Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saint Anything

Saint Anything is the most recent brilliant YA concoction by Sarah Dessen, probably my favorite living author! This book was actually just released this month. Sydney is one of only two children in a well-off family, but her brother is always the one around which others revolve. When her brother is sent to jail after a drunk driving accident, Sydney feels invisible and doesn't know where to turn. No one seems to understand her point-of-view. She decides to switch from private to public school and becomes instant friends with siblings Layla and Mac, whose family accepts her as one of their own and really listens to what she has to say. This is a story of friends and family, trust and love, and ultimately, honesty.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
jacket photo: Beowulf Sheehan / Getty Images;
jacket design: Cara Petrus)

First Impression: Every time I read something by Dessen, I'm struck by how realistic her characters are. They're well-balanced and dealing with honest situations. I can relate to Sydney--not because of some infidelity with the law in her family, but because she is sometimes ignored but always depended upon--the younger sister of someone more dynamic and adventurous than herself. The Chathams instant and affectionate relationship to her is very sweet. I'm curious what the cataclysmic conflict will be in this story (because there has to be one) and who will be directly involved. Ames is creepy, but part of me still hopes he won't try anything. I'm also curious what Peyton will do when he becomes a more active part of the story. And Mac! I want Mac to talk more, but he's shy and sweet with two dynamic sisters of his own with which to contend. I loved his "Anger Management" shirt at the beginning as Dessen's little homage to Just Listen. It's so fun when she makes little references to her past books for those of us who have read them!

Conclusion: Sarah Dessen never disappoints me. Her characters are well-developed people you wish you knew, and she's always coming up with new ideas--all realistic situations in which a teenager might find herself. I keep coming back to how sweet this book is. A little less confrontational than some of Dessen's other books (ironically, given the topic). Like Sydney's relationship with Mac--simple and sweet. Dessen has a great talent for conveying the truth of a situation and how all of her characters would react in that situation. She surprised me by not bringing Peyton into a more active role, but I guess I thought his sentence would end earlier than it did. Probably for the best. If he had been introduced late in the book, it might have started a whole new storyline where Sydney is adjusting to having him home. I liked the ending. There is a good middle ground found there that seems a fitting end to the harshness of the climax.

Recommendation: If you like YA with a sprinkling of romance over a lot of family conflict and new friendships, this is the book for you. There's some discussion of alcohol and drug use, but not to a disturbing level (except where it affected characters in a legal way in the past).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Empire of Night

Empire of Night is the second book in the Age of Legends series by Kelley Armstrong. As you know, I've been waiting for this book since last July! And it was totally worth it, even though it doesn't count for the TBR Pile Challenge. Here's my review of the first book, Sea of Shadows.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This one starts a little slowly, and I miss Gavril. That being said, I like how Armstrong ties this one to the first one. She makes comments here and there to remind the reader about what happened before but not in a way that feels overly repetitive. I also like how she uses sorcery and the shadow stalkers in both similar and different ways from the first book--making them living elements of the storyline that change but stay similar enough to be recognizable. Tyrus is a great character, but I wish he wasn't a love interest for Moria, because...Gavril! Hello! The dynamic between the sisters, Ashyn and Moria, plays out perfectly the aftermath of their separation in the first book. I'm curious to see how the war and the relationships will play out.

Conclusion: As my son would say, "What are you [Armstrong] doing to my brain?!" Seriously, she should write for TV shows. These cliffhangers are going to kill me, but this series is amazing and totally worth it. I love how the author can go from action to discussion, intrigue to open honesty between characters without a beat. The story flows so smoothly switching between Ashyn's and Moria's experiences. And they each have an interesting part to play in what happens. Gavril and can I say that won't give anything away if you haven't read it? Okay, all I will say is this: Moria doesn't do what I want her to do as a character; she does what I would probably do if I were really in her situation. I am so ready to read the third book, and Armstrong doesn't even have a publication date scheduled for it yet! I've heard rumors that this will end with the next one, but I really hope she makes the series longer, because I feel like there's so much she could still do with such interesting characters. I can't wait!

Recommendation: Read Sea of Shadows first, or this book will not make much sense.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Great Book Giveaway Bonanza!

Happy Mothers' Day everyone! To celebrate, I'm spending time with my family and getting excited about Hamlette's Great Book Giveaway Bonanza!

It starts on June 15, and I will be participating! Don't forget to check back and see what a bunch of us are giving away. And if you have a blog or know someone who would like to participate, send them to The Edge of the Precipice through the picture link, and they can join, too!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Audiobook / TBR Pile: The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien takes place before The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It is a collection of tales of Valinor and Middle Earth, as well as their creators, inhabitants, and visitors.

Audio: Martin Shaw is a great narrator for this book. His reading is clear and concise, and he translates the importance of certain events and people by the tone of his voice. I really enjoyed his narration.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This book reads a lot like the Old Testament of the Bible. You get all the parts about the creation of the world and the multitude of confusing names. Maybe the context is closer to Greek myths, but it's not exactly written that way. There's no cap on the story like, "And that is how the stars came to be;" it's a continuous line of evolving and interlinking stories. Although it's hard to keep all of the characters straight without their names listed in front of me (especially when some of them have multiple names), I'm enjoying the storytelling quality of the book very much. The shaping of knowledge and of the world through song is beautiful and unique. I wonder if this book is easier to understand if you've read Lord of the Rings? I've only read The Hobbit, and that was a long time ago. I guess I'll find out after I read the rest of them.

Conclusion: Tolkien was a fantastic author of epic fantasy. Even though The Silmarillion is hard to follow at times, it is a wonderful work of art. Tolkien weaves his tale around the reader so that I felt connected to the characters and their various stories. I felt the weight of each battle and death, as well as the joy of each celebration and creation of life. It seems so crazy that each tale...each character, even, is unique and memorable. I loved this and will probably need to re-read The Hobbit now before my maiden voyage through Lord of the Rings.

Recommendation: I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in the creation and history of Valinor and Middle Earth, the settings behind Lord of the Rings. Also if you just enjoy an old English style of fantastical worlds and battles, this would be a good choice.

This book is my fifth read for the 2015 Audiobook Challenge and my tenth read for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Audiobook / Banned Book / TBR Pile: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is about a freshman in high school, Charlie, who naturally distances himself from what is happening around him. In an effort to start participating more in life, Charlie introduces himself to a couple of seniors at a football game, and his life begins to change almost immediately.

(pictures in this post taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I was pretty disappointed with the first CD of this book. I guess I don't understand the wallflower mentality very well. As much as I observe people, I also participate very actively in life. I don't think Charlie would be quite this naive at his age in reality. He might not have tried drugs, but he would understand what is in the brownie he's eating at a party with strangers. Likewise, he would know of things such as sex and masturbation even if he hasn't done them. That being said, I'm at a point where the book is starting to get better.

(movie cover)

Conclusion: There is always danger in reading a book about which you've heard a lot. Not if people say it's just okay, I guess, but if they tell you it was amazing and completely changed their lives...BEWARE. My reason for saying this is that I liked this book, but it didn't change my life. There are a lot of important issues that Chbosky brings into play with his characters, and he represents certain high school experiences very well. My two problems with the book were pretty small: 1)When a serious and complicated issue was introduced (such as teen pregnancy or abusive relationships), sometimes it was dealt with quickly and never mentioned again; and 2) Charlie was naive about a lot of things he would have known in reality (drug awareness programs existed in the 90's, people!). These were not very big deals in the general scheme of things. Anyway, this was a good book about being a teenager and dealing with some of the things you don't expect or deserve from life, good or bad.

Recommendation: If you have a teenager or enjoy teenage books about understanding one's life and the world, this is a good book for you. I would also recommend that you be comfortable with and prepared for discussions of drugs, sex, and abuse.

This book is my fourth 2015 Audiobook Challenge read, my fifth read for the 2015 Banned Book Challenge, and my ninth read for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Audiobook / Banned Book / TBR Pile: The Screwtape Letters

I love everything I've ever read that was written by C.S. Lewis. I'd really be hard-pressed to find something of his that I didn't enjoy. And so, let me introduce The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It's a bit of an unconventional piece of literature. Screwtape, a higher-level administrative demon, is writing a series of letters to his nephew, Wormwood, a lower-level tempter. The main focus of the letters is the best way to tempt one man toward "our father below," the Devil, and away from "the enemy," God. Lewis uses his best forum--the written word--to create a humorous, creepy, and fearlessly honest Devil's Advocate.

There are many covers for this book. Mine actually had a picture of C.S. Lewis on the front, but I couldn't find a link for that picture, so I'll just share a couple of the covers that I like.
(all pictures on this post taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion: What a unique and witty way of Lewis to present his ideas! I was laughing much of the time and nodding my head at Lewis' intended points in each letter. I found it interesting to learn after listening to this book that Lewis hated writing it, although it makes sense. Visiting and lingering for too long in a world where sin is a joke and something the main character vehemently supports cannot be good for the soul, at least from a Christian perspective. The version I listened to also included "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," which is a follow-up piece to The Screwtape Letters. It is somewhat religious, obviously, but Lewis also sneaks some political viewpoints into that one, so I found myself a little more torn on some of his points. But the best part of Screwtape's letters (in my opinion) was the demon's complete inability to understand love. How perfect to explain his shortsightedness in understanding the motivations of God and humans! The little nuances of balance in the practice of temptation were also brilliant. I just really enjoyed this, and it made me think seriously at the same time.

Recommendation: I would recommend this to any Christian or anyone who wishes to read this viewpoint in a form both humorous and serious at the same time.

The Screwtape Letters is my fourth read for the 2015 Banned Book Challenge, my third read for the 2015 Audiobook Challenge, and my eighth read for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge. A lot of crossover this time!

Side note: If I owe any of you mail, I am so sorry for the delay. I've been pretty swamped lately, but hopefully I will catch up soon. Know that you are in my mind and I'm doing my best.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

TBR Pile: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library is the first book in Chris Grabenstein's Mr. Lemoncello's Library series. He wrote one recently called The Island of Dr. Libris that is the same type of book but not technically in this series. The second book is scheduled to release in 2016, I think. The book centers around twelve twelve-year-old children who have won an essay contest to be the first group of people to check out a very interesting, rather adventurous library designed by a famous board game designer who used to live in their small Ohio town. The kids soon find out that their "lock-in" has become an exciting game where they must solve an intricate puzzle and find their own way out of the library.

I love this cover! It's so active and fun, and it represents the book perfectly.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
jacket illustration by Gilbert Ford;
jacket design by Nicole de las Heras)

Conclusion: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library was such a fun book! Predictable, yes, although some of the details surprised me. And it wasn't exactly realistic--I don't know of a lot of libraries funded by billionaires who plan eccentric games to get kids excited about reading. I saw a few bad reviews on Goodreads while I was reading this, and I think those people probably expected something a bit more traditional. But maybe this book is the push your kid will need to really start reading?

Recommendation: This is a great read for anyone who loves a dose of fun with their awe of libraries. And I would recommend this book especially to people who like puzzles and childrens' adventure books.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library is my seventh choice for the 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge. It is also a 2015/16 nominee for the Mark Twain Award. Are there any books written for children or young adults that you all would recommend? I always read them faster than adult books, so it's easy to fit more in.