Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#1)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme held by The Broke and Bookish that asks readers to tell their top ten picks for the given list each week.

This week's topic: Top Ten Characters I'd like to switch with for 24 hours.

1.Tris from Divergent- Do I even have to explain? She gets to spend every day in the Dauntless faction doing crazy, exhilarating, and, for lack of a better word, dauntless things!  Not to mention Four.  24 hours hanging out with that boy would be amazing. But seriously, the fast-pace of everything would be stinking amazing.
2. Meggie from Inkheart- *SPOILER ALERT- Don't read this one if you haven't read Inkheart.* Meggie can read herself into the stories that she reads.  If I could read myself into a story, then I think I would be happy forever.  End of story.
3. Susan from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe- Ok, I think Susan kind of gets labeled as "not really exciting" in comparison to Lucy, but come on.  Narnia, and archery.  Yes. Yes. Yes. Plus, just because I trade with her doesn't mean that I have to have her attitude. I'd be loving Narnia!
4. Kelsey from Tiger's Curse- Even if we put aside the obvious (how much I love Ren and Kishan), lets face it: Kelsey's life is pretty stinking interesting.  Signs up for a job in the circus and ends up being able to travel to India and go on all sorts of adventures with the guy she loves.
5. Tally Youngblood from Uglies- Be best friends with Shay.  Travel to the smoke.  Be awesome.  Yeah, pretty much.  PLUS, David. He's one of my favorite characters eveeerrrrr.  Love him.
6. Lena from Delirium- I just love her.  She falls in love in a society that forbids it, travels to the Wilds and back into the city limits, and does even more awesome stuff in Pandemonium (won't say anything- spoilers). But basically, she's awesome, and I love Alex.
7. Meg from A Wrinkle in Time- Travel the Universe? Yes, please.
8. Eragon from Eragon- I WANT A DRAGON.
9. Cassia from Matched- She's just awesome.  Basically, she's taking the parts of her life back from the Society that she wants, and she doesn't care what they say about it. And for those of you who've read Crossed, you know just how awesome this girl is.
10. Jonas from The Giver- It'd be pretty awesome to be the only one in your town that has the memories of the past, of history.  Sure, it comes with pain, but it also comes with joy.  What is happiness without a little bit of pain, after all?  The Receiver is the only one in that community who really gets to live life, so if I had to be anyone in that book, it'd be him.

So, if you could switch with any character for 24 hours, who'd it be?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.


NOTE: This review will contain spoilers if you have not read the book Graceling.

In this book, Queen Bitterblue is 18 years old (8 years after Graceling), and she is still trying to piece together her kingdom from the destruction that her father, King Leck, left behind.

As Bitterblue becomes overwhelmed with paperwork for the kingdom in her office, she begins to go out at night in disguise to journey around her capital, Bitterblue City.  While out, she meets two new friends- a friendly man named Teddy and his mysterious Graceling/Lienid companion, Saf.  Bitterblue learns some quite disturbing information from them: her kingdom is even worse shape than she's been told, and almost nothing they say about Bitterblue City matches what her advisers have told her.  

Now, Bitterblue must determine who in the castle is lying to her, and why, all the while piecing together parts of the mystery that her father has left behind.

May I just say, I love Kristin Cashore's characters. So much.  And the first 3/4 of this story was INSANELY. GOOD. But the ending made me really mad.  

I felt like the end of this story ruined it.  It wasn't that something oh-so-terrible happened or that there was some horrid cliff-hanger ending.  It just sort of ended.  I felt like something was missing, and that Kristin Cashore hadn't really finished telling the story.  I feel like I have no clue about what happened to the characters.  It's almost as if someone just ripped a couple of chapters out of the back of the book.

On the bright side, however, if you were left with any questions as to how the characters in Graceling or Fire ended up, Bitterblue answers those questions extremely well.  I was really glad that I got to see how Katsa and Fire ended up.  Neither of them were in the story a whole lot (sadly), but it did put to rest any questions about their fates.

So, Bitterblue was an extremely good book with lovely characters.  It answered any questions you may have had about the ending of the first two books in the Graceling realm, but it left you with an entirely new set of questions as to how things are going to end up for Bitterblue.  It really was a great story, but I just feel as if Cashore just left so much missing that the book didn't feel complete at the end.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. 

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.


I really liked Ender's game, and it was an interesting enough read.  But OH THE CLICHE STORY-LINE.  It's not that this is bad writing.  Really, Card did quite a good job when he wrote this.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Ender and his escapades.  But seriously, this entire novel was like watching an episode of Star Trek.  But instead of adults, it's starring kids.

Also, I feel like it's pretty hard for readers to connect with Ender.  I mean, how many six-year-olds, exactly, do you know that can do trigonometry? It just seemed rather unlikely.  And even though near the end of the book, he reaches 12 years of age, that's still pretty young for a teenager to be able to connect to.  

Other than those two major things, the book wasn't that bad.  The world in of itself was extremely interesting, with the Battle School stationed in space and all of the advanced technology. Card did a wonderful job with world-building.   The biggest issue was that in this fantastic world where there could easily be an interesting story, Card chose to pick the most cliche story line known to man.  He had all the right cards- a new world and a fascinating protagonist.  But he didn't make his own story, just a copy.

So, if you're into sci-fi and you really like Star Trek, and you want to see how an episode of Star Trek may play out if it starred children, then that's Ender's Game for you.  This story isn't something that when mentioned I would strongly advise against reading, but it also isn't a story that I would highly recommend.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Where do I even begin with this book?  It is the most gut-wrenching, awful book, but at the same time it finds beauty in its own way.  

This book is the story of Liesel Meminger from the viewpoint of Death.  

On her way to her new step-parents' home, the home of Hans and Rosa Hubermann, she sees both her mother and her brother Werner for the last time.  Her mother left her through force of the government, and Werner left her through the force of Death.

Liesel arrives at the home of Hans and Rosa Hubermann alone, and a bit grief-stricken.  When she begins school, she is moved to a class far below her age, for she can neither read nor write.  She came home frustrated every day, longing to be able to decipher the words and to read them with ease.  She eventually asks Papa for help.

Papa, though he left school in the fourth grade, knew how to read.  He wasn't the best reader, or perhaps even the most adequate teacher, but he was patient and he taught Liesel.  And so began a romance between Liesel and the words.

In June of 1939, a very interesting person shows up on Liesel's doorstep.  Or at least, an interesting person to be seen on the streets in Nazi Germany.  Max Vandenburg appeared, one of the very few free Jews left.  Over the course of the book, Max becomes like a brother to Liesel, and two very unlikely people come to share a beautiful story.  They share words, and they share their stories.

This book, I'll admit, made me cry.  This is quite a rarity for me.  Books always evoke my emotions, but my tears are a bit harder to come by.  It shows how people lived in World War II, and while this may not be a true story, it could have been very real for some little girl in Nazi Germany.  This book is so emotional, and it tells a heart-breakingly beautiful story.

Most of the book is very emotionally involved, although there are some dry parts.  For the most part, though, Zusak did a pretty good job of keeping the story interesting.

Also, this book is not by any means told in chronological order.  Typically, I'm not a huge fan when authors do this, but Zusak pulled it off very well in this one.  He knew when to tell the certain parts of the story, and how much he needed to tell.  He put the pieces of the story together in a way that made it extremely emotional.  Even though it was not told with a regular timeline, the story still made sense, and the chronology was still intact enough that it did not confuse the readers.

The reason I gave it four stars, however, was that there is SO MUCH vulgarity in this book.  I suppose that it was written in dialect, but even so, I felt like it took away from the story.  But that's my personal opinion.  And, that is my only major problem with it.  It was overall a great book, and it really opens your eyes to a side of WWII that maybe you hadn't thought of before.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn't even know how incredible this book was going to be when I picked it up. I had some idea, but not anywhere in the ballpark of how awesome this book really was.

I had been wanting to read Graceling for a while because my best friend Abby had told me how much she loved it and how awesome it was. It wasn't at the top of my reading list or anything, but I was at Wall-Mart shopping for my trip to El Salvador and I realized that I didn't have anything to read on the airplane ride there. I started looking for The Host by Stephanie Meyer, but seeing as they did not have it at the store, I had to pick out a different book. I was pretty disappointed that I couldn't find The Host, but then my eyes caught a glimpse of Graceling. So I picked it up. I thought, "Hey, might as well. This will be better than nothing." And so my obsession began.

Graceling is set in a world where people who have two different colored eyes are "Graced". Meaning that they have the capability to excel in a certain skill farther than any normal human. These Graces can range from holding your breath for an extremely long amount of time, to baking, or to killing.

Katsa, a Lady from the kingdom of Middluns, is Graced with killing. Her uncle, King Randa, therefore chooses to use her as his personal assassin. Recently, however, Katsa has been going on some of her own missions. But rather than to hurt, these missions are to save.

On one of her self-commissioned assignments, she is on her way to save a prince, the father of the Lienid King Ror, from captivity in the kingdom of Sunder. In the middle of the mission, however, she chances upon a younger Lienid. His name is Po, and he is the son of King Ror. Together, they go on a journey to understand why Po's grandfather was being kept in Sunder, and inevitably, adventure ensues.

Let me just start by saying I LOVE PO. He is all I ask for in a good supporting character. The relationship that he has with Katsa is amazing. They seem to be such an odd pair of friends, seeing as Katsa is wild and not really the outgoing type (ha. AT ALL.), and that Po is so calm and in-control. But they begin to have a really good relationship that grows constantly, even though they tend to fight quite a bit.

Also, Katsa is such a strong lead character. No damsels-in-distress here. I love the fact that she can take care of herself and doesn't really have to rely on others, yet she still chooses to trust Po and a couple of other people. But Katsa is one tough girl. She can get along just fine on her own, which is a pretty rare quality.

So, now I seriously cannot wait to get my hands on Fire. This book was amazing, and I'll be reading the sequel as soon as possible. Amazing job, Kristin Cashore. I applaud you. You have caused me to fall in love with yet another fictional character.