Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Bingo: A World Without Princes

A World Without Princes is the second book in The School for Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani. Some of you may remember the first book from my review here. In this sequel, Agatha finds herself unhappy with what is supposed to be her perfect life. Through a series of uncontrollable events, the girls find themselves thrust back into the fairytale world. But everything has changed, and the darkest threats to happiness might be those people and things they trusted the most.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I'm surprised by how Chainani starts this one, but that is partially because I forgot how he detailed the ending of the first book. He also likes to take risks and do unusual things with his characters, which he continues here. Agatha is still my favorite character, although she seems less sure of what she wants this time around. Her inner self is at war. Unlike last time, I have no idea what the future has in store for Sophie or Tedros, and I'm eager to see what will happen. I don't like the new evolution of the storybook world, so I hope the girls (or others) bring it crumbling down or re-instate the old ways.

Conclusion: Agatha's whining and indecisiveness bothered me in this book. She was so sure and pure-of-heart in the first one--her inability to take action in this one was a bit frustrating. Tedros was, as always, bothersome in his lack of self-assurance, but he continued to be loyal to his friends and ideals. Sophie was the most confusing one this time. Is she good; is she evil? Who knows? And Evelyn Sader was Chainani's most brilliant creation yet, although I still can't help but hate her. I think it was the fact that she tampered with the books in the school library! Speaking of which, there's a giant turtle librarian! I loved it. I probably would have ended the storyline of the series with this book (or maybe even the first one). I love Chainani's originality, but I'm curious why you never see books with just one sequel. And it's frustrating being left hanging! I had finality with the first book since I thought it was a stand-alone...albeit a tentative, barely constructed finality. The author's specialties seem to lie with the cliffhangers and the edgy, unique characters. I'm extremely fascinated to see how it will finally end.

Recommendation: This book will only make sense within its series, so I recommend reading it if you liked the first one.

The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes is my fourth "New Release" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. How are everyone else's challenges going? Don't forget to comment and subscribe for further updates on the challenge! Who knows, maybe I'll get that blackout after all!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green is about a girl named Margo who is unhappy with her life, her town, her friends, etc. She disappears one day, and her neighbor (Quentin), who has had a crush on her since childhood, starts a search to find out where she is and what happened to her. Quentin is actually the main character, but he is so focused on getting "inside Margo's mind" during his search that the reader learns just as much about her as one does about him.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This is a little strange so far. Basically, there's this little girl who sees a dead body and gets really weird about it. Rather than running away, her initial reaction is to close the dead man's eyes (she doesn't, but she wanted to). Then she starts this whole investigation to find out what happened and gets spooked when talking to her friend about it. The funny thing is, the main character is just as strange in the opposite way, because he just sees the dead body, talks to his parents (who are therapists) about it, and then moves on as if nothing significant had happened. And yet, his reaction feels more normal than hers. Maybe it's just the general attitude in which this book starts that is throwing me off, because Green has already switched gears and left the beginning years behind, and I'm only twenty-three pages in. Quentin is now in high school, and he seems to live a fairly normal life outside of the major social circles. I really have no idea where this book will take me, so I'm just along for the ride at the moment.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

This is the cover on the paperback edition, which I actually think is a bit more fun. Lots of books have pictures of girls on the front, right? This one makes it special.

Conclusion: John Green has a talent for taking something basic and making it special. This book becomes something you don't expect. It starts out a little quirky, and you assume it's going to be about Q's (Quentin's) strengthened friendships or the point where he decides to let Margo go, but it's not. So, the ending wasn't what I expected or even really what I wanted, but I like how it ended overall. I don't really want to read more about Quentin and Margo, but I wouldn't mind a spin-off, maybe about Radar or Margo's little sister.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Book Club / Book Bingo: The Giver

The Giver is the first in a YA science fiction quartet by Lois Lowry. I first read this book in upper elementary school, and I had no idea that Lowry ended up writing more books set in this world! It's about a futuristic community in which no one experiences deep pain or difficulty. They also can't see color or really experience love, and the environment has been controlled to be flat and the same all of the time. There are very strict rules to be followed, and people are assigned spouses and children after written requests to a committee. The main character, Jonas, has reached the age of job assignment (12-years-old), and he is made Receiver of Memories. What follows is happiness and sadness, joy and pain as he learns the past and present truths of his community.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

This book never gets old! It's so beautiful and emotionally wrenching at the same time. I remember, the first time I read it, becoming more and more horrified at the prospect of living in this futuristic world where nothing really means anything. This time, the passing on of memories bit by bit is what really struck me. When Jonas experiences snow for the first time, I can feel what it would be like never to have seen or felt snow before that moment. Lowry has a gift for detail, accomplishing quite a lot in a short amount of space, and I relish in the constant discoveries Jonas makes throughout the book.

This is my Re-Read choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge! I loved re-visiting this book--re-read something that you love today! Don't forget to check back and subscribe!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Bingo: Sea of Shadows

Sea of Shadows is the first book in a new YA fantasy series by Kelley Armstrong, Age of Legends. Twin sisters are the main characters, and they are the Keeper and the Seeker--communicators to the spirits of dead ancestors as well as to those who were excommunicated for crimes to their village and country. Together, the girls (Ashyn and Moria) help the dead to find peace and protect their village from those who have no peace to find. Their jobs never seemed too difficult until the night of Ashyn's first Seeking. As everything they've ever known crumbles around them, the girls are separated and forced on a journey to find each other and protect their land from creatures that once only lived in stories.

 (picture taken from Goodreads)

The characters in this book were awesome! They had primary characteristics but were still well-developed, with plenty of depth and change throughout the book. Gavril Kitsune (a soldier and sometimes-friend of Moria's) was probably the most intriguing character--he was a mystery, and yet, he felt deeply and followed an honorable code obvious to the girls. The relationships between Moria and Ashyn and their spirit animals, Daigo and Tova, were beautiful. I just wished the girls would speak more directly to the spirits. Maybe Armstrong did this on purpose, so the girls would not have extra advantages in the crises they come across? It was interesting, too, how the author used animals and mythical creatures to convey meaning about each character or event. The differences in the girls' reactions to the first personally tragic event in the story, for instance, revealed Moria's bravery and strength as well as Ashyn's steadfast hope and cunning. Armstrong chose the perfect creatures to put in the characters' ways, as well. They were unique and strange--not too similar, so you knew they were not directly connected, but not too different, so they would fit well in the same book. And the ending of this book was crazy! I didn't realize when I was reading it that this was the beginning of a new series, so I thought the plot would wrap-up by the end of the book. Boy, was I left hanging! One of my favorite characters is mixed-up in all of the bad events of the book--more than I expected, although less, I suspect, than the other characters think. I thought of some alternate ways to have told this story if Armstrong wanted it to be fiction or science-fiction, but I think Armstrong made the right choice going with fantasy--her use of those cool, mythical creatures really made the story. In conclusion, I would definitely recommend reading this book, but maybe not until the next one in the series comes out. I don't usually read series as they're being published, and the suspense is driving me crazy! It's so good!

This book was my third New Releases Choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Still making progress! And I'd love to hear how far you guys have gotten with this!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lots of Love, Other Blogger Giveaway

I know, I know--I promise lots of posts, I disappear again. Suffice it to say, when your two-year-old gets really sick for two weeks and then you fall ill for a week, even the computer does not seem like an interesting option. You know what does? Sleep. So that's what I've been doing. Posts to come, but for now, a link to a Jane Austen giveaway (and you know those are my favorite kinds)!

This giveaway is being held by Miss Laurie over at Old-Fashioned Charm, and it seems worth some of your time! Good luck to all my faithful readers!

Update 7/22/14: I found another Austen-related giveaway! I seem to be stumbling upon them without even trying now. Anyway, this one is hosted by Tamara, and the post is called My Austenesque Birthday Gifts & Giveaway!!! Good luck again!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Club: Looking for Alaska

In Looking for Alaska by John Green, loner Miles convinces his parents to send him to a boarding school in Alabama--Culver Creek. Once there, Miles instantly makes friends, but not the ones he ever expected. The Colonel, Alaska, and Takumi re-name him "Pudge" and teach him the ways of Culver Creek life, constantly getting in and out of trouble with teachers and other students alike. The newly-deemed Pudge quickly becomes an integral part of the group and starts to fall for Alaska, and the rest of the story is in the book.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This is a little weird. I haven't read any contemporary books set in a boarding school in America, so I have very little idea of how that setting is usually included. I like Miles, the Colonel, and Takumi, but I'm on the fence about Alaska. I guess she's just like any other attractive, teenage girl who hangs out with a group of guys.

Conclusion: I liked this, but I didn't love it. Parts of it were very meaningful...others, not so much. The characters in Looking for Alaska felt realistic to me, so that helped me to enjoy the book (while also providing frustration in a few key parts). Green's main characters stood apart from the others, as main characters should, but they were flawed. He wrote about human characters, not forces of nature, which is an important distinction to remember when you're reading this book. A few members of my book club thought certain characters shouldn't have acted as they did, but the characters' actions were true to their personalities. That being said, Alaska never really grew on me. I liked her better by the end, but she was a difficult character for me to actually admire. This book is defined by the climax in the middle of the story. I think most people who read it will pick half of the book as "the most important half." For me, it was the first half. The second half had its moments, though, not the least of which is Miles's essay at the end. It kept a personal connection between the main character and me up until the very end. Side note: I was very fascinated by Miles's obsession with last words. It's something I've never thought about, and now I find myself wanting to know the last words of all my favorite authors and figures in history. Green has definitely encouraged me to try something new, which I always appreciate. All in all, this was a good book. Not my favorite by John Green, but I didn't really expect it to beat The Fault in Our Stars, so I'm not disappointed.

Let me know what you think if you read this, and keep checking back for more great reads!

Monday, June 23, 2014

In Honor Of My Teachers

I've been taking a little break from my computer, as you can tell. I guess it's been about a month, which seems kind of crazy considering how much I'm usually online. That hasn't stopped me from reading, though, so there are some posts on the way. Meanwhile, I'm writing about something else: Two of my favorite teachers retired this year! It is unlikely that either of them will ever see this post, but I want to say a little something about each of them. The more I think about it, though, the less capable I feel of explaining how much they mean to me and what all I have learned from them. So, my solution is to tell you what they taught and name some books and authors to which they introduced me (links from Goodreads). Perhaps that will be enough to leave a lasting impression.

First off, my high school speech and debate coach, who we'll call Mrs. W.
Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
A Piece of My Heart by Keith Walker
Dave Barry

Secondly, Dr. T, who taught a couple of my literature classes my junior year of college, as well as an advanced composition class my senior year.
The Iliad
The Odyssey
Confessions of St. Augustine 
Virginia Woolf
The Analects
James Joyce
They Say/I Say by Gerald Graff and Kathy Birkenstein
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

These are just a few of the multitudes of literary masterpieces and authors that I have gleaned from these women, but those stood out to me right now. If there are some you haven't read, I encourage you to pick them up and think of how much inspiration has been passed to others using these works. Thanks for reading, guys! I know I disappear from time to time, but I promise to let you know if I ever decide to leave for good, so keep sticking with me! Book reviews to come!