Friday, March 16, 2012

"An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green

227 pages

By his own definition, Colin Singleton is a prodigy. His peers says he's a genius, but he insists that he's not because he hasn't created or discovered anything new. He has potential, though, and his biggest desire is to matter. He wants to use his potential for something important. His biggest weakness and distraction, however, is Katherines. Katherines are his type. He's dated and been dumped by nineteen--yes, nineteen!--Katherines. The latest, K19 (Katherine the 19th), was the love of his life and their break-up left him devastated. To get him out of his funk, his best pal, Hassan, decides to take Colin on a road trip. Without an itinerary or even a destination, the boys head south from Chicago and eventually end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, where they meet Lindsey Lee Wells and her gregarious mother, Hollis, who offers the boys summer jobs in the tampon string factory she owns. City boys Colin and Hassan are totally out of their element in tiny, rural Gutshot, but they stick around and discover that the little town might have something to teach them after all.

I really, really love the way John Green writes. He has such a goofy but also insightful way of telling a story. There's not a lot of action in An Abundance of Katherines, and although I tend to favor fast-paced books I have to admit that this story really doesn't need it. The characters more than make up for any lack of excitement. Colin is someone who, I bet, would be totally annoying in real life but is endearing on paper. He's neurotic and nerdy and sometimes self-absorbed, but I think everyone can relate to him in some way. He's much smarter than the average person, but he feels like it's not enough and I definitely know what it's like to think I'll never meet my own expectations. Hassan, my favorite, is the comic relief. He totally cracks me up, but you can tell that he also has a lot of heart in the way that he looks out for Colin. He's got some issues of his own, though, as he can't seem to grow up. Then there's Lindsey, who can't figure out who she really is (who can't relate to that?) and the rest of the residents of Gutshot, who are hilarious. Although the conclusion is pretty predictable, I didn't care. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and watching them grow so much that it didn't matter to me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Hollow

by Jessica Verday
515 pages

When Abbey's best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead…and rumors fly that her death was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen's funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey's life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he's the only person who makes Abbey feel normal again...but also special.
Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As Abbey struggles to understand Kristen's betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that nearly unravels her—one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as her own sanity.

This book left everything, everything up in the air. No questions answered, just more questions. And I did not see one of the plot twists at the end. Maybe should have, but I didn’t, so I was like what? Even with all that, I still enjoyed it. I’ve already started the sequel so I can get to those answers!

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

by Morgan Matson
343 pages

Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself.

After I saw Chelsea’s review, I knew I had to read this, and soon. It was so cute. Road trips + awesome music + a scrapbook + not obviously falling in love (as Chelsea so accurately stated) = the most epic read :)


by Amy Kathleen Ryan
307 pages

The Empyrean is the only home 15-year-old Waverly has ever known. Part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space, she and her boyfriend Kieran will be pioneers of New Earth. Waverly knows she must marry young in order to have children who can carry on the mission, and Kieran, the handsome captain-to-be, has everything Waverly could want in a husband. Everyone is sure he’s the best choice. Still, there’s a part of Waverly that wants more from life than marriage, and she is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

Suddenly, Waverly’s dreams are interrupted by the inconceivable – a violent betrayal by the Empyrean's sister ship, the New Horizon. The New Horizon’s leaders are desperate to populate the new planet first, and will do anything to get what they need: young girls. In one pivotal moment, Waverly and Kieran are separated, and find themselves at the helm of dangerous missions, where every move has potentially devastating consequences, and decisions of the heart may lead to disaster.

This books seem very unusual to me. You don’t know who to trust, if anybody, and almost everyone has done something that is a deal breaker, but I’m going to be expected to let that go in future books if the story is to continue. Fast-moving, with doses of religion that keep you thinking, what? I perplexed enough to want to know how this will all play out.

Scorpio Races

by Maggie Stiefvater
409 pages

Some race to win. Others race to survive. It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live.
Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition - the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I didn’t read much about what this book was about, but the brief description sounded exciting. So, I was a bit disappointed that the race didn’t begin until page 373 of a 409 page story. But, I loved the characters and the whole story seems to have this whole emotional undercurrent that is always just on the surface, but never really spoken.  


by Kiersten White
335 pages

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only one who can see through glamours. But now Evie’s dreams are filled with haunting voices and cryptic messages—and she’s realizing that she may be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures. So much for normal.

This book was. Bleeping. Hysterical. I loved it!

Girl of Fire and Thorns

by Carson Rae
423 pages

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.

I read through several raving reviews of this book before reading it and now, after reading it, I completely agree with all of them. A transformation story that, along with the character, starts out slow, but turns into a fast-moving read till the end. There was a shocking twist at the end, but I still refuse to believe it and am waiting to see what happens in the sequel.


by Caragh O’Brien
356 pages

Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code.

Definitely a satisfying sequel. I loved it as much as I loved Birthmarked. And there wasn’t a love triangle, but a love square! These are the best dystopian novels out there. Can’t wait to read the final installment, Promised, when it’s released this Fall.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
by Robert K. Massie
625 pages

This is the autobiography of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia from 1762-1796. I am obsessed with royal history, but have only really read about English and French royal history.  I didn't really know much about Russian history, and I'm all about powerful women, so I thought I would give this book a try.

It is a big book (625, whew!), but definitely worth the effort. If you love history, I think you'll enjoy it.  It not only talks about Catherine, but it gives details about other people and events as well.  The only draw back for this book is that there aren't very many pictures. 

Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity

Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity
by Kerry Cohen
210 pages

This is a memoir about a woman growing up in the late 80's/early 90's who, in the wake of her parents' divorce and wanting to matter to someone, uses sex with boys to try and make them love her. She continues to use her body as a way to find self worth and love during her teens & twenties until she finally finds someone who loves her just as she is.

I didn't like this book. While reading it, it felt like she was trying to blame her actions on her parents' divorce or her relationships with her parents.  I don't know if it's because I have a pretty good relationship with my parents so I can't really relate, but I just didn't buy the whole "because I have daddy issues I have issues with men". For every action there is a reaction. You can't blame someone else on the way you react to life.

Maybe it's the independent woman in me, but I just can't relate to women who need a man to feel validated.  Even at the end of the book, it wasn't until Kerry found her now husband that she finally felt loved.

I just don't get it. Not a good read.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"because of mr. terupt" by Rob Buyea

268 pages, juvenile fiction
2012-2013 Mark Twain Award Nominee.

 For a first novel, this book is amazing. I really enjoyed reading it and didn't put it down until I had completely finished it. This is a story of seven 5th graders and their new teacher. All of the students have different personalities and problems that each of them face and because of an unfortunate accident, they all have to face their problems.  It is a great story of how these 5th graders have "grown up" during one school year. They actually make life altering changes and come to realize  that what may have set them apart in the beginning, may just pull them together.   Wonderful story - can't wait to have my 5th and 6th grader read it! (permitting they will actually read a book mom picks out)

"The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt" by Caroline Preston

228 pages

Frankie begins her scrapbook as a high school student. As she grows up during the 1920s, she adds to her book, preserving her memories of going to college, falling in love, having her heart broken, moving to Paris, and chasing her dream of being a writer. Each page is filled with photos, captions, and memorabilia from her life and the time period in general. This is a unique, interesting way to tell the story, and I enjoyed each and every page. The story itself isn't earth-shattering, but the fun format makes it worth reading.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Going Underground" by Susan Vaught

336 pages

Del has always been a good kid; he stayed out of trouble at school, obeyed his parents, and made good grades. All of that changed after one seemingly innocent incident when he was fourteen--an incident that made Del a social outcast and a felon. Now he's just trying to stay under the radar until he turns 18. He goes to school and his job at a graveyard--that's it. No social life, no dating. Then a mysterious new girl in town--one with plenty of baggage of her own--threatens the balance he's finally achieved.

This is a really interesting story. I felt a real connection with Del right away. He's someone who's paying big time for a mistake he made a long time ago, and I think a lot of us can relate to that on some level. I got a kick out of the secondary characters as well, especially Fred the parrot, who provides some comic relief. Del's situation got me thinking about some controversial issues, and Vaught does a great job of showing aspects of these issues that are often overlooked. The side story with Del's boss is moving as well.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Bright Tomorrow

by Gilbert Morris
312 pages

This first novel in the American Century series follows the three oldest Stuart children, Amos, Lylah, and Owen, as they leave home and enter the world.  The Stuarts grew up on a farm in the Arkansas Ozarks, near Mountain View, during the end of the nineteenth century.  Their mother is a devout, born-again Christian, but their father is not.  The oldest Stuart children must make their own decisions about God as they head out into the world and make a name for themselves.

For the most part, this was an enjoyable read.  Morris painted a very interesting picture of life at the beginning of the twentieth century.  This appears to be a well-researched novel with plenty of historical detail.  However, some of the events in this novel are implausible.  Amos's story, in particular, seems very unrealistic.  I just don't buy that one man, with little education and money, could be involved in so many different historic events and be so friendly with a president.  I understand what Morris was trying to do--paint a picture of the historical events and the political tension of this period.  I just don't think he should have tried to do it with one character.  This book was interesting, but I don't feel compelled to read the next book in the series.