December 18, 2012

Defiance by C.J. Redwine

It’s been 60 days and Rachel’s father, Jared, still hasn’t returned from his latest courier mission into the Wasteland.  The Commander of the walled City-State of Baalboden declares Jared dead and announces Jared’s apprentice, Logan, as Rachel’s new Protector.  Growing up trained to fight and with a sense of independence, she is unlike any other female in Baalboden; she hardly believes she needs a Protector.  However, Rachel fully believes her father isn’t dead and sets a plan in motion to find him in the Wasteland.  Now all she must do is escape without drawing attention from the Commander. 

December 13, 2012

Rachel Cohn's Beta

Teenaged Elysia is an experimental clone, manufactured from a dead girl and predestined to be a slave for the wealthy.  After the destructive Water Wars, people (Read: the wealthy) wanted a stress-free, more luxurious life.  So they traveled to the idyllic island of Demesne (rhymes with Renesmee) where everything is controlled, including the water and air, to be euphoric.  To fill her college-aged daughter’s absence, the wife of Demesne’s Governor purchases Elysia to be a companion.  As a clone, Elysia is produced to be a soulless, emotionless being lacking in sensations in order to serve her owner better.  However, when Elysia can taste her dinner and realizes the visions she has are really her First’s memories she begins to feel frightened.  Elysia goes to great lengths to hide her emotions in fear she will be branded a Defect and sent back to the lab to be tortured.  The cliffhanger ending got me hooked but I didn’t understand or appreciate a sexually violent scene.  However, the story felt original and I’d still recommend it since I think Rachel Cohn is an amazing YA author. 

November 16, 2012

The Diviners by Libba Bray

I have been scared by a book before but never have I had a nightmare from one.  It happened within the first 100 pages of this almost 600 pager but by then I was hooked and continued on.  Evie O’Neill has a gift, although presently she only uses it to impress people at parties.  When she gets caught up in a “rumor” using her gift, she is sent off to live with her Uncle Will, curator to The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, in New York City.  It’s 1926 and New York is filled with speakeasies and flapper girls, and Evie doesn’t really see this as quite the punishment her parents believe it to be.  The moment she steps off that train her life takes a far different path than what she had expected.  Soon after her arrival, a young woman’s body is discovered beneath the Brooklyn Bridge with mysterious brandings.  Evie’s Uncle is called to the scene to help decipher the occult symbols and Evie discovers that her party trick gift can be far more useful.  She is determined to help track down the killer before more dead bodies surface.  The story follows many others with certain gifts and by the end Bray has set the stage for far more things to come. 

November 2, 2012

Seth Casteel's Underwater Dogs

Who doesn’t love lively, up-close photographs of adorable faced dogs? Casteel takes it several steps further by photographing dogs from an uncharted and unexpected perspective: underwater.  Dogs are baited with colorful tennis balls to dive into pools headfirst and their snouts are then snapped from beneath the surface.  Underwater Dogs is a serious mood booster.  I can’t wait to chuck my dog into a pool. 

October 30, 2012

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Popular Chelsea Knot loves to gossip.  She can never keep a secret for very long.  But when she tells a secret that almost gets a classmate killed and two others sent to jail she takes a vow of silence to avoid hurting anyone else.  Returning to school after the New Year’s holiday, Chelsea is met with zero friends and an onslaught of bullying to fight against.  She continues to stand by her silence even when it would be far easier to fight back with words.  It’s important to Chelsea to now think before she speaks and so chooses to write to communicate.  This coming-of-age, page-turner provided so many lessons but never felt preachy, it simply told Chelsea’s story as a high school student grappling with bullying and learning to stand up for herself. 

October 16, 2012

Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys

There is nothing I can write to do this book justice.  Not only that, I am also at a loss for words having just finished a book I fell so completely into.  It was tense, intricate, suspenseful, mythical, and incredibly haunting.  Excuse my lack of a proper review.  You’ll just have to trust me on this one. 

October 9, 2012

The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe

In 1915 Boston, Sybil Allston sits in a darkened room with several strangers awaiting a potential spiritual presence.  Sybil has been visiting Mrs. Dee’s séance’s for years, after her mother and younger sister drowned while aboard the Titanic.  With a scrying glass, Sybil believes she has her own ability to see, and starts her practice, albeit under the influence.  Meanwhile her brother, Harlan, is expelled from Harvard, subsequently attacked and put into the hospital. He refuses to discuss the situation and Sybil, thinking these two events are tied, gets involved and tries to solve Harlan’s problems.  Also to get involved: Benton Derby, a Harvard professor and past love interest who left Sybil to spinsterhood, re-enters Sybil’s life as he tries to help the Allston family.  The patriarch, Lan Allston, has a distant yet strong presence throughout the novel leaving the reader wondering why he himself doesn’t get more involved in his children’s lives.  With several different perspectives, time frames, and historical settings, Howe writes a rich and complex novel. 

September 26, 2012

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

It’s been 40 years since the dragons and humans signed their treaty and have managed to live civilly amongst each other since.  Seraphina, as half human and half dragon, an anomaly, must not draw attention to herself in the kingdom of Goredd but finds the task difficult when, as a mesmerizing musician, she becomes Goredd’s music assistant.  Seraphina hides her silver scales under layers of clothing and remains as much in the background as possible.  As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, tensions run high with an abundance of dragons transforming into their saarantrai, human form, to be allowed into the kingdom.  When Prince Rufus is murdered and found with his head bitten off, a dragon-style killing, the people of Goredd speculate how long the treaty will hold.   Although she must do so secretly, Seraphina becomes the link between the humans and the dragons. 

August 27, 2012

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

As of late, I haven’t been able to even finish a book, let alone write about one, so my apologies for slacking this month. However, that was until the funny, fast-paced, and light-hearted Paranormalcy hit the spot.  Evie is 16 and works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA).  Since she has the ability to see beyond creatures’ glamours down to whom or what they really are, she mainly does “bag-and-tag” missions.  This involves tagging vampires and werewolves and the like to catalog and neutralize their powers.  Evie believes she’s a normal girl and longs to have a normal life not filled with creepy, decrepit vampires and evil faeries until she discovers she happens to be a Category Seven Paranormal, the highest category meant for the most unknown paranormals.  All types of mystical creatures make an appearance in this trilogy and feisty Evie is often making fun of them which I really enjoyed after so many dark and angsty paranormal novels. 

August 13, 2012

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green

These two are geniuses, and I mean Levithan and Green, however the teenaged Will Grayson's are unforgettable too.  Alternating chapters between the Will Grayson's provides an insight into each as individuals until their serendipitous meeting in an adult video store.  Tiny, whose real name is not Will Grayson, has a starring role as the best friend of one WG and as the boyfriend of OWG (Other Will Grayson).  Both WG's lives become intertwined after their meeting and eventually learn a lot about themselves in this hilarious coming-of-age story.  I highly recommend listening to this book, the actors are phenomenal as well and brought the characters to life. 

July 31, 2012

MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche

Rachel Bertsche, a lifelong New Yorker, relocates to Chicago with her husband and, missing the two childhood friends she left behind, spends a great deal of time contemplating her Chicago friendships or lack thereof.  So she starts a year-long project to go on girl dates, first getting set up with friends of friends, to meeting girls at book clubs and cooking clubs, to chatting up anyone anywhere.  Bertsche even tries to rent a friend.  It’s a very funny and thought-provoking girl-meets-girl-and-tries-to-make-her-a-best-friend tale.  I appreciate that Bertsche expresses the difficulty of her task, especially for someone who is socially shy, and provides ideas to help others, such as say yes to everything. 

July 24, 2012

Dear Photograph by Taylor Jones

Dear Photograph is a compilation of photos from the original website Dear Photograph created by Taylor Jones.  It’s a photograph from the past held up in front of the same scene in the present and captured again, often accompanied with a message from the photographer.  Jones came up with the idea when he was sitting at his parent’s dinner table with his family looking through old photographs.  He found a photo of his brother when he was younger with a birthday cake displayed on the table in front of him.  Jones looked up across the table and there was his adult brother still sitting in the exact same spot.  So Jones lined up the old photo with the table and cabinets and snapped a new photo and posted it on his blog and an idea was born.  So I decided to go through some of my old photos and found one of my younger brother when he was around 2 sitting inside my parent's kitchen cabinet.  He is now 20 and in the Army. 

July 10, 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

When her parents have to move to England for work, Louisiana native Rory, gets to choose where she wants to go for her senior year.  Her choice: Wexford, a boarding school in London.  At the same time, a Jack the Ripper copy-cat killer begins to recreate the gruesome murders from 1888.  Around the dates of the past murders, the school and much of London goes on lockdown.  On one of these nights, Rory and her roommate sneak out of their dorm and unfortunately, Rory ends up being the only witness to the killer.  She's not sure how her roommate never saw this eerie man.  And now Rory has become his newest target.   This was an awesome page-turning mystery. 

July 3, 2012

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Since the moment I heard about Between the Lines, I’ve been itching to read it and, yes, I was jealous of the 13 year old at Jodi’s book talk (the one I went to back in March) who got an advanced reader’s copy, for free, from Jodi.  But I waited like a proper adult until it came out and then read it within two days.  It’s a story about a loner, Delilah, who reads and rereads a children's fairy tale memorizing every word until one day the story changes.  The main character, Prince Oliver, comes to life and explains that he and the rest of the characters are actually real people stuck within the book, having to play their roles over and over again.  Oliver so desperately wants to escape his routine life and Delilah, having fallen for his character many readings ago, really wants to help him get out.  It’s an adorable and charming story and any fan of Jodi's with children should be excited to read this with them. 

June 30, 2012

Maggie Shipstead's Seating Arrangements

In this cleverly written social satire, we are given a three day glimpse into the world of an East Coast blue blood dysfunctional family.  It’s Thursday and Winn Van Meter is on his way to his New England summer home for his eldest daughter’s wedding.   The house is filled with too many women including his drunken sister-in-law, her daughter's "bombshell" bridesmaids and his overwhelmingly depressed youngest daughter.   Not a good combination for Winn who is so full of self-pity, because his oldest rival seemingly has kept him out of the island's prestigious golf club for three years, that he starts to consider fulfilling some unfulfilled desires.  Thankfully the author provides different perspectives from several characters and we don't just witness Winn’s cringe-worthy behavior.  In all honesty, I thought this book would be much funnier and it’s not necessarily a compelling storyline however I really enjoyed the way Shipstead writes.  She writes in a descriptive and almost poetic way that you get lost in the book even if you don't like any of the characters. 

June 19, 2012

You Can't Steal a Free Book

While browsing through Etsy tonight I found an awesome article on mini hand-built libraries.  The article, Little Free Libraries: “You Can’t Steal a Free Book” is posted on the Etsy Blog and talks about these community libraries that resemble large birdhouses with hinged glass doors.  There are over 1,500 Little Free Libraries with more popping up all across the country.  You can even find a Google map of each library's location.  It has me seriously considering my craftsmanship skills because it desperately looks like my neighborhood needs a Little Free Library!

June 14, 2012

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog’s Purpose is a fantastic story that contemplates the all-too-human question of “What is our purpose in life?” but from a dog’s perspective.  We follow several reincarnations of a puppy that sometimes lives into old age, and sometimes doesn’t, but each time comes back as a new and different puppy.  This story is definitely heartwarming and sentimental but thankfully not too tearful.  Cameron creates a humorous illustration of a dog’s thoughts, “as far as I have been able to tell, cats do not have a purpose” plus a thoughtful side of our protagonist as he “ponder[s] what it meant that I was a puppy once more.”  If you like dogs even a little bit you’ll love this book. 

June 5, 2012

Transit of Venus

Today is the day!  June 5th, 2012.  The last Venus Transit until 2117.  I've had this date marked on my calendar for months now so I'm extremly excited it's finally here.  Venus will make first contact at about 6:04 Eastern time.  It will take roughly 6 hours to travel across the upper half of the sun so here in the midwest we won't get to see the final parts of the transit.  And just like every other article I've read, DON'T look directly at the sun!  Here are some safe ways to view the transit.  If clouds will be in your way or you happen to be in the area in which the transit will not be visible, I suggest checking out this live feed of the transit.  Happy Transit Viewing!

May 31, 2012

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Put together Eat, Pray, Love and A Walk in the Woods plus brutal honesty and you get Wild.  Torn down by her mother's cancer and unexpected death, her own destructive behavior, and the eventual demise of her marriage, Strayed embarks on a solo journey along the Pacific Crest Trail.  She starts her 3 month trek in Southern California with pennies to live on, too small boots, zero trail experience, and an overly packed and terribly heavy backpack, nicknamed Monster.  In Wild, Strayed intertwines her past experiences that have led her to the PCT and the challenges she faced almost every day on the grueling and lonely hike.  From wild animals, constant thirst and hunger, pain all over, to record snowfall, blistering heat, and descents that cost her toenails, Strayed had one catastrophe after another.  However, she clearly had the determination to accomplish her goal to get from the Mojave to the Bridge of Gods.  This was another great book to follow along with Google Images and has left me with the desire to explore the PCT myself.  Thanks Dad for the suggestion!

May 25, 2012

Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s Thirty by Glamour editors and Pamela Redmond Satran

As a woman in the last year of her twenties, I saw this book, 30 Things, and had to read it.  I don’t have any Need-To-Do-Before-I’m-Thirty lists and I probably won’t be creating one after reading this book, however I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and would absolutely recommend it to any woman no matter what her age.  Featuring essays from several women we should all know, from Katie Couric to Maya Angelou to Taylor Swift, each describes how an item on the list speaks to them personally or what 30 means to them.  The wisdom and personal experiences shared are valuable lessons for the rest of us.  It was great to laugh in understanding, to shake my head at memories, and to feel that sting behind my eyes when I realized that others felt a certain way too.  I highly recommend it, it’s a quick read but the list is timeless and one you can refer back to time and again.