Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA Dystopian/Sci-fi, etc.
# of pages: 378 (hb)
Publisher: Scholastic
The Hunger Games @ Parental Book Reviews

An argument breaks out until one tribute silences the others. "We're wasting time! I'll go finish her and let's move on!"I almost fall out of the tree. The voice belongs to Peeta.
- The Hunger Games, pg 168

My Thoughts
This is one of those books that just leaves you so amazed and perplexed. There are so many things I want to talk about and cover, but I probably should just start off with this declaration:
THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ. Seriously. It was just as wonderful as everybody said it would be.

The world that Collins created was both creative, original, and somewhat otherworldly on one hand, yet shockingly plausible on the other. I was a little hesitant of the premise in the beginning, like "what kind of society would really be that outrageously sick?" Then I thought of movies like Kill Bill and Saw and all those other gory flicks of absolutely no redeeming or artistic value, and I thought, "you know what. I can totally see Panem existing."
I was especially interested to see how THG would stack up against the other dystopian sci-fi that I'd previously read - Uglies. In my opinion, THG wins. It just seemed like a deeper, more substantial book with more memorable characters and less of an agenda, which is always appreciated. The idea of Panem's creation, its turbulent history and ruthless policies were put together effectively yet simply. Collins gives the reader just enough information to be absolutely absorbed in Katniss' world, and she doesn't take forever to start up the story, either, which made reading much more enjoyable.
The characters were memorable, likable, and thoroughly unique. Haymitch, Cinna, Effie, Rue, Katniss, Peeta, and that one guy that only gets like just a few lines and yet everybody's on his "team" - were very well rounded and each contributed nicely to the overall story. And here's something that I wasn't expecting from this book: intrigue. I've heard HG penned as "Survivor"-esque, I've heard it penned as "Gladiator"-esque, but there are also times when it reads kind of like a spy novel a little bit. Just like Katniss, I was also wondering which characters to trust, and which ones were telling the truth, and so forth. Her paranoia seeped through the pages and got into my system, too!
And wow - the romance... okay, let me just say, that as far as romance in a series goes -this is the way to do it! THIS. RIGHT HERE. The romantic aspect did not take center stage, and yet it wasn't just thrown in there willy-nilly (yes I just said willy-nilly) to be interesting. It served a purpose, it was well-written, and it was ADDICTING. :) Wow, Suzanne Collins! All I can say is: I think I've picked my "team"!
Here's one thing I noticed though: Katniss’ voice started out great, but slowly and surely began to get on my nerves. I’m having to pick my words carefully, because if I say she was too bleak and detached, it sounds like I prefer emotional, angsty characters. And I don’t. Katniss is the provider in the family; she’s had to take on the role of an adult, and she lives in a horrible, brutal society. However, I do think that I would have had an easier time relating to her if she was just a little more emotional or vulnerable. It just seemed like Katniss’ frankness was totally understandable at first, but became implausible as the story went along. Her determination and self-reliance actually became a crutch for her, and if Collins did that on purpose, it was a very thoughtful idea! And yes, being thrown into the Games would turn even the most rational person paranoid. Totally get that. But this is why I don’t think it's a good idea to have characters spend too much time alone: their thoughts get way too irrational. I know that Katniss’ life and upbringing have made her a very guarded, closed-off person, but as the story progressed, she started to sound downright selfish. Specifically, the way she treated Peeta and interacted with him seriously got on my nerves. It just seemed interesting to me that she was so ready to assume the worst in him, yet she didn't really treat him any better (at first). But that’s a pet peeve of mine – when girls act bitchy to sweet, patient boys.
I think I’m one of the last people to read THG, and so naturally I’ve heard all about the hype. And the only real criticism I’ve heard of the book (apart from Katniss’ character and narrative voice) has to do with the violence. And you know, The Hunger Games is an annual event in which kids (12-18 years of age) pretty much kill each other in an arena, so umm...you kind of go into the book expecting that. And see, that’s the description I was given, and so I had an expectation that it would be like some kind of Coliseum setting and kids would fight gladiator style. And there would be fight scenes. This is going to sound absolutely horrible, and I apologize in advance, but I feel like I was misled about the content of the book. I was actually surprised at how little violent content there was. Most of the killings happened “off-screen,” and the reader only has Katniss’ ultra-bleak, ultra-dry rendering of events. Not too disturbing, but not very emotional, either. It's my theory that the more intense or disturbing your story’s scenario is, the more emotional and psychological you have to make it in order to be plausible and engrossing. Otherwise, your story just sounds kind of flippant. Now, I can appreciate Collins not getting too gratuitous or throwing in stuff for “shock factor,” but really, all I’m saying is that I think there should have been more “fight scenes.” The Percy Jackson series, to compare, is not very violent at all, and yet Riordan wrote some very detailed, very well-choreographed fight scenes. The Hunger Games actually reminded me more of “Survivor” the reality show rather than “Gladiator,” which was referenced on another review I saw. So anyway… I guess it just boils down to me thinking that this book is not NEAR as provocative as some have made it out to be.

But even with Katniss' room-for-improvement narrative and the somewhat laid-back approach to the subject matter, The Hunger Games is one of the GREATEST books I have ever read. Seriously, this is a new favorite, and I am betting that the rest of the series will be just as amazing. Suzanne Collins is definitely one of my favorite writers. Her creativity and gift for storytelling is practically impossible to top.
THANK YOU to EVERYBODY who has recommended this book and spoken so highly of it. You made me excited to read this, and I am so glad that I did!

Final Grade:
If you haven't read The Hunger Games, I am almost positive you will enjoy it. There are a lot of YA books out here, and this is one of the best - if not THE BEST.

PS - I don't know what's going to happen in Mockingjay or anything, but I think I'll have to throw my lot in with the Peeta folks! :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

IMM [16] What Am I Reading? + Announcement

I gave myself a command not to buy any books until August 31, so hopefully I'll be successful and not cave in.

I finished The Hunger Games and am in the process of writing my review.I started Catching Fire and will likely take all week to read it.

I posted my review of Linger......posted Favorite Book Quotes 2, and asked for your opinions on YA's Most Dateworthy Guys. Thanks to my 9 pals who helped me on that :)

Here's the thing:
I'm going to be going on a retreat Tuesday thru Sunday. I'll have my review of The Hunger Games up by then and also my Teaser Tuesday for Catching Fire.
When I come back, there will most likely be some changes to this blog in terms of posts and reviews. Maybe this is all part of the summer slump, but I obviously haven't been doing a good enough job on here. So I'll be figuring that out.

Hope everybody has a great week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

YA's Most Dateworthy Guys!

Tell me -
who do you like, and why? Which boy would make an excellent date?!I'm going to do a follow-up post and share your thoughts!

Or you can put your list on your own post. Feel free to use the poster :)

Some of the ones that come to mind are:

but I bet you all can come up with some new ones, too!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review - LINGER

Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, #2) - Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy
# of pages: 368 (hb)
Publisher: Scholastic
Recommended for: HS readers and beyond!
My Thoughts:
For some reason, I've kinda farted around with putting up my Linger review, and I'm sorry for that! Have you ever had no problem getting through a book only to have a hard time writing its review?
Linger was as amazing and enjoyable as Shiver, but they had somewhat different tones. In my opinion, Shiver's tone was more urgent and melancholy, while Linger, because of a somewhat slower pace, delivered a tone of subtle foreboding. It wasn't until the last few chapters that Linger *took off* and really, really accelerated. In the meantime, the slower storyline allowed more a deeper look at characterization, and of course, Maggie's characters neither bored nor disappointed.

I was actually very impressed with the characterization of this story. Yes, there are 4 perspectives here as compared to only 2 in the previous book. Isabel is now a main character, and a new character named Cole is introduced. I was a little wary going in to Linger about this setup, and in all honesty, I was prepared to skim the I&C segments, just because I had already told myself that Grace and Sam "were the important ones." Well, I quickly changed my tune. I loved how Maggie incorporated all 4 narratives into the overall story, and I think it was a really smart move story-wise. Isabel and Cole are more complex than Sam and Grace, even though all 4 characters have dysfunctional elements (do you guys notice that pretty much all of the main characters come from varying degrees of crappy families?). What made characterization of this story so enjoyable to me was a delicate balance of similar and contrasting behaviors - Isabel and Cole are not such polar opposites from Grace and Sam that they have nothing in common. Rather, they compliment each other well: where one is weak, the other is strong, where one is impulsive, the other is cool and controlled. The only little "thing" I had with the 4 narratives was that sometimes perspectives would change multiple times throughout a single chapter, and it made the transitions really abrupt. From what I can remember in Shiver, Grace and Sam for the most part alternated by chapter. Here, there were some occasions were each of the 4 perspectives would be featured in a single chapter, and so the transitioning was just kind of abrupt. But to the author's credit, I always knew who was speaking, and I don't just mean because at the top it said "COLE" or "ISABEL." The voices were so distinct that I quickly got an idea of who was now narrating.

Also what I liked about the characters (and I'm emphasizing Isabel and Cole more) is that while they were all complicated and flawed, they never really used their flaws as crutches. Well, Cole did a little bit, but (without dropping spoilers) he eventually made himself useful and actually started to give a wang about other people. So it was interesting to watch him grow. And Isabel is just about the coolest character since Thalia: I LOVED her so much because while she was snarky and a little on the bossy side, she was a very hands-on, take charge kind of girl, and she was exactly what Sam and Grace needed. I love Sam and Grace, but even they needed a little nudging here and there. Isabel's strengths were balanced by her anxieties, and that made her seem real but also inspiring. I like characters you can not only relate to but also look up to, and there's a lot to be learned from Isabel (in particular).
I'm pretty much convinced that Sam Roth is my #2 ideal guy (second only to Percy Jackson, whose fighting skills and hilarious sense of humor charms the socks - and maybe more! - off me). He was excellent, and I love the way Maggie portrayed him, and I love the way she maintained his and Grace's relationship. So many times, in book 2 of a trilogy, it seems like authors take up the "trouble in paradise!" scenario. And while this is the case a little bit here, you get the idea that the characters are battling a SCENARIO, and not EACH OTHER. I appreciate that just for being different and for not being afraid of being sweet and loving. Of course, Sam and Grace's stable relationship was contrasted nicely with Isabel and Cole's rocky, somewhat uncomfortable relationship. But I really liked Isabel and Cole's perspectives and thought that Cole was an incredibly interesting character to "psych." Cole's a very damaged character, to be sure, but what I liked about him is that he still contributed to the plot and made himself useful. He wasn't one of those "I am the way I am and there's nothing wrong with me and there's no need for me to change and who are you to say ANYTHING about ME?!?!?!" Good gracious, I can't stand those characters. He and Isabel especially had their issues, but they still contributed and they still had strengths and they initiated change. And that is what makes the characters of Linger SUBSTANTIAL (again, this is all in my opinion).The only thing about Linger that seemed a little weird to me had absolutely nothing to do with writing or the story or any of that. If you've read Linger, did you find it a little odd that Grace's parents all-of-the-sudden decided to...I don't know...be parents?! They went from totally irresponsible and practically negligent to being all authoritative. I got a little character-whiplash from that! But I think Grace's situation is one of the only times in the reading experiences I can remember where I say, 'Your parents are IDIOTS! You don't have to mind them because they're MORONS!" But anyway, I digress.

All-in-all, an EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT 2nd installment. I cannot wait to find out what will happen next! Final grade:The Wolves of Mercy Falls is a highly recommended series! Don't miss out!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Best of Book Quotes, [2]

Another week, another set of quotes!

(Sorry the Shiver one is so hard to read!)

What are your favorite book quotes?

Teaser Tuesday: THE HUNGER GAMES

As always, Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB @ Should be Reading. Here's how it works: Grab the current book you're reading- Open up to a random page- share a little "teaser" from somewhere on that page.***Make sure your section is spoiler free!!
Here's my teaser from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

An argument breaks out until one tribute silences the others. "We're wasting time! I'll go finish her and let's move on!"
I almost fall out of the tree. The voice belongs to Peeta.
The Hunger Games, pg 168

PS -
I didn't know that Suzanne Collins was a writer for "The Secret World of Alex Mack". I *TOTALLY* watched that show in the '90s! Yay Nickelodeon!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Extra! Extra! Have You Read These Books?

I'm collecting thoughts and opinions for:

And just in case you missed, here are the the books from last week. If have read any of these and have any thoughts or opinions, let me know and I'll put it in my review!

White Cat
Beautiful Creatures

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Have a Very Importance Announcement to Make!

Spent more time than usual deciding what to read next, and I figured that the only way to get my mind off the amazingly awesome-but-incomplete Wolves of Mercy Falls series (post-Linger)...
would be to start this...

So that's my exciting announcement. I want to shout it from the rooftops:

I'm betting that most of you have read Hunger Games already, so what did you think of it?

Mercy Falls, MN (?)

Bumming around on the computer, wondering where certain places in Mercy Falls (of Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater) might look like.

*Note: Mercy Falls is a fictitious setting, and all of these pictures are from other places in Minnesota that could resemble the town. The two houses are from Duluth, MN, and the small-town images are from random towns in Minnesota. :)

Grace's House
Okay so maybe not a Victorian house, but I like how the back opens up to the woods. This house is from Duluth, I think.

Beck's House

Might be a little large, but still...the book made me think of something like this

Mercy Falls

(that cafe might look like this)

The Woods

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In My Mailbox [15] & What Am I Reading?

...or should I say, 'In Shiloh's mailbox...' :)

Not as congested as last week, but my other package came and thanks to the awesome Borders, I got Linger early! Ahh, don't you love it when they put books on the shelves before the actual release date? I sure do.

This week I got
Gone (Gone, #1) - Michael Grant (won from contest. Thank you Juju!)
Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, #2) - Maggie Stiefvater (which I'm nearly finished reading)

Currently reading Linger, but will finish it tonight.
Next up: I had planned on reading Pretties (Uglies, #2) next, but now I'm reconsidering. I am so super-psyched (hope people still use that phrase) to read the Gone series. My cousins, the kids I babysit, and some of my yg kids have all spoken very highly of this series. I had noticed them before, but they seemed so looooong (which they definitely are), but then I gave in and decided to try out the first one. Yay!

What did you get this week?

Friday, July 16, 2010

If you read this whole post, mazel tov and here's a cookie!

(That is not a picture of me. I believe that is a man.)

It’s early Friday morning and I’ve just been sitting around thinking about books. Especially books about teenagers. Because you know, I used to be a teenager a few years ago, and now I still read about teenagers, so I feel a connection. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how teens have been portrayed in YA, and whether or not these portrayals really, accurately depict teens or if they are convenient stereotypes. I’ve also arrived at the conclusion that I was a sucky teenager. Yeah, apparently, there are all these things that teens do (says the media, which in my definition includes books) that I did not do. Apparently, when I was a teen, I was supposed to party, I was supposed to experiment with drugs, I was supposed to drink, I was supposed to throw myself at every guy I came into contact with, and I was supposed to have sex, too. Hmm. I guess I fail the teen-test. Lately, it seems like there have been only a handful of authors with books that come close to portraying anything like my teen years (Lisa Mangum, Stephenie Meyer, Bree Despain… *crickets chirping*). And I can’t help but feel a little intimidated and inadequate because of that. I feel so weird to say it, because you usually don’t see this in YA literature, so apparently it doesn’t happen much, but I had a great high school experience.

To be sure, I love YA. It’s probably my favorite genre, and the bulk of what I read comes from there. That does not mean that I enjoy every book, or agree with every message, or support every author. Like other every other genre, YA is plagued with common and recurring issues, and one of those has to do with the audience. It’s one thing to entertain teenagers, but it’s another thing to enable them. So many times it seems like authors purposefully screw up their characters for no other reason or purpose than to just do it: a character is on drugs, a character drinks, a character parties, a character is sexually active… that’s why when I read a book with MCs who actually have their s--- together (my dad’s crude but honest phrase), it makes me all the more appreciative. I guess I just don’t like, can’t relate to, and have no sympathy for screwed up characters. But here’s the typical reaction: “Oh! That’s so judgmental Everybody’s screwed up! It’s normal to be screwed up!” Yeah, some teens are into the behaviors that I mentioned. When I was a kid in the good ol 90s, it was “just say ‘no’!” and “don’t do something just because everybody else is doing it.” Now, apparently, the fact that some teens do participate in these behaviors is a ‘go’ invitation for them to keep doing it. Yeah, some teens do drugs, but when have we decided that that is acceptable? If we’re talking about stereotypical activities associated with (some) teens, what about drinking and driving? Hmm, as of yet authors/screenwriters/songwriters haven’t gone so far as to glamorize that, but pretty much every other bad/delinquent/harmful behavior has just been pretty much excused. And you may say, ‘No, Amelia! Authors aren’t excusing it! They’re making the point that *said behavior* is bad!’ You’re right, some of them are. Three cheers to Sarah Dessen. But not every author is Sarah Dessen. And the majority of teen books have some kind of questionable behavior attributed to teens. And it’s not used as a lesson or teaching tool or even as something to generate discussion. It’s just a blunt ‘that’s the way he/she is!’ flare, and I can just picture a few authors shrugging their shoulders and giving me the finger. That’s the problem. Teens will read this, and coupled with the messages they’re getting from television and Hollywood (ABC Dysfunctional Family), they will begin to think that this activity is acceptable. You don’t think so? Are you more or less likely to experiment with something if you’re under the impression that ‘everybody’s doing it’ and ‘this is normal, age-appropriate behavior’?

I buy ‘age-appropriate’ behavior in some cases: body image, anxiety about the future, inadequate communication with parents, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, etc. That stuff is usually on an internal level, though. One of my favorite authors said on her site that the best characters (as in well-rounded) are the ones with their issues below the surface, not external, physical stuff. Food for thought.

And you know, what about normal kids? Where are their books? What books can normal kids who have their uhh…crap… together read? You know, kids who actually make good grades and are involved in extracurricular sports/activities, kids who have responsible friends and get along with their parents and don’t feel the need to experiment with blatantly bad behavior? What message are they receiving from the media? I’ll tell you. They’re receiving the message that they are the ones who are not normal. And that is just sad. If you’re writing realistic fiction and you’re making some kind of point about whatever behavior, that’s one thing. But in paranormal or fantasy stories, where real-life scenarios are really not the main theme, it just comes across as callous. But for one reason, it $$sells$$. Apparently, young women find bad, delinquent boys sexy. Don’t even want to go down that dysfunctional road. But other times, it’s more personal. My professor made a blunt comment one day, and some of the kids in class got all huffy with her, but I think she’ was absolutely right. With YA authors, she said (and she was meaning more exclusively teen fiction, not so much Middle Grade/Intermediate authors), a lot of the time they’re out of touch with their target audience. They don’t write teen fiction because they have teenage children, or teach teenagers, or even come into regular contact with teens. A lot of them, she reckoned, write as a kind of therapeutic exercise, and when they do, they hearken back to their teenage years, and the scenarios they set up are ones that were true for them. For an author to write what they know is okay, but I would like them to be mindful of the message they're sending. Are you enabling irresponsible behavior and ignoring/snubbing good behavior? Because to write something and then not take responsibility for it is just low. Maybe that's just me, though. True story: earlier this year, I had one of my teen girls come up to me after class and ask me whether or not drinking (at the ripe old age of 16) is really that bad. She said that ‘like every character in every book I read does it', and it actually made her question what she thought was right and wrong. I’m sure some authors find it amusing to question your beliefs, but that just really depressed and outraged me on so many levels (not to mention the fact that the behavior in question is ILLEGAL). Now here's where I need to swing in the opposite direction a little bit, a lot of you (those who have already commented) have made a very good point: just because you may read about something doesn't mean it will launch you off the deep end and make you question everything you believe and every lifestyle decision you've made. Yeah, sometimes it can even be interesting to read about "how the other half lives" and get a perspective on characters with different behaviors or attitudes. And that's cool. But when you hear/see the same message flashing at you from all sides, it can be intimidating. And if you're living differently, it can make you feel inadequate. And that's where accountability and consideration need to come into play. But I love reading about your success stories and memories :)

I’ll swing it back to the original thought. I love YA: I think YA is the place to be if you love highly creative, imaginative, fun and fantastical books. You can tell I mostly stick with fantasy, haha! YA realistic fiction is praise-worthy, too. Sarah Dessen! But just like every genre, YA is not without its…idiosyncrasies. I’m going to make a down-the-middle statement here, so be ready! I don’t like it when people dismiss YA literature as ‘childish’ or make implications that it is beneath one’s level or poorly written or whatever. However, much as I love YA (and I do, and I really couldn’t read any other genre – I’m just a sucker for Young Adult writing), not all of its criticisms are unfounded. So I’ve come to the end of my personal post. It is a little weird to feel like you were worlds-away different from the characters you read. I'll have to do a separate post on high school and other teen subjects. I guess what I want is more variety: I'd like authors (and the other parts of the media) to really get diverse and present several teenage portrayals, not just 'teens with bad behavior' or 'teens who break the law.' Let's have more responsible teen characters (girls AND boys) and let's try and actually correct some issues, instead of just spotlighting them.

I guess I’ll have to dub Fridays ‘Editorial Day’ because this is week 2 now of personal posts. Oh well! What do you think? Do you agree with any of my long, rambling points? Or do you disagree? And if you read the whole post, I’ll give you a cookie!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Extra! Extra! Have You Read These Books?

From now on, I'm going to be doing reviews a little bit differently. In addition to posting my thoughts about whatever book I'm reviewing, I want to also include some 'blogger blurbs'.

So please share your thoughts - good or bad - and when I post my review for the book, I'll include your thoughts too!

This week I'm going to be collecting comments for the following books:

Gone - Michael Grant
Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Linger - Maggie Stiefvater
White Cat - Holly Black
Pretties - Scott Westerfeld

If you've read any of these books and have some thoughts you'd like to share - I don't care if they're positive or negative - please leave a comment! And when that book is reviewed, I'll post your comments, too!

* Note: they don't have to actually be "blurbs." I'm more interested in your opinion!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New feature: Favorite Quotes!

Hey all - I'm starting a new weekly feature. Basically I'll be making artwork of my favorite book quotes and sharing them with all of you :)

Here are five of my favorite book quotes:
I'll post more next week!
In the meantime, what are some of your favorite book quotes? If you want to do your own post, drop a link so I can check it out!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review - SHIVER

Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1) - Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal
# of pages: 392 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Recommended for: HS & beyond!
Shiver @ Parental Book Reviews

My Thoughts
Okay, so have you ever felt you're the only one who hasn't read something yet? Well, that was Shiver and me.
I loved (ABSOLUTELY LOVED) the writing style. A lot of people have commented on Maggie's lyrical writing style, and that is definitely a great word to use! I can’t even describe how beautifully crafted Shiver was. I do, however, think that Grace and Sam’s voices/perspectives could have contrasted more – they sounded a little too…I don’t know, similar. But maybe I’ve just never met a guy who is as Sam-like in real life…YET. For those who have read this book, do you agree? What did you think of Sam?
I liked Grace as a character. She’s described as stoic, but actually, I thought she did show quite a bit of emotional depth. For a girl in love, Grace is rather practical, she doesn’t let her love cloud her judgment (for the most part) and I found that very refreshing. To be sure, I didn’t always agree with her choices, but it wasn’t that big of a deal because I always knew why she made certain decisions. Personally, I like the stoic, rational, self-sacrificing characters (easier to relate to for me), and so I found Grace very enjoyable and fun to read. Everybody has different tastes, though.
And now…Sam. Sam, Sam! I loved Sam. When it comes to boys/love interests in YA fiction, it seems that there are two predominant types: the sweetie-pie, almost-too-good-to-be-true boys, and the “bad boys.” Here’s another personal preference: I like good boys over bad boys. I guess I’m just so sick of bad boys that I’m now over on the other end of the spectrum. I liked him and thought he was a great character. Yes, some of his comments were eyebrow-raising (I've never heard a guy comment about how many calories are in candy, for example, or comment that a certain coat makes him look 'like a blimp'), but I didn’t care. I found them funny, but cute-sort of funny. So to conclude a really long, rambling point: I liked Sam just fine, thought he was a great character, and I liked the way Maggie chose to portray him. Thanks Maggie for helping control the bad-boy population (*this is Amelia reminding you to help control the bad boy population. Have your bad boy spayed or neutered*)
The supporting characters were very well fleshed out, and the plot kept rolling along at a nice pace. The foreboding and anxious tone reminded me of a growing thunderstorm, and most of my Shiver time took place during weekend storms. Excellent weather conditions for a book like this! Well, cold weather would have been best, but storms and rain was a good consolation. Maggie is one of those authors who pays such attention to detail and gives so much consideration to the overall tone of the story; it made Shiver seem so polished and well crafted. And indeed it is!
There was one part in particular (and I bet most of you can guess which part it was) that just made me sob. I mean like really, really sob. I’m kind of a “detached” reader, so for me to get this emotionally involved in what was going on was very out of the ordinary. Shiver was so poignant, so emotional, and so beautiful. Just...WOW!
I loved this book! Definitely recommended! Yeah, there’s one part (and really only one part) that I wish hadn’t been included, and those who know me can probably guess what it is. It was handled well though, and I wouldn’t have any problem giving my 14year old cousin this book.
From now on, I'm going to do my 'Content Radar' a little different. The awesome Andye @ Reading Teen has allowed me to link her reviews to this site, so I'll be doing that for now on. Check out Reading Teen's review for Shiver HERE.

Final Grade Shiver is definitely one of my new favorites! If you haven't already, please check it out!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In My Mailbox [14] & What Am I Reading?

This week I got:(That's Shiloh by the way - the roommate's dog)

From trading!
White Cat - Holly Black (thank you Christie)
Need - Carrie Jones(thank you Ky)

Won from Contest
I won a $20 giftcard to Amazon from Juju @ Tales of Whimsy and with that I got:
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
Pretties - Scott Westerfeld
Gone - Michael Grant (still in transit :P)

This Week's Reading Schedule
Just finished

Coming up...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Story time with Amelia :D

Story time! Story time!

Today I sent a few chapters from one of my WIPs to a friend for feedback. I usually don't do that, because I'm delightfully paranoid and insecure, but it had to be done at some point.

He mailed me back awhile ago, and while he liked it overall, his email contained some (constructive) criticism. Surprise, surprise, I did not like the criticism, got a little huffy and defensive, and told him so. I mean, it's hard being a writer, isn't it?! Writing takes a lot of work, a lot of brainstorming and thinking and mulling things over. And who was he to criticize me?!

Well, he emailed me back explaining some of his points (which made perfect sense), and at the end of the email, he asked for my address.
Hmmm! Growing suspicious, I emailed back "why?"

And he replied, "So I can send you some diapers, you big baby."

And you know what? That conversation meant more to me than all the praise/validation I've ever gotten. Because I learned something. I learned that if I want to be a writer, or do anything that involves creativity, I need to be ready for criticism. And I should count myself lucky, because not all criticism is going to be constructive and nice. If I'm going to send my stories out there, I need to be ready for the realization that not everyone is going to like my ideas, my characters, and not everyone is going to like me, personally. And I also learned that I have a ways to go. When you buy a book, you don't get a little miniature version of the author to sit on your shoulder and explain to you what they were thinking when they wrote "whatever." Only in the brilliant HP universe can one converse with portraits.

The story ends with me sending a few more chapters to him, and the email he just sent me back, double-checking to make sure "I won't have to buy you any Huggies, will I?"

No, sir. No Huggies for me. I'm a big girl now.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a creative person in possession of several ideas must be in want of a backbone"

Friday, July 9, 2010

Clearing the Air: In which I defend this blog...

I've been fortunate to never get any "hate mail" per see, but I did recently have 2 accusations leveled against me (and one "accusation" that was conveniently expressed in a post but not to me directly), and this is my attempt to clear the air. So far, I'm sure it's very obvious that I review books. I do not endorse books. I am not a publicity person, I am not in advertising...I review books. And I am always, always honest. Counting here and goodreads, I have reviewed over 100 books in the last year. Out of those 100, there have been only 3 that have been majority-negative. Only 3. The accusation that I never like a book is ludicrous and untrue. It's so much easier to speak in extremes, to say "well she always writes 5 star reviews" or "she hates every book she reads" or even "she hates the author." Well, that is conveniently one-sided. Of those 3 books that I wrote highly negative reviews for, I feel like I had every reason to do so. You may not think it, but I am objective (to a certain extent). The 3 books in question were so outrageous and personally offensive to me that I was totally lost for anything constructive. Have you ever been in that position? Maybe not, but I have, and I don't really like writing negative reviews. But these 3 were so outrageous and really hit me on a personal level, I felt I had to. How wonderful it must be to always find something good. But that's not always the case.
Now, I have written reviews that contain criticism or somewhat negative tones, but most of them are a mix of positive and negative. The last "critical" book I reviewed was Forgive My Fins, which I still gave an overall 'B' rating to, and the first part of which I praised the author and mentioned the things I liked about the book. I did NOT 'hate' it, and to insinuate that I did totally misses the point. On the other side of the scale, even my 5-star reviews are never without something. If I just wrote a drool-worthy review of say The Dark Divine, I wouldn't sound very objective, would I? And who exactly would I help? It may sound weird, but I actually appreciate 1-and-2-star reviews. Some of my goodreads/blogger pals are very outspoken in their opinions, and I appreciate that fully. I want to know why someone doesn't like a book, because in all likeliness, I will probably agree. I guess this is my way of "returning the favor."

And now to the most unpopular part of my "diatribe," concerning authors and what I have said about them: When an author publishes a book, he/she is pretty much saying, "This is as good as I can make it. This is ready to go out and be evaluated by others. I have done all I can." When I read a book, I'm reading a finished product. And yes, this may sound outrageous, but I do expect the finished product to read like a novel, not like a draft. So here's my answer to the accusation made that I personally attack authors: no, I don't. I have said things that are somewhat critical. There have only been 2 times, however, where I have come close to "attacking" an author on a personal level. Both of those cases involved content issues. This may be a really radical idea, but if you're an author and you choose to put content in your books that you know will offend others, you do open yourself up to criticism, sometimes very severe criticism. If that's okay with you, fine! Any person who is creative or in the arts has to have thick skin. But it is a little on the immature side to write things that you know will divide readers and then turn around and complain about negative comments. That's unreal. Now, the accusation made in this circumstance was entirely blown out of proportion. Saying a person seems like "blah blah blah" is not the same as saying they definitely are blah blah blah. And to accuse me of "hating" them is just immature, because pretty much what that says is "If you make any kind of negative comment whatsoever, it's the same thing as 'hating.'" No, it's not. The funny thing is, the comment(s) in question was not made on any of my reviews - it was the kind of thing you have to go looking for to find. And what's even funnier is that I didn't totally 'hate' that book, as I was so conveniently accused of doing. It actually got 3 stars from me. I'm not mean-spirited, and I try to think before I type. I don't set out to hurt anyone's feelings, but I seriously doubt that my 2-and-3 star goodreads reviews are read by the actual authors. By most of their own admissions, they only stick to 5-and-4 star reviews. I don't try to hurt anyone's feelings, but if you're an author, this is your job. If someone calls you unoriginal or says that you sound a certain way, that's not personal. Let's all TiVo The Godfather and replay that scene: "It's not personal, it's business. It's not personal, it's business." But I'm getting off track.
It was heavily annoying to be called out like that, and not even by the author in question, but by other readers, especially when the accusations made against me were not even true, and they reflected the accuser's inability to comprehend anything but "either-or" scenarios. That may sound mean to some of you, but good gracious! It's true. Don't go throwing accusations around unless you're willing to back them up. But really it all boils down to me saying something that got taken out of context and that upset certain people. I stand by what I said, and I encourage the person who made the accusation to go read that comment again and see precisely how I worded it, since s/he seems so comfortable vocalizing their displeasure.

I seriously thought last night about changing Imagination in Focus to only feature positive-reviews. That seems to be the trend, right? But I'm not going to do that, because like I said, most of the time (except for 3 very specific occasions) I do make my reviews as objective as I can. To only feature 5-star reviews would be to warp reality. And you know, I like reading the honest, "I didn't care for it" reviews. I'm not in this to be friends with publishers. I'm not even in this to be popular. I'm in this to be honest, to review books and share information and recommendations. And most of the time, I have a blast doing it. Truly, I look forward to checking updates, reading comments, and making comments, because this is a wonderful community. And thank you to all the friends I've made. Your comments mean so much to me, and I read every single one of them. Thank you for your friendship

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review - UGLIES

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
Genre: YA sci-fi/dystopian
# of pages: 425 (pb)
Published by: Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster
Recommended for: ALL AGES.
Uglies @ Parental Book Reviews

My Thoughts
Wow, what an introduction into the world of Scott Westerfeld! I have heard so many things about him, and he is such a prolific writer. Science fiction/dystopian, alternate historical fiction/fantasy, whatever Peeps is supposed to be...wow. What a talented guy to be able to have such "variety."

All in all, I was very, VERY impressed with Uglies. First off: the writing. Westerfeld is now one of my favorite writers, not only for his immense creativity but also for his ability to blend the JUST RIGHT amount of action, description, and dialogue. This may sound like a weird comparison, but Scott Westerfeld reminds me of a gourmet chef: he knows how to measure out and mix together the right concoction of ingredients in order to make a delicious product!
It made reading Uglies a fun and smooth experience. Let's face it, it's really hard for authors to come up with a story that is 100% interesting and confusion-free, and it's really hard for readers (sometimes, if we're honest) to stay focused and interested the whole time. In all fairness, the middle part of story (from when Tally arrives at the Smoke to when the Smoke is ambushed) dragged just a little, but thanks to the quality of Westerfeld's writing, it never descended into tediousness. Oh, and this is a BIGGIE: there is SYMBOLISM!! Yes, Scott Westerfeld employed the literary device with such skill and thoughtfulness, I can totally see English teachers chirping with delight. I'm going to give this copy to my English-teacher mom :)

Characterization was very well-done. Even considering Fins, I've been on a reading winning streak when it comes to good, well-rounded and likable main characters. Tally Youngblood is one of those characters who seems to divide readers - some of them think she's shallow and a little flat, and others really like her and can connect with her. I'm definitely in the latter category. When I read a dystopian novel, I have to keep in mind that I am reading about a society that is (probably) drastically different from my own, and it's full of people who have a different reality from me. Tally is no exception, and once I put myself in her world, it was really easy to see why she behaves the way she does and why she chooses to make certain decisions. But besides all that, Tally was just a fun character to read about. Once again, master chef Westerfeld had all the ingredients for a great character: she was assertive and witty without being bratty or snarky, she was a good friend (sometimes) who struggled with loyalty and doing the right thing, and she was self-aware without being self-absorbed. Perfecto!
The supporting characters were alright - I particularly liked Shay but didn't really care for Peris (but then again, he is supposed to be kind of an airhead) and the rest of the characters were okay. This book in particular really is about Tally and her journey, so she's the one I paid the most attention to. Oh, and I definitely need to mention Dr. Cable. Excellent, excellent villain! I *think* she's the main antagonist of the series, and wow, she was great. Yes, I have been known to really like certain villains, if they're interesting enough. I kept imagining a woman version of Agent Smith from The Matrix. My absolute favorite aspect of the story was Special Circumstances. That was *so* Matrix!
The world Westerfeld created was really interesting and I enjoyed reading (and studying) Uglies as a science fiction dystopian novel. I love dystopians but haven't read many, and certainly didn't disappoint. This really has nothing to do with my review or my grade, but the only things about Uglies that seemed a bit "much" were some of the details of the society in general, maybe basic Dystopian 101 stuff. To be honest, I started to get a little annoyed with the constant Rusty-bashing. We're the Rusties, of course, and I guess the attitude got to me. But of course, how normal is that? Most societies and cultures kind of get a bit "puffed up" on their own superiority. Yeah, those Victorians were so stupid, they didn't even have purified water or proper sewage systems - what morons! Kind of like that. And I'm just sharing this because...well, I don't know why...but the whole "fall of the Rusties" and the ideals of the new society are a little...not complex. I mean, an oil bug? Environmentally-superior new culture? No more wars because everyone's pretty? It just seems too convenient. And the new society is very similar to our own: people chasing after fun, pleasure... there's really no contrast, except maybe all the hedonists are pretty, not just some. Whatever! It would have been absolute, 100% perfection without the quasi-political after-school-special tone. That's why this is in a small font.

In a nutshell, Uglies was an amazing, enjoyable, and thought-provoking read that I would definitely encourage everyone to pick up. Teens will love the story, and adults will find this book immensely clever.

Final Grade:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Here are my mammoth waiting-on books!
*patience is a virtue...patience is a virtue...patience, etc.*

August 24!September 28October 12

April 5
And now here's my disclaimer:
I'm psyched about sequels, but I have yet to read Beautiful Creatures, The Maze Runner, or the first three in the Gone series... but I will! BC I am almost positive I will love, and ditto for the Maze Runner. I've heard a lot of good things about the Gone series from my students so I'm looking forward to those too.

October 12th is a ginormous book-release day!

What are you waiting for?
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