Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Keep Sweet by Michelle Dominguez Greene

"'Keep sweet, Alva Jane, above all.'

Alva Jane has never questioned her parents, never questioned her faith, never questioned her future. She is content with the strict rules that define her life in Pineridge, the walled community where she lives with her father, his seven wives, and her twenty-eight siblings. This is the only world Alva has ever known, and she has never thought to challenge it.

But everything changes when Alva is caught giving her longtime crush an innocent first kiss. Beaten, scorned, and now facing a forced marriage to a violent fifty-year-old man, Alva suddenly realizes how much she has to lose - and how impossible it will be to escape."

This was definitely an emotionally charged read. It made me ANGRY how the women in this story are treated. Especially 14 year old Alva. And sadly, I know this story rings true for some women caught up in the fundamentalist LDS community.

I don't know if there is going to be a sequel to this book or not, but I really did not like how the book ended. There were a lot of unanswered questions.

Warning: I would not recommend this for young readers. I would say 14 and up. Intense subject material including depictions of physical violence and rape.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

" '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...'

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist - books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordian playing foster father, Liesel 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."

I loved this book! Using Death as the narrator seems like it would be morbid, but it really wasn't. It made a very interesting perspective. Death is not made to appear as an evil force coming to take souls away, but as a compassionate being who gently carries hurting souls to a better place.

I loved so many of the relationships portrayed in this book: Liesel and her foster father Hans, had such a sweet relationship. I loved how he was there for her every single night when she had nightmares. Liesel and Max, the Jewish man they kept hidden had a wonderful friendship and they taught each other many things. I loved the friendship between Liesel and Rudy, and would've loved to see it last longer.

I admit that I cried at the ending of the book, although the whole book was full of emotion. I highly recommend this book!

Warning: some language and intense scenes (pertaining to the Holocaust). May be too disturbing for some young readers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

"the cold.

Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf - her wolf - watches her back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why.

the heat.

Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace...until know.

the shiver.

For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human - and Grace must fight to keep him - even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future."

Why does it seem I am always behind on reading the popular books? Seriously, I always seem to wait until EVERYONE has read it, then I'll consider it. I'm just weird, I guess, but then, we all knew that! ;o) Anyway, my 13 year old claimed this as the best series EVER, and I've heard SO many rave reviews - so I caved. I'll be honest...I found it slow starting out, and was thinking "and, WHY is this so popular?" Well, it DID get better. The romance between Sam and Grace is very sweet and sigh-inducing (very reminiscent of Edward and Bella in Twilight). Lots of action towards the middle to end...and an unexpected ending that definitely leads into a sequel (Linger - which I just placed on hold at the library).

It's definitely not deep and thought-provoking...but if you liked the Twilight series, you will like this series too. I gave it a 4/5 stars.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

"Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed."

Seems like everyone and their mother has read this book before me. But, I always seem to be behind when it comes to popular books. The synopsis of the book sounded interesting but didn't grab my attention (probably because I've been going through a paranormal, sci fi, dystopian phase - which is like the complete opposite of this book). But, everyone I knew who read it, RAVED about it, so I caved in, and added myself to the hold list at the library.

Wow. One word to describe this book. Seriously, this is the best book I've read in a LONG time, which is saying alot, because, well, I read a LOT (if you couldn't tell that already). For those who are even more behind than me - it takes place in Jackson, MS in 1963 - 1964, and how "the help", black women hired as maids/nannies, were treated by their white employers. For the most part, they were treated horribly. The Help made me experience many different emotions while reading (IMO, a sign of a great book). I was angry at the injustice black people experienced, and angry that they were considered "lesser" citizens. I was ashamed that white people actually considered themselves superior. I was horrified at the violence directed at black people for small infractions, or even for no reason at all, other than ignorance. But, even with this difficult content, it wasn't a depressing read.

There was humor throughout the book that kept me laughing in between the tears and anger. I especially loved the character of Minny, who just cracked me up.

Basically, this book has everything - controversy, suspense, humor, lots of will go from being outraged, to crying, to laughing from page to page. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

And I sure hope the movie, which is being released next month, does it justice!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

"In Mary's world, there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?"

Wow! I NEVER would have seen myself reading a zombie book, let alone reading it AND loving it! It has everything - romance, suspense, adventure...just awesome! There is one thing that wasn't really explained in the book that I really want to know (maybe it will be in the next 2 books) - how did the "plague" of zombies happen? I can't wait to read the sequels - The Dead Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Place to see what happens, and hopefully answer my questions.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

"Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she's been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home - her constant battle with hunger and the struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life and to face the horrifying effects of her awesome new power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power - and the courage to fight her own inner demon?

I first saw this book at Walmart, and it really, really intrigued me. A mesh of psychology, religion, and fantasy...sounded right up my alley! I obsessed over the series for awhile and after discovering that the library didn't have it yet, I decided to go ahead and buy them. Well, I was disappointed. I thought that the writing was odd - you know how some writers go a little overboard on descriptions? Yeah, that. Also, it seemed that 90% of the book was about Lisa's "normal", non-Apocolyptic life. It was like she just threw in a splash of the Apocolypse and Famine persona. I mean, that is what sold me on buying the book. I bought the second book in the series - Rage - so, I will give it a try after awhile. But, honestly, I wish I had saved the money.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

"The small town of Cryer's Cross is rocked by tragedy when an unassuming freshman disappears without a trace. Kendall Fletcher wasn't that friendly with the missing girl, but the angst wreaks havoc on her OCD-addled brain.

When a second student goes missing - someone close to Kendall's heart - the community is in an uproar. Caught in a downward spiral of fear and anxiety, Kendall's not sure she can hold it together. When she starts hearing the voices of the missing calling out to her and pleading for help, she fears she's losing her grip on reality.

But when she finds messages scratched in a desk at school - messages that could only be from the missing student who used to sit there - Kendall decides that crazy or not, she'd never forgive herself if she didn't act on her suspicions.

Something's not right in Cryer's Cross - and Kendall's about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried."

I don't really know how I feel about this book. It was kind of weird. The first 3/4 or so of the book is good...but, nothing really exciting or unusual. Then, all of a sudden it starts reading like a Stephen King novel. Basically, most of the plot is crammed into the last few chapters.

It was interesting, but I wish that the "excitement" was spread out a little more throughout the book.