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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Club Picks

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and features a new top ten list each week.

This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I Think Would Make Great Book Club Picks. I don’t have too much experience with in-person book clubs, and I suspect the hardest part is agreeing on a book to read as a group. I think that book club books should appeal to people with varied reading taste, come from a mix of genres, be easily available or affordable so that everyone is able to read it, be a realistic length so that everyone has a chance to finish it, and have an interesting theme that sparks discussion.

I ended up picking several books that are slated for upcoming film adaptations, figuring there are probably others out there that would like to read the book before checking out the movie version.

In no particular order these are books I think would make great book club choices:

1. A Monster Calls by Patrick NessThis thought provoking illustrated book is told in a creative way that should make for a good discussion.

5. Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Since Bitterblue, the final book in the Seven Kingdom series is coming out in May, why not catch up with the first book? This is a great offering for fans of fantasy books.

6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – It’s been many years since I’ve read this, but people may want to reread it or check it out for the first time before the movie comes out in December.

7. Legend by Marie Lu – It was very tempting to list The Hunger Games as the dystopian pick, and I do think that is an excellent book club choice. But, for another option I submit Legend, one that’s not quite as popular as The Hunger Games. It’s a thrilling book with great characters, and those of us in Los Angeles will enjoy reading about what’s happened to the local landmarks.

8. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley – I haven’t read this one yet, but it just won the 2012 William C. Morris award, so I imagine that many people will want to pick it up.

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – This is one with crossover appeal to YA and Adult Fiction readers and has a magical story. It’s also headed to the big screen at some point.

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – This one is also going to be released in theaters soon, and stars Emma Watson. I chose this book because people seem to have extreme reactions to it that should bring about a lively discussion.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Audiobook Review

Book: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marisssa Meyer, Macmillan Audio, January 3, 2012

Audiobook Info:  Young Adult Science Fiction Dystopia, Own audiobook,  Audio length: 10 hours 6 minutes, read by Rebecca Soler.

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

More Info: Audible | GoodreadsAmazon

Cinder has been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere and I’ve had my eye on it for a while, finally deciding to pick up the audiobook. I’ve never read anything like this Sci-Fi Cinderella retelling and that appealed to me as something new and different. I’m glad I tried it because it ended up being such a fun read/listen. Cinder is the first book in a new four book series that will also feature Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White and it’s Marissa Meyer’s debut novel.

Cinder is a 16-year-old cyborg mechanic who lives in New Beijing after World War IV. She was in an accident as a kid, and saved with robotic parts, including a robotic foot that stands in for Cinderella’s iconic glass slipper. Cinder is an outsider in society, though she is known as one of the best mechanics in New Beijing. Her accident left her without a memory of her time before, and her past is a mystery waiting to be unraveled. Like the fairy tale, Cinder lives with her awful stepmother and two stepsisters, though with a twist. There is also a prince and a ball, but otherwise Cinder spins it’s own story, and there are a lot of surprises in store. Some of the challenges Cinder faces are the deadly plague that’s hit New Beijing, political unrest, family drama, and managing the attention of the young and single Prince Kai.

The heroine Cinder is my favorite part of the story. She is likable, smart and brave, and very human in spite of her robotic parts and extraordinary abilities. The other characters also added a lot to the story, both the androids and the humans. The romance with Prince Kai is refreshingly done and I can’t wait to see how it develops in future installments.

The plot moves at a swift pace, and quickly pulled me in. It was fun seeing how the Cinderella story played out in Cinder’s dystopian cyborg world.  The retelling is similar enough to the original to catch the references but with enough of a twist to keep things interesting. Even though I don’t read a ton of Sci-Fi, it was easy to follow along and I could totally envision the world that Meyer creates.

I listened to the audiobook, and narrator Rebecca Soler does a stellar job with the narration. She gives a lively reading and sounds like how I would imagine Cinder to sound. Her pacing is very good and she reads with the emotion that is called for.  She handles the different male and female voices and accents with ease, and injects Cinder’s sense of humor into the reading. I actually liked the narrator so much I downloaded another audiobook that she reads to check out. This is a good audiobook to try if you’ve ever been interested to test out the experience.

Cinder is an entertaining kickoff to the quadrilogy, and it left me excited about the series and eager to read more.  I think Cinder would appeal to fans of fairytale retellings, Sci-Fi, dystopian, and romance. The next book of The Lunar Chronicles is called Scarlet, and yes it’s about Little Red Riding Hood, though Cinder’s story also continues.  Scarlet is due out next year.

In My Mailbox (48)

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by The Story Siren. It is a way to feature the books you purchased, traded, borrowed or received for review each week.

This week I received:

For Review:

Starters by Lissa Price – Random House – The cover looks so cool in person – I’m excited to read it!

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – NetGalley / Random House (not pictured) – This looks like a wonderful fantasy & it’s getting great early buzz.

Audiobooks from the library:

I went a little audiobook crazy because I won’t have a lot of time to read this week but can fit in some listening time.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

After by Amy Efaw (digital audiobook – not pictured)

Have you listened to or read any of these? Which ones do you recommend I start with?

What did you receive in your mailbox this week?

The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas

Book: The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 11, 2011

Genre/Format: Young Adult Contemporary, Library book, 353 pages

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

More Info: Goodreads | Amazon

I have been reaching for a lot of contemporary books lately, and more often than not the stories have been a little on the sad side, such as with The Survival Kit.  In this book, Rose’s mother has just died of cancer, leaving behind Rose, a son and a husband. Rose’s mother was famous for creating survival kits for the parents of her students at school and they have become an annual tradition. She touchingly left a survival kit behind for Rose to find after her death, filled with some unusual items to help her daughter heal.  Inside the bag are: an iPod, a photo of peonies, a crystal heart, a box of crayons, a paper star and a paper kite.  As Rose slowly finds a way to use each item in the bag, she discovers that all the contents are bringing her closer to Will, a fellow student and the family’s gardener, who is also no stranger to grief. Family relationships, friendships, love and the healing power of music are some of the themes explored in this heartwarming story.

I found this story to be very lovely, with genuine and likable characters and an addictive story. I was pulled into the story immediately and couldn’t put it down until I was finished. Rose’s journey is easy to relate to, and to understand where she’s coming from. She has shut herself off from her boyfriend, cheerleading, and music because she is mourning the loss of her mother, and having fun doesn’t feel right to her. Each step she takes with the help of the survival kit enables her to begin to live her life again. She also has the burden of taking care of her father, who is engaging in self-destructive behavior as a means to cope. All of this makes Rose seem very mature and wise beyond her years, and it’s interesting to watch her take small steps in the healing process.

This book is not all doom and gloom, however. It is actually quite charming. One of the aspects I liked a lot is that Rose gets involved with watching hockey games with her cheerleading pals, and Will happens to be a star hockey player. It’s fun to see Rose get hooked on the game and it brings her closer to her friends again while getting closer to Will. It’s also great that the cheerleaders are portrayed as really nice and friendly, as well as talented athletes in their own right, and not stereotypes at all.  Even Rose’s former boyfriend Chris is not a typical football player and manages to surprise.

The romance is believable and sweet, and a little rocky at times. Will is a complex guy and has a lot in common with Rose. The romance is slow building and they have great chemistry and many swoon-filled moments. Rose’s mom did a good job of matchmaking with these two.

Also, I always fall for books that include music in the storytelling and this book is no exception. I loved how Rose slowly added music back into her life one song at a time. It really added something special to the story.

This is one of the best written contemporary books I’ve read and ranks right up there with Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour and The Sky is Everywhere. The characterizations, pacing, story, romance, and themes were all wonderful. I borrowed this book from the library but would love to add it to my personal collection. Can’t wait to read more from this author.

Other Review of The Survival Kit:

Addicted 2 Novels

Steph Su Reads

Tripping Over Books

The Allure of Books

Book Chic

Waiting on Wednesday- First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine highlighting upcoming books that we are eagerly anticipating.

This week I am featuring First Comes Love, a contemporary YA by Katie Kacvinsky:

And here is the description from Goodreads:

Like his name, Gray is dark and stormy. Dylan, a girl always searching for what’s next, seemingly unable to settle down, is the exact opposite: full of light and life. On the outside, they seem like an unlikely couple. But looks can be deceiving and besides, opposites attract.

What starts as friendship, turns into admiration, respect and caring, until finally these two lone souls find they are truly in love with each other.

But staying in love is not as easy as falling in love. If Dylan and Gray want their love to last, they’re going to have to work at it. And learn that sometimes love means having to say you’re sorry.

I loved Katie Kacvinsky’s dystopian romance debut Awaken and am curious to read her first contemporary book. I like the idea of seeing this relationship develop from the beginning and seeing the couple work through the good and the bad that comes with it. Also, I like that the story is told with alternating POV so we can get in both characters heads. Both characters sound very strong and interesting, with their opposites attract dynamic, and I love their names Gray and Dylan. It sounds like an older / New Adult YA and that aspect appeals to me as well. Can’t wait to read it!

Look for First Comes Love May 8, 2012 coming to you from Houghton Mifflin.

What book are you waiting on this week?

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Book: Hallowed (Unearthly #2) by Cynthia Hand, HarperTeen, January 17 2012

Genre/Format: Young Adult Paranormal, Own Hardcover, 403 pages

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

More Info: Goodreads | Amazon

I am a big fan of Unearthly, and was so excited to finally have the sequel in my hands. The characters, romance, dialogue, and angel mystique of Unearthly made it an instant favorite.  I couldn’t wait to read the follow up, and quickly tore through Hallowed in a day.  Hallowed takes the series in new, unexpected, and exciting directions while it wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve, and I was not disappointed.

Hallowed picks up where Unearthly leaves off, as Clara deals with the repercussions of how she handled her angel purpose. Now, a new purpose-like dream materializes that has her worried about someone close to her. As Clara’s focus is pulled into the angel world, where does that leave her relationship with Tucker? And when tensions heat up with the Black Wings, Clara finds herself right in the middle of the conflict.

This is a more melancholic book than Unearthly. Clara has a lot of sadness around her that weighs her down, not least of which is the awareness that she is about to lose a loved one. She has angel growing pains as she learns more about her powers and how much others are relying on her. She is learning more about her purpose and how her choices make it evolve. There is the question of fate, and how she can choose to accept or ignore the path that she is destined for. So, this is a turning point sort of time for Clara.

Another small problem competing for Clara’s attention is the growing love triangle. Cynthia Hand pokes fun at love triangles in general in the book, and even with a nod to Twilight. It seems that Christian fits perfectly in her life, and the only problem is that her heart belongs to Tucker. I found myself tugged in both directions in regards to the love triangle, and I’m not sure it’s over, no matter how things left off.

In addition to the angel revelations and matters of the heart, I was also really interested in the character relationships. In particular, Clara’s brother Jeffrey, and friend Angela have me very intrigued. I was glad to see Jeffrey with a meatier role in this installment, but it left me wanting even more answers.  New characters and surprise appearances in the book also provided some of the back-story I craved.

Hallowed is a very worthy follow up to Unearthly, and an emotional, heart wrenching read. The series is well written and addictive, and even has a sense of humor that can win over paranormal weary readers. I can’t wait to find out what’s in store in the next installment of the series, due out next year.

Other Reviews of the book:

Good Books & Good Wine

Book Chelle

bookgoonie

I Read Banned Books

Book Labyrinth

bookchilla

In My Mailbox (47)

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by The Story Siren. It is a way to feature the books you purchased, traded, borrowed or received for review each week.

This week I received:

Bought with gift card:

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand – Finally! I probably should have savored this book but of course I inhaled it. It was worth the wait.

Truth by Julia Karr – The sequel to XVI, Kindle edition.

And that’s it for this week!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

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