Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 Challenges: Books or Otherwise

My theme for 2014 is The Year of Magical Storytelling. Last year it was "The Year of Awesome Books" but... it stopped turning awesome when I started taking on too much books that I didn't set out to read. My goal this year is to read interesting stories I enjoy and those that are based on what I consider "magical storytelling" to be. For my challenges I plan to read genre, blogosphere, and personal challenges.

Genre Challenges:

Goal: 12 books

I feel like I haven't given classics a chance. I keep on saying I don't like them but I've been surprised by a couple of them so I want to read some next year to finally determine if I've been right or wrong this whole time. 

This January there will be an event specifically for children's classics I will be participating in as well as The Wizard of Oz Readalong. My goal is to read 3 classic children's literature. Here is some info on the event from the host at Simpler Pastimes:

Last January, I read a couple children’s classics. It was fun, but I didn’t read nearly enough. The only solution to that problem is to try again, so I’m hosting the Classic Children’s Literature Event again in 2014. (Last year, I called it a “challenge,” but that sounds like too much pressure, so I’m claiming executive privilege and renaming it.) Even if no one else is, me, myself, and I are very much looking forward to it! In fact, I may well find myself starting in December…
Of course, what’s an event without a RAL title? I’ve been thinking for a long while about rereading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. First published in 1900, it’s over 100 years old–and the movie version turned 75 this year. Sounds like my reread is long overdue. If you’ve never read it, why not? It’s about time!
During the month of January, read as many Children’s Classics as you wish and post about them on your blog and/or leave a comment on the event page on this blog. I will have a link page starting the first of the year to gather posts so that we may share as we go.
The optional RAL title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I plan on discussion the weekend of January 24-26.
I’m not going to be the “children’s classics” police. Use your own judgement for what fits the category but if you want some guidelines, these are what I’m going by:
I think many of us have read more recent children’s books that we may already deem “classics” (for example, many people feel that way about the Harry Potter books), but for this event, I’d prefer if we read books that were written prior to 1963. This will still allow a lot of options, and will hopefully avoid the “but what is a classic” dilemma! (And yes, 1963 is rather arbitrary. Rebel if you wish, but 50 years old seems a good age.)
Defining “children’s,” especially prior to 1900 or so can be a challenge as some books we think of as “children’s” today may not have been intended that way at the time. Personally, I’d say books appropriate for approximately an elementary-school aged child or preteen (to read or to have read to them) should be fine. I’d personally also count the various fairy tales, even though some of the earliest versions were not exactly family friendly.
Picture Books
Goal: 40 books

If you know me you know I enjoy reading a good picture book. I don't know what it is. No, I don't have kids or anything but why can't I read picture books? They are still books so I want to make sure I read a good amount of them next year.

Blogosphere Challenges:

I Eat Easy for Breakfast 20+
Link at the end of the month

Some Info on the Challenge from the Host:

The challenge will run from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014. 
Each retelling read MUST be reviewed in some way. In the comments section of my monthly wrap-up post, you can link up your own reviews as well.
Novel-length (150+ pages) fiction only
No more than 2 re-reads
Retellings can be anything from a contemporary version of a Shakespeare play to an interpretation of Sleeping Beauty. As long as there is evidence it is a retelling of some kind, it will most likely count. But you can’t just start reading a random book and go, “Oh! This sort of reminds me of blankety-blank.” There must be some sort of statement that this is based on a prior work.
The retelling can have an oral origin. Not all legends/myths were traditionally written down, but if it’s a legitimate story, it works. For example, most Native American folklore was not written, but a retelling of some Iroquois tale is perfectly valid.

Examples of Retellings
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
Splintered by A. G. Howard
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Living in the Past +16 books
Hosted at My Readers Block
Link up reviews whenever

Some Info on the Challenge from the Host:

For those of you who love to revisit old friends in the book world, I present a brand new My Reader's Block Challenge--The Read It Again, Sam Challenge.  Every year it seems like I wind up re-reading a few books just because I have a perfect old favorite that will fit right into one of my other challenges.  So...because I love challenges and I love making my books fit into a we go.

Everyone who completes their challenge level will be entered in a year-end drawing for a book-related prize package.

11-20 A Friendly Hug
Hosted by Bookish
Link reviews whenever
Giveaway/Mini Challenges on 20th of each month

Some Info on the Challenge from the Host:

We all have those books. We buy them, win them, they're gifted to us.. Then we put them up on a bookshelf and there they stay, collecting dust, waiting for the time when we'll finally decide to pick them up..

Join us on a quest to dust off your TBR Pile and read all the books you've been telling yourself you'll read next time you'll get a chance.. This is your chance! And we've got PRIZES!!! :D

Only books released in 2013 and earlier! NO  2014 ARCs and 2014 fresh-off-the-press releases allowed!
You can move up levels, but no moving down.
On the 20th of each month we will post a wrap-up post, here, on BOOKISH. Every wrap-up will have it's unique theme, a mini-challenge, a giveaway and place for you to link up your reviews from this monthFor each review you link up, you will get one entry in a drawing of one book of choice from Book Depository. It's open to INTERNATIONALS. The giveaway will be open until the next wrap up post goes up! (i.e. the entire month)
If you miss a wrap-up post + giveaway, you can link up your reviews next month. Do not, however, try to link up one review twice - we will be checking ;) 
December is a wrap-up for the whole year. All the book reviews you linked up January-November + the ones you'll link up in December will be entered into a GRAND PRIZE giveaway
You don't have to follow Bookish Blog to join the challenge, but you do have to follow us to be entered in giveaways!

Gold Badge - 7-11 series
Link reviews once a month

Series I Want to Read:

  • Kane Chronicles
  • Withern Rise
  • Matched
  • Divergent
  • Half Upon a Time
  • The Chemical Garden
  • Delirium 
P.S. There might be changes on what series I read but I do plan on reading at least 7 different ones.

Some Info on the Challenge from the Host:

How many of you have started a series, loved it and for some reason never continued? Who here is sick and tired of getting the judgey face because you haven’t read “that” series yet? How often have you said “I really want to read that series!” only to not even glance at it in the bookstore? By a show of hands how many of you have added an entire series to your Goodreads TBR shelf more than 3 months ago and STILL haven’t started yet?! The 2014 Series Challenge is your chance to take all those empty promises and make them real. This is a challenge for YOU, so you’ll set your pace and decide what you will read but I do have a few guidelines:
You have to FINISH the series
If the series isn’t complete yet, or will not be completed before December 1st, 2014 read up to the most recent book in said series.
Novellas count, but are optional. If you decide to break up with a series after book one, it does not count! You do not have to START the series in 2014, you just have to FINISH it in 2014. Series that you started prior to 2014 are fine as long as you FINISH the series in 2014. The series has to have at least 2 books out prior to December 1st, 2014. DNF’s do not count. PERIOD.
7th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Challenge

Modern Age -12 books
Link reviews up whenever

Some Info on the Challenge from the Host:

It's time to start signing up for the 2014 challenge now.  Trying to keep things simple this year.  Only change is we will have 3 levels of play this year.  Please write a sign-up post on your blog and then sign-up below with a link to your specific sign-up post (NOT to your home page).  

What counts:  graphic novels, collected trade editions, manga, comic strip collections, comic books. In print or digital. Anything else you feel is suitable.  My criteria is if it has either frames OR speech bubbles it counts.  I'm not going to be the comic police but if you are unsure, ask me in the comments any given month.

Personal Challenges:

Run a 10k:

For this personal challenge my goal is to run on the treadmill for 6.2 miles which is a 10k. Even if I walk a little in between I want to be able to do it all in one consecutive time. I found this old 2013 running challenge about half a mile each month and eventually getting up to a 12k at the end of the year. So I will basically be doing that same concept. Running half a mile more each month doesn't sound so bad but when you get up to 2, 3 miles... that's going to get hard. So that's why I wanted to share this challenge with you all so you can keep me honest.

Cooking 101:

For this personal challenge I really want to get into cooking this year. I'm not a cook but I feel as I am growing up I need to be more independent and learn some new things especially something like cooking because it's vital to be able to feed yourself. So the goal is to cook at least 15 different recipes. That way I know how to make different varieties of food and I plan to cook the recipes multiple times throughout the year so I actually get the hang of cooking by myself.

The Drawing Challenge:

For this personal challenge I want to draw at least 50 things. I love drawing for fun and I've really neglected my love for it so I really want to get back into it. I won't be showing anything... It's something just for me. 

Getting Crafty:

For this personal challenge I want to do a couple of crafts. I've never really done anything crafty but I've recently discovered amigurumi's and I love the idea of crocheting animals and scarves and other wonderful things. So my goal is to make at least 5 things. I might want to do origami too or other crafty things I discover I would like to do. I MIGHT share my crafts. I haven't decided yet... 

What challenges or resolutions are YOU doing next year?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas! ~ 2013

(Image Source: tangledmeup)

Merry Christmas everyone! I've had a great Christmas and I hope you have too. My family has been so good to me this year. I got the books I wanted and a couple of movies from my brothers. They seem to like their gifts from me so it's been a great day of gift giving, family, and some great new board games my brother received. I've been having a lot of family time in the last couple of days so I expect to respond to you all your comments as soon as tomorrow. I hope you had a great day!

What Can You Expect Here in the Last Days of the Year:

  • Book Favorites (where I categorize my favorite books, characters, covers, and more)
  • 2014 Challenges (I may have stopped keeping track of my challenges last year but hopefully with these new challenges I'll be able to actually track and accomplish the goals I set)
  • Book Reviews (I still have 2 more books I need to read for my modified goal of 105 books this year so expect at least 2 more book reviews)
  • Plans for Next Year (This is basically a list of books I want to read next year. Some weeks I'll have a majority books based on a certain theme like classics or something to that affect)

What have you enjoyed the most this Christmas season?
For those of you who don't celebrate Christmas what have you enjoyed the most this December?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Post: December 22nd 2013

(Image Source: Etsy - PerilousPaper)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted  @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things received and share news about what's coming up for the next week ahead.

If you don't know by now the semester finals are over for me! That's why I've been blogging so many books lately. I'm so happy to be done! And I'm genuinely excited for my classes next year. Everything turned out great in the end. I'm so excited for Christmas this year even though there has been exactly  one day where there was a breeze. It doesn't feel very Christmasy but with the Christmas movies I've been watching it's been pretty fun. I'm excited to give the family members actual gifts this year that I hope they like. I hope you all had a fantastic week!

Last Week on the Blog:

Last week I reviewed: The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, Sia by Josh Grayson, Crash by Lisa McMann, and The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour was beyond my favorite out of the group while Sia didn't even get close... I don't usually not like books so it was too bad it wasn't as good as I hoped.

Around the Blogosphere (a.k.a. my to-read list is now larger):

Some books I added to my to-read list that I can't wait to get my hands on: See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne and Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel.

Posts/articles/videos I enjoyed: 

  • Project for Awesome 2013! (raised over 3/4 million for charity) Some charities you should check out:
    • There is No "Them
    • How I Spent $50,000 in South America - Not Forgotten
    • Free Rice - Online Game you can play
    • Food in Tummies (FIT)
  • Trailer: Divergent discovered via Waking Brain Cells
  • Review Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon via Waking Brain Cells
  • 25 Days - Book 16: The Christmas Party via Three Books a Night
  • Review: These Broken Stars via Realm of Fiction
  • Book Trailer: Xander's Panda Party

Plans for Next Week:

I plan on reading and reviewing: The Rule of Thirds by Chantel Guertin, Breathing Ghosts by Laekan Zea Kemp, and Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller. 

These will be the last books I read for the year. I'm going to start with end of the year posts this week. I love doing the best of the best books posts and I can't wait to share what I have planned for next year. 2014 is going to be great!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus

Standalone. Scholastic (September 2013) NetGalley
Failing math but great at writing, Gregory finds the poetry (and humor) in what's hard.
Gregory K is the middle child in a family of mathematical geniuses. But if he claimed to love math? Well, he'd be fibbing. What he really wants most is to go to Author Camp. But to get his parents' permission he's going to have to pass his math class, which has a probability of 0. THAT much he can understand! To make matters worse, he's been playing fast and loose with the truth: "I LOVE math" he tells his parents. "I've entered a citywide math contest!" he tells his teacher. "We're going to author camp!" he tells his best friend, Kelly. And now, somehow, he's going to have to make good on his promises.
Hilariously it's the "Fibonacci Sequence" -- a famous mathematical formula! -- that comes to the rescue, inspiring Gregory to create a whole new form of poem: the Fib! Maybe Fibs will save the day, and help Gregory find his way back to the truth.

For every kid who equates math with torture but wants his own way to shine, here's a novel that is way more than the sum of its parts.

I clearly did not realize what I was getting into when I started reading The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. I forgot what it was about and dived into it without any knowledge on what it was about whatsoever. At first I could feel this inner moan forming because what was this book about? Math! But, I soon realized it was more than a book about math. It was a book about friendship, fitting into your family when you aren't passionate about the same things, and finding a way to enjoy a subject you dislike in your own way. 

This book made me think about the reverse situation of loving math and hating English. I'm not a math person; I'm an English class person. I moaned and I shuffled my feet whenever I had to get to math class. English gets me excited because it's so easy! Read and then answer some questions. Everything isn't just one answer. You can have an opinion in the class. I thought about how Greg felt the same way. His family are lovers of math and logic while he loves poetry and making up stories with his best friend Kelly. His family doesn't even know he loves to write. They assume he loves math even if he's failing his current math class. I thought about how math or logic based people feel when they walk into an English class. Is it torture for them as well? I have a mix of reading and math lovers in my family. I don't understand some of my family members excitement for math when I sometimes just sit and stare blankly at problems I just don't understand. I liked being able to see the other side of my family's interests with Greg's family. 

Greg just couldn't stop getting himself stuck into deeper messes. He keeps on acting like he loves math and he lies so he doesn't hurt people's feelings. I just couldn't believe how many times he dug himself in his lies! He had his friend Kelly mentally kicking him in the calf the whole way through the book. Kelly is like his partner in crime. They are both writers and they are constantly sharing their works with each other. They meet up at Kelly's mother's restaurant, The Slice, where they are always greeted with a slice of warm delicious pie. All those different pie descriptions made me hungry. I want that peach cobbler... 

Greg and Kelly both really want to go to Author's Camp but Greg won't be able to go if he doesn't pass math with a B and to make matters worse Greg announces that he entered City Math - a math contest his father and his brother have entered and won. He said he entered the contest so his family would back off the whole passing math with a B but it didn't quite work out that way. He's helped into learning to like math through is teacher Mr. Davis and he slowly figures out a way out of the messes he keeps putting himself into by doing math his own way. I liked that Greg had a teacher who actually cared and saw that his mind didn't work in a logical sense but in a creative sense. It's nice to think that there are teachers out there who care enough to encourage their students and help them learn in an individualized basis.

To recap I enjoyed the difference of passions with the family and seeing a family actually interact with each other in this book. I also liked the food, friendship, and inspiring teacher. Most of all Greg's personality and his way of thinking shined in this book for me. There were a couple of heartwarming moments he shared with the people he loved and I loved that he accepted that he was a writer and that was okay even if his family didn't understand. Greg could easily be any middle schooler who's struggling with identity or school. His story was engaging and sweet. It made me think about our differences as well as our similarities between family and other people in the world. It was a really great MG book that I can see many kids relating to and discovering things about themselves because of Gregory K.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Crash by Lisa McMann

Visions #1. Simon Pulse (January 2013) Library
If what you see is what you get, Jules is in serious trouble. The suspenseful first of three books from the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy.

Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.
What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode...and nine body bags in the snow.
The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.
In this riveting start to a gripping trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann, Jules has to act—and act fast—to keep her vision from becoming reality.

I was expecting a more Before I Fall type of book with Crash but I could tell right away by the narrator's personality that it wasn't going to be that way. It was going to be more teenage pining but in a totally adorable way (finally pining for a cute guy done right) and just a more fun book than I was expecting even though one of the main things is the whole "I can see visions of you dying thing." It has a lot to do with the dynamics of the Demarco family. I mean it's about two (presumably Italian) restaurant rivalries so it's going to be interesting to say the least. The conversations between the three Demarco siblings made this book worthwhile. Without Jules' brother, Trey, I don't think I would have liked this book as much as I did. Although, on her own Jules was a pretty fun character to follow along.

Jules has no friends beyond her carefree brother and her wound up sister Rowan. She goes to school and back to work while pining for her forever crush Sawyer. She and Sawyer go way back. They became friends fairly early in their lives and knew their families didn't like each other around that time as well. Even so they kept their friendship secret until about seventh grade when it all blew up in their faces and Sawyer ignored her like the plague. Sawyer's a pretty nice guy otherwise - he has a reasonable explanation why he totally ignored her which you find out much later. Then Jules starts seeing this crash and starts narrowing down what exactly is going to happen in the crash one of which is the fact that Sawyer will be one of the body bags if she doesn't find a way to make the vision not come true. The vision part was alright but again what drives the story are the characters and the family dynamic. A couple of serious issues come up I hadn't been expecting so that's an advantage the story has too. Other than that there wasn't anything that surprised or wowed me. It's still a pretty good read and a really fast one if you need it. 

There was another problem I felt this book had. Towards the beginning I liked everything: the characters, the potential romance, and the visions but towards the end the romance became blah to me. It went from like zero to sixty with those two. It was slightly embarrassing the way Jules declared her love for Sawyer and his reaction afterwards. It just didn't bode well for me. Crash, although lacking in the wow factor is still a nice enough book to check out if you ever want to. I don't know if I want to continue on with the series. I've read that the second one is better but I'll see if I'm ever up to it. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sia by Josh Grayson

Standalone. Self-Published (November 2013) Own
When seventeen-year-old Sia wakes up on a park bench, she has no idea who or where she is. Yet after a week of being homeless, she’s reunited with her family. At school, she’s powerful and popular. At home, she’s wealthy beyond her dreams. But she quickly realizes her perfect life is a lie. Her family is falling apart and her friends are snobby, cruel and plastic. Worse yet, she discovers she was the cruelest one. Mortified by her past, she embarks on a journey of redemption and falls for Kyle, the “geek” she once tormented. Yet all the time she wonders if, when her memories return, she’ll become the bully she was before…and if she’ll lose Kyle.

This book had all the right elements to make it a win for me. Sia wakes up not knowing who she is and when she finds out about her life and the way she's been acting she decides to turn her life around by helping the less fortunate. She wants to help the homeless specifically because she witnessed and went through the troubles living on the streets can bring you first hand. When she woke up not knowing who she was, Carol, her soon to be friend took her under her wing and helped her out. She wants to repay that kindness and see to it all the adversity she faced would change for others in that same predicament. Sounds like it would be sooo good right? Well, it was horrible. 

The way Sia reacted to things just annoyed the hell out of me. The way everything happened made no sense. At one point Sia gets yelled at by someone who goes to her school. Of course she didn't know this person and she ran out on the street and got hit by a car. Okay, I can see that happening. Someone is verbally attacking you and you run away from them but just like that she's back in her parents' home. She wakes up in a hospital, talks to the doctor and her parents for a little while, and goes home. Oh I sustained no injuries from that CAR HITTING ME let's just go home now and resume everything like nothing happened. Oh, her head was mentioned to be hurt but that's all she suffered from. Perfectly logical sequence of events... 

The way everything was forced to be a message was another part of this book that irked me. Everything bad that happened to her was a message and her seeing how she needs to help people and change who she is (insert sarcasm here). She was almost forced to be an "entertainer", she gets hit by a car, she witnesses a homeless person being beaten up, she's spit on and she gets called a bum who can't get a job when she clearly is a teenager. I mean it's great that someone wants to get some awareness to the way we treat homeless individuals and how we should be a more caring and charitable society. That's great but the way everything is written and how everything is piled upon another does not do the message any justice. It just creates an inadequate story.

There were also problems in Sia's house. Her mother was an alcoholic and they were going bankrupt. One talk to her mother and she magically decides she will go to rehab and her father decides hey! I don't have to worry about financial issues that might ruin me and my family. I won't even think about it anymore thanks Sia for setting me straight. Like parents actually ever listen to teenagers in real life and stress can go away just like that. And did I mention how she likes to tell anyone who's around how her family is having financial problems but she doesn't care because all she needs is her family? Again there's a good message in there but the way it's executed is just awful. You are just going to air your family's private problems out there? Like it doesn't even matter if your parents don't want anyone to know? She just says it like it's no big deal. The way she talks... It frustrated me to no end.

The boy who yelled at her and caused her to get hit by a car? Well that boy's name is Kyle and he seems like he's going to be alright but then there are the cliché snide remarks that start popping up about how her family is so rich and how she has such a hectic social life so how can she possibly find the time to help anyone else when everyone knows she lost her friends the day before. He starts acting cold around her and I understand him not wanting to get too close because what if she remembers and turns back to her old self? But, the ending of this so called romance... I knew what was going to happen and I was hoping beyond hope it didn't. It was just the most cliché, roll your eyes type of ending. I mean the epilogue was sort of nice I'll give it that but the main ending was so predictable and so not justified. I saw no chemistry! No connection between the two. Imaginary connection I'm sure but as the reader I felt nothing for the two of them together. The idea of this story was really excellent but the execution was not well done. I didn't like any of the characters, the messages of the story were too forced making them useless, and the events that took place made no sense. This book was just not for me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Standalone. Simon & Schuster (May 2010) Library 
When you're on a road trip, life is all about the detours....
Amy Curry is having a terrible year. Her mother has decided to move across the country and needs Amy to get their car from California to Connecticut. There's just one small problem: Since her dad died this past spring, Amy hasn't been able to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger, the nineteen-year-old son of an old family friend, who turns out to be unexpectedly cute... and dealing with some baggage of his own.
Meeting new people and coming to terms with her father's death were not what Amy had planned on this trip. And traveling the Loneliest Road in America, seeing the Colorado Mountains, crossing the Kansas plains, and visiting diners, dingy motels, and Graceland were definitely not on the itinerary. But as they drive, Amy finds that the people you least expected are the ones you may need the most -- and that sometimes you have to get lost in order to find your way home. 

Well I absolutely loved this book... Amy's been living a month in her now sold home in California while her brother is in rehab in North Carolina and her mother is in Connecticut "settling in" into their new home. The truth is after the death of her father their family just hasn't been the same and no one has once talked about what happened on that fateful day.

Amy's mother decides that Amy must come up to Connecticut before her senior year starts and she must do so by bringing the car she left behind with her. Knowing full well Amy hasn't been able to drive since her father's passing she enrolls the help of Roger, the son of a family friend, who has his own agenda for taking Amy on her trip. Filled with heartbreaking and sweet moments and unbelievably fantastic characters Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is a must read!

Wow! I fell in love with this story and its characters. If you know any great road trip stories please tell me because I want to read them all! Amy's having a hard time coping with her father's death which is to be expected since he only died three months ago. You get some flashbacks of moments her father and she shared - Charlie, her twin, was there too - that shows some great moments between the two. For me I mostly saw the bond between her and her father as well as the struggle of her father's loss rather than romance all the time - what a concept! You could actually feel Amy's emotions and Matson wasn't afraid to let Amy's emotions out minus one scene I wanted more out of. So most of the book it wasn't Amy constantly fixated on how cute Roger was although there were moments. The gradual strangers to friendship to romance in this story were done remarkably well. Amy and Roger were adorable together and I liked how both their journeys mixed into one. 

The book had playlists, receipts, notes, and other things from the various places they visited - such a great idea to make the book feel more real for the reader. I actually didn't expect that much of a detour coming into this story but I'm glad it ended up being that way because you could really see the characters progress and have some self discovery come into their lives. I really want to go on another road trip book because of these two. I've been on kind of one myself but it wasn't as fun or as long as this one and it just reminds me of how little I've seen of America.

All in all I have only two minor complaints about this book including that certain scene I wanted more emotion to come out of as well as questionable sex scenes that occurred (I'm an old lady at heart so don't mind me). It wasn't explicit at all and really Amy was being depicted as a regular teen so it made sense it's just me most likely. Other than those two things this book was better than I could hope for. The story being centralized not on the romance but on both protagonists own journeys was a breath of fresh air. I have to make sure to keep an eye on Morgan Matson in the future.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook

Standalone. Simon Pulse (December 2012) Library
Teen con artist Sadie might be over her head. To escape her backwards small town, delusional mom, jailbird dad, and the tiny trailer where she was raised, she also must leave Brendan. Sadie wants a better life, and she has been working steadily toward it, one con at a time, until her mother wipes out her savings. 

Brendan helps devise ultimate con. But the more lies Sadie spins, the more she starts falling for her own hoax, and perhaps for the wrong boy. Sadie wanted to change her life, but she wasn't prepared to have it flipped upside down by her own deception. With her future at stake and her heart on the line, she suddenly has more than just money to lose.

At first I already felt like this was just going to be an alright read. It didn't seem like it was going anywhere but, having read previous books by Eileen Cook I should have known better. It got quite interesting, quite fast when I knew what Sadie's real ultimate con was going to be. Although it was fairly predictable what was going to happen when you got a little further into the story, The Almost Truth, was a light and entertaining read - just what I needed after a stress-filled week.

Sadie's life is one she desperately wants to run away from. She lives in a beat up trailer with her mom who always works and expects Sadie to live the same way and her dad who's always either in jail or coming up with his next scam. She might not admit it but she's also running away from her best friend Brendan who she made a mistake with and has been trying to avoid ever since. She doesn't get the chance to reinvent herself when her mom takes all her money from her savings to get her dad out of jail. Albeit Sadie didn't get all that money from just hard work. She took up her father's trade of conning people here and there so she can save up the cash to go away to college and get off her island. Still furious, Sadie doesn't know what to do to get all her money back. She gets an idea in the strangest possible way when she discovers something that happened long ago in her hometown.

The mystery wasn't all there because I figured out what was going to happen right away. I think Cook planned it that way though because she gave pretty obvious hints about what was going on throughout the story. It's more about the journey than the actual reveal. Although, the story of what happened could have been more shocking for me to enjoy the ending more. I liked Sadie and her story. I liked her journey and her self-discovery that no matter where you come from you are who you are and no one can change that. I didn't particularly like the romance in this story. I couldn't feel the connection with her and Brendan probably because she tried to keep her distance from him so much. Regardless of some things I would have liked different, The Almost Truth absorbed my attention and gave me a quick escape into the mysterious life of Sadie.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Top 12 Most Anticipated Middle Grade Books of 2014

I found a list on Goodreads filled with Middle Grade books coming out next year. I wanted to share what I discovered and what I'm looking forward to read next year with all of you. The books below are based on my opinion and what I'm excited to read next year. This Top 12 list is not in order. There are other MG books coming out next year that I'm excited about and others that are still not mentioned yet on this list I'm sure. If you have any books you've discovered that are coming out next year whether they be Middle Grade reads or not I'd love to read what they are. 

A powerful novel about friendship and family that calls to mind Bridge to Terabithia

Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or "Little John" as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree.

There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties.

But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy.

Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, Nightingale's Nest is an unforgettable novel about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a girl with the gift of healing in her voice.

My Thoughts: This has such a gorgeous cover and I love the original tale of the Nightingale. I'm pretty sure this one is going to suck me in and leave me heartbroken by the end. 

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.

But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

My thoughts: I love anything to do with food so I'm excited about this one . I also love all the impending shenanigans I'm sure Gladys will get into.

Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack.

Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes. Or it did, before it was broken. Before it was killed.

But some things don’t stay dead forever.

My Thoughts: This ones going to be a great sci-fi book. It's very different in what I expect a MG book to be but that's probably why I'm so excited by it.

"To sell a book, you need a description on the back. So here's mine: My name is Fiona Loomis. I was born on August 11, 1977. I am recording this message on the morning of October 13, 1989. Today I am thirteen years old. Not a day older. Not a day younger."

Fiona Loomis is Alice, back from Wonderland. She is Lucy, returned from Narnia. She is Coraline, home from the Other World. She is the girl we read about in storybooks, but here's the difference: She is real.

Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary is her neighbor in a town where everyone knows each other. One afternoon, Fiona shows up at Alistair's doorstep with a strange proposition. She wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into a clearly troubled mind. For Fiona tells Alistair a secret. In her basement there's a gateway and it leads to the magical world of Aquavania, the place where stories are born. In Aquavania, there's a creature called the Riverman and he's stealing the souls of children. Fiona's soul could be next.

Alistair has a choice. He can believe her, or he can believe something else...something even more terrifying.

My Thoughts: I don't usually like many books set in a different time but the premise of the book is genius! I'm sure all book lovers are going to want to check this one out.

When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.

My Thoughts: I've never read To Kill a Mockingbird fully. I had to read some of it Freshman year in High School and I didn't enjoy it but it was assigned and we were made to read it aloud so this book seems like it would get my interest sparked to read the story it's based upon. The story itself sounds fantastic. It's a reader's ambition to get as many people possible to read their favorite book.

When Denny “Donuts” Murphy’s mother dies, he becomes the world’s biggest class clown. But deep down, Donuts just wants a normal life—one where his mom is still alive and where his dad doesn’t sit in front of the TV all day. And so Donuts tries to get back into the groove by helping his best friend with their plan to get dates for the end-of-the-year school dance. When their scheme backfires, he learns that laughter is not the best medicine for all of his problems. Sometimes it’s just as important to be true to yourself.

My Thoughts: The title of this book just appeals to me in so many ways. It's going to be one of those sad yet memorable books I'm going to read with some laughter mixed in.

Savvy meets The Incredibles in this fresh, funny middle-grade debut about two brothers in a family of superheroes who must find a way to be heroic despite receiving powers that are total duds.

Each leap year, on February 29th, at 4:23 p.m., every member of the Bailey family over the age of twelve gets a superpower. No one knows why, and no one questions it. All the Baileys know is that it's their duty to protect the world from those evil, supervillainous Johnsons.

Today, Rafter Bailey and his brother Benny are finally going to get their superpowers. Benny wants to be a speedy, and Rafter hopes he gets super strength so he can save the day just like his grandfather. But when their powers arrive, they are, well, duds. Rafter can light matches on polyester, and Benny can turn his innie belly button into an outie.

Suddenly Rafter and Benny's world is turned upside down. Especially when they realize that Juanita Johnson, the villain in Rafter's algebra class, thinks that her family are the superheroes and the Baileys are the villains.

What if everything Rafter thought he knew about superheroes turns out to be a lie? He may not have an awesome power, but with the help of Benny and an unexpected friend, he could just be almost super.

My Thoughts: Just yes. The Incredibles and Savvy mixed together ~ This book fills me with happiness...

This is what the boy is told:

• He woke up on planet Trucon, inside a fence he shouldn't have been able to pass.

• He has an annirad blaster wound to the back of his head.

• He has no memory.
• He is now under the protection of a mysterious benefactor.
• His name is Chase Garrety.

This is what Chase Garrety knows:

• He has a message: "Guide the star."

• Time is running out.

My Thoughts: Technically came out this December but it's coming out again with Feiwel & Friends in January. This screams "boy book" and I'm sure it's going to marketed as such but the cover looks amazing for one and for two I don't care I really want to read it. 

Eighth grade is set to be a good year for Diggy Lawson: He’s chosen a great calf to compete at the Minnesota State Fair, he’ll see a lot of July, the girl he secretly likes at 4-H, and he and his dad Pop have big plans for April Fool’s Day. But everything changes when classmate Wayne Graf’s mother dies, which brings to light the secret that Pop is Wayne’s father, too. Suddenly, Diggy has a half brother, who moves in and messes up his life. Wayne threatens Diggy’s chances at the State Fair, horns in on his girl, and rattles his easy relationship with Pop.

What started out great quickly turns into the worst year ever, filled with jealousy, fighting, and several incidents involving cow poop. But as the boys care for their steers, pull pranks, and watch too many B movies, they learn what it means to be brothers and change their concept of family as they slowly steer toward a new kind of normal.

My Thoughts: Reminds me a lot of a mix between Dairy Queen and Waiting for Normal. The latter probably just because of the name. This is just my kind of book and I can't really explain it beyond I like small towns and southern type books i.e. Dairy Queen.

Eleven years old. The beginning of everything!

For Maggie Mayfield, turning eleven means she's one year closer to college. One year closer to voting. And one year closer to getting a tattoo. It's time for her to pull herself up by her bootstraps (the family motto) and think about more than after school snacks and why her older sisters are too hot for their own good. Because something mysterious is going on with her cool dude Dad, whose legs have permanently fallen asleep, and Maggie is going to find out exactly what the problem is and fix it. After all, nothing's impossible when you're future president of the United States of America, fifth grade science fair champion, and a shareholder in Coca-Cola, right?

My Thoughts: "whose legs have permanently fallen asleep, and Maggie is going to find out exactly what the problem is and fix it" ~ this book is going to make me cry so hard. Why would I do that to myself? I don't know. I'm a sucker for books like this.

Roald Dahl meets Eva Ibbotson in this hilarious middle grade debut perfect for reading aloud

Rupert Campbell is fascinated by the witches who live nearby. He dreams of broomstick tours and souvenir potions, but Rupert’s mother forbids him from even looking at that part of town. The closest he can get to a witchy experience is sitting in class with his awful teacher Mrs. Frabbleknacker, who smells like bellybutton lint and forbids Rupert’s classmates from talking to each other before, during, and after class. So when he sees an ad to become a witch’s apprentice, Rupert simply can’t resist applying.

But Witchling Two isn’t exactly what Rupert expected. With a hankering for lollipops and the magical aptitude of a toad, she needs all the help she can get to pass her exams and become a full-fledged witch. She’s determined to help Rupert stand up to dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker too, but the witchling's magic will be as useful as a clump of seaweed unless Rupert can figure out a way to help her improve her spellcasting—and fast!

My Thoughts: Witch's Apprentice ~ enough said.

The Forbidden Library kicks off a brand new classic fantasy series perfect for fans of CoralineInkheart, and The Books of Elsewhere

Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairy

When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.

My Thoughts: I've got to read at least one book with a library setting next year don't I? This seems to be one of the more serious or let's say it appeals to the older crowd of MG readers. I like that it's supposed to have a Coraline feeling and that you are going inside a book and her name being Alice is a plus too.

I'm also looking forward to Under the Egg, School of Charm, and Jasmine and Maddie
There are also a bunch of other books I've found out before that I like: The Dirt Diary, By the Grace of Todd, and Ice Dogs
Some notable authors are coming out with MG books in 2014: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel, Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler, The Swift Boys & Me by Kody Keplinger, and Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord.
The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky is coming out ~ I have an author event planned out next year in February.
Caminar ~ a book set in Guatemala (a setting which is rare for me to find) is coming out.
Last but not least I have fallen for the illustrations that are sure to be amazing in Cupcake Cousins.

P.S. I've finished my FINALS! I even got a better than passing grade in my math class. It's a miracle. Now back to reading and reviewing like normal.

What books are you looking forward to next year?