Archive | February, 2011

Anything Goes on Saturday – Sparknotes

26 Feb

This is a new meme called “Anything Goes on Saturday” hosted by Yvonne from Socrates Book Reviews. It’s a chance to choose any topic you want and talk about it on Saturday – it can be about a book, TV show, movie, a recipe or just an update on your week. Whatever you choose.

This is my first week trying out this meme and I’d like to talk about something that can be both a savior to teens like me and a bane of english teacher-Sparknotes.

If you’re not familiar with the site, it provides information like plot summaries, analysis of themes and literary devices, main character descriptions, and the like for practically every classic book that exists. For every Shakespeare play, you can read the original text alongside ‘modern’ translations.

My English teachers have always warned against resorting to using websites like this, stating that we’ll ‘never learn’ and won’t actually understand anything. But I think that, after I read the actual book or play, glancing over something like Sparknotes can refresh my memory and keep certain details fixed in my head. Plus, I’m reading Hamlet with my lit class right now, and what’s the point of reading over an entire speech and understanding none of it? After attempting to interpret it myself, I look to Sparknotes to see how close I actually was.

So, to the point of this post. What’s your opinion of Sparknotes and other such study materials? Do these sites help, or do they undermine attempts to educate?

I think, if used in moderation and alongside the actual text, they can be enormously helpful.

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

26 Feb

 


Magic Study

Author: Maria V. Snyder

Pages [hardcover]: 392

Book 2 in the Study series!
Book 1: Poison Study

Memorable Quote: Bad dreams are ghosts of our fears and worries, haunting us while we sleep.

Favorite Characters: Valek, Ari, & Janco

First Thoughts: I LOVED the first book, Poison Study and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this second installment! Hopefully I’ll continue to love this series.

Summary:

You know your life is bad when you miss your days as a poison taster…

With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can’t help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways—and her newfound friends and relatives don’t think it’s for the better….

Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training—especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince—and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with all her new enemies….

Review:

 I love this book, as well as the first Study book, Poison Study. The characters are unique and memorable, the main character is strong-headed and unstoppable, and who doesn’t like a good book that involves magic?

This book focuses on Yelena honing her magic skills and understanding her limitations as well as discovering new talents. She’s as independent and free spirited as ever, choosing to take her own path when the one set before her isn’t what she had in mind. Though at times her decisions seem rash and irresponsible, she prevails over her obstacles and learns from her mistakes. She places everyone’s safety above her own, which I find admirable.

Yelena is such a great character, and I loved getting to know her even better in Magic Study. Setting out to find her family, she reacts naturally, with equal parts fear and excitement. And though everything could have gone cornily happily ever after, Maria V. Snyder throws plot twist after twist at the reader, leading me to jump to conclusions-and be proved wrong every time. I love the little guessing game, and read quickly because I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Though the book concerned much moving around from place to place and discussing what to do next, it never lagged. Rather, it served to enhance the action aspects of the novel and give me a break before the next round of fighting.

Magic Study is an awesome book, though if you don’t read Poison Study first, you won’t know what’s happening! I give it 5/5 stars-the Study series continues to impress me!

Red Glove from Bestselling Author Holly Black

23 Feb

I LOVED Holly Black’s White Cat and can. not. wait.! Until this sequel comes out! The days will drag …. But the wait will be worth it. :D

Blog Tour: Playlist for ‘Debugging Tori Redding’ + Giveaway!

23 Feb

I’m fortunate enough to be part of the Debugging Tori Redding blog tour! Today I’m featuring a playlist for the book, composed of music choices that fit in perfectly with this book! Be sure to check back here March 4 for my review!

Here’s a summary of Debugging Tori Redding by Jason Ancona:

Fed up with her peers and their loose morals, Tori starts a new school program, the Not So Fast club, a group dedicated to keeping teens from doing everything they want to do–drink, have sex, and rush to grow up.

A severe toothache interrupts her plan, sending her to the dentist, where she’s given an emergency root canal. During the surgery, she’s electrocuted and ends up blacking out. When she awakes, her brain has the ability to function like a computer.

Tori uses her new skills and aggressive personality to charge up the club.
Hated by the entire school, she discovers that NSF now stands for: Narcs Suck Farts. Game on. Tori memorizes every school rule, issuing tickets for every little infraction.

After a serious crime occurs, Tori must use her talents to save a life, all while trying to free herself from her mind.

Now, on to the playlist!

P!nkStupid Girl   — “I’m so glad that I’ll never fit in. That will never be me.”

Taylor SwiftInnocent – “Lost your balance on a tightrope. Lost your mind tryin’ to get it back.”

EminemNot Afraid – “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid. To take a stand, to take a stand.”

Katie CostelloOut of Our Minds – “I think I’ll be happier if I turn my brain off.”

Adam LambertWhataya Want From Me – “It messed me up. Need a second to breath.”

U2Running To Stand Still – “She is ragin’. She is ragin’. And the storm blows up in her eyes.

Sick PuppiesMaybe – “Maybe I’m just out of touch. Maybe I’ve just had enough.”

RihannaDisturbia — “What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel like this?”

ColdplayFix You – “When you lose something you cannot replace. Tears stream down your face.”

On a final note, the author is offering a free ebook copy of Debugging Tori Redding! To be entered to win, it’s simple: comment below with your email address! The deadline to enter is Thursday, March 3! The winner will be announced March 4, the same day my review is posted!

Good luck!

Teaser Tuesday 2-22-11

22 Feb

  

 

 

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This Tuesday’s quote comes from Maria V. Snyder’s Magic Study, the sequel to Poison Study:

I glanced at Leif; his alarmed expression had turned to fear. Color leaked from his face as he looked from me to the large indigo-colored man.

What quote would be complete without an indigo-colored man? xD To find out why Leif is alarmed, and just who this mysterious indigo man is, you have to read Magic Study. Because it would ruin all of the fun if I told you. :P

By the way, the picture up top is from a newer edition than the one I’m using. I think I like that cover better. The one I have [currently pictured in the 'Currently Reading' widget to the right] looks more forced and photoshopped. Yelena would never lounge around with wind-blown model hair. Heading up a mysterious moss-covered staircase? That sound more like it.

But maybe I’m the only one who cares. Oh, well. xD

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

20 Feb

Monsters of Men

Author: Patrick Ness

Pages [hardcover]: 603

Memorable Quote:
To say you have no choice is to relieve yourself of responsibility

Favorite Characters:
Viola, Todd, & Lee

The third book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy!
Book 1: The Knife of Never Letting Go 
Book 2: The Ask and the Answer

Summary:

“War,” says the Mayor. “At last.” Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge – the electrifying finale to the award-winning “Chaos Walking” trilogy, Monsters of Men is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war.

Review

 This thrilling conclusion to the Chaos Walking Trilogy is nonstop action and suspense. I could barely put it down, and then only when I absolutely needed to. I’ll try to review this without giving anything away from this book, or the previous books.

I love how it’s told from all sides of the conflict, short snippets of several main character’s perspectives. I breezed through the book because one character’s section would end on a cliff-hanger, then it would switch abruptly to another and leave me with another cliff-hanger when the perspective moved back to the first character! The way the story is told reflects the confusion the characters are feeling-things are happening so quickly, it’s almost impossible to digest one development before another major plot-bomb is dropped on the reader.

I also love that throughout this entire series, not one character has been essentially ‘perfect’. Everyone has their flaws and weaknesses, diferrent hopes and dreams. Their actions show this, and I love how a character’s personally isn’t twisted to suit the plot-the plot turns because of the character. I often find it annoying when a character suddenly changes just because it’s not convenient for them to act that way anymore. These books take that thought and turn it upside-down.

I think this is one of those books that will stay with me for a long, long time. Even though it’s set in the future, on another planet, with an alien species, it still focuses on issues most prevalent today. War, love, hate, desire, and hope all reign free. Dictators, revolutionaries, and every leader in between is featured.

One last thing I’m fanatic about is the writing style. Not only how the Noise is portrayed, but the abrupt, cut off sentences that nearly replicate human thought and really conveyed the emotions of the characters.

I love the Chaos Walking Trilogy! Of course I’m sad that it’s all over…but then I can always go back and reread it! Everyone should definitely give this trilogy a chance. I give Monsters of Men 5/5 stars.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

17 Feb

Behemoth

Author: Scott Westerfeld [also wrote also wrote the Uglies trilogy [Extras], and the Midnighters trilogy [The Secret Hour, Touching Darkness, and Blue Noon]]

Pages [hardcover]: 485

Favorite Characters: Deryn and Alek

Book 2 in the Leviathan Trilogy
Book 1: Leviathan

Summary:

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan‘s peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what’s ahead.

Review:

This series is one of my favorites at the moment. I haven’t read much steampunk, and so anything in that genre is new to me. I think everything is so creative-the Clankers, the Darwinists, how everything blends into the historical setting. I also love Deryn’s girls-are-as-good-as-boys attitude, Alek’s stuck-up princeliness, and the funny little creatures the Darwinists come up with.

There are pictures scattered throughout this book, and they’re beautiful as well as helpful. At some points I’d hear a description, attempt to picture it, and fail. Turning the page, I would usually see what it was imagined to look like. And when it comes to huge machines resembling pagan godesses and monsters that can swallow a ship whole, I need a lot of help.

The point of view alternates between Deryn and Alek. I like how one person from each side of the war is selected. Each tells the story in their own biased way, and then the reader is left to decide-which is better, Darwinists or Clankers?

I personally prefer the Darwinists. I’d take wee little beasties over smelly old machines any day. ;)

Behemoth, the second installment in the Leviathan trilogy, gets 5/5 stars. I can’t wait for the third book, Goliath! I think it comes out in September…

Missing You by Meg Cabot

15 Feb

Missing You

Author: Meg Cabot [also wrote Avalon High, Size 12 is Not Fat, and Airhead]

Pages [paperback]: 288

The 5th and final book in the 1-800-Where-R-You Series!
Book 1: When Lightning Strikes Book 2: Code Name Cassandra
Book 3: Safe House Book 4: Sanctuary

Opening LinesMy name is Jessica Mastriani. You might have heard of me. It’s fine with me if you haven’t, though. In fact, I kind of prefer it that way.

Favorite Characters: Jess & Rob

Summary:

Ever since a walk home on a particularly stormy day, Jessica Mastriani has had an ability like no other. She became known worldwide as Lightning Girl — a psychic who could find the location of anyone, dead or alive. Jess finally had no choice but to embrace her newfound talent, and ended up lending her skills to the U.S. government.

But her work for them has taken a terrible toll, and Jess resurfaces months later a shadow of her former self, her powers gone, Lightning Girl no more. Her only hope is starting over in a new place, a big city where nobody knows her. It’s only when Rob Wilkins unexpectedly shows up on her doorstep that she’s forced to face her past. Rob, all the way from back home, needs her help. But how can Jess, her powers gone, find anyone, let alone the sister of a man she once loved . . . when she can’t even find herself?

Missing You, the fifth and final book in the 1-800-Where-R-You series

Review:

First off, I absolutely loved this book. When I found out it almost wasn’t written . . . Well, that would have been a bleak moment for humanity. Or, at least, for me. And probably a few other fans. I digress.

Rob and Jess . . . Rob has truly proved himself, and doesn’t let me down in this final installment. Jess is as awesome as before. Oh, how I’ll miss these characters!

The plot, like that of books 1-4, is simple, yet doesn’t drag in the slightest. Full of twists and turns, romance, and annoying siblings, this book has a bit of everything. I love the humor it’s written with-even in the most suspenseful moments, Jess can make me laugh.

This is exactly the type of book I wanted to read right now. I give Missing You 5/5 stars. It’s a quick, fun read that will satisfy every question you have about the series. You even find out about Rob’s probation. ;)

Mistwood by Leah Cypress

13 Feb

Mistwood

Author: Leah Cypress

Pages [hardcover]: 304

Memorable Quote: “Not all dangers are obvious.”

Favorite Characters: Isabel, Ven, & Rokan

Available now

Book 1 in the Mistwood series

Summary:

The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood. But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty—because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can’t help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart . . . and everything she thought she knew.

Review:

 There aren’t enough words in the English language to express how much I love this book. Seriously. I picked it up from the library, recognizing it from when I’d browsed a few blogs, and thought it might be an okay read but it was truly amazing and hooked me right into the story.

Usually I don’t like books where the main character has some form of amnesia and has no idea what’s going on or who they are. This worked perfectly for me! The plot took so many unexpected twists and turns, and I loved every twist.

One aspect of the book I adored was that romance was not the main focus. Most YA books, or books in general, have that as one of the central points. But this concentrates on Isabel, and her realization of herself.

I am so glad that this is going to be a series! I am definitely not ready to let go of these characters and look forward to reading more about them. I give Mistwood 5/5 stars. It’s an amazing book that I know I’ll continue to rave about!

Fallen Angel by Heather Terrell

9 Feb

Fallen Angel

Author: Heather Terrell

Pages [paperback]: 240

Favorite Character: Ellie

Available now!

Book 1 in the Fallen Angel Series!

Summary:

Heaven-sent?

Ellie was never particularly good at talking to boys—or anyone other than her best friend and fellow outcast, Ruth. Then she met Michael.

Michael is handsome, charming, sweet. And totally into Ellie. It’s no wonder she is instantly drawn to him. But Michael has a secret. And he knows Ellie is hiding something, too. They’ve both discovered they have powers beyond their imagining. Powers that are otherworldly.

Ellie and Michael are determined to uncover what they are, and how they got this way . . . together. But the truth has repercussions neither could have imagined. Soon they find themselves center stage in an ancient conflict that threatens to destroy everything they love. And it is no longer clear whether Ellie and Michael will choose the same side.

In this electrifying novel, Heather Terrell spins a gripping supernatural tale about true love, destiny, and the battle of good versus evil.

Review:

 I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. While so much of the YA genre is dominated with overdone fantasy couples, the relationship between Ellie and Michael was certainly refreshing. They go through this experience together, leaning on and learning from one another.

Despite the surplus of ‘angel’ novels out there, this is the first one I’ve read. I’ve nothing to compare it to, but I even if I did I wouldn’t want to. The plot is incredibly unique, twisting and turning and leaving me guessing. The end was quiet, but good in its own way.

One thing I also loved in this book was how Ellie nevers abandons her friend. In other novels, once they get the boy, the friends are dropped immediately. But this book gave me some hope. :D Because I liked Ruth, and her obsessive, over-protective ways.

I wasn’t exactly sure what Ellie was for most of the novel. But..some of the suggestions they believed were quite silly, because I already knew they couldn’t be true. xD

I give Fallen Angel 4/5 stars. It’s a great YA read that I enjoyed immensely.

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