Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Genre:  Young Adult
Published:  2 April 2013
Pages: 406 
Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?"

Review:  Jennifer E. Smith knows how to write books that grab at you and makes you love her characters.  As the writer of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I also got sucked in and cared about her main characters and wanted to follow them through from beginning to end, regardless of how "probable" the scenario they were put in.  

In this scenario, Ellie has met a movie star through a misplaced email, only she doesn't know that he is a movie star, nor that he has suggested her hometown for their movie set.  As the filming begins in her hometown in Maine, the loneliness and desperation he feels to meet this funny girl he has been exchanging emails with over the Internet has driven him to locate her and connect in real life.   Will the variables be too much for them, and will she be able to handle all of his fame?

The premise of this story was pretty out there, but still woven together so well because the characters had such interesting and quirky back stories, that you couldn't help but keep reading. Both were so vulnerable, and in weird ways!  I guess we don't always think that the rich movie star might be lonely and seeking validation and love, but that is exactly what Graham is doing.  All he really wants is to escape his Hollywood life to spend time with a nice, regular girl like Ellie.  How is it that he ends up being the one we feel so sorry for in the end?  Yet, Ellie also has a story that tugs at your heart strings, that unfolds over the course of the story that we all come to understand why she fears getting to know Graham.  In short--it's a little scary to date a guy who has paparazzi following him.  That, I do get!

I really loved this novel, almost as much as I did Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.  Honestly, I just really love her fresh writing style that makes you feel as though you are in the story with her characters and helps you feel what they are feeling.  The story is more than going through the motions; it is about feeling all of their joys and fears with them.  I loved these characters and thought this was a fun premise to consider "what if" you fell for a teenage movie star?  Wouldn't it just be fun to test that out and see what would happen?!?  

This was a great, fun read.  If you're looking for a fun, clean, romantic YA read--this has a bit of it all, with a surprising storyline that you haven't quite seen before.  I really enjoyed it!  It's too cute.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Blatherings: I'm Free!

Yesterday I spent most of the day grading.  Believe it or not, I actually used cleaning my house as a way of "rewarding" myself in between stacks of grading.  Yep.  That's how desperate things got around here.  My house is pretty clean now!

Today, I finished my end of term grading around 2pm, and immediately felt a bit like Dobby from Harry Potter.   Yes, I am now free!  Okay, so not completely.  I worry about who will come back and ask me about their grades and not be satisfied, but I can't be worried about that for now.  I'm just happy to have them all in!

My best friend "Doc" (as she likes me to call her) is here from Michigan, and we went to my mom's place for a great Sunday dinner.  Why do I share that?  Because I think I'm learning that it's the simplest things in the world that are the most delightful, such as the Sunday dinner around the table.

This week I'm excited to get back to my reading.  I have some book tours coming up, as well as new releases (Allegiant--which I'm hearing mixed responses to, About a Boy--Also, some mixed responses to) that I want to read ASAP.  I've been dying to dive into them, but they all came out when things got really busy for me.  Now I can finally start reading!  Anyway, here's what I have planned for my reading list:

I do have to say that Me Before You was my choice for audiobook this month and it has been a killer.  I saw that a lot of readers were talking it up on Goodreads, so I gave it a chance, not really knowing anything about it.  Pretty quickly, I could sense that it was going to be one of those books that was going to SLAY me.  I'm only about 1/3 of the way into it so far, but I'm already afraid that there is going to be a crying jag session at some point, and I'm only praying that it is as I drive HOME from work and not on my way TO work in the morning.  The audiobook version of this one is pretty amazing, so if you're at all hesitant about the performances on these, then this one is a safe bet.  I've really enjoyed listening to it, but can tell that it's going to be a tearjerker at some point soon!

Besides being free from grading, getting some sleep, visiting with my friend who is in town, and reading again, I'm excited to just catch up on life!  What's new in your world? 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Man Booker Prize 2013: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The winner of the Man Booker Prize was awarded today to Eleanor Catton for her novel The Luminaries.  According to their site, she is the youngest award recipient to have won so far, at the age of 28.  According to the official site, the novel is a mystery about a group of gold miners in New Zealand in 1866.  My guess is that sitting at 832 pages, a good deal happens to make it about a lot more than just a little mystery.

I, for one, am always really excited to hear about the longlist and winner for the Man Booker Prize.   Sadly, I only made it through one of the novels on the longlist before the award was posted, and this was not it, but I'm eager to read this one for myself.

The other interesting news coming out about the Man Booker Prize is that they are going to now consider authors published in English and in the U.K., which of course opens the door to American authors.  I'm sure this has caused a stir in the literary world, which is an interesting conversation in and of itself.  I'm just excited to have more great novels brought to my attention!

I've already ordered The Luminaries.  Will you be reading Catton's novel or will you wait to hear what others think?
The Luminaries, set in 1866 during the New Zealand gold rush, contains a group of 12 men gathered for a meeting in a hotel and a traveller who stumbles into their midst; the story involves a missing rich man, a dead hermit, a huge sum in gold, and a beaten-up whore. There are sex and seances, opium and lawsuits in the mystery too. The multiple voices take turns to tell their own stories and gradually what happened in the small town of Hokitika on New Zealand's South Island is revealed.  - See more at:
The Luminaries, set in 1866 during the New Zealand gold rush, contains a group of 12 men gathered for a meeting in a hotel and a traveller who stumbles into their midst; the story involves a missing rich man, a dead hermit, a huge sum in gold, and a beaten-up whore. There are sex and seances, opium and lawsuits in the mystery too. The multiple voices take turns to tell their own stories and gradually what happened in the small town of Hokitika on New Zealand's South Island is revealed.  - See more at:

Review: Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "One house, two worlds...

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting . . . at Somerton."

Review:  Set in a beautiful estate called Somerton, we are introduced to what seems to be the YA equivalent of Downton Abbey.  After what feels like a long absence from my favorite Downton characters, this was a nice return to the manners, society, and scandal that I was hankering for, all in the pages of a book.

Set around a diverse set of characters, both upstairs and downstairs, we mainly center around Rose Cliffe, who has been thrust into the role of a new ladies' maid.  She soon finds herself the center of a scandal in the home, one in which she has to dig deep to deal with.  That's not all though.  The Averley's have returned to their estate to money problems in 1910, as many other estate owners of their day, who were trying to figure out how to care for such large homes and grounds.  What were they to do with such properties and grown children who needed to be married before the scandalous word of their lack of funds got out? 

There seems to be a scandal for every single character in the novel, and a modern day solution in tow.  I won't lie when I say that I could see this being turned into a modern, melodramatic television show, made glossy and ready to roll out by the spring.  We have a love child, a gay character, a feminist, a girl who wants to marry for love, a girl who loves a man of another race.  Yes.  I get it.  Eek!  How dare they even consider being themselves!   As each of these characters rolled out though, I kept thinking, "Really? All in one family/story for that period?"  As far as a book goes, with any historical accuracy--I don't think all of these characters could possibly go as far afield as they do from the social norms and mores as are written.  However, that doesn't mean that I didn't smile and keep flipping pages.  I was interested in their stories and could still enjoy the novel and read it for its heightened, overly dramatic sensibilities. 

 Cinders and Sapphires is a really quick read and one that I rather enjoyed.  I'm not going to be referring this one out as a historical reference piece, but I will definitely share it for its fun factor.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dewey's Readathon: Finish Line--Late Post

Yes, I finished up the readathon. I stayed up so much later than I every have before, this time making it to 4 am.  To be honest, I was nearly delusional though, which made me feel old and irritated at said "oldness."  Why?  Because I've always been somewhat of a night owl, who could stay up until all hours of the night through most of my teens and twenties.  Gone are those days!  *sigh*  Yep.  I'm an adult, and this confirmed it.

Anyway, besides feeling old and tired...  I really enjoyed myself.  I read some great books and rotated my way through quite a stack.  When you rotate, you don't necessarily finish very many, but I think read quite a bit. 
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?  11am to 1 pm???  I got SO sleepy that it was ridiculous.  I then hit the wall again right before I fell asleep around 4 am.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  The Chocolate Thief by Lora Florand was such a great read!  I started it late afternoon, and it took me through some rough hours into the night.  I was pretty determined to finish it last night, but found myself asleep with it at 4 am.  It was so good though, that I woke up, grabbed the book, and finished it this morning/afternoon!  The thing about that book was that it transported me to Paris (which is always great), THEN, it kept talking about these amazing chocolates--which was a torture unto itself.  The relationship in the book had me flipping pages too though, so it was kind of an all-round perfect read for a readathon as it kept me going for quite awhile.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Really, no.  I have so much respect and appreciation for all of those who put it together and volunteer their time.  THANK YOU so much! 
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  It was awesome, and I so appreciate all that everyone did to help make it a success!
  5. How many books did you read?  Technically, just TWO, but because I rotate books, I probably read a third one.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?  Insurgent by Veronica Roth and Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?   The Chocolate Thief as mentioned above.  It was such a fun read!
  8. Which did you enjoy least?  I don't think I had a least favorite read this year...
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  I will always participate, when I can!  I'd love to participate in a mini-challenge again in the future.  I haven't done one in awhile, but I'd love to jump back in and do one again, if I can!  :)
Thanks again to all of those who put this together.  We all appreciate you guys SO much!

Just FYI, don't forget to check out my giveaway of James Dashner's newest book The Eye of Minds!  It will be running this week and I'd love to get you all in on the giveaway.   The publisher is offering two free books this week, which is awesome!  It really is a great read, so go check it out!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: MidPoint Survey (At Least MY Midpoint)

I've been reading now, off and on, for about 9 hours.  We're almost to hour 15 though, so we're well over half way... *sigh*  What can I say.  I'm doing all right at this read-a-thoning business, but I can't plaster myself to the couch and read for 24 hours straight.  Things happen, right?

Anyway, I did end up running to the library to pick up the audiobook of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, which everyone has been raving about.  I'm pretty excited to start listening to it starting on Monday.  On that little errand, I finished listening to Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella, which I'd been listening to over the past couple of weeks back and forth to work, so I was still able to keep going with my reading.

Let's do a quick Midpoint catch up though and then I'm going to do a little blog hopping.  This is the point where I tend to do my best reading, so I'm going to capitalize on it!  We'll see how I do.  I never make it to the finish line, so I don't know if I'll be back to update or not...

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?  No.  I'm doing great now.  I'm a night girl, so I'm okay now.  I wasn't so great earlier this morning though and thought I was going to need a major jolt of caffeine to make it out of the afternoon!  :)

2) What have you finished reading?  Well, I finished two books that I was already well into before the readathon started.  I finished up, Insurgent earlier this morning, and then Twenties Girl this afternoon when I ran errands.  Other than that, I've been rotating books like crazy!

3) What is your favorite read so far?  I've really liked reading The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory.  Maybe it's just all the history that I'm curious about, or Phillipa's great storytelling, but I've really fallen into it.

4) What about your favorite snacks?  Diet Pepsi, Green Tea, and hot apple cider (not mixed together...yuck!).  Okay.  So those are drinks and not "snacks," but I like drinks more than food items when I'm reading.  I don't like to eat while I read as much as drink something while I'm reading, so the drinks are a must.

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!  Not yet!  :(  I have really stuck to reading and twitter, for the most part.  Visiting a few blogs this evening is my goal, so off I go! 

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Hour 10 Update

Okay, so it's really my Six hour update, but we're well into the readathon and I need to give a little update because I've finished my first book!

I had some serious issues getting going this morning though.  What's up with that?  After writing my initial post, I put laundry in, read a few blogs, looked at Tumblr, folded some laundry, sorted through my email, and added a few more books to my Goodreads account.  FINALLY, I got sucked into my first book about four hours ago though, and I was off and running!  Thank goodness!

Hours Reading:  My guess is really only around 4 w/ all the interruptions
Chapters Read:  Three chapters in Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe (which is what sucked me in), Six chapters in Revolution 19, and then I FINISHED Insurgent's last 17 chapters (about 170 pages).
Books Read:  1--Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Snacks:  A handful of Pirate's Booty earlier this morning and some Diet Pepsi is about it.  I was a little too distracted to grab a snack.  It's not a good habit, but I tend to not eat much all day on Saturdays, so I'm thinking it's about time to eat some dinner here pretty soon, especially since I skipped lunch!  I'm about ready to eat an apple and maybe have my Thai leftovers.  Yum!
Nap Close Calls:  One pretty serious ones around 11 am.  *Yawn*  The Diet Pepsi helped pull me out of it though! :)

Well, I'm off to run to the library real quick.  I have an audiobook to finish though, so all is well.  I can keep on "reading" while I'm out!  Let's hope that quick errand shakes some of my sleepiness off or I'm going to be fast asleep on the couch here in another hour or so... *Yawn*

How are you all doing?!?  I need to head out and do some blog hopping soon!

Dewey's Readathon: Getting Started!

Well, I thought I would be up and at 'em a lot earlier, seeing as we're on Fall Break right now, but I just could NOT get myself to fall asleep last night.  I think it was the anticipation of it all, right?  I did let myself read a bit last night to try to "get sleepy, so I thought about counting that as my starting line.  :)

Anyway, I'm up and have pulled myself together to get started for the readathon this morning, and am really excited to get going!  Here's my starting point then:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  Salt Lake area

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?  That's hard to say.  I'm a bit of a "book rotater," and have a number of books on my list today that I'll be dabbling with.  I am excited though to jump into Just One Year by Gayle Forman though!  Also, since I've been fangirling pretty hard over Superman this year, I'm going to be finishing up the original three Superman comics and will be reading The Return of Superman--awesome!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  I'm a Peanut Butter M&M or a good old apple and popcorn sort of gal, so those are on my list for today at some point.  :)  Also, not a snack, but I picked up Thai food last night, which is ALWAYS better second day.  Yum!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!  Well, I teach a Pop. Lit. class, AP Literature, and World Literature.  Because of that, I'm constantly needing to read like a mad fiend.  That doesn't mean that I don't want to put down things for those classes and just pick up whatever in the world I want to!  :)  Today I might just rotate through things for my classes, and then pick up some things for me as well!

Other than that "work boringness" I am just coming off a birthday this week.  It wasn't a milestone birthday or anything, so I didn't really care.  I let it come and go without much fanfare.  I'm actually in the midst of planning a huge "go somewhere crazy"birthday for next year.  I'm thinking Paris.  Any votes out there?  New York City also has crossed my radar, but Paris keeps floating to the top of my radar (if I can afford it, that is).

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?  This is a tough one.  I've done quite a few readathons and I've done things different on a number of occasions.  Do I participate more online and sacrifice reading time or not?  If I don't participate, I feel isolated, but if I spend too much time online, then I sacrifice my reading time.  It's a huge catch 22!  As with anything, I'm going to aim for balance--as always!  I have been looking forward to today, and said no to so many other things just so I could participate, that I'm going to just take it as it comes.  I think I'll jump on every couple of hours and read what others are doing, and then post every four or six?  We'll see!

Okay, I'm off to get some reading done.  I can feel the reading bug setting in, so I'm going to catch it while it's grabbing me, but I'll be back soon!  Below are some of the books I'll be reading (since I can't take a picture of them...they're mainly ebooks).

Well, I'm off now!  Let's see what I can get through in the next hour or so.  I'm hoping I can finish one of the books I'm already part way through...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Giveaway: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Yesterday, after posting my review of James Dashner's amazing new read The Eye of Minds, Random House contacted me with an amazing offer to pass along to my readers.  They are offering two free copies of The Eye of Minds, and here's all you need to do to enter:
  •  Go to twitter and follow @jamesdashner
  • Enter in a comment below and just say hello!  Please make sure you leave a current email address so I can contact you.
  • The contest is only open in the U.S. and will close next Friday night, 10/18 at midnight (MST)
Join in today!  I'll be back to announce the reader on 10/19.  Good luck!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Released: 10/8
Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.  And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.  But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever."

Review:  Mind--blown! 

Let's just start there.  I'm not generally a sci-fi reader, but was a bit intrigued by the premise of cyberterrorism--what the heck is that, right?  I like the internet as much as the next technology driven, iphone/pad/mac-toting person, so a book that explores the possibility of people being tormented by "Killsims" and a virtual bully who can literally leave people dead at the end of what was supposed to be a casual cyber game, is a bit mind boggling, and a bit frightening.

In the story, we're introduced to Michael, who is this gamer with some pretty amazing skills to code and hack through firewalls and systems.  The thing is, as you read the story, he seems to really take you through his "gaming" in real time, like a person just walking through it in real time.  At the same time, he can hack away at the coding of these games in such a way that he can change the course of the game and what happens at any given moment--which is what makes Michael so valuable and important in the fight against the cyberterrorism.  

Michael and his friends Bryson and Sarah get roped in by the VNS to fight a supposed powerhouse in the world of cyberterrorism, named Kaine.  To do this, they had to set out on a major journey in the "VirtNet," which mainly took them through a series of journeys and virtual battles to "hack" through code to find their enemy.  The issue really becomes, who or what is Kaine, and what does he/she/it really want to begin with?

To say that I liked the book is true, but not really hitting home.  It's not a kick-back-and-enjoy sort of read, in that it's tense, contains an awful lot of violence,  and really makes you stick with it to figure it out.  There's that moment where you feel like you're comparing it to something you've either read or watched before, but then it does something totally unique that throws it in another direction.  The characters really never stop moving in the story, and they never allow us a chance to take too much time to understand how or why they do what they do.  Half of the time you feel like you literally have a moment to breathe before the character is moved on to the next sequence of events.  That only speeds up the action and adds to the crazy pacing of the novel, which is over much too soon!

On the whole, mind--blown.  I liked it a lot.  In fact, I walked it in to the Popular Literature class I teach and read the first nine pages to my students.  When I finished, they were angry with me for stopping!  Literally, those first nine pages were enough to suck them in.  I have to agree with them!  I definitely recommend this for teen readers, for sure, or anyone who likes strong sci fi/action novels.  It does have a good deal of violence in it, but no more than many dystopian novels that are out currently.  It is a really smart novel, and one that I will be eager to read future installments of down the road!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on an Amazon Vine ARC of the novel.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Night Reads: Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon Coming Up!

Happy Friday!  It's a bit late tonight, but I'm happy to say that things are settling back to "normal" around here (if that's possible).  I'll always be busier than I would like to be, but if I'm not sitting on a Greek island somewhere, with my feet up staring at a beautiful Mediterranean sunset, then I'll always be too busy.  Things are good though right now.

I was excited to see a tweet posted about Dewey's Read-a-Thon coming up on October 12th.  We'll be off for Fall Break that weekend, so I'm pretty excited to jump right in and enjoy a nice day off reading.  What could be better, right?  I haven't had a lot of luck with making it through one, but I'm all signed up!  Check it out if you're interested in joining in.

Well, here's what I'm reading at the moment.  Since I'm a book hoarder and read about 20 books at a time (yes, it's an illness), here are just a few of the ones I'm reading at the moment...and very well could still be working on next week:

What are you reading this weekend and are you going to jump in on the readathon next weekend?