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Review: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments Series, Book One) by Cassandra Clare

in a sentence or so: Clary sees demons. Clary battles demons. Clary's reality is turned upside down and dumped out like a backpack with all of the secrets, lies, and half-truths spilling out for her to sort through AND save her mom at the same time.

Clary and her adorable bestie Simon are at a NY dance club when she sees something suspicious. inexplicably, she decides to follow a cluster of not-so-ordinary looking teens into a back room. she surprises them almost as much as they surprise her with her ability to even see them because they are typically unseen by us ordinary folk. they are shadowhunters, and for reasons they cannot explain, Clary can see them.

slowly, Clary begins to realize how closely her fate is tied in with the shadowhunters, and just how deeply ingrained her mother is with the hidden world. not that everything her mother told her was a lie, but pretty darn close. needless to say, Clary is a bit peeved at the whole "your life is a big fat lie" thing...but it's hard to hold on to resentment when the shadowhunters are her best bet at getting back her mother who vanished in a whirlwind of mystery, lies, and demon ichor.

despite the somewhat trite premise, i was totally drawn in to the world that Clare creates.  the whole youre-not-actually-ordinary-but-actually-special thing is a bit played out in my opinion. surely there are better ways to introduce a 'normal' person into the paranormal world than the same ol', same ol'. but alas, as i said i was drawn into the world of half-angels and shadowhunters and different alliances and warlocks and the whole deal.  there was enough familiarity with the lore to sustain me with the fresh twists and unknown bits of paranormal action.

let's not overlook the love-triangle. while cute and frustrating, it did seem pretty obvious - and again trite - that she was in that predicament. she has two choices: lifelong friend or shiny paranormal boy. i was honestly more intrigued by the rest of the supporting cast. Clare creates some brooding, some sassyness, some bitchiness, and some betrayal that i could really absorb and fall in love with.

i'm curious enough to see where this series heads, so i'll keep on reading. plus, the blogosphere seems to be pretty into the series as a whole so there must be some pretty exciting stuff down the line. i loved the plot, but still feeling salty about some of the cliches. i'm hopeful that Clary starts to work outside of the box, that she does things i wouldn't do or make bad decisions or do something to show some flaw to make her feel real.

fave quote: "'Every teenager in the world feels that, feels broken or out of place, different somehow, royalty mistakenly born into a family of peasants. The difference in your case is that it's true. You are different. Maybe not better-but different. And it's no picnic being different...'" (Magnus to Clary, pg 173|351 nook version) i do value that the author took the time to highlight the cliche...

fix er up: Clary's personality on the whole was watery. sure she has hints of sassyness and determination and sketches and feelings for boys...but i felt like i never really knew her like i knew the other characters.  Clare develops the other characters through their emotional reactions and interactions, but Clary feels 2D. i wonder if it's so the reader can insert herself into the position, but it's frustrating to me that she falls into the "she doesn't know she's gorgeous and special' lead role.

title: City of Bones (Mortal Instruments Series: Book One)
author: Cassandra Clare
genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

outdo yourself reading challenge

i was JUST thinking today how bummed i was that i fell so short of my 100+ reading challenge, and thought it would be a great idea to scale it back a bit for 2011 and just try to outdo my 2010 total.

then, wouldn't you know it, The Book Vixen came along and made my morning!

she fell short of her goal to read 100, she wants to read more than 2010, and she turned it into a fun (and official) challenge. could this be more perfect for me? obvs not.

here be the deets, from her official challenge post found here.

  • Runs January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011(books read prior to 1/1/11 do not count towards the challenge). You can join at anytime. You can sign up on The Book Vixen’s blog.
  • The goal is to outdo yourself by reading more books in 2011 than you did in 2010See the different levels below and pick the one that works best for you. Nothing is set in stone; you can change levels at any time during the challenge.
  • Books can be any format (bound, eBook, audio).
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are fine.
  • You can list your books in advance or list them as you read them. It is not required that you review the books you read for this challenge but feel free to do so.
  • Post this reading challenge on your blog so you can keep a list of the books you’ve read for this challenge. Please include a link back to this post so readers can join the challenge too.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate. You can keep tabs on books you’ve read for this challenge on Goodreads or LibraryThing if you’d like (maybe make a shelf for “Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge”). If you are not on either of those sites then you can list the books you read for this challenge in the comments on my wrap-up post, which will be up at the end of 2011.

Getting my heart rate up – Read 1–5 more books
Out of breath – Read 6–10 more books
Breaking a sweat – Read 11–15 more books
I’m on fire! – Read 16+ more books

so you should TOTALLY join me. just saying.

peep my progress on the challenges page.  let's do this, 2011.


good thing it's "link a contest" thursday, hosted by Bookworming in the 21st Century.

thanks to one of my all time favorite memes, i was able to stumble upon a sweet contest hosted by DeRaps Reads!

check out the kickin' contest right here.

in other blog related news, i finished up City of Bones and shall be posting the review later today...or sometime this weekend. it's a snowy/slushy mess here in MN, so the odds are good i'll be posting it sooner rather than later.

gothic reading challenge

okay seriously, how am i supposed to resist a gothic reading challenge? i can't. so there.

join me at The Darkness Within, or find out more here.  so excited to have an excuse to read Flowers in the Attic >:)

switching it up

so after much head-scratching over whether reading Clockwork Angel before reading The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, i've dug around the trusty interwebs a bit and decided to take the author's advice. she suggest reading the books in publication order. can do, will do.

i must say, i was really digging Clockwork Angel after only 70 pages or so...for what that's worth to the blogosphere.

Review: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

in a sentence or so: well, the goblins are at it again. the little runts are busy in their underground lairs hatching a plan to kidnap cute little princess Irene to make her the newest goblin princess for prince Hairlip. little does the goblin royal family know that Irene has the help of Curdie (a very nice miner's son), her great-great-great-great-grandmother (who lives in a secret area of her attic) and Irene's own resolve to be a very good princess, indeed.

alternating between Irene's adventures and Curdie's expeditions, we find out about the goblins living in the mountain near their homes.  Irene is a princess, in the every sense of the word.  Curdie is a miner's son, a miner himself, and quite a thoughtful and caring young man really.  after Irene has an outing with Lootie, her personal nurse, that brings them much too close to a goblin grab, they meet the always helpful Curdie who saves them from the potential kidnapping and buds an intriguing relationship that will cross paths many times throughout the tale.

it becomes clear to Curdie, and to Lootie, that the goblins are after a new human princess.  since Irene's home sits right on the edge of the mountain where the goblins dwell, it's pretty obvious she's the one they're after.  the King orders his men to watch Irene and protect her, while Curdie acts on his own to find out what exactly the goblins are up to, and why.

Irene, who is blissfully unaware that she is the target of an underground snatching, stumbles upon a secret passage that leads her to a wonderful woman who identifies herself as Irene's great-great-great(etc) grandmother , and also her namesake.  Irene learns about how her grandmother sustains herself in this most bizarre area of her house, and is simply fascinated by her existence in general.  how can she be so old, yet so beautiful? how is it that no one else seems to know she lives here? why doesn't Lootie believe her when she attempts to share her discovery?

this was written as if it were being told like a story being told to a child at nighttime - which was pretty appealing and comforting, actually.  there are little interruptions and asides that are clearly for the advantage of the reader, which adds a quaint quality to the read that keeps it light and easy to connect with the characters and the narrator.

there's also a good chunk of goblin lore to sink your literary teeth into, which was quite fun to discover. for example, why those mountain-dwellers are always trying to kidnap humans as their brides, where their weaknesses are, and their aversion to human toes.

because of the intended audience being younger, there are very practical explanations for things that i truly enjoyed. like when someone behaves in a way that Irene doesn't understand (not believing her about attic-granny, for example), the characters in the story help her to discern why that is without making villains of them. the more i ponder that concept, the more i really appreciate the idea that we are able to believe certain things at certain times, and that's okay. it's not that we lose respect for those who can't share our ideas, but patiently wait for them to discover on their own, or just accept the fact that some will never share our ideas.

this was a story of courage, friendship, believing when it feels impossible, trust, and being true to yourself. i liked it a whole lot more than i thought i would, and think this is surely a classic that is a solid read for any reader.

fave quote: "The princess being fast asleep, and Curdie in a faint, she could misrepresent at her pleasure" (208). (sometimes narrator is sassy, and i adore sassy.)
fix er up: started off rather slow and trite, but it picks up and darkens and takes some interesting twists and turns to keep your interest.

title: The Princess and the Goblin
author: George MacDonald
genre: Fantasy

Review: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

in a sentence or so: Sophie, the eldest of three girls, is transformed into an old lady by the Witch of the Waste. while out and about trying to figure out what to do about this predicament, she comes upon the wizard Howl's castle. he has a reputation for eating the souls of young girls, which isn't a big deal to her now that she's an old biddy. after moving in to the castle, however, Sophie finds her fate is more intertwined with the wizard's than she could have possibly known.

Sophie Hatter is the stereotypical oldest child - responsible, expert at breaking up fights between her two sisters, and the natural choice as the apprentice for the family hat business when her dad dies and leaves the business to her stepmother.  it turns out that Sophie has quite a knack for the hat business, and her responsibilities increase as the popularity of her unique hats increases.

Sophie has heard rumors of the Witch of the Waste roaming around her town, but wizards and witches aren't anything unusual for Sophie.  her sister was sent as a magical apprentice, and who hasn't heard the stories of the wizard Howl and his devouring of girl's souls? this knowledge, however, was not enough to prevent Sophie from getting quite a nasty spell placed on her after she unknowingly offended the witch. Sophie, in addition to being an old lady now, has a touch of cabin fever from the excessive hours in the hat shop and decides to stretch her geriatric limbs. it is on this stroll she forces her way into Howl's moving castle.

Sophie meets Michael, the apprentice of Howl, and he reluctantly lets her stay and warm herself by the fire and rest a bit. no ordinary fire greets Sophie, but rather a fire demon by the name of Calcipher. Calcipher is in an agreement with Howl that he immediately asks Sophie's help breaking so he can gain his freedom. she's not so sure about all this magical business, and she's especially not sure of Howl - who turns out to be an even greater handful than she anticipated. she talks her way into staying in the castle by cleaning and helping with some mending of clothes here and there.  Sophie soon finds her place in the castle, but also finds that her fate is tied into Howl and the Witch of the Waste.

this was just meh for me. the plot alternated between cleverly revealed and plopped in your lap. the mythology was obviously thought out, but the way it was translated to the reader was not consistent.  Sophie alternated between empowered and thoughtful with immature and annoying.  i liked the overall idea of the story, the world Jones created, and the idea of the characters...but it just fell flat for the most part. there were some twists or plot points that gave the read some significant bumps on the interest scale, but that definitely ebbed and flowed with clunky parts.

fave quote: "'Dead?' said Sophie. She had a silly impulse to add, But she was alive an hour ago! And she stopped herself, because death is like that; people are alive until they die." (pg 253)

fix er up: some consistency with Sophie's character and the plot would have made a HUGE difference.

title: Howl's Moving Castle
author: Diana Wynne Jones
genre: Fantasy

off the shelf reading challenge

can you see a theme with my latest challenges? e-book AND off the shelf? i'm trying to get through the books i have without adding to the piles! hopefully these challenges will help. you're welcome, hubby.

you should totally join me in reading those books you bought and just haven't gotten around to reading by joining the challenge hosted by Bookish Ardour right here. i'll be joining at the 'trying' level. bring it, 2011.

e-book reading challenge 2011 - let's do it.

i'm all about the reading challenges, these days!  i'll be joining in on this sweet challenge hosted by The Ladybug Reads at the "Obsessed Level". find out more, and join me, here. here's to getting more out of my Nook in 2011!

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

in a sentence or so: Sam is caught in a seemingly endless loop of the last day of her life. how will can she make all the right choices on her last day on earth, in order to undo the damage she caused and save herself?

Sam is a popular girl.  February 12th starts off pretty standard. coffee and bagels with the besties, ignoring the inferiors, shrugging off the affection of Kent, and generally being a bitch to those outside of her circle.  Sam's internal monologue is just as brash and cold as the things she says. this is not your secretly nice popular girl...this is your standard popular girl.  the only thing out of the ordinary is that February 12th =  Cupid Day - the day she is planning to go all the way with her hunky boyfriend Rob.

Sam's day involves several interactions that she will soon relive again and again. she sees a boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend. she treats her former childhood best friend, Kent, like the dork he is. she flirts unabashedly with her English teacher. she makes fun of Juliet, the school psycho. pretty standard, really. but that night, after a party where her best friend Lindsay drives them home, there is a swerve, a crash, and then she wakes up...on Cupid Day.

okay so the idea of this was a little meh for me.  however, the cover was pretty cute, and i had heard good things on the blog circuit, so i gave it a shot. SO glad i did.  Sam starts to pick and choose what to do with her interactions on her last day - some for better, some for worse.  she's convinced that if she finds the right combination, she'll be able to save herself.  if nothing else, save herself from this ridiculous time loop she's caught in.

the tricky part is, what does making things "right" look like? what things does she need to fix, and what things should stay the same?  and even though she has Cupid Day to fix again and again...there are years of regret that she can't take back.

eventually, what truly matters to Sam comes into focus and she grows to appreciate the important pieces of her life.  some of these were quite obvious, but i was truly surprised by some of the more non-traditional answers that surfaced. specifically, with her 3 best friends. i really like that she was only able to undo the damage of one day - and the magnitude of her actions for years began to weigh on her. but instead of spending her time trying to undo all her mistakes, she focuses on what she can and making a difference with that day she's been given to do it again.

with the exception of the very first day of doing it all again, i thought Oliver did a great job creating a forward momentum within a story that was on repeat.  i loved the slow revealing of the layers of Sam, and her friends, through different interactions and memories.  while the cover has zero to do with the book, it did draw me in...so i'm thankful for that. however, this was much better than i expected, and is one that i would definitely recommend to readers who enjoyed Elsewhere and Shattering Glass.

fave quote: "I'm angry at Elody for dragging me back here and at Ally for always being so clueless.  I'm angry at Rob for not caring how upset I am, and I'm angry at Kent for caring." (pg 74) something about the absolute angst in that statement made me smirk.

fix er up: i know it had to be this way, but i did get a little -__- with some of the repetition.  Oliver does a pretty good job attaching different responses or reactions to the same events that occur over and over, but there were paragraphs here and there i definitely skimmed.

title: Before I Fall
author: Lauren Oliver
genre: Death, Friendship

reading challenge

well, as it turns out i'm kind of fail at reading challenges. i still love them, and the idea of them, and this one was right up my nerdy alley.

Sab, over at YA Bliss, is hosting a reading challenge i just can't resist.  here's more information, from her blog (entire post here: http://www.yabliss.com/2010/11/ya-historical-fiction-challenge.html)
I'm hosting this challenge hoping readers will embrace this awesome genre within YA that is full of outstanding books and many upcoming releases. I will have exclusive giveaways for participants during the year. Lets see how it goes and I will post again with updates. Share the word! (feel free to grab the image as button)

Historical fiction: tells a story that is set in the past. That setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the principal characters tend to be fictional. Writers of stories in this genre, while penning fiction, attempt to capture the spirit, manners, and social conditions of the persons or time(s) presented in the story, with due attention paid to period detail and fidelity. (Wikipedia)

UPDATE! Some Lists:
- My Amazon YA Historical Fiction list
- New YA Historical Fiction 2011
- My Goodreads Historical Fiction shelf here! 
- Time Line with YA Historical titles post-Civil War 

Choose your level:

Level 1: 5 YA HF books in 2011
Level 2: 10 YA HF books in 2011
Level 3: 15 YA HF books in 2011

join me, won't you? 

Review: Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi

in a sentence or so: Marji leaves behind her family, her country, and her friends to begin a new life in Europe. while Marji does discover a whole new experience, she has an excruciating time discovering herself in a world of strangers.

Marji arrives in Vienna and has a few obstacles to overcome immediately.  first, the family she is supposed to stay with bumps her out, due to lack of space (and obvious relational conflicts).  she bounces from place to place, fitting in marginally here and there, trying to balance who she is and who she wants to become.

as she begins to grow older, she tries to assimilate into her surroundings.  this prompts a guilty conscience and a challenging existence while she is away from Iran.  in addition to attempts of fitting in socially, Marji is confronted with all the other joys of awkward adolescence without her family support system, or friends who truly care about her.

Marji consistently sells herself short during her time in Vienna.  she left at age 14 to a country she didn't know, leaving behind her entire family and social system, and has a difficult time adjusting.  in addition to the cultural shifts, she's dealing with body issues and searching for meaning.

something i loved about Persepolis 2 was reading about Marji's relationships with boys.  her first heartbreak was something i could easily relate to, but ultimately i appreciated her reflections after the fact.  i wish that girls could be self aware and take care of themselves first...but it's so easy to see how Marji (and the rest of us) fall in love and forget ourselves.

ultimately, Persepolis 2 asks the question 'where and how do we find attachment and meaning while being totally authentic to who we are'?  Marji was stuck in a cycle of associating self worth with her identity.  if she could only know who she really is, she would feel happy about herself.  however, she doesn't feel worthy of who she was raised to be, and so is trying to find a new identity.  the cycle stews her in confusion, shame, and a strong desire to become happy and whole.

staying true to herself was always at the core of Marji's struggle.  while it's painful at times to read her journey through her confusion and frustration and heartbreak, i loved Marji's voice and her honesty with everything. you really get a sense of who she becomes by reading about who she was before she got there.  i typically detest memoirs and try to avoid them...but this one slipped through. probably because i'd seen the movie first, i figured i'd at least enjoy the read. and while i did enjoy the movie, i loved reading about Marjane so much more than i expected.

fave quote: "The harder I tried to assimilate, the more I had the feeling that I was distancing myself from my culture, betraying my parents and my origins, that I was playing a game by somebody else's rules" (193)

fix er up: i would like to know what happens to Marjane after the conclusion of the read...but i suppose there's the internet for that sort of thing.  Persepolis was more about her childhood and growth into adulthood, and not so much her confidence in adulthood.

title: Persepolis 2 (read from The Complete Persepolis)
author: Marjane Satrapi
genre: Coming of Age, Memoir, Graphic Novel

Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

in a sentence or so: Nailer knows what's expected of him on light crew. crawl in, get the quota of copper wire, get out. oh yeah, and if you're too big (which Nailer is getting dangerously close to being by the way), you'll get replaced. good luck with that.

Nailer is on light crew. which essentially means Nailer is responsible for stripping the copper wiring off of old tankers in the Gulf of Mexico and getting them to his boss, who then sells them off.  the good thing about being on a crew, however, is the loyalty.  you take an oath to be there for each other and protect each other in the metal hulk of a death chamber you're crawling around in blindly.  the only problem is, not everyone is able to keep that oath. especially over the temptation of the biggest chance at wealth they've ever seen.

the Fates smile upon Nailer by dropping him into an oil pit inside of a tanker. okay, so it might not seem like such a great thing, but he COULD have made a ton of cash off of the deal if he had been able to get it out secretly.  as it was, he almost died. he lives, however, just in time for a city-killer (monster hurricane) to come right towards his beach and wipe out just about everything he owns...which isn't saying much really.  it does provide Nailer the opportunity to realize that he's beginning to outgrow his purpose.  he knows he's getting close to being too big for light crew, but is still too small for heavy crew.  he's also beginning to feel a stirring in his gut that there is something out there, waiting for him to act.  he's outgrown his purpose on light crew, and he's beginning to outgrow his life on the beach.

the city-killer does provide a much needed respite from the light crew grind, and an excellent opportunity for fresh scavenge.  while he's out with Pima, the loyal tomboy, they discover a clipper ship. now - this is a big deal in terms of potential scavenge, but an even bigger deal given Nailer's downright obsession with the sea beauties.  Nailer and Pima are thanking the Fates for their good fortune, yet again, when they stumble upon a dead swank (rich girl) in their plundering. but the worst part is...she's not actually dead.

Nailer, Pima, and Nita (swank girl) are forced to make collective decisions that will impact their immediate future and safety.  they have only each other to rely on, surrounded by a thick cloud of greed and lies.  Nita promises Nailer and Pima a way out of this life...but can she actually deliver?  If Nailer and Pima killed Nita right now, they'd have enough scavenge to buy their way out of the ship breaking business forever...but could they live with their consciences?  as they struggle with what to do, the decision is ripped out of their hands by the scariest, meanest, most drug-rattled man they know - Nailer's dad.

the adventure that ensues from the discovery is pretty darn exciting. i won't give away any spoilers by going into detail, but the author does a nice job of balancing the internal conflict within Nailer with the ongoing fast paced plot.  the characters are forced into making tough decisions over and over and over, without there ever being a clear good option for them.  they must take risks to survive.  Nailer leaves his microcosm of the beach to branch out into the world and to patiently wait for whatever comes next.  living the adventure through Nailer's voice was thoughtful, exciting, and quaint.  i loved his voice, and his dialog was sometimes hilarious, but always sincere and authentic.

there was an ongoing theme of wealth vs. worth.  set in a dystopian future, wealth is hard to come by for Nailer and a majority of the people living in the Gulf Coast area.  wealth is the way out of the slums. wealth is the way to power and respect. slowly but surely, the idea of worth starts to come to focus in Nailer's mind. those he can count on, and those he can't. those who act from what they believe is best, and those who act out of greed.  it's an ugly world that Nailer's living in, and he's in the center of a most ugly mess.

fave quote: "Why did they give up?" Nailer asked. "Sometimes people learn," Tool said. (page 203) (by the way, Tool is a halfman, which means he's part dog, part lion, and part human. they were genetically engineered to protect people or something and they are SO COOL...and scary).

fix er up: the ending, while solid, did feel a bit rushed to me.  i don't mean the events leading up to the ultimate conclusion...but the conclusion itself left me feeling "...oh."

title: Ship Breaker (#1)
author: Paolo Bacigalupi
genre: Dystopian, Coming of Age

Review: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

in a sentence or so: a smart, thoughtful, witty, and quite imaginative young girl growing up in Iran in the early 80s faces the challenges of growing up in an oppressive, confusing regime...and growing up a smart, thoughtful, and witty girl in general.

the comic opens with a short history on Iran, and then launches into meeting young Marji being forced to wear a veil at school. at first, the idea is laughable and the girls make light of the imposed restriction.  over time, however, it becomes clear that Iran is in a huge transition period that will result in many more changes coming their way - even as 8 year olds.

the read balances a narrative of what's going on in Iran at the time through her personal experiences (uncles, friends of family, etc) with her growth from childhood to adolescence.  Marji's exposer to violence through familial experience and stories initially breeds confusion, misinformation, and fear.  as a child, we can see her reacting as a child might - with repeating information verbatim to appear expert on the subject. however, even at a young age she is fearful and confused of the life spinning around her.

there are times that Marji mentions friends, but the core of the narrative centers around her family or close family friends (friends of her parents).  it's clear that she holds her family on a higher level of importance and sees the world through them as her lens.  specifically, her uncle Anoosh, makes an immediate and lasting impact on her personally as well as how she views the events happening around her.

the themes of death and forgiveness were highlighted for me.  her talk of death is genuine and sincere, but not romanticized in any way.  similar to those who experience death on a more frequent basis than most, there is almost an acceptance that it will happen - but that does not lessen the pain or significance of the loss.

as for forgiveness, this is an idea that Marji constantly comes back to.  her mother and father seem flippant or resistant to the idea of forgiveness (as they are more world-wise), but as a child Marji was taught to forgive, and so she struggles with this idea as she sees the shift in power, nationally and locally, and the abuse of that power to hurt those she loves.  the frustration of events in her life, and how she is supposed to react to these events, is a constant internal monologue for her.

it was fun to watch Marji grow from an 8 year old to a 14 year old girl in the book. both with her self developments and intra-personal relationships as well as the physical depiction of herself.  the story in itself is incredible and thoughtful, and the comic illustrations add another layer for the reader to connect and identify with.  sometimes she will state that she was sad or frustrated, and other times you look at the frame to gain insight as to her emotion...i like that a lot.  i appreciated her depiction of herself growing up and her different stages.  she doesn't discount or dismiss any emotions or experiences as insignificant, but allows them to stack up and shape her story.

having seen the movie already, i knew much of what to expect (but not all).  i am excited to continue the journey with Marji in Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.

fave quote: "In life, you'll meet a lot of jerks. If they hurt you, tell yourself that it's because they're stupid.  That will help you from reacting to their cruelty.  Because there is nothing worse than bitterness and vengence...always keep your dignity and be true to yourself." (150)

fix er up: the pace of the book was quick, and at times i felt like the emotional behind some events bordered on nonchalance due to how fast we were moving.

title: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
author: Marjane Satrapi
genre: Coming of Age, Memoir, Graphic Novel/Comic

Review: Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking Trilogy, Book Three) by Patrick Ness

in a sentence or so: War is here.  War with the Spackle, war with each other, and ultimately war with one's self.

the first book in this trilogy featured only Todd’s voice.  the second had Todd and Viola's voices.  and fittingly so, the third has three voices. i won't spoil anything by saying who the third voice is, only that it's very fitting and symmetrical. don't worry - no spoilers here (okay from books 1 and 2 but if you haven't read those yet i don't know what you've been doing with your life).

book two leaves us off with an impending Spackle attack.  which of course presents many interesting problems for New Prentisstown (who is already fighting a civil war with the terrorist women who call themselves The Answer"), the most challenging of which is will they fight a two front war, or unite against a common enemy?  who can be trusted? surely not the Mayor after his repeated lies and deceit...but he is clearly the most skilled leader in battle. surely not Mistress Coyle after she sent Viola on a suicide mission without her knowledge...but she is clearly the most skilled at peacemaking.  more tough decisions present themselves for Todd and Viola, and none of them have a clear answer.

the narrators alternate quickly and with cliffhangers like you wouldn't believe.  this crreats an abrupt and slightly disjointed reading style, which would of course mimic the tone and plot of the book - overwhelming and uncertain.  because war is so much of the focus, it makes sense that Ness creates a non-stop pace where the narrators are constantly rotating while so much remains unknown. Ness takes elements of war and translates that directly to the reader's experience of the events.

perhaps more directly referenced in this book than the other two is the commentary on religion vs. spirituality. many of Todd and Viola's most painful moments were inside the walls of a church, or due to a preacher.  Aaron (the horrid-face-eaten-off-crazy-man from book 1) was a preacher, and was ultimately killed inside of a church where HE was trying to push Todd to kill him.  there are no religious leaders left in the New World that we encounter, which seems a bit counterintuitive since rural areas tend to be more open to organized religion.  however, while organized religion seems to be something manipulated for the worst in the New World, the ultimate connection to each other and to the earth is Noise.  the way for individuals to get in tune with the Noise (spirituality) is to NOT control it, but to simply BE a part of it.  when leaders try to harness that power, or try to interpret that power for their own gain is when it is twisted and hurtful.

redemption is a theme explored throughout the series, but receives special emphasis in this book.  Mistress Coyle, the Mayor, and also Todd and Viola each have their own personal journeys to make, and ultimately it will be the choices they make that redeem them or lose them forever.

the ultimate conclusion of the story was fulfilling.  so much was left for the imagination, but enough of the loose ends were tied up so that it didn’t feel like a cop out.  Ness creates a world that is full of chaos, but also full of absolute beauty.  it is truly incredible to me that, through three significantly different voices, he is able to portray the awe and wonder of Noise and the world of Todd and Viola. i would be lying if i said i wasn't totally emotionally exhausted after reading the entire series, but it is the best kind of emotional exhaustion.  i was so invested in Todd and Viola, and in the world that Ness created.  this is, hands down, one of my favorite reads of all time. 

fave quote: "And I see how black the eyes of the Mayor are, how echoey his voice is becoming - 'The world is eating me alive, Todd', he says. 'This world and the information in it. It's too much. Too much to control.'" (558)

fix er up: nothing. this was heartbreaking, beautiful, exciting, thoughtful, insightful, funny and clever though and through. 

title: Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking Trilogy: Book III)
author: Patrick Ness
genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Lisa's Faves

re-read of The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer

The Knife of Never Letting Go - re-read thoughts:
Fell in love with the characters easier than before, but watching their evolution and growth was even more intense and meaningful. The slow, patient, development was clearly intentional and pays off in a huge way to sustain the interest of the reader.
Even with the sad parts I KNEW were coming…I couldn’t help but bawl. In fact, perhaps even more so because I knew the implications and the way the characters would internalize, but also grow, from that pain. I think experiencing the hope and disappointment with them all over again gave me – if possible – an even greater appreciation for the writing.
Something new to me this time was all the emphasis on becoming a man/being a man. Now, as a woman I am not inherently aware of this being a big issue, but the author certainly drives that point home as a major issue for Todd.  So more so than just a coming-of-age, it’s a becoming-a-man tale…which is something I think probably appeals strongly to male readers as something they can relate to/remember. 
I had forgotten, perhaps because of all of the other glowing memories of this read, the insightful musings of Todd. How he verbalizes life lessons, self awareness, and the way in which he processes is absolutely fascinating while being totally endearing. It’s not just that he’s experiencing “truth” for the first time, but it‘s how his personality interacts with that experience that take reading about him from enjoyable to downright incredible.

The Ask and the Answer - re-read thoughts:
I’ve heard that the Achilles heel of the middle book of a trilogy is that it often presents a problem that is resolved purely to keep the focus on ultimate resolution for book three, and doesn’t really impact any of the major plot points or character development.  While I will need to read book 3 to verify if the plot aspects are true, I definitely feel that the character development was crucial in book 2.  We find out more of who the Mayor (president) is, who Davy is, and truly who Todd and Viola are. 
I love that TAatA mirrors the holocaust or other similar events in history. Ness cleverly weaves a story that is so reflective of history, while immersing you inside it all.  The leaders are varying shades of gray, there are no clear decisions, and there is so much pain and frustration for those who just want it all to go back to what it was like before.
There are characters that act how you expect them to just as there are those you wish would act differently, and I really like that. I like being frustrated with the characters because it makes them so much  more real and the story so much richer.
The relationship between Todd and Viola becomes more mature, not merely romantic, but more developed and adult than in book 1.  Their thoughts on each other and their need for each other is beautiful to read about and to be a part of.

just a heads up

my hubby and i recently moved, started new jobs, and are in transition. so - while i am still reading (perhaps at an even greater pace than this summer...oiye), it may be awhile between reviews.

oh, and we can't get internet in our home...so i can only access sweet lady interwebz from hubby's work at nighttime...

sorry for the delays! but look forward to reading my review of Monsters of Men as soon as i'm done rereading The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer. which by the way might be the greatest books i've read in the past 5 years. not even kidding.  i am so emotionally wrapped up all over again!

thanks for your patience, world.

Review: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book 1) by Stephen King

in a sentence or so: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed"

I've never read a Stephen King book, so I had no idea what to expect.  But I HAD heard that The Dark Tower series was unlike King's other books anyway...so make that doubly unsure of what to expect.  That first line was an absolute hook for me - and the tension and pace sustained throughout the read.

I appreciated the mysterious tone and the slow unraveling of purpose, while still maintaining many unanswered questions throughout the journey.  The internal reflections of the gunslinger were perhaps my most favorite.  His thoughts on a knife, and how that is merely a tool that man turns into a weapon that then seeps their being, was totally mind boggling and insightful for me.

Because I feel like much of the enjoyment for me was the total mystery, I will not reveal the plot or characters too much.  Just let it suffice to say that the journey with the gunslinger for the man in black was incredible.  The reasons for the chase, the characters that pop up throughout the chase, and the social commentary dripped in by King created a captivating read.  The hybrid of western/sci-fi was tastefully done, and I'm pretty excited to delve into the rest of the series.

fave quote: it's from page 57 about the knife...but unfortunately it was a library book that I no longer have on hand...

fix er up: Perhaps it's because I read this book over a month ago and cannot remember the finer points, but I cannot think of anything I would change...I really liked "The Gunslinger" that much.

title: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower I)
author: Stephen King
genre: western, mystery, sci-fi

Review: Generation Dead (Generation Dead Series #1) by Daniel Waters

in a sentence or so: The differently biotic (more commonly known as zombies) are becoming an increasing presence at Phoebe's high school. Already a little different herself, Phoebe decides to align herself with learning more and advocating for zombie rights - despite a growing threat from those who would wish them to die...again.

Phoebe is your typical goth girl - dark hair, dark music, dark poetry.  Her secret best friend, Adam, is the hunky boy-next-door football player who is clearly in love with her.  Well, clear to everyone BUT Phoebe, of course.  Then there's Margi - Phoebe's best goth gal pal.  Between the three of them, they are carving out a pretty typical high school experience.  And by typical, I mean questioning the social structure, the basis of their relationships with people outside of their trio, and trying to do what is right even when it is extremely unpopular...and potentially life-threatening.

When an opportunity from an institution claiming to promote the differently biotic rights arises, Phoebe, Margi, and Adam all sign up - albeit for very different reasons.  What results is an increased awareness for all of them about the zombies - who they are, where they live, what life is like for them - as well as social shifts in their school and threats on their lives they could not have foreseen.  As if aligning with zombies isn't dangerous enough for them, Phoebe and Tommy Williams (zombie hottie #1) begin dating...

Ultimately, this beginning to the series is a balance of teenage relationship drama with prejudice and acceptance of outsiders.  Clearly, there are some similarities between the zombies and other groups that have been discriminated against in the past - and I believe that is the author's intent.  While not the highest caliber of writing, the author did hold my interest and helped me invest in the characters he created.  Not surprisingly from a male author, I appreciated the voice of Adam the most and thought his humor and charisma shined.

I really dug the love triangles, the family dynamics, the social commentary, and the way the tension between the supporters of the differently biotic and the zombie-haters amplified to a gasp-worthy conclusion.  I will definitely be checking out the next books in this series.

Fave quote: "Was it possible for any girl, living or dead, to be sane for more than a few hours at a time?" (254)
Fix er up: There were chunks in the book where I felt like the story wasn't progressing as quickly as I would have liked...but it did allow for the author to more deeply develop the individual characters and their home lives.

Title: Generation Dead (Generation Dead Series #1)
Author: Daniel Waters
Genre: Drama, Zombies, Problem Novel

Review: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

in a sentence or so: Liz dies in a hit-and-run, wakes up on a cruise ship, and discovers she has an entirely
new life to live. Welcome to Elsewhere.

Liz isn't exactly crazy about the idea of being dead.  She's only 16, which means she never went to prom, had her first kiss, went to college...basically anything she was looking forward to in life.  Sure, live in Elsewhere may include many of the things she loved while on Earth - animals, friends, rock stars - but it's not the same without her family and best friend.

After moving in with her grandmother (who is now younger than her mother), Liz spends hours watching her family back home and desperately tries to keep up with everything going on in their life. Of course, she can't - and trying only makes her more miserable. Finally, after much pushing and persuading on behalf of those who care for Liz on Elsewhere, she decides to let go and live her dead life...whatever that may mean.

I loved Zevin's idea of the afterlife. A life lived backwards, and the implications of that idea, were well explored and developed.  The ideas of loss and rebirth, philosophical but not pretentious, all centered in the core of relationships was beautiful and challenging.

Liz's voice was brooding and angsty, but self aware and open for growth with a touch of humor and sarcasm that was just perfect.    The process of letting go from Liz's perspective and from her family's perspectives were beautifully done and brought many a tear to my eye.  The quirks and small details of families and relationships helped create a genuine connection between Liz and the reader, and helped the overall impact of this read to soak in deeply.

fave quote: "...I think of it like a tree, because every tree is really two trees.  There's the tree with the branches that everyone sees, and then there's the upside-down root tree growing the opposite way.  So Earth is the branches, growing up into the sky, and Elsewhere is the roots, growing down in opposing but perfect symmetry..." (109)

fix er up: Liz was a little angsty for too long, in my opinion.

title: Elsewhere
author: Gabrielle Zevin
genre: Death, Friendship

Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

in a sentence or so: Colin is a recent high school graduate, former child prodigy, and freshly dumped by his 19th Katherine.  there was never a better time for a road trip with his best friend to try and work on the theory of relationships, to get over his latest Katherine, and move on.

being a prodigy has led to certain quirks in Colin.  for one, he loves creating anagrams out of words.  he reads constantly, deals with a good bit of social awkwardness, and is desperately wanting his very own 'eureka' moment.  when he is dumped by the 19th Katherine he's dated (he only dates Katherine's, actually), the opportunity for his eureka moment arrives - The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability. the theorem will predict the future of any relationship, including who is the dumper and the dumpee.

deciding a road trip is the best way to recover from a bad breakup, and a way to avoid registering for college classes, Colin's best friend Hassan gets them on the road.  along their path they discover a small town named Gutshot which promises the grave of Archduke Ferdinand (which seems odd, considering it's in Tennessee).  while the grave is kind of a bust, they do meet Lindsey Lee Wells and become quickly absorbed in the Gutshot way of life. settling down sooner than they expected, Hassan and Colin are in the process of exploring the unknown, and discovering who they are and what they want from life.

i absolutely adored Looking for Alaska, and i had super high hopes for my second John Green novel. i was not let down.  i really dig having a male main character as the person to relate to in the plot, and the humor and wit in the teenage dialog was both fun and genuine.

i appreciated journeying with Colin through his heartbreak, his history with the Katherines, and slowly uncovering who he is and what he wants.  it was an intimate, and always hilarious, novel of self discovery and friendship. this is a read that comes off as light, but is deceivingly thoughtful and creative. it had the feel of meeting a new friend who recalls their crazy summer to you - personal, conversational, hilarious, and meaningful.

fave quote: "The act of leaning in to kiss someone, or asking to kiss them, is fraught with the possibility of rejection, so the person least likely to get rejected should do the leaning or the asking.  And that person, at least in high-school heterosexual relationships, is definitely the girl.  Think about it: boys, basically, want to kiss girls. Guys want to make out. Always. Hassan aside, there's rarely a time when a boy is thinking, 'Eh, I think I'd rather not kiss a girl today.' Maybe if a guy is actually, literally on fire, he won't be thinking about hooking up. But that's about it.  Whereas girls are very fickle about the business of kissing. Sometimes they want to make out; sometimes they don't. They're an impenetrable fortress of unknowability, really." (76)

fix er up: the theorem, while super cool, resolved itself in a very odd way.  and i don't mean plotwise, i mean that the theorem's actual (avoiding spoilers here) resolution was unsatisfactory for me.

title: An Abudance of Katherines
author: John Green
genre: adventure, coming of age, friendship

Review: Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb

in a sentence or so: Mia's mom was diagnosed with cancer and died two weeks later. now Mia, her sister
Alex, and their dad are bumbling through their lives, trying to cure their heartbreak.

Mia and her mom were close. they had all of their favorite things in common - shopping, makeup, talking about anything and everything - and they spent much of their time together.  so when her mom's whirlwind of an illness suddenly removes her from the picture, Mia is lost. her sister Alex isn't much help. she's a tomboy in the most extreme sense and is off for college in a few months...which just leaves Mia and her unkempt, socially awkward dad.

this is a story about moving on, without letting go. Mia discovers more about her mother through stories her father shares and ones that she reflects upon in her past. she realizes that while her mother is gone, there are pieces of her that she never knew. that new discoveries about the person she loves so dearly are still possible.

Mia's observations about people and her grieving process are quirky. always starting shallow (physical descriptions) and then on to other traits - endearing or otherwise.  Mia is sarcastic, flawed, bumbling, wounded, hopeful, and devoted.

i read a titch of the notes at the end, and discovered this is a quasi-memoir. which makes a lot of sense - since some of the details felt unnecessary (they were a non-practicing Jewish family, set in the late 1980s, etc).  and some of the frustrations i had - the grief felt insincere, the random appearance of a best friend, the shifts in personality - are consistent with my experience with memoirs.  there was a lack of patient development or exploration into these different areas, partially because with a memoir - it's so personal that it's hard to remember the audience isn't moving at the same pace as the author who lived it.

this is a story about readjusting your life after loss, coming to terms with who people really are, and...boys. i mean, Mia is 15 and all, so boys are still kind of a big priority. there's some funny encounters that are worth the read.  just don't expect to really get cures for heartbreak...just explore Mia's life post-mother.

fave quote: "If grief had a permanence, then didn't also love?" (150 | 159 Nook version)

fix er up: i was surprised at the balance of grief with very ordinary life. i would have appreciated more exploration into Mia's grief. her character felt a bit 2 dimensional.

title: Cures for Heartbreak
author: Margo Rabb
genre: Death, Coming of Age

Review: The Boyfriend List (Ruby Oliver Quartet) by E. Lockhart

in a sentence or so: Lia's got a bad case of panic attacks. it could be because her friends aren't talking to her. or because she inadvertently gained a reputation as a slut.  or it could be because her boyfriend (who she was totally in love with) dumped her for her best friend...

Lia starts going to see a therapist, after her first panic attack in front of her parents (actually, her third panic attack total).  she'd been trying to keep her life together as best as she could. but really, her life has been a lot to handle lately.  Lia and Kim were best friends for years, and then all of the sudden, that's gone. her friendship with her other friends - gone. her social status - gone. not just unpopular, but a total leper. that's thanks to Lia's therapist, who suggested she make a boyfriend list, to try to get at the root of her panic attacks. although, it was Lia's fault to throw away the list (which weren't all boyfriends, by the way) that had her name on it where anyone could grab it and make a zillion xerox copies of it.

we get an analysis of Lia's actions through therapy, which allows us to see her grow.  each chapter is a title of a different 'boyfriend', and so we get some back story along with some current plot development at the same time. the multiple timelines work seamlessly, as if you're having a conversation with a friend.  the footnotes were a fun break from the narrative and supports the familiarity between Lia and the reader.  you feel like you really know her, and what she's about.

i appreciated the lack of a fairy tale ending, however abrupt.  this was light, easy to relate to, and had some fun (and good) advice about friends, relationships, and life. a fun and light read i'd recommend to girls, for sure.

fave quote: "It's all a lie. When you hate someone you used to love, and you think he's done something awful--he probably has. You're not going to love him again. He's not going to apologize, or come back to you. He probably doesn't ever think about you at all, because he's too busy thinking about someone else. Face it. There's not going to be a happy ending...at least not with this hero." (50 | 174 Nook edition)

fix er up: the ending came all of the sudden for me - partially because i'm using an e-reader (and couldn't really tell when the end of the book was) and partially because the resolution was not what i expected at all and left me wanting more closure.

title: The boyfriend list
author: E. Lockhart
genre: Chick Lit, Drama

Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

in a sentence or so: Lia and Cassie are friends. were friends, back in the day. back in the day where they obsessed about weight, being the thinnest, most beautiful, most dedicated. Cassie is found dead, alone, in a hotel room and Lia's world falls apart...if it was ever really together.

Lia's anorexic. Cassie is/was bulimic. they drifted apart over the years, mainly because Cassie's parents thought Lia was a bad influence. you can't blame them really, she was. what they didn't know was Cassie was suffering with or without Lia. they try to make sense of her death while Lia tries to get on with her life...which isn't easy considering Cassie's ghost is haunting her. encouraging her to keep getting thinner. fight harder. work longer to join her forever.

there is some mystery in here - how Cassie died, what Lia did/didn't have to do with it.  mostly this is an in depth examination of eating disorders.  the writing is raw, intense, emotional, vivid, and haunting.  we get the first person perspective of Lia's struggle, and are with her every step of the way - forward or backward.

the family dynamics were loosely established, but enough so for us to get an idea of Lia's life inside and outside her head.

ultimately, this showcased Halse Anderson's lyrically intense and emotionally charged writing and an expose of eating disorders. i felt like the plot - while solid and mostly interesting - was merely a background to the character study.  all in all, i recommend this as an excellent ya read, from an amazing writer.

fave quote: "The pills I took an hour ago bang through my veins like metal trash cans blowing down the street.  The snakes in my head wake up, slither down my brain stem, and snap at the dozing vultures.  The birds flap their nightwings once, twice, three times, and circle high in the air.  Their shadows blot out the sun." (181, Nook version)

fix er up: i would have liked a bit more plot/mystery/development with minor characters from time to time.

author: Laurie Halse Anderson
genre: Death, Edgy

Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

in a sentence or so: Tessa has a list of things she wants to do while she's alive. things like drugs, sex,
breaking the law, becoming famous, seeing her parents get back together and falling in love. the problem is, she's dying. fast.

Tessa is a fifteen year old who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was eleven. all of the treatments and blood transfusions have stopped working, and Tessa has accepted the inevitable. she's going to die. probably within the year. her dad is devoted to her and is doing his part to make her happy and as healthy as possible. her younger brother Cal (who is quite a magician) chats casually with her about her death and illness as if it were the weather.  Tessa's mom floats in and out of all of their lives, the free spirit that she is.

after a night out with her best friend Zoey, Tessa throws one of many to come tantrums and decides to destroy all of her things. lucky for her, neighbor boy Adam is burning a pile of leaves. her destruction of personal possessions opens the door to the new, even if doomed, relationship with (literally) the boy next door.

at first, i was hesitant to enjoy this read. Tessa was really difficult to like. she was bratty, bitchy, petty, unkind, and frustrating. yes - i know she has leukemia and is dying and so her difficult voice was intentionally intense, but still. it was hard for me. and the supporting characters felt flimsy for a good chunk of the read. but somewhere before the middle, the plot found it's rhythm.

Tessa's progression through her 'before i die' list was more of a backdrop than a driving literary device.  we slowly learn more about Tessa and her friends/fam/new romance in a very patient fashion.  bits and pieces, never a whole slice.  and i liked that.

the writing was tender, emotive, and vivid. Tessas internal reflections were insightful without being overly dramatic.  while i never grew to love her voice, i did grow to love Tessa's story. this book poses some big questions, big ideas, and big thoughts on life, death, love, friendship, family, and what it means to be fully present in the moment.

fave quote: "I bury these things in my heart - the fel of him under my fingers, the taste of him on my mouth.  I'll need them, like talismans, to survive an impossible journey." (347 | 442 Nook version)

fix er up: difficult to get in to, but like i mentioned above, the book really hits it's stride about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way in. it's worth the wait.

title: Before I Die
author: Jenny Downham
genre: Death, Family, Realistic

Review: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

in a sentence or so: Remy has strict rules when it comes to relationships. her trusty timeline tells her when
to speed up, when to slow down, and when to call it off. and then comes along gangly, loose-ends Dexter who threatens to unravel her break-up scientific equation.

Remy is used to being the adult in her household. her mother, who is currently working on marriage number five, has the artist free-spirit as a romance novelist.  and i don't mean marriage number five in a slutty way, but as in the first four didn't work out so she moved on kind of way.

Remy is also the moderator for her 3 best friends. without her to run interference and keep emotions and intentions in check, they would pretty much dissolve into non-stop arguments.

so while Remy is waiting to chat with husband #5, Don, about the wedding plans the summer before she leaves for college across the country, along comes Dexter. not Remy's type at all - he's a musician, he's gangly, and a bit awkward.  but, as time would show, totally funny and a constant optimist.  seemingly unable to avoid Dexter (who does come on a bit strong, but not creepy strong - more persistent strong), Remy gives in and starts up her tried and true relationship timeline. just as you might expect, the timeline isn't quite fitting with Dexter. or maybe Dexter isn't quite fitting the strict timeline that has kept Remy's life in balance...which is really crappy timing, considering she is leaving for Stanford in a matter of weeks.

This Lullaby reads like a collection of musings on relationships and love.  all of the characters have different points of view, and we get to have a peek at them through their conversations and the turn of events in the plot.  the read felt very romantic comedy in that way - in that Remy and Dexter were supported by a broad (yet developed) cast of friends and family who were always willing to share their insights into love.

i can understand why there are some Sarah Dessen hard core fans out there.  the lady knows how to weave words in a powerful and poetic way.  i also enjoyed Remy's evolution from snooty superiority complex to a confused-yet-determined character.  there were certainly some 'gasp' moments, some you knew were coming, yet the struggle of Remy to figure out if her views on love were right, wrong, totally misguided, or otherwise was what propelled this story forward.

fave quote: "'But they did end, all of them.' I said. 'They failed.' 'Maybe some people would say so.' She folded her hands in her lap and thought for a second. 'But I think, personally, that it would be worse to have been alone all that time. Sure, maybe I would have protected my heart from some things, but would that have been better? To hold myself apart because I was too scared that something might not be forever?'" (Remy and her mom - 265)

fix er up: this was longer than i would think necessary, and felt a little lost in the middle of the plot.  it comes back around and closes up nicely though. not too quaint, but nice.

title: This Lullaby
author: Sarah Dessen
genre: Romance, Chick Lit, Friendship

Review: The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

in a sentence or so: Ariella is living a life most unusual - she is home schooled, motherless, and has a drop-
dead gorgeous father who may or may not be a vampire.

Ari (short for Ariella) is chronicling her childhood through this book. but yet this isn't quite a journal, but is more-so a faithful narrative to her growing up and exploring the mysteries in her life.  mysteries such as, where is her mother? why is she home schooled? these questions become all the more pressing when Ari starts to become friends with her housekeeper's daughter, Kathleen.  after Ari visits Kathleen and her brothers and sisters, she discovers what the rest of the world is like. that not everyone is well read in Poe, Hawthorne, and classic literature and woefully ignorant on how to ride a bike, shop for yourself, and have a teenage conversation.

Ari's friendship with Kathleen helps to bring her into her own socially, physically, and emotionally.  through their relationship, Ari is able to hone in on some of the more pressing issues of her life and start to take charge of her queries - no longer taking her father's reluctance to answer as a valid response.  through several heartbreaking circumstances, Ari decides that she is off to find her mother - ready or not.

Ari heads out on a journey of discovery. discovery of where her mother is, discovery of who she really is, and discovery of what the world is like beyond her sheltered existence.  Ari is clearly not normal, but how abnormal she is, and those she cares about are, change her life.

i felt like this started off strong with the mystery of Ari's mother, the mystery of her dad maybe/maybe not being a vampire, and the whole 'coming into the world' part of the book. after Ari hits the road to find her mom, that's where things dropped off for me.  the answers to the questions didn't feel all that insightful or meaningful in the grand plot development, which seemed at odds with the repeated philosophical waxing and poetry quotes from Ari.

i did like the occasional interaction with the reader, but even that felt a bit jarring at times. like we needed to be reminded that this was Ari's writing and personal chronicling of events.  there is a bit of wiggle room in the ending and there is a sequel to Ari's tale. to be honest, i don't think i'm that interested. i liked her story enough to read it through, but the lack of explanation (and depth) for the reasoning behind decisions left me in the middle of the road.

fave quote: "She looked at me for a second and said, 'Oh, never mind. I guess it's true what Mom said? That you've lead a sheltered life?' I said I thought the description fairly apt'". (25 | 237 Nook Version)

fix er up:  i appreciated the mystery, but wasn't impressed with depth or reasoning behind the answers to the mystery as the novel went on.

title: The Society of S
author: Susan Hubbard
genre: Vampire, Coming of Age

Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

in a sentence or so: Ender is the best, brightest, youngest, and only hope for victory against the impending war against the inter-galactic foe, the buggers.

Andrew Wiggin is 6 years old when he is invited to join battle school.  he is asked to leave his parents, his loving and devoted sister Valentine, and his down-right scary and hurtful brother, Peter. Andrew, who goes by Ender, knew the government expected big things from him because he is a Third. in a world where two children are the maximum, the government asked Ender's parents to have another child to fulfill the grand expectations of the Wiggin family.  Ender accepts the invitation to go to battle school and says farewell to his family, probably forever.

once at battle school, Ender is manipulated by the teachers and is socially isolated from other students.  most importantly, Ender discovers he is the best. despite the fact he is 6 years old and on the younger side of entering battle school, he sees things in the battle room with formations and strategy that the oldest boys overlook.  Ender is clearly meant to do be a military leader and that scares him. the expectation weighs heavy on his shoulders.  even when Ender succeeds - as people expect him to - the challenges just become harder. more complicated. more isolating. more disheartening.

meanwhile back on earth, Valentine and Peter are staging their own run for success by writing politically insightful and inflammatory statements on the net. Valentine misses her brother Ender deeply. but that doesn't stop her from getting sucked in (part willingly and part unwillingly) to a master manipulation plot devised by Peter.  it is clear that all three Wiggin children are gifted in manipulation - Valentine with manipulating emotions, Peter with manipulating fear, and Ender with manipulating battle scenarios.

i had a hard time telling where this story was going.  we spend a lot of time with Ender in battle school where he struggles, succeeds, learns, grows, and develops into the leader he is expected to be.  we see bits and pieces of what Valentine and Peter are up to back on earth with their political writing and influencing domestic and worldwide policies as 11 and 14 year olds.  clearly the Wiggin children are inordinately bright, but why they are so intelligent is not addressed.  their parents are seemingly standard, so why should all three of them be extraordinary?  i appreciate social commentary and character development, but i just need a plot to propel forward in addition to those elements to hold my interest.

if i could let myself drop the "where are we going?" and "what is the point?" questions, i did enjoy the read.  the conclusion of Ender's Game was a jaw-dropper, and i was pleasantly surprised by the plot twist.  there were training exercises and free-play activities that Ender participated in while at battle school that gave insight into his motivations that were creative and thoughtful.  the whole social aspect of battle school was interesting as well - a taste of Lord of the Flies set in a futuristic space-fantasy backdrop.

fave quote: "I was afraid that I'd still love you." "I hoped that you would." "My fear, your wish - both granted."  "Ender, it really is true. We may be young, but we're not powerless.  We play by their rules long enough, and it becomes our game." (exchange between Valentine and Ender, 237)

fix er up: i became disillusioned when i felt like the plot stalemated, or when i couldn't see direction of where we were going. i imagine this is something along the lines of what Ender was probably feeling, but it was challenging to me as a reader.

title: Ender's Game
author: Orson Scott Card
genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi

(i read this as a part of the 451 Challenge, Ember level book 1 of 3)