Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publication date: September 27th, 2011

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.

With all the hype surrounding this novel, I was afraid that I'd be going into it with my expectations set too high, but I was definitely not disappointed. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer not only lived up to my expectations, but exceeded them. This novel is absolutely beautiful and has just about everything you could want in a good book. Mystery, suspense, romance, sarcasm, wit... I could go on and on. There's the intriguing mystery that starts with Mara waking up in a hospital bed, unable to remember why she's there or what happened to her friends that night, which then slowly unravels in bits and pieces throughout the book. There's the budding romance between Mara and Noah, filled with so much chemistry and tension that you just want to explode. Noah is completely swoon-worthy. I really disliked him at first, but grew to love him by the end. Reading about all of Mara's experiences with her PTSD, flashbacks, nightmares, and confusing actions was a pleasant surprise for me as well. It definitely filled my appetite for all things psychological.

This novel was amazingly well-written, consumed every bit of my attention, and then kept lingering in my mind while I was doing other things. The ending is a huge cliffhanger, which I wasn't expecting, but then again the whole novel was so unpredictable that I should have learned not to expect anything! I absolutely can not wait for the next book and will heavily recommend this one to anyone looking for a captivating read that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Of course, it wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn close and is a novel I will definitely be reading again.

Characters: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Originality: 9/10
Writing: 10/10
Overall grade: A+

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Hush by Eishes Chayil

 Title: Hush
Author: Eishes Chayil
Publication date: September 14, 2010

Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where Brooklyn's Chassidim live, the rules of life – everything from how to dress to whom to marry – are very clear, determined to the last detail by an ancient script written thousands of years before. Then young Gittel witnesses an unspeakable act of violence against her best friend, Devory, an act that goes against everything she's been taught as a Jew. For the first time in her life, there are no guidelines to tell her what to do, so she remains silent. But even inaction has consequences, and sometimes they are deadly...

Now a teenager, Gittel is racked with guilt over the choices she made and those that were forced upon her by the community she once trusted. She must question everything about herself – her own innocence, her memories of the past, and the beliefs of her sect – to find peace for Devory and for herself.

Honestly, I almost put this book down after the first 15 or 20 pages because it just didn't interest me. Most of chapter two was spent talking about a hat, and filled with sentences that made me feel like I was reading in a foreign language, which left me disinterested and confused. But I made it over that speed bump and continued reading, and I am so, so glad I continued reading. This is easily one of the best books I've read this year.

Part one of the book alternates between Gittel telling the story as a 9-year-old and as a 17-year old, which I felt worked wonderfully as it let the reader get the background story on her childhood but also let us see the kinds of things she struggled with presently. Part two of the book tells about Gittel's life as she gets married and lives with her husband.

Not only did Gittel's story deal with heavy issues such as her best friend's suicide, the unspeakable violence that she witnessed, and her grief for many years to come, but it also took the reader deep into the inner workings of a culture that I knew almost nothing about before reading this book. It was fascinating just to see how children are raised in a community that has such a completely different way of life than most are accustomed to.

While the heavier issues took precedence, there were also many happy moments as it tells the story of Gittel growing up from a mere 9-year-old to graduating high school and getting married. I felt like the author managed to give the book a great balance of heavy subject matter versus everyday life, serious versus enjoyable, and it was all-around a well-written story. Overall, Hush is a powerful, unique book that will stay with you long after you've finished reading.

Characters: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Originality: 9/10
Writing: 7/10
Overall grade: A

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Title: Cold Hands, Warm Heart
Author: Jill Wolfson
Publication date: March 31, 2009

Two people, two faces, two noses, four eyes, four ears, eight limbs, two livers, four kidneys, 10 liters of blood, 1,300 muscles, 120,000 miles of blood vessels, 200,000 hairs on two heads. Two people, two hearts. But only one of them working.

Dani was born with her heart on the wrong side of her body. In her fifteen years of life, she's had more doctors' appointments, X-rays, tests, and eaten more green hospital Jell-O than she cares to think about. Fourteen-year-old Amanda is a competitive gymnast, her body a small package of sleek muscles, in perfect health. The two girls don't know each other, don't go to the same school, don't have any friends in common. But their lives are about to collide.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. It had an interesting subject matter that let me learn a bit more about transplants and organ donation, and got me thinking more about the matter of organ donation, but I felt it lacked in many areas. The story is told by alternating between characters, so we get to see both Dani's side of the story - the girl receiving the heart - and Amanda's family's side of the story. It alternates between first and second person, and then includes many side stories such as the viewpoint from the guy who delivers the organs between hospitals, which made it really hard to follow,  in my opinion, especially because it's a relatively short book. While it was an interesting story, it almost felt like the author tried to tackle too many things at once, because not only does it deal with the transplant, but also a romance, Amanda's death, and the grieving of her family. So the reader gets a glimpse of each of these events, which may have been more successful in a longer book, but I felt that as it was, it lacked depth in many areas.

Overall, I enjoyed this book as a quick read on an interesting subject, but felt it was missing a lot. If it sounds interesting to you, I'd recommend picking up a copy through your library, as it was a nice story to read once but probably not something I'd want to go out and buy. 

Characters: 7/10
Plot: 7/10
Originality: 7/10
Writing: 6/10
Overall grade: C
Received from Book Divas for review

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

150 Followers Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who has liked my blog enough to follow it, whether it was recently or a year or two ago when I first started. I actually hit 150 followers a while ago, but just recently decided to hold a giveaway in celebration of that, so here it is! One winner will receive a copy of Hold Still by Nina LaCour. 
 I really enjoyed this book when I read it (review here) so I decided it would be a great book to give away.

*If I hit 175 followers while the giveaway is still running, I will add another book for another winner, and I will add a third book and third winner if I hit 200.*

Open to:
USA only (or international if you have an address in the US to ship to!)

To enter:
Leave a comment with your name and email address. 
You MUST be a GFC follower. After all, this is a giveaway in celebration of my followers!
+1 for becoming a follower
+2 if you were a follower before this post
+2 Post about this contest somewhere (blog sidebar, blog post, Twitter, etc.) and leave a link in your comment
Last day to enter is September 30th, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In My Mailbox (25)

Between the Borders closing sales, trading, and an awesome girl selling her books on Craigslist, I have received a TON of books over the past two weeks. Honestly I'm afraid I'm going to start needing another shelf soon... But they are all very awesome books, and I am so excited for when I have the time to sit down and plow through them. We'll start with the books I bought during multiple visits to the three local Borders stores in the last couple of weeks:

I'm really not sure why my picture is sideways as it's not saved like that on my computer, but alright. 
Jennifer Echols - Love Story
Lili St. Crow - Betrayals
Lili St. Crow - Jealousy
Lili St. Crow - Defiance
Julia Karr - XVI
Mary E. Pearson - The Miles Between
Alyson Noel - Saving Zoe
Wendy Mass - A Mango Shaped Space
Mary E. Pearson -  The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Amanda Valentino & Melissa Kantor - The Amanda Project

Melissa de la Cruz - Revelations
Melissa de la Cruz - Misguided Angel
Daisy Whitney - The Mockingbirds
Alexandra Bullen - Wishful Thinking
Meg Cabot - Jinx
Fruits Basket volumes 5, 8, and 14
Strawberry Panic volume 1
Neko Ramen volumes 1, 2, and 4

Then the books I bought from Craigslist ($4 each, SCORE!!) and one I received in a trade:
Robin Wasserman - Crashed
Robin Wasserman - Wired
Cassandra Clare - Clockwork Angel
Alexandra Adornetto - Halo
Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - Beautiful Darkness
Becca Fitzpatrick - Crescendo
Lauren Kate - Passion
John Green - An Abundance of Katherines

So many amazing books that I am looking forward to reading. I almost can't even believe that I ended up with this many! But obviously, the last couple of weeks have excited me... a LOT. 

What books did you receive this week?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Review: Something, Maybe

Title: Something, Maybe
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publication date: March 24th, 2009

Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she's got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showcasing photos of pretty girls and his party lifestyle all over the Internet, and her mom was once one of her dad's girlfriends and is now the star of her own website. After getting the wrong kind of attention for way too long, Hannah has mastered the art of staying under the radar...and that's just how she likes it.

Of course, that doesn't help her get noticed by her crush. Hannah's sure that gorgeous, sensitive Josh is her soul mate. But trying to get him to notice her; wondering why she suddenly can't stop thinking about another guy, Finn; and dealing with her parents makes Hannah feel like she's going crazy. Yet she's determined to make things work out the way she wants--only what she wants may not be what she needs.

 I suppose the best thing to say to describe my feelings on this book is that I have very mixed feelings about it. I love all of the other Elizabeth Scott books I have read, and this one was no disappointment. It was nicely written and full of things that kept me entertained, such as Hannah's mother who works as a webcam girl, her father who remains absent in her life except for when he needs to promote his show, and Hannah's job at a call center for BurgerTown. 

But many of the outcomes in this book were predictable, and I found myself very annoyed with Hannah a lot of the time. That's not to say she isn't a likeable character - I enjoyed reading about her quite a bit. But I grew very frustrated when she would talk about how she had no friends and was seen as invisible and a nobody, when it appeared to me that she really wasn't doing that badly. She had her best friend, Teagan, who she spent a lot of time with, and she was able to chat and joke effortlessly with Finn and Josh at her job at the call center. To me, that does not count as not having friends or being seen as a nobody, as all three of these people seemed to enjoy her company quite a bit. She also put zero effort into her appearance, and that annoyed me a bit as well.

However, all that being said, I thought that the book had many small redeeming qualities that when put together made for a worthwhile read. It's definitely worth reading at least once, in my opinion, as even with the predictable and annoying parts it was very well-written and quirky enough to be memorable.

Characters: 8/10
Plot: 7/10
Originality: 8/10
Writing: 8/10
Overall grade: B

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day Weekend Read-A-Thon Update

Day two of the Labor Day Weekend Read-A-Thon, and I've put a slight dent in my TBR pile, but not as much as I'd hoped. I started feeling a bit better and a bit less sick, so I got up to catch up on some homework earlier today. While I'm glad that that's now out of the way, unfortunately it means I haven't had as much time for reading today as I thought I would.

I did manage to finish reading Smashed last night and have started Vamped. I'm about halfway through it, and will hopefully have it finished by tonight. 1.5 books down, 3.5 more to reach my goal! I highly doubt that's going to happen, but I will give it my best shot.

What books have you been reading lately?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Labor Day Weekend Read-A-Thon!

I've decided at the very last minute to participate in the Labor Day Weekend Read-A-Thon, hosted by Katie at Katie's Book Blog. It runs from I originally had other plans for the weekend, but I'm fighting a cold that started this past week as well as some sort of stomach bug that just came up today, so I'll be spending a lot of time in bed and likely a lot of time reading.

My goal for this read-a-thon is to read five books. I'd like to read:

and one other book from my TBR shelf that I haven't yet determined.

I started Smashed this morning and am about 3/4 of the way through it, so hopefully I can finish that and move onto the next book tonight. If I'm gonna be stuck in bed feeling like crap, I figure I might as well make the best of it. Bring on the books!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Fallout by Ellen Hopkins

Title: Fallout
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publication date: September 14, 2010

Hunter, Autumn, and Summer—three of Kristina Snow's five children—live in different homes, with different guardians and different last names. They share only a predisposition for addiction and a host of troubled feelings toward the mother who barely knows them, a mother who has been riding with the monster, crank, for twenty years.

Hunter is nineteen, angry, getting by in college with a job at a radio station, a girlfriend he loves in the only way he knows how, and the occasional party. He's struggling to understand why his mother left him, when he unexpectedly meets his rapist father, and things get even more complicated. Autumn lives with her single aunt and alcoholic grandfather. When her aunt gets married, and the only family she's ever known crumbles, Autumn's compulsive habits lead her to drink. And the consequences of her decisions suggest that there's more of Kristina in her than she'd like to believe. Summer doesn't know about Hunter, Autumn, or their two youngest brothers, Donald and David. To her, family is only abuse at the hands of her father's girlfriends and a slew of foster parents. Doubt and loneliness overwhelm her, and she, too, teeters on the edge of her mother's notorious legacy. As each searches for real love and true family, they find themselves pulled toward the one person who links them together—Kristina, Bree, mother, addict. But it is in each other, and in themselves, that they find the trust, the courage, the hope to break the cycle.

Told in three voices and punctuated by news articles chronicling the family's story, FALLOUT is the stunning conclusion to the trilogy begun by CRANK and GLASS, and a testament to the harsh reality that addiction is never just one person's problem.

Fallout is the last book in the Crank and Glass trilogy, and picks up 19 years after Glass left off. It tells the stories of Kristina's three oldest children - Hunter, Autumn, and Summer - now in their teens, as they uncover secrets and stories from their past while dealing with their own issues.

Of the three books in this trilogy, I think this one was the most powerful. I could really see pieces of Kristina in each of the three children as they dealt with their own issues, like Hunter who struggles to be faithful to his girlfriend, Autumn who is filled with questions about the family she's never known and who struggles with an alcohol addiction, and Summer who bounces around foster homes while being exposed to abusive situations.

I had many questions in the beginning about what had happened to Kristina and everyone involved in her life, and as I kept reading, the answers were revealed slowly. It was a bit hard for me to follow three alternating viewpoints at first, but then I got used to it and realized that it was a perfect way to write the last book, as it pretty much ties up everything from the previous ones. Just like all of Hopkins' other books, it's written in the form of stunning poetry with different patterns indicating the feelings of the characters and many hidden messages sprinkled throughout. I'm sad to see the series end, but I definitely recommend Fallout to anyone who has enjoyed the first two books in the series, or even those new to Hopkins' writing, because it is a story that you will definitely never forget once you've read it.

Characters: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Writing: 10/10
Overall grade: A

Received from Book Divas for review.