Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hattie Big Sky

207798
Author: Kirby Larson
Release Date: September 26th, 2006
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers 
Genre(s): Middle grade, Historical
Pages: 289 pages
*1st book of a series*

~Spoilers are hidden! Just highlight the page to see them:)~

Summary (Goodreads):
Alone in the world, teen-aged Hattie is driven to prove up on her uncle's homesteading claim.
For years, sixteen-year-old Hattie's been shuttled between relatives. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim near Vida, Montana. With a stubborn stick-to-itiveness, Hattie faces frost, drought and blizzards. Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, sharing her adventures with her friends--especially Charlie, fighting in France--through letters and articles for her hometown paper.

Her backbreaking quest for a home is lightened by her neighbors, the Muellers. But she feels threatened by pressure to be a "Loyal" American, forbidding friendships with folks of German descent. Despite everything, Hattie's determined to stay until a tragedy causes her to discover the true meaning of home.

Review:
There are few books that have made me cry . In fact only two books had managed to accomplish that deed. Until Hattie Big Sky came along.

Hattie Big Sky is a beautiful book about friendship, surviving, hope, and love. I absolutely love it! Her adventures and harsh, but truthful, ending left me feeling nostalgic for the countryside. 

I love love Hattie! She's kind of sassy but really kind hearted and super smart. Her interactions with the kids are so sweet, and it's really heartwarming to see how much she cares for them.

I love all the neighbors, from Rooster Jim to Leafie. The strength they give to Hattie and the bonds she forms with them is really sweet. And yes, I kind of like Traft Martin too. Even if he is a bit of a scoundral. After all, he is human too. 

The kids of Perilee are so cute. I love Magpie Mattie, Courageous Chase, and Little Fern.  It's absolutely heartbreaking when Mattie dies; be prepared for a salty waterfall of tears. 

The best thing I love about this book, and the reason it merits that 5, is because it's heart driven, not plot driven. There isn't really a big plot, more of like Hattie's adventures in Montana and the lessons she learns through Experience and love. Heart driven books are the best because they're the most touching and the most meaningful, in my opinion.

I totally recommend this book. It really doesn't matter whether you're a teen or an adult or a small kid; I guarantee you, this story will touch your heart.



Thanks for reading~!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pretty Crooked

Pretty Crooked (Pretty Crooked, #1)Author: Elisa Ludwig
Release Date: March 13th, 2012
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books 
Genre(s): YA Contemporary Chick Lit 
Pages: 368
*1st book of a series*


~Spoilers are hidden! Highlight the page to see them!:)~

Summary (Goodreads):
Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?


Review: 
The entire book was very light and fluffy, a general chick- lit book.   Nothing special or particularly squeal inducing. It took a while for Willa to start stealing and doing her Robin Hood-esque routine.  Her logic in becoming Robin Hood was very random.  I mean, wouldn’t it be easier to, ya know, just give them money instead of stealing stuff for them?  I understand there was a revenge aspect to stealing and giving, but because she wasn’t doing all this from the goodness of her heart,  I wasn’t entirely rooting for her every time she “helped” the poorer students out.  I also thought it was weird- and creepy- how Willa was able to find the addresses of the students by Googling it.  That was a tad unrealistic and way too easy.  (I know you can find ANYTHING on the Internet these days- so that MIGHT pass- but googling a person and looking up their address? It has a creep factor of a sparkly vampire secretly watching over you while you sleep.)  Willa is an okay character- nothing amazing.  She’s no Mary Sue, but she’s very… general and not really engaging or interesting. 
The plot was very predictable too.  It was pretty obvious from the beginning who was writing the Buzz, a gossip site for the school, and whether or not Willa was going to get caught. (She does.  The girl was taking lessons from a former “criminal”…) But I didn’t mind that the entire story was very farfetched because it IS chick lit after all.  (It was just that Googling thing that made me raise an eyebrow.)  The villains in the story- the Glitterati- were very shallow and one dimensional.  They weren’t developed at all, just side characters to get the story moving.  If there was anything resembling an actual personality among the Glitterati, it was Cherise.   She was very wishy- washy- but, when the truth was exposed, she turned on Willa, ultimately choosing popularity over friendship (WHAT?)-  but hey, at least she had a character, shallow (Pun totally intended) as it might be.   
It was very obvious that this book was a part of series, as a lot of questions- who was that mysterious man that her mother met? How did Aiden get kicked out?- were unanswered.  But frankly, I don’t think I’ll stick around for the next book.   
Oh! I almost forgot the romance- if you can call it that.  About two-thirds of the book was Aiden chasing Willa and Willa saying, “Noooo I’m totes not in love with you, but you’re so adorable and kinda hot!”, and then the last one-third of the book was made up of Willa and Aiden kissing once and hanging out while volunteering for their crimes (I guess they’re dating now?).  That was pretty much it in a nutshell.  From the VERY misleading summary, I thought Aiden would have more to do with the story (I totally think Tre was wronged for not being included in the description; not because he seems like a potential love interest sorta maybe, but because he did more stuff in the book than Aiden), but he was just a love interest added into the story just because.  (I also sense a potential love triangle coming up…. But eh.  Not interested enough to pick up the second book.)
Overall? It was a very forgettable book and an okay filler to read if you were/are recovering from a VERY light book hangover.  For more intense book hangovers, I recommend a Janette Rallison or Stephanie Perkins book. 
Happy readings!:)

Rating: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The King's Damosel

2455496
Author: Vera Chapman
Release Date: April 28th, 1978 
Publisher: Avon
Genre(s):  Fantasy, Arthurian (*Note: I don't really categorize this as YA, but some people might consider it YA because the heroine is in her late teens)
Pages: 143 
*2nd book of a series*

*Spoilers are hidden! Highlight the page to see them!:)~*

Summary (Goodreads):
A magical glimpse into the legendary age of Arthurian chivalry.

Lynett, unwilling bride of the Round Table Knight, Gaheris, leaves her husband and the true love of her life, his brother Gareth, to become the King's messenger.

Knightly chivalry is beset by Dark Age barbarity in this richly woven tapestry of heroes and heroines, monsters and saints, temptresses and magicians.

Review: 
I admit my guilt: I watched the movie before I read the book.   Granted, the movie was VERY loosely based on the novel, so I guess my crime is justified ;).  I won’t really compare the book and the movie because, as said before, the movie was VERY VERY loosely based. (But as a side note, I really liked the movie :)).

This novel was a beautiful tale, sad and hopeful all at the same time.   It was told much like a myth or a fairytale, which means it’s very simple and smooth flowing.  I had no issues with this novel other than wanting it to go more into detail about the adventures Lynett had with the knights; their bond with each other was cute, but I think it would have been more aww- inducing if we had seen more of their tales (instead of a brief overview).  (But that’s just a minor, minor complaint.  I really loved this book overall!) 

I appreciated all the messages in this Arthurian tale (the strong feminist theme, learning about true love, and forgiveness- to name a few:)).   l adored watching Lynett grow from this insecure tomboy to a confident young woman who eventually understood love.    Her relationship with Lucius was so sweet and heartbreaking; it’s impossible not to root for them (given what had happened to Lynett earlier and Lucius’ own circumstances), and at the end when he makes the most romantic yet devastating choice, it’s hard to hold back a few tears. (WHY COULDN’T THE BOOK HAVE BEEN LIKE THE MOVIE ;(?)

Overall, it was a beautiful read, and I recommend it to anyone looking for an Arthurian tale with a feminist kick.

Thanks for reading!:)   

Rating: 3 out of 5 

Friday, September 6, 2013

When the Sea is Rising Red

When the Sea is Rising RedAuthor: Cat Hellisen
Release Date: February 28th, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Genre(s): YA Fantasy/ Paranormal  
Pages: 296
*Stand alone*

Summary (from Goodreads):
After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it. 

~Spoilers are hidden! Just highlight the page if you want to see them:)~

Review:
       I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t like it either.  My main issue with this book was the lack of information about ANYTHING.  There was a lot of things (character nationality especially) that was not explained.  It seemed like the author was trying to avoid info dumping, but in her quest to do so, she leaned way too far on one side of the spectrum of info dumping and no info.  It was super distracting and confusing. (I had to reread some parts of the book to get a more detailed view of the plot.)  

Felicita (or Firell) was a meh character.  I felt like the author was trying to force us to like her, when in reality there was nothing about her to like.  She’s a bit shallow, but she does change somewhat throughout the novel, so that wasn’t really a major issue for me.  Felicita is a frustrating character.  She’s so dumb na├»ve.   Honestly, she makes the most thoughtless choices, and when there’s an easy out, she doesn’t take it.  She doesn’t really think about the alternative (and quite possibly reasonable) solutions either. 

The romance between Dash and Felicita was really rushed and abrupt, and I don’t know what the deal is with Felicita and Jannik (all of a sudden they’re married at the end?).  The plot was okay; again, I had a hard time following it because of the lack of explanations or info. 

Overall, this book was confusing, which distracted me from the characters and the great plot everyone seems to be referencing.  However, I did give it a two because it did keep me somewhat engaged (though for the life of me, I don’t remember what was so interesting about it.   Probably the hope that something would be explained later on?). 

Thanks for reading~!

Rating: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

UnWholly

UnWholly (Unwind, #2)
Author: Neal Shusterman
Release Date: August 28th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA Dystopia 
Pages: 416
*2nd book of a series*

Summary(Goodreads):
Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.
Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends—and what it means to live.



Ok, after calming down quite a bit and performing a therapy method provided by other reader friends, I revised my original 5 stars to 3.5 stars. I’ll explain why later.

WARNING-Unhidden MAJOR spoilers, and it’s really, really long.

Review: 
Ready? Here we go:
UnWholly is a direct sequel to UnWind, picking up roughly a year or so after the original events. As previous readers know, most, if not all, the characters in Unwind have gone through a drastic change in personality and character, so Lev’s, um, transformation shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. I absolutely loved this book, but there were a couple things I just couldn’t glaze over, as a reviewer, no matter how much bias I automatically have with anything Shusterman. 


Here’s a brief summary of the bad and good things, in case you just wanted a quick pros and cons:


Bad things:The diversion from the plot, The skimping on development then plowing the reader in the face, Risa’s almost romance with Cam, Lev’s almost romance with Miracolina, Miracolina, Cam, Lack of Risa, Lev, and Connor, Snarkey- sorry Starkey, Conner’s 180, Cliffhangers within story


Good things:Deep writing and subtle hints; Great themes on forgiveness, morality, playing God, and especially perspective; Able to stomp your gut for every single character; Cliffhangers within story


Let’s start with the infamous diversion from the plot (at least infamous within my book club). Instead of going with the idea that the war and the Unwind accord was all for the sole purpose of prolife/prochoice, we are introduced to a brand new idea that the Unwind was signed because the government was afraid of teenagers getting power. Yes, teenagers. Um… ok

I liked how it emphasized the power of adolescents and all, but it really made the first book take a back seat- and all the struggles and meanings and emotions in that first book were deflated because of UnWholly’s new plot direction. It makes the power that was packed in that abortion theme just flop and nick your wrist. I wish it wasn’t connected to the themes of the first book- or better yet not connected to Unwind at all. However, I won’t deny that the plot detour works- it just seems a little inappropriate considering all that Lev, Conner, and Risa did because of the war between pro-life and pro-choice. Maybe Shusterman will really use that idea of the Terror Generation to highlight the prolife/prochoice thing somehow in the final book. 


The ending, with the revelation of Janson Reignschild, was also a bit too good to be true and seemed a little rushed. I didn’t like at all how instantly they were able to make connections, and how a total stranger just happens to help them escape. The stranger helping them was a sweet moment, and shows the goodness of humankind and all that, but again seemed a little too convenient. 


Skimping of the development and plowing the person in the face with pretty writing:Ok, so I loved it in the beginning because it gave me a straightforward reason for the character’s actions (most notably Risa’s revelation about Cam and Lev’s self-revelation), and I like straightforwardness- to a point. The first few times, yea I was ok with it because I needed to get a feel for where the author was going with things. But when this happens again and again, it gets annoying and feels like a brick wall of ‘whys’ (this happened because… remember that old sentence from high school essays?) just hit you.


Miracolina:She annoyed me. So. Much. Because of her I wanted to chuck the book at the wall several times. She was whiny and bratty, and frankly wasn't much of a character beyond that. I was holding out for some development- maybe a sudden change in heart or something, but alas, nothing was to be done. Her forgiveness of Lev, no doubt, was important and deep, but I found myself wishing it hadn’t been her who had forgiven him; I didn’t want to have a reason to accept her as a necessary part of the story. 


Cam: He was the one I was the most let down by. Not only because of his weird possessiveness, but because of his lack of oomph. I expected him to be sort of the center this whole book revolved around (after all, the entire cover is devoted to him!), but he wasn’t, and even more regretfully Cam wasn’t really important. There were only a few scenes that even touched on this issue of morality of playing God, and even those scenes seem to be packed with too much stuff (remember the skimping and plowing?). 


Risa’s almost romance with Cam:Ok this was just awkward. She hates him because he’s everything she is fighting against, knows he’s really possessive, but ends up kissing him- AND she’s in love with Conner. Um what the fruit? (Ok, I know she realized it wasn’t his fault and all, and yea it was obvious that she didn’t mean her lovey-dovey actions, but still. It was awkward. )They had absolutely no chemistry, and the way Cam kept thinking of her as something he could possess and make her love him was creepy. (I guess that was the point, but there was this weird last scene where he said he’s going to tear down the Proactive Citizenery. Yay, right? But- the big BUT- he thought right after, “And then she will have no choice but to love him.” Again, maybe that was the point, to make him seem creepy; however, there were several scenes before showing his ‘humanness’ and how he was becoming more compassionate- like the part about his tears, and how he felt they were his own... )I’m glad that’s (sort of) over, because one thing I adored about Unwind was that there was no focus on the romance. 


Lev’s almost romance with Miracolina:WHAT. THE. FRUIT? So, their ‘romance’ wasn’t blunt or directly stated, but there were a few hints that pointed toward it. Thank God that never developed(and I hope it doesn’t) because a) Lev’s too good for her, b) it felt really, really forced- like the author thought every character needed a lover, boyfriend/girlfriend, whatever. I have no clue why Lev was attracted to this girl.


Lack of Risa, Lev, and Connor:Or rather a lack of unity. This was really just a personal thing. I would have liked to see the Dynamic Trio, with all their aww moments, back together and ready to kick some Unwinding butts. But sadly, this was not the case. 


Starkey: He. Was. Annoying. Seriously. I saw no purpose in him, but I kept thinking something big was going to happen because of him or with him, in classic Neal Shusterman style (in Unwind, every character the author gave a point of view had a major role, even if that character was really random or minor. It was awesome, it was needed, and it worked- 3 of my favorite things). So, because of this naive hope, I held out on my judgment of Snarkey. I should’ve unleashed all my fury as I read the book because I just wasted several great moments to blast him out of the Salton Sea. He reminded me of Roland- only because they both wanted power. Roland, though, I wasn’t annoyed with him (he had a huge purpose)- just hated him with a passionate fury and even someone I sorta kinda maybe felt sorry for at the end(that unwinding scene… *shudders*). He was fun to hate; hating characters is fun- being annoyed by them is not. Snarkey was a really big fat jerk, who had no purpose, and had tried to redeem himself in the end only to turn into a hypocrite. 


Connor’s naivety/ 180: Where on earth did this come from?! What happened to the hotheaded turned intelligent guy who kicked butt even before the person realized their butt had been kicked?? How could he fall for Risa’s sudden turn to the dark side after all they’ve been through??! And why on earth does he trust SNARKEY??! And, to make things worse, they explain everything away at the end, blaming Conner’s jaded mind. Um ok….


Cliffhangers: Shusterman really has a way with cliffhangers within stories. I wanted to wrangle his neck one moment and beg him to stop doing this to us (esp. at the scene where Lev was shot!!), and the next I wanted to give him and his editor a 10 page thank you letter for including those cliffhangers. They kept me on my toes, and I wanted to keep reading because I was constantly dying to find out what the heck just happened or is going to happen. It was refreshing for a cliffhanger (or in this case cliffhangers) actually pack a ton of power behind the punch- instead of weakly fizzling out. (The Selection, anyone?)


 Emotions:Shusterman is not just a master at cliffhangers; he is also the father of playing with peoples’ emotions. No one could twist my (recovering) heart into a cardiac arrest for Hayden’s sacrifice(? Last stand?) and Tad and Trace’s death. I hardly knew Trace and Tad, yet when they died, a part of me died too. And that scene with Hayden and the ComBot crew in the plane? Gosh, the strength that radiated from these teenagers was so powerful. This scene makes you really question how far you would go for what you believe in.

Themes: This book is chock full of them. Some were obvious; some will slam you in the back hours after you’re done reading. Themes about life/death (e.g. How do we define life and death? What happens to your soul when your divided? etc) were briefly touched; even though those questions were still in the overall backdrop of the story, I felt they were more emphasized in Unwind. In UnWholly, I felt the most recurring theme here was perspective and playing God.


Conclusion:I really liked Unwind as a standalone, even though I was thrilled (in the beginning) for the sequel. Unwind left me feeling complete, and even though the ending of it was nostalgic, I felt it was perfect because it was not- it ended with a hope that things could get better no matter how grim it was, but didn’t fix those problems, and I was fine with that. Life isn't perfect. And plus, I’m a sucker for those endings. This book, the ending was a little too perfect, and, well, seemed to end the story- even though we all know there’s going to be a third book. So it gave the ending a weird taste of anticipation, but at the same time a brief wave of “Um it’s over? Uh not forever right? I thought there was more, but you make it seem like there’s not going to be more? Hello?”


Still, even with all the bad points, this book merited a 3.5 because as a reader, I have to admit that this was a good story (even if it’s totally irrelevant to the original book and a tad bit too neat at the end), I really did care  about the majority of characters, and the writing was powerful. The reviewer side of my brain… well, let’s just say it wouldn’t shut up throughout the entire book. 



(And despite it all, I am nervously- with some excitement ;)-waiting for that finale.) 


Thanks for reading:)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5