Friday, February 27, 2015

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: This New York Times bestselling novel and National Book Award nominee from acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. Presented as a screenplay of Steve's own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives.

Fade In: Interior: Early Morning In Cell Block D, Manhattan Detention Center.

Steve (Voice-Over)
Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I'll call it what the lady prosecutor called me ... Monster.

Review: This was another book I chose to read for my young adult class. We were told to pick something by Walter Dean Myers, and I thought Monster looked quite good. This is a book that you could easily read in a day, or even a couple hours. It's written as a screenplay, Steve imagining his current situation as a movie he could tell, as well as journal entries here and there. This style was interesting and it made the book unique, as well as allowing the novel to stay at a fast pace.

Steve Harmon is a teenage boy who is now on trial for his life, along with another man, for being involved in a robbery where the owner was shot and killed by his own gun. Steve was supposedly the one who scoped out the store beforehand to make sure it was empty of customers before two other men robbed the place (one of which is James King, also on trial). It's fascinating to see how the justice system works and how the prosecution is willing to make deals with criminals and other people who admitted involvement in this crime in order to make sure someone is put in jail for the death of this store owner.

As readers, it's easy to feel sorry for Steve. You can see a young boy getting involved with the wrong crowd and finding himself in jail. It's easy to imagine, but Monster doesn't provide all the answers. You do get a verdict in the end, but a lot is still left in the air as to what you think about these characters. Definitely worth reading, and I could see a lot of reluctant readers enjoying this one.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Some Fine Day Launch Giveaway

Some Fine Day launch giveaway!
Grand Prize: Kindle Paperwhite with custom cover, preloaded with Some Fine Day
Second Prize (2): Signed copy of Some Fine Day
Third Prize (2): CD audiobook of Some Fine Day
This contest runs from February 7 to March 7.

Synopsis: A generation ago, continent-sized storms called hypercanes caused the Earth to flood. The survivors were forced to retreat deep underground and build a new society.

This is the story that sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist has heard all of her life.

Jansin grew up in a civilization far below the Earth’s surface. She’s spent the last eight years in military intelligence training. So when her parents surprise her with a coveted yet treacherous trip above ground, she’s prepared for anything. She’s especially thrilled to feel the fresh air, see the sun, and view the wide-open skies and the ocean for herself.

But when raiders attack Jansin’s camp and take her prisoner, she is forced to question everything she’s been taught. What do her captors want? How will she get back underground? And if she ever does, will she want to stay after learning the truth?

Some Fine Day is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can find more reader reviews on Goodreads.
About the author:
Kat Ross was born and raised in New York City and worked several jobs before turning to journalism and creative writing. An avid traveler and adventurer, she now lives with her family—along with a beagle, a ginger cat, and six fish—far enough outside the city that skunks and deer wander through her backyard. 
You can find Kat on Twitter and her website

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shooting Thoughts: True Confessions of a DUFF

The True Confessions of a DUFF

I read The Duff by Kody Keplinger around the time it came out, and while I've been meaning to read it again, I haven't had the chance. Therefore, I will say right now that this post is not going to be a compare and contrast with the book and movie. Yes, I've read the book and I really loved it. But yes, I also saw the movie and really loved that too. I'm one of those people that don't care too much about changes between a book and a movie because they are two separate things. Not everything from a book can or should be translated the same way on screen. With a book like The Duff, I knew people were wary about the movie because it seemed too different, and not for any good reason. One reason that pops up is that Mae Whitman is playing Bianca, and in no way is Mae what someone would call "bigger" or "plus-sized." I think that's alright though, especially after seeing the movie, because Mae isn't stick-thin and not only plus-size boys and girls have issues with their body or have people make fun of them for something physically "wrong" with them.

At any rate, back to the title and how this relates to me. I had never heard the term DUFF before until I read the novel by Kody, but it's a phrase people do use. If you don't know yet, DUFF means Designated Ugly Fat Friend. I have often joked about being the least pretty of my friends or needing to find friends that are skinnier than I am. I say this was a joke because I would never ditch my friends for being skinnier and/or prettier than I am, at least in my eyes, but it was something I saw and it's not a great feeling for someone who doesn't have that much self-esteem to begin with. One of the reasons I used to joke about needing to hang out less with my pretty friends is because in high school and college, I would like certain guys that would ultimately end up liking a friend of mine, someone I deemed prettier. Looks aren't everything though, and it's something to always remember.

I loved that Bianca was known as plus-sized in the book because you don't always see that. So many YA books talk about girls that are smaller or more average. You even get those so-called plain looking girls that somehow have two guys fighting over them. Does this happen in real life? I'm sure it has, but it's not as realistic as YA likes to make you think. So yes, I understand people being upset that a more plus-sized actress wasn't portraying Bianca in the film. It looks like another example of Hollywood taking attractive actresses and pretending they are "ugly" until they get a full makeover. This isn't quite how the movie goes, however. Sure, Bianca in the movie learns to dress a bit more feminine but she doesn't change who she is or what she likes, and I appreciated that. Plus, like I said above, I do think the overall message is that you don't have to actually be a DUFF to think that you are a DUFF. The movie points out that someone will always be prettier or skinnier, so you have to be okay with what you have and who you are to truly be happy.

As for me, I won't say I'm 100% happy with the way I look, but I think it's a work in progress. Most people have something they don't like about themselves physically, whether they think they are ugly, fat, or something else. The DUFF movie might be different from the book, but they keep the message that being yourself is the most important thing, and in the end, that's the main thing.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Look Back at Blog World (5)

A Look Back at Blog World (5)

I haven't had one of these posts in a couple weeks, so some of these links are a bit older than just a week! Enjoy!

Books I'm Now Curious to Read-

 My So-Called Chaos wrote a review of the book Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I've seen this book around before and I loved the title, but I never knew what it was about. It sounds quite good!

Interesting Posts-

My Chocolate Moments shows you how you can make your own personalized ABC book using Shutterfly. How adorable! 

The blog Novel Ink has a fun feature on their blog titled Inked where bloggers and authors can share the stories behind their tattoos.

Emily from The Freckled Fox has a cute, love-themed playlist on her blog for the month of February.

Questions Answered from ShootingStarsMag-

Q. On my review for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I got a comment asking about the appropriate age range for this book/series.

A:  I've read the first two books now and there are mentions of grown up topics, as well as violence, so I would definitely say it's an upper young adult book. Ultimately, it's up to the reader though and what they can handle!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Panic by Sharon M. Draper

Panic by Sharon M. Draper

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Diamond knows not to get into a car with a stranger.

But what if the stranger is well-dressed and handsome? On his way to meet his wife and daughter? And casting a movie that very night—a movie in need of a star dancer? What then?

Then Diamond might make the wrong decision.

It’s a nightmare come true: Diamond Landers has been kidnapped. She was at the mall with a friend, alone for only a few brief minutes—and now she’s being held captive, forced to endure horrors beyond what she ever could have dreamed, while her family and friends experience their own torments and wait desperately for any bit of news.

Review: When I was in middle school, I read and loved a couple of Sharon M. Draper's novels, so it's a bit sad that I never gave her more recent work a chance. However, I was told to pick any book by Draper to read for my young adult class, so I chose Panic.

This book is told in the third-person point of view of four teenagers, one of which is Diamond, who goes missing from the mall. The other narrators are Justin, Layla, and Mercedes. All of these teens are in a dance academy together and have their own problems and worries. Justin is often made fun of for being a guy dancer. Layla is in an abusive relationship, but she is desperate to see the good in her boyfriend. Mercedes was at the mall when Diamond went missing, and she blames herself for leaving her, even if it was only for minutes. All of these teens love to dance, and they get lost in the music. Panic shows that this is their escape and way to be free. This even includes Diamond, who imagines herself dancing as a way of leaving her current situation.

Draper does a great job with these narrations, bringing the stories together with the overarching theme of Diamond's disappearance and how that affects everyone. Panic is a relatively short book, but I feel like it gives enough depth and emotion to the storyline. One of the things that I really enjoyed was that the beginning of each chapter starts with a quote from Peter Pan. This is a ballet the dance company is going to put on over the summer, so it ties in there, but the use of Peter Pan also shows the loss of innocence within the storyline of Panic.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Review: I was assigned this book for my YA literature class, and as I'd heard wonderful things about it, I was quite excited. After finishing this book, I knew it would be one that I would think on for awhile. It's a modern classic and something that more people should read. I got my copy from the library for my class, but I hope to buy my own copy to keep and re-read in the future.

The book starts in 1987, but it's essentially timeless. This book isn't really about the place or the time period. It's about these two teen boys who go through many of life's hardships but who always find their way back to each other. Dante comes into Ari's life when he sees him at the swimming pool and offers to teach him. From that moment on, they are almost inseparable, until Dante's dad gets a job in Chicago and they move away for a year.

Ari tries to live his old life, never telling other "friends" about Dante. I put friends in quotes because Dante was Ari's only true friend. Ari didn't mind being alone, but meeting Dante, he slowly learned to open up and explore the world with someone by his side. When Dante returns, things are a bit strained between the two. Dante has told Ari he likes to kiss boys, and while Ari knows Dante loves him, he's not sure how to handle his own feelings, let alone the ones that Dante is trying his best to hide.

Besides their friendship, the two boys deal with their own trials of growing up and becoming men. Dante has his sexuality to come to terms with and learn to handle. Ari has an older brother in prison who nobody talks about and it leaves Ari feeling a bit broken. Ari has an anger problem and isn't afraid to use violence to handle this, but thinking about his brother has him scared for his own future.

Overall, this was a wonderfully written book that seemed to perfectly capture the beauty and pain within growing up.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Touring Local: January

I created this new feature last year, where I talk about the various places and events I went to around my local area, but I only posted it once. I'm hoping to do better this year, so here we go...

Touring Local: January

Have you ever seen a film in an Omnimax theater? The screen curves so it's like you're seeing all of the action at once. I'm sure it could be overwhelming for some people, but I love it! My sister got me a pass so I can see any of the Omnimax films this year for free (the pass was $25) so in the beginning of the month, we went and saw two of the films showing. For those that don't know, these films are all non-fiction and last about 45 minutes.

My sister and I saw Jerusalem first, which was overall narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch (he has a great voice for narration) as well as three teenage girls who actually live in Jerusalem. One girl was Muslim, one was Jewish, and the other Christian. All of these religions love and feel like Jerusalem is their own, so it was interesting to see why these young girls love and appreciate it so much, from their religion to the culture. This was definitely my favorite of the day.

The second film we saw was Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs. While not my overall favorite, it was still a really interesting look at how some of the most famous pharaohs were found in Egypt years later. It also shows how modern day scientists are trying to use mummies (even creating a modern day mummy) to figure out how to cure various illnesses.

I'm not a huge fan of sports, and I don't really like going to see games live. The one exception is hockey, and I love our local team, the Cincinnati Cyclones. I actually saw two games in January (one with my sister and one with my sister, a friend, and her boyfriend). Both were a lot of fun, even though we only won the first. Hockey games here are high energy and there is always some kind of contest or music playing to keep interest up when the team isn't playing. If you have a local hockey team, I suggest checking them out!

One of my jobs is at a public library, so I always love to see what types of events are coming up for the adult patrons. I got my mom to go to one last year and now we're pretty obsessed with the craft type programs...and my sister comes too when she can! Near the end of January, there was a craft night called Glitter Your Game where we made cute decorations for the Super Bowl. The above are little foam number one signs that we covered in glitter and we put football themed paper straws in them to stand it up. These are sitting in a plastic cup of marbles.

Finally, we made these really cute coasters that look like grass. The photo on the left shows what it looks like as I use it on Super Bowl Sunday. The photo below is a look at some of the other coasters that my mom and me made.

My sister attended the event too, but all of her items were taken to her own house. We had the coasters and above decorations out for awhile and it definitely made the day more festive on Sunday, even though I didn't personally watch the game. The rest of my family did though!

Finally, at the very end of the month, I went and saw Marissa Meyer (author of the Lunar Chronicles) live at a local bookstore called Joseph-Beth Booksellers. I hadn't been to an author signing in awhile, so this was a lot of fun. I wasn't sure if Marissa would be able to talk or not, since I knew there would be a big crowd. You had to purchase Fairest from the bookstore in order to get a line ticket. I bought the book online as soon as I could, so I ended up being in the "B" group, which is great since I didn't have to wait too long to have my book signed by Marissa.

Luckily, Marissa did talk about the series, even reading an excerpt from the upcoming Winter. She even stood around and answered quite a bit of fan questions, so that was great. It made the event better than just going up and getting a book signed.

Let's see what I can remember of what was said:

*Next year, she has a book coming out called Heartless which is a prequel of Alice in Wonderland focusing on the Queen of Hearts. After that, she'll be writing a trilogy (I believe) about superheros and super villains and the grey areas between. Super excited!!

*Winter is finished. She mentioned that there was a rumor online that Winter was 800 pages long, and she said that was TRUE!

*She originally had the idea of telling Levana's story for a short story, but she realized it would be too long, so she put her ideas away and wrote something else. When she was working on Winter, she got out her notes to help her with Levana's character and went ahead and wrote Fairest. She was really excited that the publishing company decided to publish Fairest.

*Film rights were sold, and she would love for the books to be a movie because she really wants them to make action figures of her characters.

*Someone asked if she made Thorne to be like Captain Jack from Doctor Who, and she said she had no idea who he was until after the fact and others had mentioned how alike Thorne and Jack were. I never thought about it, but once she said that, I realized it was true!!

And finally, here is me at the bookstore waiting for Marissa to come out!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Review: I've been hearing wonderful things about Laini Taylor for years, and especially about this trilogy. With all three books finally released, I decided to dive in and see what I had been missing out on. And oh boy, I wish I had started these earlier!

The book starts in Prague, and Taylor does a fantastic job describing the setting, making me want to hop on a plane and visit. In this city is Karou, a young girl who grew up with a man named Brimstone (who is not human) and a group of ladies (also not human) that help him with his business. This is the business of teeth. As Karou got older she was sent on various errands around the world, using secret portals, to collect various teeth from all sorts of interesting characters. She's learned a lot from Brimstone, but not the most important questions. What does he do with the teeth? Where is Karou from? Who does she truly belong to?

from the beginning of the book

Some of her questions begin to get answers when a beautiful man named Akiva comes into her life. He is fascinated by Karou, but he holds many years of secrets and pains within him. He might be able to provide answers to the questions of Karou's life, but will she be truly thankful in the end?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone might be the best first book in the trilogy, but I didn't feel like it was a set up or just one part of the book. I fell in love with Karou and her bright, blue hair. I found Akiva fascinating, yet unsure. I loved Karou's friend Zuzana, a small by spunky girl. These worlds, ours and another, came alive for me and I'm excited to say that I'm already a ways into the second book as I write this!

Don't delay-- discover this world now!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu 

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody.

Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It's written all over the "slut stall" in the girls' bathroom: "Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers" and "Alice got an abortion last semester." After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they "know" about Alice--and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But in this novel from Jennifer Mathieu, exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there's only one person to ask: Alice herself.

Review: Last semester I took a children's literature course and I would share some of the books I read through reviews. This time around, my class is all about Young Adult literature, so I hope you enjoy hearing about the many books I'll be reading. The first week of class we had to choose a realistic fiction novel that had been published in the last year. I'd been wanting to read The Truth About Alice, so it was a great reason to pick it up.

This book is quick, but I felt like it dealt with the various issues in a realistic way. Besides Alice and all the rumors surrounding what she may or may not have done at a party, everyone telling this story has their own worries, fears, and secrets. There is Elaine, the popular girl who had the party; Josh, Brandon's best friend and the reason people know about Alice supposedly sexting him the night he died; Kelsie, the ex-best friend of Alice who turns against her after all the drama; and Kurt, the smartest boy in school who lived next door to Brandon and who has been in love with Alice for years.

Each of these narrators tell the story of Alice as they know it. As readers, we eventually learn the truth, but it's heartbreaking to see all that Alice had to go through. It's horrible that there is such a stereotype against women who are comfortable with their sexuality being "sluts" or "whores." Alice is accused of sleeping with two guys in one night, but what about the guys? They are seen as heroes, in a sense, and it's wrong. Regardless of the truth, and like I said, you do learn it, there shouldn't be such a difference when regarding men and women and their sexuality.

In the end, this was a really good book. You get Alice's perspective in the end, and I thought it was done well. I suppose I would have loved to hear more from her, but I think the idea of other people telling your own story makes sense. It often happens after all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Club Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

Review: When I was younger, I used to be part of an online book club that I just adored. As time went on, we got older and didn't have as much time to do it, so then I was left without a book club for awhile. Late last year, I finally decided to create my own book club since I knew a lot of my friends liked to read. I got a great response via facebook and last month was our first meeting, and you guessed it, Bossypants was the first book. We all suggest books and then vote and this ended up being the winner, since we were trying to find something a bit light and fun to start off with.


I'm a fan of Tina Fey's already, and I had this book on my shelf for awhile, so I was really excited that I was finally getting a chance to dive in. I learned a lot about her early life and even her professional career. I was never someone who watched 30 Rock, so the chapter concerning that wasn't as interesting as it might be for an actual fan, but I still felt like all the stories were intriguing on some level. My sister noted that she didn't really care about the chapter on whether to have another child or not, seeing as how my sister isn't a mom and it just doesn't pertain to her life. For us, it's almost like "have a kid if you want one!" though I could understand not being sure about time, etc. since Fey is quite busy with her career.

Only a couple other girls were able to make it to the first meeting, and they had not finished the book yet. Both of them seemed to enjoy it overall though. A couple other ladies wrote on facebook that it was a quick, amusing read, even though they could not come discuss the book in person. Overall, I think this was a nice book to start with. Tina Fey is quite humorous and it was great to learn more about her, but I would recommend this book more for people that are a fan of hers on some level. If you don't know any of her work, you might only care about the personal stories and not the professional.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Nothing Like Paris by Amy Jo Cousins

Nothing Like Paris by Amy Jo Cousins

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Jack Tarkington’s life is in the toilet. He was supposed to be spending his junior year studying someplace cool like Paris or Rome. Instead, after taking out his anger on the campus “golden boy”, whose dad ripped off his parents, Jack is facing possible expulsion.

Sure, it’s all his own fault, but coming back to the small Iowa town he thought he’d escaped, after crowing about his admission to a prestigious school, has been a humbling experience.

When he runs into Miguel, Jack braces for backlash over the way he lorded it over his old friend and flame. Instead, Miguel offers him friendship—and a job at his growing farm-to-table store and cafĂ©.
Against the odds, both guys bond over broken dreams and find common ground in music. But when Jack’s college gives him a second chance, he’s torn between achieving a dream that will take him far from home, and a love that strikes a chord he’ll never find anywhere else.

Review: I really enjoyed Nothing Like Paris, which is classified as Bend or Break, Book Number 2. I know what Book 1 entails and the characters are mentioned in this one, so I'm curious to go back and read the first book now. In general, though, it's not important to read the books in order. In terms of Nothing Like Paris, this is a book about an old relationship getting the chance to blossom again...but past hurts have a really good chance of ruining things.

Jack went off to college, trying to live an exciting life far away from his small town and alcoholic mother. He finds himself back, though, when he gets in trouble and might end up being expelled. This brings him face to face with his best friend and ex-boyfriend, Miguel, who stayed home to take care of his family after his dad had a heart attack. These two obviously love each other, but they have commitment issues, seeing as how they were never really out in high school, though everybody still knew. Them knowing and the boys confirming was something completely different, so they kept it quiet. Now, Jack wants Miguel back, but he wants the whole world to know. While Miguel wants Jack, he's afraid to be left behind again.

I liked that these two had an established relationship already, so things never felt forced or rushed in the novel. Despite knowing each other already, Miguel tried to take things slow so his heart wouldn't be broken again. It was an emotional read, in a sense, and not only because of the romance. Both guys had issues within their families and lives that they had to sort out in order to truly move into the future.

Again, this book does contain scenes of a sexual nature, and while they are graphic, they do not permeate the entire story.