Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Discussion: Growing Up Reading (and some recommendations)

Growing up, I was kind of the only reader in my family and my group of friends. I loved to read when I was younger but being the only reader, it wasn't the same as it is now so I didn't start reading loads until I was a teenager.

I grew up reading Point Horror books and Harry Potter and random ones I stumbled across myself (I remember reading Dracula when I was about 12), but I never really had any grown ups giving me books they thought I'd like (aside from assigned reading for school, which mostly sucked) and I didn't have any friends to talk about books with or get book recommendations from.

Now, I'm older and I love books, and I have a nephew and he loves to read too. He's really the only one in my family that loves to read the way I love to read, so I give him books (and it's really cute, sometimes he tries to let me borrow his books too).
Basically, my point is this: You should encourage children to read, and if they already love reading then you should nurture that. 

And, to go along with that point, here are some recommendations for younger readers (my nephew is 10, these are the books I've given him to read over the past year or so):

There are the obvious ones like Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (the latter being one he picked out himself and loves), of course. And I still maintain that Point Horror books are awesome.

1. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett

2. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordon

3. Matilda by Roald Dahl (but any of his books are good) - This is one of those books that 90's kids grew up reading, and it's one that can totally stand the test of time.

4. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

5. The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss

6. Chris Priestly books - I'm not sure which of these to recommend, since I've not read them, but I gave my nephew a bunch of them and he seems to really enjoy them. If you have/know a kid who is into ghost/horror stories, maybe check out some of these for him/her.

7. The Gorgon in the Gully by Melina Marchetta

8. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy - This book is awesome (I read it a few years ago, so it's one of those ones that can appeal to older readers too). It's funny and it's fun and just...yeah. I really recommend this one.

9. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

10. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

I've given him loads more, but those are the ones I remember.

Questions:

Were you a reader when you were younger? When did you really start reading?

Did you have any adults (or friends/siblings) in your life that encouraged you to read?

Is there any books you'd recommend for younger readers, books that can spark a love of reading in someone young?

Later.

p.s. On a completely unrelated note, my reading funk seems to have gotten much worse. I must have more than 20 books that are started but unfinished, it feels like it's been ages since I've finished a book. I just can't seem to concentrate, but as soon as I snap out of this, expect some reviews up (hopefully soon).

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Book Haul 151

I've been trying to branch out from my usual kind of books because I'm still in a reading funk and I thought maybe trying something new would help.

Bought:


Night Over Water by Ken Follett - I've never read anything of his, but I've seen and loved two mini-series adaptions of his books so I figure maybe I might like this.

Intensity by Dean Koontz - I love horror/thriller type movies, but I haven't really read any books in that genre since I was a kid and had an obsession with Point Horror books. I just saw this one and it sounded interesting. *shrug*

Wicked by Gregory Maguire - I really, really want to see the musical and it's actually playing in Scotland this year so maybe I'll get to, but I want to read the book first. I just got the e-book to see if I like it first and if I do, I'll get it--and the rest of the series--in paperback.

I got one book for review (unsolicited) but I can't remember the title right now, it wasn't really something I wanted to read but my nephew wanted to read it so I let him (I'll add the title/goodreads link once I find where I put the press release).

And that's all I got this week. What'd you guys get? Have you read any of the ones I mentioned? And, is there any books you'd recommend that aren't YA (adult fantasy, romance, historical, thriller etc.)?

Later.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Pieces by Michelle Davidson Argyl

This book is a sequel to The Breakaway...I don't think the review or even the summary is particularly spoiler-y, but yeah.
Pieces
by Michelle Davidson Argyl

Summary: Staying in love can mean running away...

Two years after watching her kidnappers go to prison, Naomi Jensen is still in love with one of them. Jesse will be released in a few years, and Naomi knows college is the perfect distraction while she waits. But when her new friend Finn makes her question what is right and what is wrong, she begins to wonder if Jesse is the one for her...until she discovers he's out on parole. Naomi must sort through her confusion to figure out where love and freedom truly lie-in Finn, who has no connections to her past, or Jesse, who has just asked her to run away with him.

This book is an odd one. It's one of those books that keeps me hooked and I can read it cover-to-cover in one sitting, and it'll keep me entertained in that time...but it doesn't leave much of an impression on me (seriously, I literally finished it a few hours ago and feel nothing about it, the only reason I'm thinking about it now is so I can get some reviews scheduled). It wasn't even making much of an impression on me while I was reading it.

That sounds bad, doesn't it? But the thing is, it's not really (and, I've seen a bunch of reviews rated 5 stars so my feelings--or lack-of--are definitely not universal). I know that I'm not going to love every book that I read and not every book will have an impact on me.

Reading books like this...it feels like watching a movie that maybe isn't the best movie--or the worst--but it keeps you amused for a few hours so you don't regret spending your time on it.

I had issues with the first book, it was kind of underwhelming, and I really can't tell if I liked this one more or less than the first.

The main character annoyed me for a lot of the book. I think it's less an issue with how she's written though, and more about just the kind of character that she is. She tells a guy she just wants to be friends, because she has a boyfriend, which is fine but her actions don't match up to her words (or her feelings) so even though she was upfront about being involved with someone else, it felt like she was stringing him along. And she's one of those characters that will take half the book to figure out something that is blatantly obvious to the reader and the other characters from the start. Some of her issues are understandable given what she went through and she does grow as a character, and I liked her in the end, but she's just one of those ones that is very...frustrating to read about.

The other characters... I don't have much to say about them. Finn was nice, her parents (and her issues with them) didn't feel quite as plot device-ish as they did in the first book, and Jesse - not really sure what I think of him.

The story was more interesting, I think, than the first book. I felt like the first book was lacking something and didn't measure up to other books about kidnapping that I've read, this one did something different because it was a book about the after of it all. I liked that it showed how haunted she still is by what happened to her and how it changed her, in both good ways and bad - like her cooking, Evelyn taught her to cook in the first book and it stuck with her and I like that little details like that were included.

I wish there had been more discussion in the book about Stockholm Syndrome. It was literally only mentioned twice in the whole book, nearer the end, and even then it was only in passing. It just feels like it's something that should've been mentioned more, either in therapy, or in her own thoughts (wondering if what she was feeling was "Real Love" or just SS), or even by the characters who just find out about her past. She mentions that she's known as the girl who fell in love with her kidnapper - maybe it's just me, but when I hear that, I instantly think Stockholm Syndrome but no one seems to even imply that. Even when it's mentioned in the book, it felt like it was talking about the other characters and not Jesse. And that just...I wish it was discussed more.

The second half of the book was where the story started to hook me. I knew how it was going to turn out, because the plot was pretty predictable, but it was still entertaining reading it all happening. And this review is getting quite long and rambling.

I'd rate it 3 out of 5 stars, like the first one. I will probably have forgot I even read the book by tomorrow, but there is definitely something good about a book that can have me read it in one sitting (while I'm in a reading funk).

Later.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Sever by Lauren DeStefano

This is the third and final book in this series, so there'll be spoilers in the summary for the first two books. I really recommend the series though, if you haven't read it yet. 

Sever 
by Lauren DeStefano

Summary: With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (just thought I'd mention that first because my review got a bit long and I do discuss negative aspects of the book too)

Up until the last quarter of this book, I was convinced I was going to be disappointed with this as an ending to the series (not bad, just not satisfying)...but then, somehow I found myself crying on the last page and deciding that, no, I actually think it was a pretty good ending and I really liked the book.

My favourite thing about this series is definitely the way Lauren DeStefano writes. Her writing is lovely, and even at times in the series where I felt other areas were lacking, the writing was consistently good and I loved that. I want to quote my favourite part of the book, but it's from the last page so I'll just link it instead in case anyone doesn't want to read it.

The world building in the series was always something I felt wasn't that great, definitely the weakest part of the series, but it improved a bit in this book. It still wasn't perfect, but at least we got some answers that explain the why's and how's that have been bugging me for the past two books.

The characters in the book - I still really like them, particularly the bond that has formed between Rhine and Cecily; Cecily is the character that has grown the most throughout the series and in the end I really liked her (while in the beginning, I thought she was annoying and a bit awful, so she totally won me over). I loved Reed too, the new character in the story. Rhine bugged me a little at times in the book (like, for example, when she seems to spill her entire life story to people she barely knows but when it matters most--with the person it matters most with--she gets all tongue tied and sits there saying nothing as bad things are about to happen), but I liked her.

The romance in the book (or at least, the relationships of characters in the book romantically involved, because it didn't really feel like what was in the book was romance)...I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to feel about those. Like, Linden and Cecily - I'm not sure if I was supposed to like them as a couple or not? I mean, I'm cool with age differences in a relationship, but not when one person is practically still a child while the other is an adult, especially not when it's a sexual relationship and they're having children...that's just...no. Not cool with that, even in the context of the story that's very - ick, and just wrong but it felt almost like we're supposed to approve of them or think they're right for each other? (Maybe not what the author intended, but it felt that way.)

And the Cecily thing makes me think way less of Linden as a character, which sucks because aside from that, he wasn't terrible and him and Rhine actually weren't bad together...but then Rhine, she'd say one thing, then she'd think something else and her actions and emotions and words were all out of sync sometimes when it came to Linden, and Gabriel just seemed like an afterthought and...yeah. The romantic relationships in the book were a bit of a mess and I'm not sure how I feel about them.

I don't consider that a problem with the book really, definitely not a problem with the way it was written (they're living in a messed up world, so the relationships reflecting that is fine), it's just - that's what I was thinking while reading it. And, like I said, it didn't feel like I was reading a romance (or even a romance subplot) anyway, so it didn't really impact my overall opinion of the book but I wanted to mention it anyway.

Moving on...

The first half/two thirds of the book felt very slow, and I'm not sure if that's because they actually were or if it's because I've just been having trouble reading/finishing books recently, but it didn't feel like there was a whole lot going on in that part of the book. It felt more character driven than plot, which is fine, it's just...slow. The pacing picked up in the rest of the book; it actually felt kind of rushed in comparison to the first part of the book but it wasn't bad.

This review is kind of rambling and all over the place (I seem to do that a lot), sorry, but basically, I really liked the book. I'd rate it 4 out of 5. It didn't disappoint me as an ending to the series, there was just enough answers, just enough closure (not like the books that either go OTT with the happily ever after or leave way too many loose ends untied).

There was really only one thing that I didn't like about it (I can't mention without spoiling it, but you'll know what I mean when you read it), because it felt really pointless and a bit of a cop-out because it prevented things from being more complicated in the end and made the choices characters made less difficult than they would have been had it not happened and so it felt like it was written in for that reason instead of it fitting with the story. But, aside from that thing? *thumbs up*

Later.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Book Haul (150)

Lanna:
These aren't just from this week, they're from the past 3? 4? weeks.

For Review:

Drummer Girl by Bridget Tyler
Speechless by Hannah Harrington (from netgalley, review is up already)

Bought:

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg - Love the movie, and Cat Clarke recommended the book in the interview we had on the blog, so...
Blood Prophecy by Alyxandra Harvey - Love this series, I think this is the final book?
A Farewell to Arms by Ernet Hemingway - Have wanted to read this for ages.

E-books:

I don't normally include e-books I've bough in book hauls...mainly because I always forget and when I remember, I can't be bothered adding them, but I've been reviewing a few so I figured maybe I should start including them. It never feels like I actually own e-books, they feel so temporary.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld - decided to read the e-book before buying the physical copies. *shrug*
The Breakaway and Pieces by Michelle Davidson Argyl - review of the first one is up, review of the second will be up next week.
Broken and Screwed by Tijan - She's an author I used to read on fictionpress, now on livejournal (although I'm very behind on her updates right now) and three of her stories from there were my favourites from FP so I get all her books when she releases them on Kindle (haven't read them all yet), even if it goes against my aversion to self published books. I hope she releases my favourite ones (A Whole New Crowd and its sequel) at some point.

There is probably more that I'm forgetting. o.O What're you guys reading this week?

Later.

Julie:
So, this is 2 weeks worth of books. It's also important to note that I've kind of given up on the book buying restrictions I had. I'm trying to still be careful, but the introduction of Visa gift cards made me able to buy lots of ebooks that have been dawdling on my wishlist without worry. As I will hopefully have an apartment in 2-3 months, this spree of being bad probably won't last long. Still, these purchases were all gift cards or for future signings.

For Review:
Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald (requested ARC from Candlewick)
Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes (requested ARC from Candlewick Press)
Golden by Jessi Kirby (egalley from Edelweiss)
The Eternity Cure by Julia Kagawa (egalley from Netgalley)
Right of Way by Lauren Barnholdt (egalley from Edelweiss)

Purchased:
The Summer Prince by Alaya Johnson (hardcover purchased from Strand for Teen Author Fest)
Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir (hardcover purchased from Strand for Teen Author Fest)
The Torn Wing by Kiki Hamilton (Kindle book from Amazon that was free at the time)
Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley (Kindle book purchased from Amazon)
Moonlight and Mischief by Rhonda Woodard (Kindle book purchased from Amazon)
So Into You by Cecilia Gray (Kindle book purchased from Amazon that was free at the time)
It's in His Kiss by Julia Quinn (Kindle book purchased from Amazon)
A Kiss in the Dark by Kimberly Logan (Kindle book purchased from Amazon)

Since those last 3 are romance novels and it is (as I type this) 3:30 am, I'm not including links. Because SLEEP.

So, what did you guys pick up recently?

--Julie

Friday, 1 March 2013

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Speechless
by Hannah Harrington

Summary: Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.
I think this book has earned Hannah Harrington a spot on my instant read list. I liked her first book, Saving June, but I loved this one. 

The book had a similar kind of feel to it as Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers and I loved that - there aren't many authors who can write those sorts of stories and have me enjoy them, but Hannah pulled it off.

I have a lot of respect for authors who can write characters that are really unlikeable but then make me care about them somewhere along the line. In this book, she did that with Chelsea. I really did not like Chelsea in the beginning - she was shallow and annoying and kind of a pushover, and she cared way too much about popularity, and seemed blind to the fact that her best friend was awful.

But then, things happened and she does things that change her and change the way I thought of her and in the end, I actually liked her. She made some big mistakes and did some awful things, but she learned from them and grew as a character in a way that didn't seem forced (sometimes those, "I've seen the error of my ways, I'm a good person now!" storylines seem fake and don't happen naturally, but that wasn't the case with this one and in the end it felt like Chelsea was the person she really always was and always was supposed to be and the changes in her life just allowed that to shine through).

I adored the side characters. Sam, Asha, Andy, Dex, Lou, and the art teacher whose name I've forgotten because I suck at remembering last names, they were my favourite part of the story and what really made the book for me. They were lovely. 

And, I really liked that the book showed that just because you're not the one saying something bad doesn't mean you're innocent. Standing by as bad things happen--saying nothing, doing nothing--when you can do something about it makes you guilty too. I don't know if that was the intended message of the book or not, but that's what I got from it (although I already knew that) and I liked that it was the main character taking a vow of silence that really showed that - not saying anything at all for a while taught her the value of speaking up for what's right.

There were some things in the book that made me angry (due to what was written, not that there was anything wrong with how it was written) - like characters seeming to get away with bullying--and at one point, a racist comment--but at the same time, I know it was realistic. In a perfect world, bullying wouldn't happen but we don't live in a perfect world, not even close, because often bullies get away with the things they do. So, while it was frustrating to read about some of the things, I get that it was realistic - the story would've felt less genuine if all of the bullies in the stories got what they deserved in the end.

I can't really think of anything else to say. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5, and if you're a fan of Courtney Summers then I think you might really like this one too - even if you're not, I still recommend checking it out.

Later.

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