Weekly Recap 12/12/10

Books Read:

Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt – I wasn’t really a fan of this.  I’ve liked half of Barnholdt’s books so far… I liked Two Way Street and One Night That Changes Everything, but didn’t like Aces Up and Reality Chick/Watch Me.  Shannon wasn’t very likable to me.  For someone who was supposed to be really smart, she seemed really ditsy and stupid.  I didn’t understand the appeal of Cole either.

X-Isle by Steve Augarde – I had read some reviews of this book on Goodreads and they weren’t super inspiring, but I ended up really liking this book!  It was dystopian and I am a dystopian junkie.  I liked that it was set in the near future and there wasn’t any science fiction involved.  Everything that happened could have happened in our world.  I really liked Baz and all of the boys on the island.  Ray was a conundrum at times, but understandable in the end.  The middle of the book was a little long, but not terribly so.  One thing that made me laugh was that people on Goodreads were complaining about the Fart Club, saying it was preteen boy humor.  Eh, maybe, but it had a point that made perfect sense.

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy, Bk 6) by Richelle Mead – This was so good!  I will miss this series.  I’ve always loved Rose and she didn’t disappoint in this book.  I don’t really want to say anything spoilery, but I thought this book had a great storyline, loads of action, and the right amount of emotion. :)

Annexed by Sharon Dogar – This was okay.  It was kind of slow and sometimes the characters were unlikeable.  Anne especially was really frustrating at the beginning.  The writing felt pretty stilted sometimes and the dialogue didn’t really flow naturally.

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren. Click here to learn more about it.

Books Received:

  • Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy, Bk 6) by Richelle Mead (Amazon)
  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Santa Jacki)
  • Zombies vs Unicorns by Holly Black et al (Santa Jacki)
  • Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick (PBS FIFO)
  • Half Upon a Time by James Riley (PBS FIFO)
  • The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon – and me, Ruby Oliver (Ruby Oliver, Bk 3) by E. Lockhart (PBS FIFO)

Books Mailed:

  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Paper Towns by John Green
  • Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt

Books Read in May

Continuing catching up on my thoughts on books I’ve read recently.  This is going to take forever!

Deadly Little Lies (Touch, Bk 2) by Laurie Faria Stolarz – Again, I liked this series.  I didn’t like the second book quite as much as the first book in the series, but I’ll definitely pick up the third book when it comes out.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – Really interesting idea and fun adventure.  The characters really came across as younger than the ages they were supposed to be, but they were both likable, especially Deryn.

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles – I loved Perfect Chemistry when I read it last year.  This book focused on Carlos, Alex’s younger brother.  I liked Carlos’ bad attitude, but overall I felt the book was a bit too predictable and too much like Perfect Chemistry.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford – Kind of strange at times, but I liked it a lot.  I really liked Beatrice and Jonah and all the people on the radio.  The ending was not what I was expecting, but oddly satisfying.

Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell – I was a little iffy on this while I was reading it at times, but I ended up really liking it.  The characters were not cliche and I really liked the story.

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Bk 1) by Rick Riordan – Loved this!  It was pretty similar to Percy Jackson, but in a good way.  Two kids find out that the Egyptian gods are real.  They have to fight a god.  They encounter a bunch of other parts of Egyptian mythology.  I liked Carter and Sadie and am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray – Another kind of weird book and another bad attitude that I liked.  Heh.  But this book was really interesting and funny.  It was really long though and took me forever to get through.  It’s another book that I was a bit surprised by the ending.

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu – Such a emotional book!  It was very well written.  I’ve watched enough of Hoarders on TLC to understand the situation and Lucy’s story just broke my heart.  I really liked Lucy and wanted to make everything better for her.  The book did leave me kind of sad at the end because I wanted to know what happens next.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green – OMG I loved this book!  I am so glad I picked John Green for my “Pick an Author” challenge this year.  I’d heard mixed reviews about this book, but I loved it.  I loved Colin and thought he was a fantastic character.  Hassan and Lindsey were great too.  I loved the way the book was written, especially when they were in the cave.

Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy, Bk 5) by Richelle Mead – Another great book in this series!  I am kind of sad that it is almost over.  I am not going to spoil anything, so I will just say this book is really good and I can’t wait for the last one to come out!

Heist Society by Ally Carter – Ocean’s 11 with teenagers.  The book was pretty fun.  I liked Kat a lot.  I really wanted the book to be longer so that we could get to know the rest of the characters better.  I hope there are more books to follow!

The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg – Ergh – here’s one I didn’t like.  I read it because it won the Newbery award and I can kind of see why it did, but I didn’t really like the story.  The kids weren’t believable and the book was just strange.

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantasky – This one was just okay in my opinion.  I liked it more in the end than I did in the middle.  Jessica occasionally annoyed me.

Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols – The sequel to The Boys Next Door.  I love Jennifer Echols’ writing and TBND is fantastic.  Part of me was excited for this to come out and part of me was a little resistant because sometimes Happy Ever After should just go on Forever After. :)  I really liked it, though.  I still love Lori’s brother and all the Vader boys.  I was kind of sad that there was less wakeboarding in this book.

The Pace by Shelena Shorts – Another kind of weird book.  I was on board with the first twist, but kind of annoyed with the second reveal.  It just seemed like too much.

How to Steal a Car by Pete Hautman – Really short book that I liked but didn’t love.  It would be a little better if it was longer, I think.  I’m not sure exactly why I think that.

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray – Really great!  I will admit – the book is British and I am kind of an Anglophile, so I was probably predisposed to like this book, but I really did like it!  The boys were all great characters.  I was cheering for them on their trip.  Parts were really funny and parts were heartwrenching.

Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook – I was a little wary of this book as Mean Girls stories sometimes annoy me, but I ended up really liking it.  I occasionally thought Helen went too far, but I generally found myself cheering her on.

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty – This book was written mostly in letters, plus sometimes in signs and “trial” transcripts.  I liked getting to know all of the characters so well.  There were times when the girls were kind of annoying and I liked the boys more, but I liked all of them in the end.

Favorite Books of 2009

I read a lot of books this year – the most I’ve ever read in a year – and these are some of my favorites.  I had a hard time whittling the list down to just a few, but I didn’t want to spend all day working on this, so I had to stop somewhere.  You can check out my GoodReads profile for my ratings of other books not listed here.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – This isn’t just one of my favorite books of the year – it’s one of my favorite books of all time!  The Hunger Games is simply amazing.  Katniss is a fantastic main character.  She’s smart and resourceful, but at the same time a little vulnerable.  The rest of the characters are so well written – Peeta, Rue, Haymitch, Cinna, Effie – they’re all so fabulous.  The story is action packed and full of surprises.  I also read Catching Fire, the sequel to the Hunger Games this year and thought it was fantastic as well.  I can’t wait for the third book to come out in 2010!

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols – Just thinking “John After” makes me swoon.  Meg is wild and doesn’t want to stay in the little town she grew up in.  John is the complete opposite – he doesn’t want to leave the town.  They’re forced to spend the week together because Meg got in trouble on a bridge one night.  Throughout the novel, we learn more and more about both of them.  It’s a romantic journey with a few twists and turns along the way.  I love Meg and John – who they are, who they become after spending the week together.  I really liked everything I read by Jennifer Echols this year.

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater – This was the third Maggie Stiefvater book I read this year, but it was my favorite.  They’re all so good.  Maggie’s writing is very lyrical and enjoyable to read.  Ballad focuses on James, a secondary character from Lament, and his time at Thornking-Ash.  Nuala is a faerie muse that can give James amazing talent at a price.  James and Nuala are fantastic – they’re both sarcastic and multi-layered.  This book kind of continues Dee’s story in a way and introduces fantastic new characters like Sullivan and Paul.  I started reading Maggie’s books because she was at the Decatur Book Festival, where I got to meet her and be a dork.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner – Another edge of your seat, action packed book.  The world that Thomas is dropped into is confusing to him and to us and I loved learning about it with him.  Everything about the book is interesting – the things that go bump in the night, the dynamics in the boys’ society, the maze, the boys themselves.  It was just all fantastic.  The ending was crazy and I can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy to come out this year.

Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series by Rick Riordan – This is a fun series about an ordinary boy that finds out his father is a Greek god.  He goes to a camp for the sons and daughters of the Greek gods and goddesses, Camp Half-Blood.  From there, he has several quests that he completes with his friends.  The stories are so well thought out and weave Greek mythology into modern culture so well.  I loved Percy, Annabeth, and Grover.  They’re all great characters.  The first book, The Lightning Thief, is coming out as a movie in February, and I hope it lives up to the book!

Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead – Richelle Mead is another author that I started reading because of the Decatur Book Festival.  I am glad I did.  The Vampire Academy books are about a group of vampires (obviously), but the story is different than any other vampire book I’ve read.  The Moroi are more good vampires with special powers, while the Dhamphir are their helpers/bodyguards, and the Strigoi are the bad vampires.  Rose, a dhamphir and the narrator of the stories, is strong, sarcastic, and fantastic.  All of the characters are really great – Dimitri, Lissa, Christian, Adrian – all of them!  The books are part high school drama, part romance, and part action.  It’s a great combination!

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose – I thought I should round this out with a non fiction book.  Going into this book, I was a little unsure of if I would like it.  I was really afraid he would spend the book making fun of Christians and the students at Liberty.  But he really didn’t.  Roose wrote about this experiences in a very straight forward manner.  He was honest about his feelings about the things going on around him.  He also presented the reasons that the school or other students acted in a certain way in a non-judgemental way.  Overall it was a very interesting and insightful book.

I may have one more review for 2009 if I finish the book I’m reading now, but if I don’t, have a happy new year!  See you in 2010!

Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

Picture 1Blood Promise (Vampire Academy, Bk 4) by Richelle Mead

How far will Rose go to keep her promise?

The recent Strigoi attack at St. Vladimir’s Academy was the deadliest ever in the school’s history, claiming the lives of Moroi students, teachers, and guardians alike. Even worse, the Strigoi took some of their victims with them. . . including Dimitri.

He’d rather die than be one of them, and now Rose must abandon her best friend, Lissa—the one she has sworn to protect no matter what—and keep the promise Dimitri begged her to make long ago. But with everything at stake, how can she possibly destroy the person she loves most?

I’m going to try to say what I thought about this book without being too spoilery.  I really liked the first three books in the series.  I’ve always thought Rose was a fantastic female character.  But in this book, I found myself extremely annoyed with her many times.  One section of the book had me saying “You’ve got to be kidding me!” every time I turned the page.  Not a good thing.

I thought the first 400 pages of the book were kind of tedious and occasionally boring.  Liking the series is the only thing that kept me going.  I did like parts of it, but many times I just wanted the book to get on with the action.  I also really missed the characters from the first books.  Rose’s trips to Lissa’s mind didn’t really take the place of interactions with these characters.  Lissa is a character I struggle to like occasionally anyway, but in this book she just pissed me off.  I know the explanation for it, but I still didn’t like it.

All that said, I did really like the last 100 pages.  Things finally happened and there were revelations and such.  I’ll definitely read the next book, but I’m hoping it’s back to the standards of the first three books.

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Picture 1Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy, Bk 3) by Richelle Mead

Is Rose’s fate to kill the person she loves most? It’s springtime at St. Vladimir’s Academy, and Rose Hathaway is this close to graduation. Since Mason’s death, Rose hasn’t been feeling quite right. She has dark flashbacks in the middle of practice, can’t concentrate in class, and has terrifying dreams about Lissa. But Rose has an even bigger secret . . . .She’s in love with Dimitri. And this time, it’s way more than a crush.

Then Strigoi target the academy in the deadliest attack in Moroi history, and Dimitri is taken. Rose must protect Lissa at all costs, but keeping her best friend safe could mean losing Dimitri forever.

I am definitely still loving this series, but I have to say I didn’t like this book as much as the first two.  I still liked it a lot.  I felt the middle of the book dragged a little.  I kept waiting for the action.  When the action showed up, it definitely didn’t disappoint.  Rose is still awesome.  I was accidentally spoiled about what happens at the end, which I think hurt my enjoyment of it a little.  I bought the fourth book from Amazon and when I opened the box, the back of the book was facing me.  It has a big spoiler in big letters.  Very sad.  But I am excited to read it.  I’m trying to not read the series too close together so that I don’t have to wait forever for the fifth book to come out!

Frostbite by Richelle Mead

Picture 4Frostbite (Vampire Academy, Bk 2) by Richelle Mead

Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose…

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians–including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if handto- hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks….This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…

I love this series!  Seriously – this book was even better than the first one.  I like Rose a lot… and Dimitri and Christian and Adrian… and a lot of other characters.  This book had more action, which I really liked.  I loved Rose’s growth with her mother.  Well, really I just liked Rose’s growth in general.  She’s a great character!

I did have a little trouble getting into the book.  The first chapter is a recap of the previous book and it was kind of annoying.  I guess the author has to explain things for the people that haven’t read the first book, but they should have!  And I felt like we learned things through through relevant conversation or commentary in the first book instead of just exposition by Rose.  But that was my only complaint!  I am excited to read the next book!

Decatur Book Festival 2009

It finally came!  This weekend was the Decatur Book Festival!  I volunteered to work the first half of the day at The Escape, the Teen Stage.  At the beginning of September, I decided to read a book from each of the authors I would be seeing.  So I read I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You and Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter, Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle, Pure by Terra McVoy, Sea Change by Aimee Friedman, As You Wish by Jackson Pearce, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.  Some of them I liked, some of them I didn’t.  Most of them you can read my opinions about here or on Goodreads.

I decided to go over to Decatur early so I could walk around before I was volunteering.  Everything was very festival-ish – lots of tents, funnel cake and fresh squeezed lemonade stands, lots of people milling about.  There was a parade to the children’s’ stage that I ended up being in the right place for – this is the banner at the end:

banner

As you can see, the day was not exceptionally sunny, but it was definitely humid!  I ran into a couple friends and chatted with them and got them to get a book signed for my dad during my shift.  (Thanks again, Jenna and Giselle!)  After adding a few answers to the giant crossword puzzles (I was good at the Harry Potter and the Children’s books ones and just okay at the adult one!), getting a grilled cheese sandwich (from the Kid Food stand – oops!) and some lemonade, I checked in, put on my T-shirt, and headed to my stage.

bookzillaThe shirt is orange, which I kind of object to, but at least it is not a bright Tennessee, Auburn, or Florida orange.  The book monster on the front is Bookzilla.  You can see the full demon lizard on the DBF website.

The Escape was luckily one of the indoor stages.  The air conditioning was nice, but after several hours of the door constantly opening and closing, it was hot and stuffy in there too.  But no worries!  Too many things to do to worry about the state of my (incredibly frizzy) hair.  When I arrived, I found out I was the only volunteer for the morning.  My stage captain was Terra McVoy, plus three people from Little Shop of Stories who were helping out and selling books.  I helped them put LSoS bookmarks in all the books, which was kind of fun.

The first panel was a group of guys and a girl talking about minicomics.  They talked about how to self publish your work, how to get ideas, and how to make comics if you aren’t the best artist.  It was pretty interesting.

The next speaker was Ally Carter, the author of the Gallagher Girls books.  She is incredibly nice!  Our little room quickly filled with girls listening to her.  She talked about getting published and where her ideas came from.  Gallagher Girls has always reminded me of Alias and it turns out that was the inspiration!  In the episode where they show Spy Sister’s background, Ally had it on mute and thought Nadia grew up in a spy boarding school.  She didn’t – it was just an orphanage, but that’s where the idea started!  Ally said that the plan is to have 6 GG books, which is fantastic!  I love Cammie and her friends.  The next book she has coming out is Heist Society, about a girl from a family of thieves.  I am sure it will be an upcoming Waiting on Wednesday.

The next event was DUCK Improv, a group of high school boys doing improv.  I did not get to see any of this because I was outside managing the line for Ally’s book signing, but I heard a lot of laughter from the stage.  My job during the signing was to write everyone’s name on a post it note and stick it in their book so the author wouldn’t have to ask how to spell it.  At first, the table was inside and the line was outside, so I also had to manage how many people were in line inside so it didn’t get to loud or crowded during the other speakers.

Next up were Lauren Myracle and Terra McVoy.  They talked about writing about spirituality in teen books.  To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of either of their books.  I am a Christian, so it wasn’t because of the subject matter, but they just did not appeal to me for various reasons.  However, I thought their talk was great.  They talked about their books and how they wanted the characters to be true and honest.  They didn’t want cookie cutter Christians where everything was sunshine and roses.  They wanted to write about the real struggles Christian teens face.  I really respect that and will give other books by both of them a change.  Despite not liking Pure, I really liked Terra McVoy!  She is an amazingly nice person.  She’s very passionate about children and teen books and her energy is contagious.  It was fun getting to know her.

The next two speakers were Jackson Pearce and Aimee Friedman.  I loved Jackson’s book As You Wish.  It was fun and adorable and made me wish for a Jinn of my own.  To fall in love with, not to make wishes, though I might have to wish for a cure for my dog’s ailments.  Their talk was about falling in love with the supernatural.  I honestly didn’t get to hear a lot of their talk because I was back to managing the line for Lauren and Terra’s signing, then helping the rush of people coming in for the next authors find seats.

Then I was standing at the back of the room and Maggie Stiefvater came in!  I loved her book Shiver and I’ve been following her blog and twitter for a few weeks and think she’s hilarious.  She was so nice!  She talked to me, despite the wildness of my hair! :)  I told her that I loved Shiver and she laughed and said it was still really weird to hear that.  She was just so nice and easy to talk to.  She said she had been sitting in a coffee shop before she came over and overheard a couple people talking about a book’s plot and characters.  She shared my amazement at the number of people excited to see authors and talk about books.  She was the next author on stage along with Richelle Mead, author of the Vampire Academy books.  Their talk was called the Vampires versus Werewolves Smackdown.  With lots of audience participation, they discussed which supernatural being was superior.  It was all really fun.  I was doing crowd management (the number of people that wanted to see them was insane!) and carrying books back to LSoS during the talk, so I missed a lot, but some of the things I did hear:

  • Lethalness: Werewolf killings are more drawn out and painful, but vampires are more stealth and can snap your neck before you know they are there.
  • Hotness: Werewolves are more muscular and animal like and “Taylor Lautner is really hot!”  I missed the vampire rebuttal to that one.
  • Better Clothing: Vampires in general have better clothing, but werewolves end up naked, so… make you own decision! :) (That was Maggie’s comment.)

Everything I heard was very fun and funny.  I think they did talk about Twilight a little, but I don’t think very much.  I knew the line was going to be insane and I actually wanted to get my books signed by these two, so I ducked out just before their 30 minutes were up and got in line.  We’d moved the signing table outside, which helped a lot.  The picture up there is Richelle, Maggie, bonus David Leviathan who spoke later in the day, and mass of people going in and out of the door to our stage.  After getting my books signed I had to hurry back to MARTA so I could get home and watch the UGA game.  I ended up making it home with about 2 minutes to spare before kick off.  I was so exhausted that I barely stayed awake through the game! (Not that it was much of a game after the first quarter.)

Picture 1 Overall, I am so glad I volunteered.  There were a couple authors at other stages I would have liked to have listened to, but getting to be involved was so much more fun.  I got to meet all of the authors that came in during the day, which was very cool.  I got a free t-shirt, even if it is orange.  Mostly it was just fun.  I know this is going to make me sound old, but it was really great to see young people excited about meeting authors of books!  Most of them had already read the books and were more than willing to talk about them.  I chatted with the girls around me in line for Maggie and Richelle’s signing.  They all loved the Vampire Academy series and couldn’t believe I’ve only read the first one.  I was told to read the other three ASAP!  They had not read Shiver, so I told them about it and encouraged them to check it out.  A couple of them went ahead and bought a copy to have signed, which made me excited.  I love talking about books and sharing good books with others.  That’s why I started this blog!

Sunday I decided to go back to Decatur and walk around.  I sat at the Emerging Authors stage for a little while and listened to a couple of people talk.  I ended up buying a book called Adopting Alesia by one of the authors I saw, Dee Thompson.  It is her story of going to Russia to adopt a preteen as a single mother.  Her experience sounded very interesting, so I’m excited to read the book.

Afterwards, I headed over to the Children’s Stage and saw Judy Schachner, the author of the Skippyjon Jones books.  If you’ve never read them, you must read these books!  They’re about a Siamese kitten that thinks he’s a chihuahua.  They are seriously hilarious.  Her talk was very fun.  There was a lot of singing involved. :)  I got the first Skippyjon book signed for two of my friends’ sons.  After standing in line for Skippyjon, I was hot and tired, so I headed home.

Such a fun a weekend!  I can’t wait for next year!

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Picture 2Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, Bk 1) by Richelle Mead

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

I’ve heard that this series was good for a while and have had the first book for about a month, but honestly, I’m getting a little tired of all the vampires in YA books.  I think Twilight and House of Night burned me out and left me uninterested.  I’ve started the Morganville Vampire series and thought it was alright, but I couldn’t bring myself to start this series.

So after much prompting from my friend Nicole, I started it.  I’m so glad I did!  This book is so different from any of the other vampire books I’ve read recently.  I really liked Rose.  I like that she’s strong and a fighter.  She’s willing to put “normal teenage things” on hold to be better a better guardian.  There were a couple times when Lissa annoyed me, but for the most part, I liked her.  I love Dimitri, too.  I am excited to read the rest of the series!

Richelle Mead is one of the authors I should get to meet at the Decatur Book Festival.