Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Am The Messenger: review

Title: I Am The Messenger
Author: Markus Zusak
Genres: contemporary, mystery, humor, adult/young adult
Summary: Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . . .

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

I already want to go back and read it again!!!

From the first page, I was totally hooked. That doesn't happen too often for me. It's very fast paced and intriguing- a mystery.

Lots of it is hard to read, emotionally. Good and bad, depending on the card. If i were a book-crier, I probably would have let a tear or two slip out many times during his missions...

Ed is not a likable main character to start out with. He is a going-nowhere taxi driver who spends evenings playing cards with his few friends or watching pictures with the Doorman (my favorite character btw). But when the cards start coming, they are as much for him as the addresses on the aces. I liked watching Ed develop, to have a purpose. And by the end, I was smiling at it all.

My favorite thing about I Am The Messenger is the figurative language. It is not as prominent as it was in The Book Thief, (which I absolutely loved as well, but it is very different than this.) but it's still just as noticeable. And he is almost free-styling at some points. Lots of figurative sentences having to do with words, like people talking. "My words dripped onto my shoes and landed on the pavement between us" kind of thing. It makes more sense when he writes it...

I guess the only thing that annoyed me was Ed's love for Audrey. It was kind of the usual 'oh-my-god-I'm-so-in-love-with-her-and-she-doesn't-love-me-more-than-a-friend' thing. So. *coughJohnGreencough* Maybe it's just really how boys think. How depressing. Okay, I guess it did end up okay and not too silly. :)

I Am The Messenger is such a short book, but full of good meaning for anybody who is willing to listen. I highly recommend it.

5 full stars of course. This one deserves it.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Bitterblue: review

Title: Bitterblue (The Seven Kingdoms #3)
Author: Kristin Cashore
Genres: high fantasy, adventure, mystery
Summary: Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. 

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Warning, there are many spoilers for Graceling and Fire, so if you haven't read those but plan to, you might not want to read this review just yet. ;)

Since I can remember, I’ve been looking forward to reading Bitterblue. Though looking back, it’s probably been only about three years. I read Graceling when it first came out and liked it a lot. But I didn’t start falling head over heels for this series till Fire came out. I remember getting it from the library and sitting down on my bed and staring at it. Then reading it so fast, I just couldn’t get enough. After Fire, I kept saying it was all Graceling could have been. And I didn’t even realize they connected until a few months after.
A couple weeks before reading Bitterblue, I reread Fire and then Graceling (which I enjoyed a lot more the second time around), because I wanted it to be in chronological order. And not until pretty much days before getting Bitterblue (but before rereading Graceling), did my friend point out: “Isn’t the little princess Katsa and Po save in Graceling, named Bitterblue?” My response: O.O “How did I not remember that??”
So I tried all my sources to getting a copy of Bitterblue, knowing all the sudden that I just couldn’t wait another two months till it came out to have it. Because then, I didn’t want to buy it until it came to paperback. That’s too long! I finally acquired it through eBay. I know, horrible. Not my usual method for getting ARCs. And when the package arrived, nothing could pry it from my hands, or wipe my amazed smile off my face for a whole two days.
And then it hit me that this was it. After I finished Bitterblue, no more of the Seven Kingdoms!! The thought was crushing! Eventually though, I managed to crack it open and it proceeded to mesmerize me for a full 75 pages before I could look away. Then I quickly put my bookmark in and paced around the room, searching for something to distract me, in order for it to last longer.
This routine lasted for a full two weeks I think. Torturous.
Now, about ten minutes ago, I finally finished it, obviously. And besides one tiny thing that annoys me and I’m getting over, I am very happy with how it turned out. That is completely my opinion remember.
First thing that caught my eye, pun intended, was Bitterblue is a very different character than Katsa or Fire. She is younger, is not Graced/ has special powers, and she is so very ignorant. I wasn’t sure how to grasp that at first, and took me a while to understand why she had to be so different.
            The whole plot of Bitterblue, is her trying to figure out what happened in Leck’s thirty-five year cruel reign. And I sympathze with her, because it’s an awful path she goes down, and her job as “Lady Queen” is to discover and heal her kingdom. A task I would trade anything not to have. And it’s not her fault she is ignorant of most of time. *mpft* Everyone seems subconsciously determined to keep her from finding anything out.
Leck. Yes, he is the reason these stories exist. And could technically be considered the main character, since all three books revolve around him in some way or another. Anyway, he vaguely bugged me in the other two books, but in Bitterblue, it’s easy to say he becomes more alive than ever. By the end…without spoiling anything…with some information we find out, about his reign everybody can’t remember, I actually felt physically sick about the things he did. Usually book characters don’t effect me like that, but the depth of his influence is really well written.
That brings about a weird thing I’d like to mention. (This is so fun writing all this, sorry if it is boring to others, my ranting.) –When the book starts out, I immediately got this sense that something was extremely off with Bitterblue’s castle. And her staff. And her city. It’s conveyed very well, and I felt just as annoyed, confused and scared as Bitterblue when she is discovering everything. Or not discovering everything. It’s like her own little strange Wonderland. Yes, I am using that comparison. The mood definitely changes though, at a certain point. Endless lies in this story. Watch for them.
Cyphers!!! The central theme for Bitterblue! I couldn’t get enough of them. All of it was so fun to read, and hopeless to try to figure out. I love that Bitterblue is like a math genius. I think she got the intellectual straw, whereas Katsa and Fire got the kick-ass ones. (I would rather have the latter.)
I am trying SUPER HARD not to put any spoilers here, but I am bursting at the seams trying not to say all the unbelievable events/appearances that ended the book. Mmmpppffttt!!!!!
Oh there is so much I would like to write about, like the huge amount of fun and creative supporting characters (Death!)…but I have to stop myself sometime…just a little bit more. (If you have questions, want spoilers, or if you’ve read it and want to excitedly discuss Bitterblue with me, send me an email!)
The one part that let me down at the end, just a little, little bit (okay more than a little bit)…the romance. I am very familiar with Cashore’s feministic writing ways. That’s probably why this series remains on the top of my favorite books list. But Bitterblue wasn’t really about the romance at all, compared to Graceling and Fire. At least at the end of those two, they contained ambiguous endings…that’s all I can say. Sorry I said even that much to those who haven’t read the book! J But it’s still nice. I love Saf. So so much. With his purple eyes and gold in his ears, so adorable! Dreamy.
Thank you for taking the time to read this little crazy rant thing of mine. To sum up overall, Bitterblue was everything I expected, a great read.

One more thing, I am slightly mollified at, is that i still like Fire and Graceling more. Isn't that crazy? I was in denial about it for a while, but now I realized that as much as Bitterblue was awesome, I still like the previous two books better. I am excited to see what Cashore has in store next!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wanderlove: review

Title: Wanderlove
Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Scource: ARC from Changing Hands bookstore
Genres: YA realistic fiction, travel, romance, adventure
Summary: It all begins with a stupid question: 

Are you a Global Vagabond? 

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. 

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward. 

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back. 

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.

I could tell this was my kind of book as soon as I read the summary. Backpacking in Central America? Totally up my alley, considering I actually want to DO that some day! Add some odd friends and interesting situations and there you have Wanderlove.

What stood out the most: It's immediately obvious Kirsten Hubbard knows what she's talking about. From every detail about traveling (locals not accepting slightly ripped tender), to every single muscle's scientific name (gastrocnemius! I knew that one), I don't think it's research that makes it so detailed. It's personal experience! She is passionate about what she is writing, and it shows. I can't really vouch for lots of authors who do that! So, kudos for her.

(Okay, side note...Relating to this topic, I have a scene in my novel where my protag goes for a morning jog on the track of a cruise ship. So, on my next cruise, on the last morning onboard, (not procrastinating at all...) I got up at the crack of dawn...! Which happened to be about 7:15am, if I were to be honest here...and changed into my workout clothes. The track was deserted and the pink morning shone through my eyes still half closed with crustiness. I made it a whole half mile or so. My dad tagged along with his camera, making sure to get my under slept expression of annoyance. And after that, I fell back asleep for three more hours. Novel research! It's a critical part of production. Though, I realized later on, that my protag is an absolute morning person.)

Back to the review.

My advanced copies usually have a page in the front with some marketing info like author name, publication date....and also, this time, 'illustrator'. That surprised me, because I was thinking...on the chapter title pages or something? But it quickly became obvious that Bria, our heroine, is an artist, and this book was like her journal (but not written in journaling style). So she doodled every now and then alongside the words. I personally think it was really good. (I am easily impressed with anyone who can draw.) So as you're reading, its fun to turn the page to a map of the area she is at, or even a butterfly. (The most prominent motif of Wanderlove.)

The writing style was catchy. That's the weird word I choose to use. It's fast paced and funny, but not in a loud way, just sweetly subtle. Contradicting much?

I was also happy this 'contemporary teen novel' did not take place at a high school. With all that drama crap. Because really, that's half the reason I avoid this genre in the first place! More kudos for setting the book in Central America, and writing no completely awful/shallow characters.

5 stars. But that rating makes me want to go back and lower a few ratings on other books. Ones that I put five stars, but are nothing compared to this one.

Well, that's all the craziness I can type for now, because I am SUPER EXCITED to start reading BITTERBLUE! My life rocks right now. That review will probably be up next. But i might drag out finishing it as long as possible, because once I'm done reading it...well, I won't know what to do! ;) I'll need to get addicted to another brilliant feministic fantasy series soon.


Friday, March 2, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight: review

Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: contemporary romance, YA, family
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A. 

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

First off, this book is written is present tense, with third person point of view. Now, unless I am mistaken, I’ve never read a book like that before. Interesting, huh? Could be a kind of an acquired taste.

Oliver and Hadley are not blown up with crazy adjectives and musical inducing moments. (Well, no unbearably cheesy ones at least. You kind of want them to happen.) Instead the two are described so realistically—the author mentioning stains on a shirt, messed up hair, and mild vices right upon meeting. Maybe I just don’t read enough contemporary fiction and I get easily impressed with the simplicity of it all.

Hadley is claustrophobic. That personality trait is important to the plot to begin with, and vital to the development. It is described so vividly, I felt myself holding my breath alongside her at times. That may have to do with my own claustrophobia though. So, I am glad it was done well. I’ve also been on hundreds of flights and every feeling of takeoff and atmosphere of the airports is accurate and relatable. That’s a weird thing to point out, but as a traveler, that kind of setting catches my eye.

I guess the most surprising thing was how much I related to Hadley. I mean, a LOT. The emotions she went through…just one thing after another, it was a very cool experience. :)

So, if you’re a hopeless romantic, or even just enjoy a sweet story about true love, you’ll eat this up. It’s cute and loveable, the kind of book you just want to hug.

5 out of 5 stars.

If you liked this, you will like these books, and visa versa! Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door...I hesitate to say Perfect Chemistry, because I haven't actually read it, but it seems like it's in a similar category?

Thanks for reading!