5.27.2012

In My Mailbox (20)

Purchased for School (pictured on left):


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem
Walking on Water by Derrick Jensen
♪Lucky by Alice Sebold
Naked by David Sedaris
How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston

Purchased (pictured in middle):


Perception by Kim Harrington
Possession by Elana Johnson
♪Black Dawn by Rachel Caine
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Until I Die by Amy Plum
Last Rite by Lisa Desrochers
The 8th Confession by James Patterson
Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Received for Review (pictured on right):


♪Awakened by PC Cast + Kristin Cast

What a week of books! Stay tuned for reviews and more books next week.

-Hayden 

5.26.2012

Review (NON-YA): How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston

Title: How to be Black
Author: Baratunde Thurston
Pages: 254
Genre: Memoir

Goodreads Summary


"How to Be Black" is a satirical race manual designed for black people and those who love them. Expert Thurston is an editor at "The Onion."
If you don't buy this book, you're a racist.
Have you ever been called "too black" or "not black enough"?
Have you ever befriended or worked with a black person?
Raised by a pro-black, Pan-Afrikan single mother during the crack years of 1980s Washington, DC, and educated at Sidwell Friends School and Harvard University, Baratunde Thurston has over 30 years' experience being black. Now, through stories of his politically inspired Nigerian name, the heroics of his hippie mother, the murder of his drug-abusing father, and other revelatory black details, he shares with listeners of all colors his wisdom and expertise in how to be black.
Beyond memoir, this guidebook offers practical advice on everything from "How to Be the Black Friend" to "How to Be the (Next) Black President" to "How to Celebrate Black History Month."
To provide additional perspective, Baratunde assembled an award-winning Black Panel - three black women; three black men; and one white man (Christian Lander, author of Stuff White People Like) - and asked them such revealing questions as: "When did you first realize you were black?" "How black are you?" "Can you swim?"
The result is a humorous, intelligent, and audacious guide that challenges and satirizes the so-called experts, purists, and racists who purport to speak for all black people. With honest storytelling and biting wit, Baratunde plots a path not just to blackness, but one open to anyone interested in simply "how to be".

Review


(I read this book as a memoir for AP English next year.)


How to be Black presents itself as more of an ode to the African-American race than a memoir, but it soon lets you know that it is in fact the latter. The intro and first chapter are very humorous and engaging, and the entire book is filled with short, little humorous passages as well, but the narrative jumps around on the timeline quite a bit, and it is bogged down with random entries that don't quite add to the story. Nevertheless, it is entertaining and humorous, but the mention of politics and President Obama made me bang my head against the wall. 

The book instantly caught my eye with the tagline "If you don't buy this book, youre a racist." Thurston's narrative is very bland and blunt, but when writing in a tone meant to be funny, you aren't going to suffocate the book in difficult words and lengthy, complex sentences, so it fits. In case you missed it the other million times I mentioned it, this book is funny. Like, seriously. I was snorting through the pages like wildfire. This book helped me realize how white I really am. His name is Baratunde, which I instantly assumed was pronounced "BAIR-uh-tund." Of course, it's actually "Bah-ruh-TOON-day," which makes me feel like quite the racially-indifferent-white-guy.

As a memoir, the book isn't very deep, but the book doesn't restrain the laughs.


Two-and-a-Half Owls

5.23.2012

Review: Wake by Amanda Hocking

Title: Wake
Author: Amanda Hocking
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 309



Goodreads Summary:


Fall under the spell of Wake—the first book in an achingly beautiful new series by celebrated author Amanda Hocking—and lose yourself to the Watersong.
Gorgeous. Fearless. Dangerous. They're the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Lexi and Thea have caught everyone's attention—but it’s Gemma who’s attracted theirs.  She’s the one they’ve chosen to be part of their group.
Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door.  He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back.  Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever.  She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove.  They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different. 
Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price.  And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.



Review


Sirens are something I haven't read much of recently -- well, I don't think I've ever read a book about them. I was unabashedly excited to read this after I heard about it, and when I received an ARC in the mail, I was overjoyed. (Thank you, Jessica!) WAKE lived up to the hype, for the most part. It is much stronger than the other three Hocking books I read, the Trylle trilogy.
In the beginning of the book, we are introduced to a situation involving the main character, Gemma, with the following line, from page 3 of the ARC: "The engine made a bizarre chugging sound, like a dying robot llama . . ."O.o Immediately, from the first line of the first chapter, I was interested. Hocking's writing wasn't the best. The woman needs a "show vs. tell" poster on her wall and she needs to learn how to distinguish between the two. But her writing didn't distract from the story, even though it was bland.

Gemma isn't the strongest female protagonist in the books; it took her quite a while to fight for what she believed in instead of being pushed around. The strongest aspect of Hocking's characterization, however, which is still quite great, is the sisterly bond between Gemma and Harper. Hocking knows what character traits clash, and she put them into the sisters. At first, I had a hard time believing they had as much of a connection as Hocking told us they did. However, as the novel progressed, I got a better taste of how they clashed and argued but also loved and cared, which is how the real thing works. Characterization is one of Hocking's strong points. I also enjoyed the little romances on the side, between Gemma and Alex, and Harper and Daniel. Gemma's and Alex's relationship was a bit unbelievable as well in the beginning, because Hocking told us about their backstory, and it was like we'd missed the entire foundation of their relationship. It took some warming up to get used to it, but once I did, I really enjoyed it.

Harper's and Daniel's relationship was more enjoyable for me than Gemma's and Alex's, because we got to watch it grow from the beginning. Early on, Harper, ever-so-practical, wasn't looking for romance and was therefore blinded to all moves made by men. Her relationship with Daniel was one that blossomed from there. At first, I didn't even realize they were going to have a romance. It seemed like Harper wasn't going to be able to break free of her chains and realize that love was possible for her, even with her sister, school, jobs, etc.

Reading the first hundred pages was strange: the thing that I was waiting to happen, the one that was written on the back of the book, didn't happen until nearly the end of this section. I thought it was going to happen right away. I felt like Hocking included too long of an exposition to the novel. The first hundred pages were a bit dragged out, but there was a lot to introduce, so I guess that justifies a little bit of it. The ending was intense. The organization of Wake was also better than Hocking's Trylle trilogy. The tension was barely there in the beginning, but it built and slowly crescendoed up to the finale, which was explosive and interesting. I only wish I had the next book right here next to me so I could read it as well!

I am very excited to read the next book in the Watersong quartet. Wake was a nice, smooth siren story with unique mythology and lovable characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

three and a half owls

Review: City of Lost Souls

Title: City of Lost Souls
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: McElderry Books (imprint of Simon & Schuster)
Pages: 534
Release Date: May 8, 2012



Goodreads Summary:




The demon Lilith has been destroyed and Jace has been freed from her captivity. But when the Shadowhunters arrive to rescue him, they find only blood and broken glass. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing–but so is the boy she hates, Sebastian, the son of her father Valentine: a son determined to succeed where their father failed, and bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.

No magic the Clave can summon can locate either boy, but Jace cannot stay away—not from Clary. When they meet again Clary discovers the horror Lilith’s dying magic has wrought—Jace is no longer the boy she loved. He and Sebastian are now bound to each other, and Jace has become what he most feared: a true servant of Valentine’s evil. The Clave is determined to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. Will the Shadowhunters hesitate to kill one of their own?

Only a small band of Clary and Jace’s friends and family believe that Jace can still be saved — and that the fate of the Shadowhunters’ future may hinge on that salvation. They must defy the Clave and strike out on their own. Alec, Magnus, Simon and Isabelle must work together to save Jace: bargaining with the sinister Faerie Queen, contemplating deals with demons, and turning at last to the Iron Sisters, the reclusive and merciless weapons makers for the Shadowhunters, who tell them that no weapon on this earth can sever the bond between Sebastian and Jace. Their only chance of cutting Jace free is to challenge Heaven and Hell — a risk that could claim any, or all, of their lives.

And they must do it without Clary. For Clary has gone into the heart of darkness, to play a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing the game is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she even still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?

Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.



Review:




City of Lost Souls took a while to digest. All night I could feel it in my gut like deadweight. All the subplots and characters and relationships and the fact that so much was going on made this book hard to break down.

But, finally, I woke up this morning and it all made sense. So, seeing as the book has been split into separate filing cabinets in my brain, I'm going to replicate that onto this review:

The Good:

I felt that Lost Souls was more compulsively readable than the other installments in the series. With all of the other books, I frequently found myself banging my head against the wall/skimming/debating microwaving an owl. With this installment, I found myself wanting to keep reading. Lost Souls had a lot more substance than the other books, which were stuffed with boring, meaningless conversation. Even though the book is a whopping 536 pages (Clare's second longest book yet, Glass being the longest), it never lets go of you.

I also appreciate how Clare didn't end the book with a tremendous, soul-shocking cliffhanger that makes you want to steal Clare's laptop to get a glimpse of the final book in the series. The end does make you want to read the next one, just not in a way that'll make you dread the long, long wait until March '14. Yes, that's twenty-two months of waiting. I don't know how I'm going to wait that long.

Another thing I love about The Mortal Instruments is how there are so many characters that you can fall in love with. My favorite couple in the books is Isabelle and Simon. They're my two favorite characters in the book, and they're totally meant for each other. <3 Clare writes their relationship very well. Even though Simon is a vampire, he feels like one of the most human characters in the book. He feels more than any of the other characters, and he isn't blind-sided by love. Izzy is his perfect match. I can't wait for their relationship to develop in the last book. 

Another relationship I love is Alec/Magnus. I love gay characters in YA, because I'm all for LGBTQ-type stuff, and Clare writes them really well. Alec is another of those really fleshed-out characters Clare wrote. And Magnus . . . *sigh* Who doesn't love glitter and sequins and scarves? Magnus is definitely the most fun character in the novels. He makes the books fun to read. Clare writes sarcasm and wit really well. I would find some awesome quotes, but I don't feel like it, honestly.

Overall, Lost Souls is a vast improvement over Fallen Angels, except for one major thing...


The Bad:

*Clary Fray. Oh my GOODNESS, woman. You need to realize that there are more things in the world than Jace Lightwood/Herondale/Morgenstern. One scene in the book had me wanting to shove her head into an oven. She spent the first few chapters wangsting about Jace's absence and Jace this and Jace that and SHUT UP! I have a sledgehammer and I'm not afraid to use it.

* SPOILERS (highlight the text to read it): ALEC AND MAGNUS BROKE UP! D: Their relationship was one of my favorites. Hopefully, Alec can win him back in 2014 when the next book comes out. (Yeah, can you tell I'm still totally pissed about that date?)

Those are the only two things I took extreme issue with in the book. Overall, it's an engaging read with some slight annoyances but an overall tightly-crafted plot and explosive climax.


Three and a Half Owls

5.20.2012

In My Mailbox (19)

Hey, friends!
Welcome to my 19th week of In My Mailbox (although I've been blogging for 50-something)!
Here's what I got:

Borrowed (from the Library):
  • Article 5: Kristen Simmons
  • The Name of the Star: Maureen Johnson
  • (Not Pictured) Where Things Come Back: John Corey Whaley
Received for Review:
  • Wake: Amanda Hocking (great thanks to St. Martin's Griffin!)
  • Enshadowed: Kelly Creagh (THANKS SO SO SO SO SO MUCH TO S&S)
  • Rivals & Retributions: Shannon Delany (thanks to St. Martin's Griffin!)
  • Not really for review, but I got a sweet INSURGENT bookmark, made by the awesome Bel Watson. THANK YOU SO MUCH! :)
Bought:
  • No Second Chance: Harlan Coben
  • Deadly Cool: Gemma Halliday
  • Social Suidide: Gemma Halliday
  • Hourglass: Myra McEntire
  • Rosebush: Michele Jaffe
  • Ghost Flower: Michele Jaffe
  • Broken Illusions: Ellie James
  • Masque of the Red Death: Bethany Griffin
  • The Serpent's Shadow: Rick Riordan
  • City of Lost Souls: Cassandra Clare
  • Wicked Appetite: Janet Evanovich
That's it! I promise. Unless I forgot one.

Until next time,
Hayden :)


5.16.2012

Itty-Bitty Reviews: Veronica Roth

Two-in-One Itty-Bitty Reviews: Free Four and Insurgent


First off, an explanation. The reason why I haven't been blogging, well, ever, lately is because of this thing called a Chautauqua. (If you don't know what that is, click here.) Along with said presentation, I have had various smaller projects that go along with that big overarching one. So, basically, the last month of my life has been hell and chaos personified.
I perform my Chautauqua at the end of the month, so it shouldn't be long before I am back to reading full-time. ;)

I have two itty-bitty reviews for you today, the first being of Free Four, by Veronica Roth, an alternate-perspective scene from Divergent.


Goodreads Summary:


A never-before-seen piece from #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth: a pivotal scene from DIVERGENT told from Four’s point of view.

And, now, for my


Review:



Too. Short. Four. Deprivation.

*writhing on floor*

This is the one instance I would ever allow anyone to pull a Midnight Sun. Ever.


***


Hope you enjoyed my philosophic and deep words.
Since it's a short story, I'm not going to rate it. Consider it a five.


Now, moving on . . .
My itty-bitty review of Insurgent, the second book in Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy!


Goodreads Summary


One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.
New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Review:


Final Verdict: 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000/5 Stars

This book is in the key of A Major, because that's my favorite key, and this is my favorite book.



***

Don't you think that image adds a nice touch? That pretty much summarizes my entire life, and probably a handful of yours.

5.10.2012

Review: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

Title: Spell Bound
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Pages: 327
Format: Hardcover
Publish Date: March 13, '12



Goodreads Summary:


(If you haven't read the first two books in the series, I wouldn't recommend reading this!)Hailed as “impossible to put down,” the Hex Hall series has both critics and teens cheering. With a winning combination of romance, action, magic and humor, this third volume will leave readers enchanted.
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.
Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

Review




You know, when I started Spell Bound, I didn't expect that to be crying at the end. When you have to wait over a year for the next book in a series, you start caring less and less about it so you don't spend thirteen months going OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THE NEXT BOOK DOESN'T COME OUT FOR THIRTEEN MONTHS WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH MY LIFE. Basically, like this:



So, what I've learned to do is to detach myself from a series and forget about its existence so my whole life isn't dominated by the long wait. For me, this works well, because there are so many series I follow that it's impossible to remember them all.

When I started, everything came back, full fledged. I began to remember what the L'Occhio di Dio (OR HOWEVER YOU SPELL IT) was and who the Brannicks were and so on and so forth. When I finished the book, I realized how much I truly loved the characters and the concept of the series that I just couldn't take it anymore.

I've really developed a connection with our funny and witty heroine, Sophie Mercer, over the years that I've read this series. I loved how Hawkins managed the love-triangle-ish thing, even though it wasn't really a love triangle. I might've just been bawling because of (Goodreads spoiler: to view review with spoilers, click here).

I really enjoyed how Spell Bound was more coherent than the other two. In Demonglass particularly, a lot of crap just happened to happen. It didn't really seem like the book fit an outline; it was kind of jumpy and stuff. I wasn't really feeling that with Spell Bound. It didn't feel rushed at all; it didn't feel forced. It felt natural. I really enjoyed it.

This book is in the key of D Major, because it's popular and pretty at the same time.


four owls

5.01.2012

Review: Awake at Dawn by CC Hunter


Summary


Step into the world of Shadow Falls, a camp that helps teens tap into their special…talents. Once you visit, you’ll never forget it—and you’ll never, ever be the same.
From the moment Kylie Galen arrived at Shadow Falls Camp, she’s had one burning question: What am I? Surrounded by vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, fairies and witches, Kylie longs to figure out her own supernatural identity…and what her burgeoning powers mean. And now she’ll need them more than ever, because she’s being haunted by a new spirit who insists that someone Kylie knows—and loves—will die before the end of the summer. If only she only knew who she was supposed to save. And how…

But giving Kylie the most trouble is her aching heart. Gorgeous werewolf Lucas left camp with another girl, but he’s still visiting Kylie in her dreams. And Derek, a sexy half Fae who’s always been there for her when she needed him, is pushing to get more serious—and growing impatient, especially when Lucas returns. Kylie knows she needs to decide between the boys, and it’s tearing her up inside.

Yet romance will have to wait, because something from the dark side of the supernatural world is hiding in Shadow Falls. It’s about to threaten everything she holds dear…and bring her closer to her destiny.

Review


4.25 Owls

Awake at Dawn is the second book in CC Hunter's BORN AT MIDNIGHT series, and it is such a vast improvement on the first one. I cannot stress that enough: Hunter realized what writing was in between the first and second book, and this book reflects that very well.

Kylie Galen is a resident at Shadow Falls Camp, a place for "troubled teens," a.k.a. supernaturals, to find themselves and come into their powers. Kylie is at this camp because she sees ghosts -- the only problem is, she doesn't know what she is yet. I really like how Hunter isn't afraid to take a whole mosh-pit of supernatural beings and put them together in one place. This book has it all: vampires, werewolves, fey, shape-shifters . . . you name it, Shadow Falls has got it. It's quite an eclectic mix, and it makes for fun reading, seeing everyone interact and accept their differences.

It's also fun watching Kylie deal with family drama -- Hunter writes family issues very nicely. I enjoy watching Kylie try to deal with her mother, father and (view spoiler). One of my favorite things about the series is how Kylie has to balance her old life with her new one here at Shadow Falls -- it's really interesting.

At Shadow Falls, there are many, many boys. The thing that still bugs me about the series is how many guys seem to be attracted to Kylie. Derek, Lucas, other spoilery characters . . . all of them are fawning over her. It bugs me a little how Kylie is so perfect that way. She is a likable character, but everyone is supposed to have flaws. I haven't found Kylie's yet. Hopefully those will come into play more in the third book.

As for Derek and Lucas, I am having a very hard time finding out who is more right for Kylie. I know they're the only two she's even considering, but I can't tell which one she is drawn to more. I'll have a certain opinion, and then something will happen to change that -- I can never keep a solid grasp on who Kylie will end up with. In a lot of series, there is an obvious love interest who will prevail in the end, then the author just throws someone else in to throw you off and make you go, "Hey, this guy is there, too," even though he's obviously just a plot device. In this series, there isn't one of those . . . which is a really good thing.

As far as the plot goes, Awake at Dawn really steps it up. I love how the titles relate a lot to the books. In this one, Kylie received a cryptic message from a ghost and she has to figure out what's going on . . . as well as what's going to happen to the camp in the future, what's going on to her two loves, and what's going on with her family. There are a lot of things going on, which makes for good reading. The climax is explosive -- the book ended on a sick cliffhanger, too, which makes me glad I have TAKEN AT DUSK right here next to me, ready to be read.

If you'll let me, I'm going to go do that now.

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