Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: Silver Linings Playbook

With report cards and annual reviews out of the way, I am finally able to get back to reading, blogging, and playing video games. Yay!  Usually, I have a rule that I try not to read anything that has an overly depressing ending.  I have this rule because I find that I carry the sad ending with me for days and it is hard to shake.  Of course, I have read books like this in the past, I just tend to avoid them.

When someone suggested Silver Linings Playbook, I had no intention of even looking at it because someone had told me the movie was depressing.  However, after reading the on-line reviews and hearing a few other friends rave about it, I decided to dive in and hope for the best.

I was hooked right from the beginning.  The first person point of view drew me in and I felt like I was in Pat's head.  His way of thinking about his life as a movie that was bound to have a happy ending was almost impenetrable.  I found myself laughing and crying with him but also got so angry with him at times for not waking up to smell the coffee.  The book is full of characters who are dysfunctional in so many ways but who make you want to reach out and just give them a hug.  There were also a few moments in the story where I was completely surprised at the turn of events.  I was so sure I was going to end up sobbing at the end and elated when I instead was left with a feeling of hope and faith that the future of Pat, the character I had grown to love, really did have a silver lining.

Read this book!  It is a good one.  :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Six Past Midnight

Being a teacher, every so often I like to read some new potential books for read aloud in my classroom.  I usually make a list throughout the school year of books that interest me and read them over the summer while lounging at the beach or on my deck.  This book, Six Past Midnight, was kindly given to me in exchange for a review and I'm so glad I decided to give it a chance.

What I really found interesting about this book is how the author flips the perspectives for each chapter.  We see this a lot in adult fiction but not so much in children's books. I have to say though, that I felt this style of writing really matched well with the plot of the story.

We first meet twin girls, Angie and Crystal, who wake up in their room and realize that their old clock has stopped and so has the world around them.  They recall the older man who gave them the clock and his warning, "Every night you must wind it up.  You must never, ever forget, or absolutely everything will change!" 

In the next chapter, we meet Hans, in a different place and time, and learn a bit of his story.  He works in the clock shop with his father and he longs for a more adventurous life.  He gets what he wishes for when the wall of the shop suddenly starts to move and he walks through a door that closes behind him.  He realizes that in this new time and place, he is invisible.  He wanders into a clock maker's shop, eats the food he finds, and fixes a clock with his tools before leaving.  The family realizes someone has been there and eventually, Hans reveals himself.

Without giving too much away, the girls meet several characters at the Department of Temporal Affairs office and it is discovered that their clock is broken and needs to be fixed before time can start up again.  What is interesting is that the inner workings of the clock don't match the time period when it was created, yet it is authentic.  It was here that I stopped and worked out my theories about how what path the story was going to take to bring Angie, Crystal, and Hans together.

Han's story continues with the clockmaker and his family as the girls go on an adventure to find the same clockmaker in order to get the clock fixed and unfreeze time.  There are many fun characters along the way including other people displaced in time.  I enjoyed the cool futuristic gadgets that helped the girls along on their journey.  I was so excited when they all finally found one another and the pieces of the puzzle began to come together.  I loved that I was still guessing the ending almost until the last moment.

This is a great read for upper elementary students or in a classroom where a unit on fantasy or mystery is being implemented.  Interesting characters kids can relate to, an engaging storyline that keep you turning the pages, and a bit of history to top things off.  A fun read all around!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Stolen Moment

I have to say that I believe myself to be one of the people who can truly say she is relatively satisfied with her life.  I have a wonderful (most of the time) husband, two loving kids who are the bane of my existence, and a job I consistently complain about but truly love. 

That said, I'm also one of those people who misses things like time to herself, sleeping past 8:00am, and going shopping... alone. 

I also like to have reading time for myself every day and that can be a challenge.  These are a few of my favorite strategies for getting a few of those precious moments alone with a book.

How to find reading time with a busy family:
  1. Sneak upstairs when everyone seems occupied.  This is a great idea but if you have small children like I do, they seem to have this sixth sense that you are doing something for yourself that doesn't involve them and can find you almost immediately.  Truly amazing...and just a tad creepy.
  2. Bring your book to your kid's activities.  Love this idea.  The only downfall to this is if another parent decides you are their conversation buddy for the night, you are out of luck.
  3. Read while making dinner. Works fine if I'm only making chicken nuggets or grilled cheese.  However, I am no Betty Crocker so if I am making anything more elaborate,  I usually end up with an iPad or Nook covered in flour or droplets of oil and it is hard to concentrate on the story when you are trying to mash potatoes.  Plus, things tend to burn when I get overly engrossed in a chapter. 
  4. Lock yourself in the bathroom.  This works for phone conversations too and is one of my favorite escape tactics.  I can usually get a good 15 minutes of reading or whispered conversation accomplished before my 5 year old plants herself out in the hall to start talking or singing to me through the door.
  5. Give up and just wait until they go to bed.  This results in many late nights, difficulty getting up for work, and a husband who feels extremely neglected.  Oh well...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: City of Ashes

Even better than the first!  This book was fast paced and kept me interested from beginning to end.  Of course we still have the main triangle of Clary, Jace, and Simon and although I am on team Jace, I do really like Simon too.  It is still believed that Clary and Jace are siblings but I'm betting this must eventually change.  A girl can hope... Plus, the way they continue to act in this story seems to show that they aren't getting over one another any time soon. 

The main premise of this installment is that Valentine has now stolen the second Mortal Instrument, the Soul Sword.  He plans to use it, along with the blood of Downworlder children, to call his army.  Clary and her crew must find a way to stop him without getting killed in the process.  There are several really engaging action scenes that kept me on the edge of my seat.  In all of these scenes, Jace and Simon try to be Clary's ultimate protectors but we learn as we get deeper into the story that she is much more powerful than anyone had realized.  I came up with a lot of new theories about what path her character might take.

We also meet some intriguing new characters in this book but it wasn't so many that you couldn't keep track.  Every character had a purpose in the story.  As much as I want to dive into the next book, City of Glass, I do have a couple of other books ahead of it on my Nook.  This was definitely a strong sequel and I can't wait to continue the series!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Impatiently waiting...

I was reading over my wishlist on the Barnes and Noble site today and I realized that half of the books I want aren't even out yet because they are part of a trilogy or series.  I want to read these books now!  The butterflies I get when I finish a book and the anticipation to start the next quickly change to a frustrated knot when I realize that next book isn't available yet... boo.

A few weeks ago, I finished the third book in the Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout and when I tried to buy the fourth, it of course was not yet available.  Another book added to my wishlist.  Currently, I am impatiently waiting for five books:

1.  The next in the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness.  This book isn't even finished yet and has no title... so depressing.  I'm hoping for sometime in the next year.  I keep looking on her site for news.  http://deborahharkness.com/all-souls-trilogy/

2.  The second book of Miss Perigrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  Again, not finished yet but Ransom Riggs, the author, says it will be out sometime in 2013... I'm holding him to that.  He will also be at Comic-Con in July for a signing.  Updates on his blog are at http://www.ransomriggs.com/

3.  Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones.  A date!  July 9, 2013.  Can't wait!

4.  Origin by Jennifer Armentrout.  Listed as coming out in August 2013.

5.  The next book in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery series by Laurie R. King. No news on when that is coming out.  The sooner the better!

So, I wait... but I'm not happy about it.  :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: The Host

February went by quickly and I am ashamed to say that the only things I read during this month were the report card comments I was finishing up for my students and a few magazines.  However, toward the end of the month, I took my son and daughter to see the new OZ movie and there was a preview for The Host.  I figured I would pick it up... everyone makes mistakes.

What was it about?
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, didn't expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

As Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she's never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.

What I liked about it:
Hmmmm.... I have to say that the plot was interesting.  It reminded me of the old movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Basically, these worm-like creatures use humans as hosts and they are taking over the Earth.  There are some humans who are fighting back and they stay in hiding and try to find a way to get the "worms" out so that humanity can have a chance to survive.   Cool premise.  You can understand where both sides are coming from but of course I was routing for humanity.  I thought the characters were easy to connect to and felt myself getting stuck in their emotions as I usually do.  I wanted Melanie and Jared to be together and I loved how Stephanie Meyer starts you off hating the alien inside of Melanie but then slowly changes that feeling so that by the middle of the book, you are hoping that they both can survive and by the end you just can't choose who lives and who dies.  I won't give away the ending...

What it lacked:
I had a hard time getting into this book.  I read the first two chapters and then I put it down for a couple of days.  I just couldn't get into the point of view of the alien inside of Melanie.  I hadn't been expecting that so it bothered me through almost the entire story.  Also, I am a Twilight fan and so I had certain expectations for this book.  It just didn't have that page turner quality that causes my husband to roll his eyes when he tries to talk to me and I ignore him completely.  I'm not saying it wasn't good but it definitely isn't going on my top ten list for this year.

Review: The Silent Land

This was my first book of 2013.  Researching books is just as enjoying to me as reading them and I found The Silent Land when I was browsing for book recommendations on my laptop.  Step two was to go to the Barnes and Noble or Amazon website and take a look at the overview and the reader reviews.  This struck me as an interesting story so I bought it and I was not disappointed.

What is it about?
In the French Pyrenees, a young married couple is buried under a flash avalanche while skiing. Miraculously, Jake and Zoe dig their way out from under the snow—only to discover the world they knew has been overtaken by an eerie and absolute silence. Their hotel is devoid of another living soul. Cell phones and land lines are cut off. An evacuation as sudden and thorough as this leaves Jake and Zoe to face a terrifying situation alone. They are trapped by the storm, completely isolated, with another catastrophic avalanche threatening to bury them alive . . . again. And as the couple begin to witness unset­tling events neither one can ignore, they are forced to con­front a frightening truth about the silent land they now inhabit.

The good stuff:
 Actually, there wasn't much I didn't like.  The story hooks you almost immediately and when the avalanche hits, you feel as though you are stuck in the snow with Zoe.  You begin to panic with her and hold your breath, waiting for her rescue.  There are very few characters in the story so I really felt I had time to get to know Jake and Zoe.  I found myself finding clues to what could be happening all throughout the story, I was constantly re-evaluating and re-thinking my predictions and theories about how the story would end.  I had it pretty much figured out about three quarters of the way through but that did not take away from the story at all.  I stayed up until 2:00am to finish it and was extremely satisfied by the ending.  I found myself in tears toward the last chapter but I did not leave the story depressed.  I stayed awake for another hour just mulling over what had happened and putting all of the pieces together.

I also liked that this book wasn't one of those stories that takes a good plot and drags it out until it has died ten times over.  It was under 300 pages and I felt that this was a perfect length for the story to play out from beginning to end.

I haven't met anyone I know that has read this book so I'm interested to hear what others think.  It almost gave me an Stephen King or an X-files feel at some parts (which is one of my favorite shows of all time).  :)