Review: This is What Happy Looks Like

happy

Title: This is What Happy Looks Like
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Pages: 404

First Line: “It was not all that different from the circus, and it came to town much the same way.”

“When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media’s spotlight at all costs?” – from goodreads.com

My thoughts: This book started out really well for me. I really enjoyed reading Ellie and Graham’s initial email correspondence. In fact, I almost wish the whole book was written in emails. Anyway, I definitely wish we got to read more of them throughout the book. I kept waiting for a chapter of just their back and forth banter through email, but it never came after the beginning. I didn’t mind Graham and Ellie’s love story, but I had trouble suspending disbelief in this story. Fine, fine, a movie star and a small town girl have a summer fling. But Ellie’s whole secret past and the reason she so NEEDED to stay out of the spotlight was too contrived for me. I think Ms. Smith would have found plenty of issues to put between the star and the unknown girl without adding in some weird father issues, that Ellie’s mother so selfishly needed to keep safely secret. I understand she didn’t want to be followed around by paparazzi or whatever, but it would have just blown over eventually and then you wouldn’t have to live your life in hiding! Done! And your daughter wouldn’t need to lie to everyone! Although I guess this is at least shown at the end, when unsurprisingly, none of it REALLY mattered anyway. And on Graham’s side, I know movie stars are followed and judged, but I find it VERY hard to believe that their agents tell them who to date and they just listen and go along with it. Besides, how would it be bad publicity to date some small town girl instead of another movie star? I don’t know… so weird. Basically I liked Ellie and Graham just fine, but I wish they had just had a flirty summer fling… with a lot more witty emails… as opposed to a bunch of very dramatic MY LIFE IS OVER BECAUSE I WAS PHOTOGRAPHED madness.

My Ratings:

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Subject: 2/5
Originality:2/5
Kept me interested: 2/5
Overall rating: 2/5

Review: Kindness for Weakness

Kindness-For-Weakness-Shawn-Goodman-Book-Cover

Title: Kindness for Weakness
Author: Shawn Goodman
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Pages: 261

First Line: “White-clad paramedics run alongside the gurney, guiding me through the electric gates of the facility and across the parking lot, where a helicopter awaits.”

“A fifteen-year-old boy from an abusive home desperately seeking his older brother’s love and approval starts pushing drugs for him and suffers the consequences.” – from goodreads.com

My thoughts: I don’t really know how to review this book. It’s not a genre I normally read. I really liked James, but the hopelessness of his situation was really depressing. It was almost a relief for him to be sent to a juvenile corrections facility. His mother is basically non-existent, his stepfather abusive, and his older brother, who for some reason James looks up to, is a total douche (excuse my language). James is hungry and tired, with no means of transportation aside from his worn-out shoes. Instead of helping him, his brother basically sets him up. At least when he’s in juvie, he’s getting food and sleep. But then that situation takes a much darker turn as well. Although there are a couple of well-meaning guards the boys interact with, most of them are cruel and ridiculous, making for a horribly vile environment. Shawn Goodman apparently has some direct experience with kids in juvenile detention, but I don’t know how realistic this book, and its heartbreaking ending, really is. I certainly hope the outcome wouldn’t be the same in the real world, but if Goodman’s intention is to bring attention to the hopelessness of some of these boys’ lives, then I think he did so. It scares me that boys like James could end up here.

My Ratings:
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Subject: 3/5
Originality:3/5
Kept me interested: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5

Review: Quarantine: The Loners

quarantineTitle: Quarantine: The Loners
Series: Quarantine (#1)
Author: Lex Thomas
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Pages: 416

First Line: “Someone must have bitten off her nose.”

“It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.

A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school.” – from goodreads.com

My thoughts: I honestly got about half way through this book before I actually started to like it or care in any way about any of the characters. But I finally did find a small liking for some of them, and the action was enough to keep me going until I got there. For some reason, when I started this book I thought it was zombie book. I don’t know where I got that from, but I didn’t read the summary when I started, so it took me a while to realize the kids weren’t going to turn into zombies, hehehe. But overall, it was definitely a fun book, and a little different take on a virus the whole teen survival theme. I suppose I can be convinced to read the next one.

My Ratings:
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Subject: 3/5
Originality:3/5
Kept me interested: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5

Review: Taken

newbirdTitle: Taken
Series: Taken (#1)
Author: Erin Bowman
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Pages: 360

First Line: Today is the last day I will see my brother.

“There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?” – from goodreads.com

My thoughts: I actually started out liking this book, but then the more I read, the less I liked it. I got really bored after a while, and then when something did start happening again, I didn’t really care. Then a bunch of stuff happened way too fast, with no emotions written in anywhere I guess. I didn’t necessarily like any of the characters except the brother that is “Heisted” at the very beginning. I didn’t care about the love story at all. And then when the big “secret” is revealed, it’s totally predictable and the way Gray is so “naive” and describes things simply gets really annoying. I tend to follow through with series even if I wasn’t huge on the first book, but I barely skimmed through the last bit of this one, and I can say I will not be picking up the second Taken book. Sorry!

My Ratings:
Writing: 2/5
Characters: 1/5
Subject: 2/5
Originality: 2/5
Kept me interested: 2/5
Overall rating: 2/5

Review: Shadow and Bone

shadowTitle: Shadow and Bone
Series: The Grisha (#1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Pages: 356

First Line: “The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and becuase they haunted the Duke’s house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches.”

“The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?” – from goodreads.com

My thoughts: Sometimes after reading adult fantasy, YA fantasy is a little too… I don’t know… simple, for me. But I still did like this one, although sometimes Alina got a little bit on my nerves. I think Ms. Bardugo did put a little too much emphasis on physical beauty, although maybe that’s some kind of theme I didn’t really pick up on. I tire of love triangles, although at least this one wasn’t that hard to decide on in the end! I don’t think that’s a spoiler… Anyway, aside from all of that, I did enjoy the book. There were enough twists and turns to keep me into it, and I’ll definitely pick up the next one.

My Ratings:
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Subject: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Kept me interested: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5

Top 10 Books I’ve Read so Far in 2013

toptentuesdayThis week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top 10 Books I’ve Read so Far in 2013. I tried to keep most of these published in 2013, but there are at a least a few that are older that I just never read until recently:

1. The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time #2) by Robert Jordan – I haven’t written a review on this one yet, but I really liked it even more than the first one. Hopefully the series will just get better and better!

2. Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar – Review forthcoming on this one too, but it was interesting, and I am definitely the target audience for it.

3. Winger by Andrew Smith – Loved loved loved this book. It made me laugh and cry out loud. So good.

4. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – Very sweet and good, and everyone in my book club finished it a long time ago, but we still haven’t met to talk about it so we better do that soon before we all forget our main points. 🙂

5. Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo – I just very much liked Amelia and Chris.

6. The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti – This book is kind of weird, but so am I.

7. The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne – Another weird book, but Barnaby meets so many cool and interesting characters on his journey.

8. Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan – Have I said how much I like Brian K. Vaughan lately?

9. Legend by Marie Lu – I was admittedly behind on reading this one, but I also got to read the sequel right away, and that one was good too, so yay!

10. Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures by Virginia Morell – I love reading about animals!

That’s it for this week!

Chickens Storytime

I’ve been forgetting to blog my storytimes since the summer session started! But here is this week’s theme: Chickens. We are actually doing this theme with the Little Red Hen puppet show, so my other items only have to fill 20 minutes. Family storytime is my favorite! Here is what I chose:

After intros and host puppet, etc. we will be starting with Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman. I love this book, and the kids love to yell “CHICKENS TO THE RESCUE!!”

chickens

Then we have a flannel of Five Little Chicks:

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Then we are going to read Is Everone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas. Jan Thomas is one of my ultimate favorites, especially for tandem reading in storytime.

ready

Then we have another flannel, based on Hattie and the Fox:

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Then we’re bringing in Hungry Hen by Richard Waring in case we have extra time. It’s silly!

hungry

There are a lot of good chicken books, but I haven’t done these in a while, so that’s what we’re doing! 🙂

 

Review: Ashes

AshesTitle: Ashes
Series: Ashes Trilogy (#1)
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Pages: 465 pages

First Line: “‘Where are you?’ Aunt Hannah demanded as soon as Alex thumbed TALK.”

“An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.”

My thoughts: The first thing that struck me about this book is that Ms. Bick is definitely not afraid to go into all the gruesome gory details. I’m not necessarily a queasy person, but I did feel the descriptions to be surprisingly… strong. Part of that might be because I went into this book not really knowing anything about it or what it was about. I was expecting destruction, but I didn’t really know about the zombie-ish kids ahead of time. I found it really interesting at first, with certain age groups responding differently to what happened, but then I think I got kind of bored waiting for explanations, which never really came to my satisfaction. But I guess she had to leave some mystery for the rest of the trilogy. I liked Alex at first, but then I got kind of sick of her after a while. Tom was definitely my favorite character in the book. I think the fact that I read this one and 5th Wave so close to each other kind of hurt my opinion of this one. They started out pretty similarly, but I liked Cassie so much more. And I had a hard time suspending disbelief about the town that was already built and corrupt and crazy when she found them, although perhaps that will be explained later on in the series as well. But I honestly don’t know if I will continue with it. Maybe if I run out of other stuff to read.

My Ratings:
Writing: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Subject: 2/5
Originality: 2/5
Kept me interested: 2/5
Overall rating: 2/5

Review: Eye of the World

WoT01_TheEyeOfTheWorldTitle: The Eye of the World
Series: Wheel of Time (#1)
Author: Robert Jordan
Release Date: November 15, 1990
Pages: 657 pages

First Line: “The palace still shook occasionally as the earth rumbled in memory, groaned as if it would deny what had happened.”

“The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.” – from goodreads.com

My thoughts: My husband has been bugging to start this series forever, but I was hesitant because of the commitment. The books are big, and there are.. like… FOURTEEN of them! But I finally decided to just go ahead and dive in. I’m not sure how fast I’ll get through the series, because I have a lot of YA books to keep up with, but I will try to get to each book before I forget everything that happened in the previous one. Wouldn’t want to have to start over after all! Anyway, I did like this book, especially now that I feel like I can appreciate fantasy more than I used to be able to. I do so love maps. 🙂 I did have a hard time finding love for many of the characters though. Nynaeve annoyed me, but my husband was quick to point out that apparently not many people do like her. I’m not really sure why, but she’s just kind of crabby. I also didn’t like Mat, but I was informed that he gets much cooler as the series goes on. To be fair, I mostly didn’t like him because of something that wasn’t entirely under his control. I felt almost nothing for any of the other characters until near the end of this book. then I started liking Rand more, and Moiraine, and especially Perrin for some reason. I was disappointed when they all got separated, but I suppose that’s to be expected occasionally. I do like the magical elements (especially as women are empowered and men go CA-RAZY when they try to gain power). It’s kind of hard to write a review for something so complicated, so I’m really just writing about the elements/characters that struck me I guess. So after finishing this one, yes, I will definitely continue with the series. I think it will only get better from here really. Oh, and I sincerely hope Thom comes back eventually and is not dead!

My Ratings:
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Subject: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Kept me interested: 3/5
Overall rating: 4/5

Top 10 Books Featuring Travel in Some Way

toptentuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday catagory hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Books Featuring Travel in Some Way. I had a hard time with this one. Nothing really came to mind. I guess I don’t read a whole lot books featuring travel, unless you count fantasy series! In light of this, I’m only going to post 5 today. :/

1. Winger by Andrew Smith – I just finished this book and I absolutely loved it, so I’m likely going to be adding it to a lot of my future lists. 😉 In this one, they Winger and Annie travel to her home in Portland. It’s one of the most peaceful times in the book.

2. The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti – Boy with wings = travel anywhere you want to go! Nice!

3. The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne – When Barnaby’s mom lets him float away, he gets to travel all over the world and meet some fantastic people in some amazing places.

4. The Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck – Kelsey follows her tiger to India, and into a lot of other adventures as well.

5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – Jacob travels to a remote island off the coast of Whales to find the weird and creepy house where his grandfather once lived.

 

The only bad thing about these Tuesday Titles is I’m afraid my lists might overrun each other all the time. I feel like I’m constantly using the same books. I guess the only cure for that is read even more! 🙂