, unlike any they've ever known.

I cannot say that I was completely thrilled with this book. In fact, it's a little difficult for me to say I even like the book. I don't say that very often, but I think that honesty is very important when it comes to these reviews, and I really was not a huge fan. Ultimately, there were quite a bit of flaws with the novel that made it a frustrating read for me, so I can only imagine what it might be like for a young adult to read the novel. One of my students picked it up for his book review project last week, and I can't help but worry for him and how he might struggle to get through it. 

Problem #1: Issues with time.
One of the biggest flaws with this novel is how much it jumps around. After reading Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies, I understand that sometimes it is important to skip around a bit so that the reader is not bored. However, I also know that skipping around too much can be frustrating, and that is what happens in Enclave. There will be times when Aguirre will write things like "the past two weeks happened quickly" or "After a few days." It seems like quite a bit of time to skip within the novel, and it leaves the reader wondering what happened in all of that time - two weeks is a pretty lengthy amount of time, after all. If it happened once or twice, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, it happens constantly throughout the novel. 

Problem #2: Gender Roles. 
Another big issue with the novel is the idea of different gender roles. In the Enclave, where the main characters start off, it does not seem to specify anyone by their gender. Instead, they are known by their job once they come of age; Builder, Breeder, or Hunter. I liked the idea of not having specific gender roles until the main female character, Deuce, became a HUNTRESS. Notice the female title. None of the other occupations have different titles for males or females, yet Deuce calls herself this throughout the entirety of the novel. While this might seem like a small issues, it creates inconsistency, which can lead to huge problems within a novel. 

Problem #3: Inconsistencies in titles.
The last problem that I really see is the inconsistency of the words that Aguirre uses throughout the novel. As I said earlier, I am not a fan of reading zombie books. While I am okay with the occasional undead movie, I do not really enjoy reading about them. To make it worse, Aguirre created a different name for the zombies depending on where the characters are. Underground they call them "Freaks," Topside (above ground, in what used to be NYC) they call them "Muties," and in Salvation (a different town) they call them "Eaters." While I understand that sometimes places have different names for things, it makes it a bit confusing throughout the novel. Even some of the characters seem to be confused by it themselves, in fact. 

The book is not all bad, though. The characters really are enjoyable when you are able to focus on them. Deuce is all about trying to be strong and prove herself to be a good huntress, while being partnered with Fade, who was found when he was younger and brought to the Enclave when he seemed strong enough to be of use. Their relationship becomes interesting as they deal with being hunting partners and then being banished to Topside for taking blame for something they did not do. The book has a few redeeming qualities, but they can be a bit difficult to find between everything else. 

Rating: 3.0/5.0 

Next up to review: Mockingjay but Suzanne Collins

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Book Review: Divergent 

Honestly, I was not planning to read the Divergent series (crazy, I know). One of my friends told me how the third book ended, not knowing that I had been thinking about reading them, and then it just seemed sort of pointless to pick the first book up. One of my students was finishing the series though, and kept telling me I just HAD to read it. When I took my students to the library one week, there was a copy there so I picked it up. I like to read while my students do, modeling what good readers should be doing in the library. Needless to say, I could not put the book down, and I am incredibly happy that I did decide to read the series after all. You can find Divergent here and here.

Goodreads Synopsis: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Short and Sweet?  I believe that when I looked at this book in the bookstore, the cover said something like "for those who are fans of The Hunger Games." While obviously this is true, saying you would like another dystopian novel, I must say that the Divergent series is SO much better than The Hunger Games. If you liked THG, you will LOVE Divergent. The world that Veronica Roth has created in her series is amazing, and you slowly find out more and more about the world that Beatrice Prior lives in as you move through the three novels. The factions were obviously developed with much thought in mind, deciding on which human qualities needed to be developed and "fixed." The characterization is wonderful, and it is obvious that a lot of thought is given to even the smallest of characters throughout the novel. They all play their role, and they do so very well. Roth gives a wonderful revelation of a young girl trying to figure out where she truly belongs and who she is, all while trying to help save what is left of her world in the process.

Beatrice "Tris" Prior: When it comes to futuristic, dystopian novels, I believe that Roth has given us a wonderful female protagonist in Tris. It is wonderful to see this era of books coming forward that show the girls being the ones capable of saving the world (and without actually NEEDING the boy). While her relationship with Tobias in the book is amazing, it is obvious that she is strong on her own as well. I feel like this is something to admire in a female lead. Tris is flawed, there is no doubt there, but that just makes her character even more believable. We are allowed to see her inner struggles with figuring out where she belongs, deciding if she made the right decision on her faction, and ultimately doing what she has to in order to save those that she loves. Her lack of self-confidence is frustrating, but it also keeps you cheering for her character as the novel plays out.

Tobias "Four" Eaton: If I had to pick a favorite male character from a YA novel, Tobias would be at the top of that list. We first meet him as Four when Tris enters the Divergent cave, and he captures our attention right away. He has his eye on Tris from the very beginning, and it is wonderful to find it is due to her strength and bravery, and not just her looks. Tobias is complex, mysterious, and trouble. Unlike the "perfect" love interests we often seen in young adult novels, he has real issues and demons he has to deal with, and we get to see him struggle through them. In the novel, he reveals that everyone has fears, no matter how tough they may seem to be, and maybe that is not something to be ashamed of. Overall, I think that he is a great male character than anyone would want to read about.

Rating: 5.0/5.0

As most of you probably know, there is a movie coming out for Divergent as well. It is due out in theaters on March 21st, and I cannot wait to see this one, either. They released the final official trailer last week, and it looks like they are going to do a wonderful job incorporating all of the big moments from the novel.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

I was thrilled when I finally got around to reading this book. Let me tell you, it was not easy to get my hands on a copy, and I just about broke down and bought it at Target. With the movie coming out in June, it is understandable that everyone wants to get a hold of it and have it read before they go see it in the theater. Trust me, you definitely want to read this one before you see the movie; it looks like it will be great, but I always find the books to be so much better. You can find The Fault in Our Stars here.

Goodreads Synopsis: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Short and Sweet? I believe that this is one of those books that everyone should read. I know that a lot of adults are completely against reading things that fall into the "young adult" category, but I think that everyone should make an exception when it comes to this book. John Green does a beautiful job of writing a realistic story you fall in love with, even though the synopsis alone leads you to believe you're being set up for heartbreak. The raw emotional draws you in, making you sympathize for every single character as they struggle through their individual battles. 

Hazel Grace: From the very beginning, Hazel becomes a character who makes you laugh and cheer for her. Her realistic, and sometimes pessimistic attitude is what makes her so intriguing. It is obvious that she has been through a lot, and it has aged her far more than she should have had to. Still, she has not given up on life, even if she spends most of the beginning of the book wanting to stay in doors and read (there is nothing wrong with that, right?). We get to see many different emotions from Hazel as we read through the book, and it is incredible to see how her relationship with Augustus changes her so drastically. I suppose that love can do that to you. 

Augustus Waters: While Hazel is a wonderful character, it is Gus that I truly fell in love with. How could you not? Despite the loss of a leg due to his past cancer, he grabs life by the horns and wants to make the very best out of life. It is interesting to find how he was attracted to Hazel in the first place the first time they meet, and how their story continues to unfold from there. I believe Augustus portrays the "average" teenage boy versus the perfect one that authors often try to contort into their writings. He lies, he messes up, he has to apologize. That is what makes him so loveable. His willingness to do anything to make Hazel smile just makes him that much greater. 

The book is sad, that is a given, though I will not give any spoilers for those of you who have not read it (that can be the worst thing to happen when you so badly want to read a book, after all). I think that it is important to push past that fear of sadness in order to understand the true purpose of the novel. Here are two teenagers with their enemy being simply time and the hands that life have dealt them, and they do their very best to keep their chins up and make the best of their lives. This is an inspiring story for everyone, and might perhaps teach us that things could always be worse. 

Rating: 5.0/5.0

Going back to the movie, here is the first trailer they have released for the movie, which comes up in June. I think that they did a wonderful job with the casting, and I can hardly wait to see it in the theater. 

First Post. This is big, people. The idea for this blog has been in the making for quite some time now. I just didn't have the time (or courage?) to focus on getting it up and running until quite recently. I quickly found that I had no idea how to make a blog look presentable, so it took some time to get it to a point where I am happy with it. I wanted it to be clean and simple, but still pretty. It will be all about the books, authors, and reviews after all. So welcome, I hope that you are as excited as I am! (Maybe not, sometimes I get a little TOO excited when it comes to Young Adult literature). Who can blame me?

While I currently teach, I can see a very different life for myself in the future, and I do hope that this blog might help me get there. I intend to work hard and bring my readers loads of new book reviews to inspire you to head to the library or grab your E-Reader of choice. Who knows, maybe on occasions I'll even share some tidbits of my own writing. I would love to eventually feature some authors as well; maybe some trying to break into the field just as I am trying to do. Who knows what will happen! I do very much appreciate you jumping on for the ride, though. Feel free to contact me, or chat about books. I always love that!

Here goes nothing!

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