Sunday, April 29, 2012

Street Magic by Tamora Pierce

In Street Magic, Briar and Rosethorn are in Chammur, a desert area with beautiful rock formations. Rosethorn is trying to help the area farmers and Briar is working to sell minature trees. While at the market, Briar sees a young girl polishing stones and putting magic into them. When he confronts the girl, she flees, because she does not realize she has magic. Briar is friendly with one of the local gangs, the Camelguts, who help him when he is tailed by a Viper. The Vipers are a new gang given weapons by rich Lady Zenadia, who is using them to deal with boredom. Lady Zenadia decides she wants Evvy, the girl with the stone magic, and uses her gang to try to capture her. Briar learns that he is responsible for Evvy, because he is the first to notice her magic. When the only stone mage decides not to train Evvy, Briar takes over and becomes close to the girl. When Evvy is kidnapped, Briar stops at nothing to free her.

I was glad to see another tale about Briar, because I enjoyed his story the most from the Circle Quartet. Briar is funny and extremely loyal to his mates as he calls them. I love Pierce's series and this one is as good if not better than the first.

Favorite Character: I like Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy all equally and it is hard to choose a favorite. Evvy was the perfect match for Briar in her humor and background. All three are rough around the edges, but the loyalty and love they have for others is wonderful. I know Evvy is a part of Melting Stones, so I will be glad to read more about her.

Favorite Quote: "'You're more trouble than your worth,' he informed Evvy tartly. She shrugged. 'I'm a girl. That's my job.'
I love this series! It is full of action and shows how the four mages are maturing as they grow older. I will have to add the next one as soon as I can find the time. 5 bars of chocolate!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gift by Andrea Buchanan

I received Gift as an e-galley.

Daisy is able to fry all electrical devices near her. Ever since she was young, she had to control her "gift." She does deep breathing exercises and yoga to keep from ruining everyone's computers and other devices. Extremely inconvenient as her gift is, it becomes the least of her troubles. Daisy finds Vivi, a girl from her English class, in the girl's bathroom. Vivi has taken some pills to try to be with Patrick, a ghost who claims to be her soulmate. Daisy saves Vivi and Vivi claims that Patrick is connected to Daisy in some way. Daisy and her friend Danielle decide to help Vivi and both of them are plagued with dreams of a past tragedy over a hundred years old, in which they seem to be the main characters. As Daisy tries to puzzle out the meaning of the dreams and Patrick, she becomes involved with Kevin, a cute senior, who tries to help. Kevin also has a hidden secret and past. As Patrick seems to become more real and Daisy starts to fall for Kevin, she must decide who the real villian is. Could the past be repeating itself and is Daisy's gift the key?

Part ghost story and part supernatural power, Buchanan creates a wonderfully suspenseful story with a twist ending. I really enjoyed the book and I loved the end where each of the four other main characters reveals a bit about themselves and provides their own insights into the ghost story.

Favorite Character: I really liked Danielle. She was spunky and realistic. She pays for her flaws, but she is extremely loyal in the end.

"Everyone wants me to hold back all the time. Nobody wants me to be who I really am."
I liked the twist on the ghost story and the idea of a heroine with extreme powers. I give this 4.5 bars of chocolate. I think it is really unique and enjoyed the characters.

Reading Stack #10

I am 3/4 of the way through Gift and halfway through Street Magic, so I am going to finish these books. I am adding Away by Teri Hall to my stack and Tempest Rising again. I checked Tempest Rising back out from the library, so hopefully I will have time to finish it. However May is the release month for all the series I want to read, so I may not finish my stack. It will really depend on when I receive the books. I really want to read Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Destined by Aprilynne Pike, and The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan, which all release May 1, so that will be a tough decision. Then more books release on the 8th, 15th, and 22nd that I can't wait to read as well. I did take two days off from work in May to hopefully catch up on my reading!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

I hated to see this series end, but what an ending!

Deryn and Alek find out they are traveling into Siberia to rescue a man who may have a weapon to end the war. Nikola Tesla, who invented the Tesla machine that can destroy airships, claims to have a weapon called Goliath. Goliath has the strength to destroy an entire city and the threat of its use alone could stop the war. Dr. Barlowe and Deryn both doubt Tesla, as he seems to be a madman. The area where they find him has been flattened and no wildlife exists in the area. Could he have destroyed the area or could it be something else? In the midst of Tesla's claims, the truth about Deryn is finally revealed to Alek and he must decide his true feelings about Deryn. The end of this series is filled with romance, excitement, and explosions and is just as wonderful as the other two books. I don't want to give too much away, but this may be one of my favorite endings ever in a book. Since this is the end of the trilogy I will save details, so that it is not too spoilery.

Favorite Quote: "A bit daft, she finally said. Getting a medal for falling down." I also like the dedication, "To everyone who loves a long-secret romance, revealed at last."

Favorite Character: Deryn of course. She is brave, reckless, and extremely loyal. She does not need anyone to take care of her, but she is willing to risk everything for Alek, so she also knows how to love. She is one of my favorite fictional characters ever! I did like the character of Alek and he was the most interesting as far as growth. He changes from a spoiled prince to a man who respects women and learns what the most important things in life really are. He feels  the pressure of the world and learns his true place in it.
5 bars of chocolate! As if there was any doubt. This is one of my favorite series now and these are by far the best books I have read this year. I can recommend this series to so many people, because it has a light romance, extreme action, and hilarious parts all mixed together. Wonderful!

The Line by Teri Hall

I have been reading lots of dystopia novels lately and the Line is no exception to this. Teri Hall imagines for us an alternate United States in which the government controls everything and the Bill of Rights was rewritten to give the government the power to spy on people, keep a record of their genes, and even take them into custody if they are deemed a threat. Free speech does not exists and all information comes from the official records, basically the government. This may seem like something that could never happen, but Teri Hall makes it very believable and shows us how easily things could come to this.

Rachel and her mother Vivian live on the Property with Ms. Moore and Jonathan. They have lived there since Rachel's father, Daniel, died in a war. Rachel learns how to grow orchids, which is Ms. Moore's occupation and her mother serves as a housekeeper. Vivian is an extremely overprotective parent, but Rachel does not question this, until the two witness an identification and her mother refuses to help the woman who is arrested. Rachel learns that her parents were collaborators, who worked to fight against the laws of the country. After Daniel's death, Vivian lives in fear and worries for Rachel. The Property is a place of safety for them, until someone comes to the Line, the border between Rachel's country and Away. The people of Away were cut off from the US when the Line was activated and they were bombed by another country. Rumors abound about the people of Away, but Rachel wants to help the boy Pathik who needs medicine for his sick father. With the help of her mother and, surprisingly, Ms. Moore, the group plans to help Pathik, but Vivian's cover has been revealed and others want what Vivian has been hiding.

This would be a great book for classroom discussion, especially about the ideas of rights of citizens, rights during wartime, and questioning sources. The book is scary, because it is something that could easily happen.

Favorite Quote: "As long as the sun has not set on a day, anything can happen." "Whenever you watch streamer coverage about some issue, remember who controls the media."

Favorite Character: Rachel and Ms. Moore. Rachel is very brave and innocent. She risks everything to help Pathik, but she does not really know what she is risking. She is intelligent, but she also makes mistakes. Ms. Moore seems the most real. While she comes across as standoffish, she is really very caring, but not as brave as Rachel.

I give this 4 bars of chocolate. It is a very interesting and thought-provoking read.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Still reading

I finished Goliath yesterday and will hopefully find time to review it this weekend. I loved it! It is a really great series and I hope Scott Westerfeld will write more twists on history. I highly recommend the audiobooks for this series, because Alan Cummings was an entertaining narrator. I did flip through the books as well for the nice illustrations. Once I am finished with my books for this year, I hope to start the Uglies series by Westerfeld. I also finished the Line by Teri Hall and I liked it. I enjoyed how she played around with an alternative future for the US and I like how she shows the importance of questioning sources. This would be great classroom discussion! I hope to review that book as well this weekend. However I will have little time to do this, but reviews will be coming.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Which Divergent faction?

After reading Divergent, I wondered what faction I would choose if I were in the story. I took a couple of Divergent faction online quizzes and I was labeled Divergent. I am not surprised. Reading the story I felt connected with most of the factions. The next most common choice for me was Amity. I do value kindness, probably more than honest, bravery, knowledge, and selflessness. To me being kind is the one of the most important values. It is hard to be honest, brave, knowledgeable, and selfless, but I think it is easy to be kind. So I guess Amity would be my choice, since being Divergent is dangerous. :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I expected when I picked up this book, that it would take me at least a month to finish. However it only took me around a week and a half. It would not have taken me that long if not for Easter and the other holy days that week. Every time I picked up Divergent, I was drawn into the story and did not stop for air for 30 or 40 pages. Veronica Roth wrote this at a fast pace, although it is not all just action. The family conflicts, faction conflicts, romance, and daring situations are all equally captivating.

 Tris or Beatrice as she starts the story is trying to decide which of the five factions to join. She has always been part of Abnegation, which values selflessness. Beatrice is not selfless, at least not completely. When she and the other sixteen year olds, including her brother, take their aptitude tests, Beatrice's is inconclusive. She is really a Divergent, someone who has values from other groups and cannot be controlled by the simulations. Her instructor hides this fact, warns Beatrice to tell noone her results, and her instructor, Tori, labels her Abnegation. Beatrice must decide if Abnegation, Erudite, or Dauntless is her future at her choosing ceremony. Erudite is the enemy of Abnegation, because they want luxuries, while Abnegation does not believe in self indulgence. Abnegation is in charge of the government, because of their selflessness, but other factions desire power. Erudite believe they should rule, because they value knowledge. Dauntless is fearless and values bravery. Amity values kindness, and Candor values honesty. These values came about after the destruction of the world and in its rebuilding, each faction picked the antithesis of the vice they believed destroyed the world. For Beatrice her choice is difficult, she loves her family, but is not selfless enough for Abnegation. When her perfect brother makes a shocking choice, Beatrice must decide if she is courageous enough to do the same thing. I won't give away her choice, but it does have major consequences in the story, because a war is coming.

The faction angle was very interesting and you can't help trying to decide as you read, which faction you would choose. The factions stress faction over blood, but Roth shows that is not always possible. Beatrice changes her name to Tris, after the choosing ceremony. As Tris she makes friends who have transfered from other factions, and meets Four, with whom she falls in love. The story is at times really heart-breaking and I can't wait for the sequel to see how some of Tris's choices play out.

Favorite Characters: This is a hard one. For me it was hard to like any of the characters, but I think that is because they are all so flawed. I think that is part of the point of the story, that people are flawed. I admired some of the characters, like Tris's parents and their selflessness. Tris, I both liked and did not like. She is extremely strong, but to the point that she is so independent, she does not bond well with others. This is mainly because of upbringing in Abnegation, but at times she seems heartless. At other times she seems willing to die for others. She is starting to change at the end of the first book, so I feel like by the end of the second, she will be more likeable. I do like that she really does not need anyone, because often female heroines are very dependent upon their male love interests. Four is probably the most likeable character. He is a selfless kind of brave and while flawed, his flaws make him more likeable.

Favorite Quote: "I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another."

I really, really enjoyed this book. One thing that is often missing from dystopia novels is religion and while it is barely mentioned in this book, Tris thinks back to the religion of her youth and at the end hopes she is a good person. I think this adds to the depth of the novel. There are so many different issues you could focus on and discuss. This would be perfect as a book discussion. Also it would be a good recommendation for those who liked Hunger Games.

As far as a rating goes, this is easily a 5 bars of chocolate book! This may even be my favorite book this year. It will definitely be in the top ten list.

Reading Stack #9

I finished Divergent late last night and hopefully I will find time to review it today. I am still surprised I read an almost 500 page book in that short amount of time. It was a hard to put down book. Now I just have to decide what to read next. I requested several titles from Netgalley a few months back and some of them have already released. I am trying to read them, even though it is passed release date. I have started Gift by Andrea Buchanan as an e-galley, so I will try to finish it. My audiobook choice is really easy, I am halfway through Goliath. This series is one of my favorites and I will be both sad and happy to finish it. Happy, because I will finally know what happens with Deryn and Alek, but sad to not be listening to their story anymore. I also have several books checked out from the library that I need to read. I think I will try to finish Street Steps by Tamora Pierce and maybe try to start the Line by Teri Hall. The Line has been heavily recommended by some of the middle school teachers and a high school student. I will stop my stack there for now.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The 39 clues

I also finished reading Dead of the Night by Peter Lerangis today. Rather than review the book and give away spoilers, I am just going to give a few thoughts about the series. When I first saw they were going to make the 39 clues, I thought well this will make a lot of money, but the books will probably not be that good. Scholastic picked some of the best junior fiction authors in the field and the series has really surprised me. The themes of good and evil are twisted in such a way that sometimes the main characters appear in both a bad and a good light. There is no clear cut villians and the twists with the Vespers is really making things complicated. Dan and Amy have matured over the hunt and both have scars. Important characters die and at times their deaths are not glamourous and at times serve no point. I don't mean this as their lives are pointless, but that their deaths seem more real, because of how they happen. Everything is not perfect and that's what makes this series surprising. The writing is actually good and you can see the strengths of the authors in each book. For example when Gordon Korman writes a book, I expect humor, from Rick Riordan, humor and adventure, and from Peter Lerangis and Jude Watson a complex view of good and evil. This series is also great for reader's advisory, because readers can finish one of these books and then go look for more books by that author. Great job, Scholastic and all the authors!

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth picks up where Leviathan left off. Alek is beginning to feel as if he truly belongs on the Leviathan and Deryn is starting to fall for Alek. Count Volger learns that Deryn and Dr. Barlow know the truth about Alek's identity and begins making escape plans for when the Leviathan gets to Istanbul. Upon arrival, Alek and his men try to escape with mixed results. Alek and two of the men escape, but Count Volger and Hoffman are recaptured. Alek also has bonded with one of the hatched eggs and the beastie escapes with him. After Dr. Barlow's failure to keep the Sultan on the British side, Deryn is given a dangerous mission in which her men are either captured or killed and she barely escapes. She heads off to find Alek, but still keeps her true identity a secret, but Count Volger knows. Alek and Deryn end up paired with those that want to overthrow the government, including a beautiful girl named Lilit. Deryn is jealous of Lilit and Alek, but Lilit is no threat and has a crush on Deryn, whom she knows as Dylan. The group try to overthrow the sultan and save the Leviathan from a huge Tesslar cannon capable of causing the airship to explode. The sequel to Leviathan is just as action-packed and exciting as the first book. More information is revealed about the main characters and Deryn and Alek become closer.

Favorite Character: Lilit is another strong female character introduced in this novel. She is loyal and driven to fight for the freedom of her country at all costs. Deryn continues to be one of my favorites as she is funny, smart, and shows more of a vulnerable side in this book as she falls more in love with Alek.

Favorite Quotes: "The rest of you Dummkopfs, you're all as mad as a box of frogs!" "That girl is quite mad. But she's not a bad kisser."

I continue to really enjoy this series and the second book was as good if not better than the first. No sophomore slump here! I love how he plays with the history of the time and then explains how things really happened in the afterword. This is becoming one of my favorite series! 5 bars of chocolate!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reading Stack #8

I had to return Tempest Rising to the library, but I hope to check it out again soon. I reviewed Dirty Little Secrets, so that means I need to make a new stack. There are so many things I want to read and only a little time left before my May series books take over. I think I will add Divergent by Veronica Roth to my new stack and I am trying to finish the latest in the 39 clues series, Dead of the Night. I only have a little left in my audio of Behemoth, so I should be reviewing that very soon. Since this will be a pretty busy week, I will try to stick with just these three books.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dirty Little Secrets by C. J. Omololu

As I said before, I watch almost every episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive and Hoarders that comes on the tv, so I definitely wanted to read this book. Lucy is the youngest of three children and the only one still living at home with her mom, when the story begins. Her mom keeps everything and the only space Lucy has at home is her bedroom. Newspapers, magazines, and green bins line the inside of the house and the kitchen sink, central heating, and other important things do not work in the house. Lucy tries desperately to keep her friend, Kaylie and crush, Josh from finding out the truth about her house and her mom. Then, the unthinkable happens and Lucy must decide what she is willing to risk, to keep the truth from coming out. At times heartbreaking and hopeful, C. J. Omololu dives into what it is like to be the child of a hoarder. Lucy is often blamed by her mother for the messy house and her older sister, Sara, tries to stay the favorite by helping her mom with the hoarding. Sara also seems to be going down the same path. Lucy's brother Phil tries to stay away as much as possible and tries to keep Lucy positive by saying she only has a year and a half left in the house. The book definitely reminds me of the heartbreaking tv shows in which parents choose stuff over their children. This is a haunting story of survival and will leave you in suspense up until the end.

Favorite Character: Lucy is well-developed and the reader knows what she is thinking. You truly come to care for her in the end and only hope that she can turn her life around. We only see at the end how much she truly cares for her mom, when the tears are streaming down her face after the big event. I don't want to be too spoilery, so I will leave it at that.

Favorite Quote: "She had fifty plastic bins in this house full of pristine crap-why couldn't she atcually put something meaningful in them? Like a special silver and blue thimble? Or my childhood?"

This was definitely not a light-hearted book, but it was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I give it 4 bars of chocolate.