Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Cuteness: Or, Fun Things in My Inbox

Because it's almost the end of the semester and I'm swamped, but I want a blog post for May that isn't just the contest winner announcement.

Otter also has an adorable website that's a ton of fun and that I spent far too much time on when I first found it, and I also subscribe to the blog so that new posts come to my inbox because it is adorable, and they aren't frequent enough to be inbox cluttering.

I haven't been able to fit the books into any of my Storytime themes so I haven't read them yet (so sad, I know), but there are two available, so I will link them down below in case you guys want to check them out, okay?

I Am Otter
Amazon / Book Depository / Indie Bound

Otter in Space
Amazon / Book Depository / Indie Bound

Otter Loves Halloween (I will be getting this one at Halloween)
Amazon / Book Depository / Indie Bound

So wha do you guys think of this feature? Is it something you'd like to see more of? Let me know in the comments!

Peace and cookies,

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hollow City Contest Over

A winner has been chosen and notified, and has 48 hours to reply before I'll choose another.

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Peace and cookies,

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

YA Review: Hollow City

I honestly, truly tried to keep from writing this immediately after finishing the book. I really did. But I need to talk about it, guys. I need to talk about my feelings here! I need to at least get started, or I'm going to explode! Fair warning: this review will contain spoilers for the first book. It is, after all, a sequel.

(Wednesday Edit: I had to add three links to this and some minor formatting, and convinced myself I'd scheduled it. Whoops. This was supposed to be up Monday. I apologize for that!)

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Published: January 1st, 2014 by Quirk Books
Genre: Somewhere between YA Fantasy and Horror
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 396, plus the acknowledments and what not
Part of a series? Yes, it is the second book of the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series.
Got via: Quirk books sent it to me! Thanks, guys!
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): September 3, 1940. Ten peculiar children flee an army of deadly monsters. And only one person can help them—but she’s trapped in the body of a bird. The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. There, they hope to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine.

But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. And before Jacob can deliver the peculiar children to safety, he must make an important decision about his love for Emma Bloom. Like its predecessor, this second novel in the Peculiar Children series blends thrilling fantasy with vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.

Review: You guys. I can't right now. I didn't really mean to read this in one sitting. But I was sitting there and reading, and a few hours later, I was staring an distressingly decreasing amount of pages left. Now I'm sitting here staring at the Goodreads page of the third book like Veruca Salt. "But I want it NOW." Guys, I really do. I think I actually liked this one even better than the first book, and if you read the review I posted last week, you know how much I enjoyed that one. This one worked just that little bit better for me, and I enjoyed it that much more.

Seriously, guys, enter the contest because you want this.

Plot Talk: Hollow City picks up right after Miss Peregrine (I'm not typing that whole title out) ends. Like same day, same hour, maybe like five minutes later. I don't have strong feelings about that, really. I'm fine with it, but I'm also kind of okay when books don't do it. Either way, I'm good. But I know my mom really likes when sequels pick up right after the last book ends, so if you're like my mom, you'll like that. Jacob and the peculiar children are now on the run, and they don't even know who they can trust or who they should be wary of, especially with Miss Peregrine, their teacher, protector, and more, still trapped as a bird. They have to go "loop" jumping to journey to London and attempt to find help - with only hope and fairy tales to keep them going.

Compared to Miss Peregrine, this book's plot is quite a bit more active. There's more action versus the creeping discovery of the first book. I think that actually makes this one less freaking scary because frankly, a lot of the tension of the first book nearly scared my pants off. Neither of them are bad, don't get me wrong, there's just somewhat of a change. This one also becomes partly a survival/on the run plot, which I do enjoy. Always makes you appreciative of clean underwear! There's also a large found family element that I think many of us are drawn to. That's in the first book, too, but I love how it's portrayed in this one.

Oh, and I think the romance is a little more prominant in the blurb than in the book. The romance isn't such a large part of the book that I would call it a paranormal romance, or a romance at all. Definitely a romance subplot, or element, but, you know, they have other priorities besides the smooching!

Characters: One thing I mentioned in my Miss Peregrine review was that I found Jacob's voice somewhat inauthentic for a teenaged boy, and that his characterization lacked slightly. In Hollow City, both have improved. His voice reads much more teenager to me, and he gets to be a deeper character. He grows, and I enjoy his growth, the peculiar things about him that are revealed, and his portrayal in this book all in all. I especially liked the mysteries he discovers about himself, but I also enjoyed the struggle he has with himself in deciding who he wants to be, and the line between growing up and trying to be his grandfather, which he knows isn't healthy.

I also really liked knowing more about the peculiar children, as almost all of them got much more time given to them, and we learned more about them. The book has a lot of female characters, and it's nice seeing a large group of women and girls, and how different they can all be. Bronwyn, for example, is one of my absolute favourite characters.

PG-13 stuff: Again, I think a lot of the stuff with the monsters is quite scary. Or at least it is to me! I find the wights and hollows terrifying, honestly, which is why I do catagorize this between fantasy and horror. There's also a fair amount of violence, and (trigger warning) a female character is groped by a male antagonist, and threatened vaguely along the lines of sexual violence. And probably some language, too, but I'm having trouble remembering that (I tend to not think too much about cursing in books, honestly), and I didn't make notes.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: The only thing I wanted to mention was that there are a group of Romani people in the book, and the book solely uses the g-word. While the 1940s character would likely use that term, I would have liked it if Jacob knew that that word is along the lines of a racial slur, and not used it so liberally in his narration. Additionally, I think the depiction of them perhaps relies on some stereotypes (there's a "fortune teller" in the Romani group, for example), which may have been true at the time out of necessity of persecution, but I kind of have to question it. I'd like to hear from someone who is better versed in this stuff, but it raised red flags with me. Especially when the pictures that are supposed to represent the Romani people are almost entirely of people who are white, or white passing. I understand the limitations of the photography available, but it's disappointing to essentially whitewash characters of colour like that - and otherwise, there are not very many of those in this book.

I keep coming off like a buzzkill in these sections! But unfortunately, I do feel like I need to point these things out as a critical consumer, and an honest reviewer, so there it is.

Cover comments: Again, I love it. I love that it's creepy and strange, and just looks a little wrong when you look at it. I also like that it goes well with the first book, with the same font and detailing. I realize that's a little strange, but you know how book people are. We like things to match. Oh, and I'll mention here that in this book, the photos have a sort of dark brown background versus a dark grey/black background, and I like that.

Also, when you take the dust jacket off, the book underneath looks and feels very old-fashioned, with that rough textured cover that a lot of older books have. It also has a neat little detail on the cover that I'll let you discover yourself when you get this.

Conclusion: This book, and this series, so far, is so different and awesome. Unique. I love the blend of photography and storytelling, and the way they work together to tell the story. I really enjoyed the cast of character, especially the peculiar children, and how Jacob's voice has settled into itself. Ultimately, I think the diversity is lacking, which is the reason this one loses points with me. Other than that, I enjoy them very much, and I have high hopes for the third book! Four out of five roses, and fingers crossed that the third book ups the diversity for that extra half rose.

Other notes:

- Random note about how I hate when characters in books lose their stuff. Clothes or anything else. Or, I mean, I don't hate it, but it makes me all sad for them.

Remember to enter the contest! Trust me, you guys want this one.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, April 20, 2015

YA Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Pecular Children

I told you I'd post this! Are you surprised? I'm a little surprised. After you read this, go on and enter the contest for Hollow City!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Published: January 1st, 2011
Genre: YA and then... somewhere between Paranormal and Horror, maybe
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 347 before the extra stuff
Part of a series? Yes, it's the first book. The second is out, and the third should be coming out in September of this year.
Got via: I bought it with a gift card from Chapters and Indigo
Amazon (and the Kindle copy is only 3 dollars!) / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Review: When this first came out and people started talking about it, I was really jealous of everyone who got it! Then later when I got the offer to review Hollow City, I was like "oh my gosh, yes!" At some point I got a giftcard for Chapters and... lost it for about a year... and then found it! So I had 50 dollars to spend on books, Hollow City, and I still really wanted this. So I bought it, and I am so glad I did. Also, I got a pretty good deal. I bought this, The Girl With the Silver Eyes, A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, and 8 other books. (I'm a very good shopper. I may have gone slightly over the giftcard, too, but not that much. Plus I got free shipping!) And that doesn't have anything to do with the book, but I'm always proud of a good deal.

Now, if you're not familiar with this, this book is liberally peppered with black and white vintage photos. One of them, for example, is on the cover. Which you should look very, very closely at. Most of the photos are like that, with something strange or unusual about them. I think the book could stand without them, but they add something very, very cool, and really enrich to story. The pictures themselves are also just super cool. Some of them are seriously creepy, but you also want to spend time just looking at a whole lot of them. It all works together very well, and one wouldn't be the same without the other.

Plot Talk: I'm awful at plot, but basically - Jacob loses his grandfather, and something he says, and some things he leaves Jacob, prompts Jacob to travel to where his grandfather spent part of his youth to try understand him and learn more about what shaped his grandfather. Along with his father, Jacob travels to a tiny island in Wales. Once there, Jacob begins to discover his grandfather's secrets as strange events happen around him.

...that was pretty good, huh? I liked the pacing of the plot, myself. Not rushed, but not slow, and if that kind of thing concerns you, the ending isn't cliffhanger-y. It definitely sets it up so you want to read the second book, but it isn't a matter of where you don't feel like the first book is resolved.

Characters: The characters in this are interesting. Jacob's parents start out almost Roald Dahl-esque in how unrealistic they are. As the book goes on, though, his father especially becomes more of a real character, and gets deeper, and you realize a lot of their lack of depth is Jacob not realizing exactly that his parents are real people, and not just parents. And I think that's a really neat thing in a book, although I kind of wish there'd been more time for his mother to be treated like a person, not just his father.

Jacob himself has an interesting voice. I don't think it's the most authentic teenager voice I've ever read, though. There were, unfortunately, times where I thought that just wasn't how a kid his age would say something. While that did throw me off at times, I think in general the more adult, literary voice could also be a draw for those kids that like to skip YA and go straight for adult. It's a very mature book, and I think strong readers would enjoy Jacob's voice. Reluctant readers, however, may not be as drawn towards the voice. His voice definitely could be pretty formal at times. Basically, I enjoyed Jacob as a character, but sometimes I wanted him to loosen up!

Most of the other characters in this were pretty neat, too. I liked the Wales setting, and how people who live on a tiny, remote island act. (I feel that, hard. Small town Saskatchewan in the winter can also feel like a tiny, remote island.) And as for the other characters... well... some of them were very peculiar, indeed.

PG-13 stuff: While there is some language, I think the majority of the mature content of this book is in the atmosphere and the real meat of the plot. The book is, frankly, kind of creepy! That's actually why I had trouble placing the genre. I think it's really on the line between paranormal and horror, but I personally read very little YA horror these days, and my experience with it is mostly RL Stine, Christopher Pike, and other Point Horror type things! On who I'd recommend this for, it'd really depend on the reader. Scary things are sort of personal - some people love them, some people don't do well like this. I think readers who liked Coraline but also enjoy a little more of a challenging read may really enjoy this. And Coraline is one of my favourite books!

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: One of the only things I didn't like was how the attitude towards mental illness came off. After the initial plot event that starts the book, Jacob spends a lot of time in therapy trying to deal with the after effects of what happened and what he sees. You all know I love therapy in books, but I don't like when books or movies use mental illness as a scapegoat. You know what I mean? Like when someone is called "crazy" because they see things other people can't, but they're not really "crazy" because those things are totally real! Why can't you have those things be real, and also have a character be mentally ill?

Okay, this is a touch of a spoiler, so move on to the next section if you don't want to see it (you can probably figure out from the synopsis, though), but I want to go into a bit more detail about what exactly I mean.

Early in the book, Jacob sees a creature and ends up having very bad after-effects, like nightmares and obsessive behaviour, and eventually is convinced by his therapist that he had "acute stress reaction". Later in the book, we find out that the monsters are real. I wish that the book had acknowledged more that, yes the monsters are real, but hey, maybe seeing monsters can cause some acute stress reactions! You can have both - monsters can be real, but so can mental illness. One doesn't need to cancel out the other. I can't imagine combat with monsters is easier on your psyche than combat with humans, personally.

We need more good depictions of mental illness, including ones in fantasy, and this kind of erasure is a trope I do not like, so that loses points for me, unfortunately.

Cover comments: I love the cover. The black and white photo aspect of it is just nifty as all get out, The little details of the swirls and shapes and the face in the white, and the font that looks like chalk handwriting, it all adds something that is just wonderfully creepy. And the picture itself is almost deceptively normal until you look closely. I love it.

Conclusion: I really loved the book. The aspects I mentioned did bother me, and I wish they had been addressed better, but they weren't dealbreakers for me. I think it's important, though, to be a critical consumer of media, and address things like this. Otherwise they become accepted to the point of being ingrained in our culture. So I personally need to point those things out, but in this case, I still enjoyed the book otherwise. I loved the mixed media aspect, which is something you might see more in MG but rarely in YA, and something that I absolutely adore. I also really liked the stuff included with the paperback telling about the process of collecting the photos, and the interview with the author. Nice touch there!

All in all, I really enjoyed this, and I am excited to read the second one as soon as I finish this review! (And, you know. Probably do some homework first, because I am a responsible adult. Sort of. Edit later: And get over my stomach flu, because the world is cruel.) Four roses!

Other notes:

- Oh, this is funny. I have note saying the beginning is set in or around Sarasota, Florida. Fun fact: Sarasota is one of those places that has weird laws (like fines for elephant parking) because of the history of the circus. Sarasota used to be where circuses would stay for the winter.

- Also, I wanted to show you guys the pen I used working on this book, because it amused me.

Birds, man.

Remember to leave a meaningful comment for an extra entry in the contest!

Peace and cookies,

Friday, April 17, 2015

Contest: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Well, now, I have not done one of these in ages! About time we had another contest around here, right? And Quirk Books generously agreed to help me give away a copy of Hollow City by Ransom Riggs!

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, Book 2)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

(Summary from goodreads.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I personally loved Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and am very excited to start Hollow City. (I had a bout with stomach flu that prevented me from doing much of anything, but it's happening very soon!) This one's gonna be open to US and Canada only, and just enter via the Rafflecopter widget! Please log in using your email, and not Facebook. (I don't trust Facebook, sorry!)

If you have any other questions, leave a comment or send me an email!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, March 30, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (17)

If you're new around here or I just haven't done one in a while, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. 'Cause those things take me a lot of time!

Also, this one is a very strange round-up, but I want to get a post up for March, so. Here it is!

The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson

Published: January 1st, 2009 by Clarion Books
Genre: I would classify this as contemporary MG, but apparently most people see it as YA/it was marketed that way?
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 144
Part of a series? No.
Got via: I bought it off Amazon.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Meli Lleshi is positive that her drawing of her teacher with his pelican nose started it all. The Lleshis are Albanians living in Kosovo, a country trying to fight off Serbian oppressors, and suddenly they are homeless refugees. Old and young alike, they find their courage tested by hunger, illness, the long, arduous journey, and danger on every side. Then, unexpectedly, they are brought to America by a church group and begin a new life in a small Vermont town. The events of 9/11 bring more challenges for this Muslim family--but this country is their home now and there can be no turning back.

Thoughts: I had mixed feelings about this one. I don't know much about the subject, so it was a learning experience for me. It's diverse, obviously, as Meli is Albanian and Muslim, as is her family. And it was a very interesting story. There is something, however, that just says "homework" about it to me. Like as a study unit, or a reading list book, it would fit very well. It reminds me a lot of the Breadwinner series that I read as a kid.

I dunno, I didn't dislike it, and it's small, so I'm not all "I must weed this for the shelf space", but I don't think I really connected with it. The plot seemed kind of confused, if that makes sense. This is one of those ones I'd really like to read other reviews of. I also think the timeframe of 1998-2000 is somewhat hard to work with and describe - it's not contemporary, but it's not really old enough to be historical, in my opinion. The writing, too, was a bit hard to get into, and I think reluctant readers would struggle a lot, and even strong readers may decide it's not worth it. Possibly I would enjoy it more on a reread.

I'm reading reviews now and a lot of people are saying this is a YA, whereas I would have categorized it as MG - I don't think this works as YA at all. Meli is I believe thirteen when the book starts, and fifteen at the end, but only barely, and most of it has her around thirteen and fourteen, which is very young for YA, and the arc is not really a YA arc to me. This book can't seem to decide where it wants to live, and I think it struggles with a lot of confusion. Also, for a YA, this is very short, whereas it'd be okay for MG. The problem is, I think, is that there are so few books about this subject that I want more from this.

And this is why I blog! Half the time it's not until I start writing that I work through my feelings!

The Haunting of Hiram by Eva Ibbotson

Published: This edition was published in 2009 by Macmillan Children's Books, but it was originally published in 1987 by the same publisher.
Genre: Fantasy MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 172
Part of a series? No, but it should would make a nice set with her other books.
Got via: I bought it from Amazon or Chapters, can't remember which.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links - this is also called the Haunting of Granite Falls for some reason.)

Summary (from goodreads): Alex MacBuff can't afford to keep his beloved Castle Carra, and an American millionaire has made him an offer he can't refuse. The castle is shipped all the way to Texas, but its ghostly inhabitants, including Krok the Viking warrior and a hell-hound called Cyril, follow their home across the Atlantic. How can Alex stop the haunting Hiram and also save the millionaire's daughter from an evil ransom plot?

Thoughts: I love Eva Ibbotson, but this is not my favourite of her books. She writes ghosts wonderfully. There's so much colour in them, and they are so very British. They're really fun, and she's not afraid to, like, flat-out murder the bad guys which can be very satisfying when you're young, and I think a lot of kids would enjoy this. This is a type of book where you need to go in expecting the silliness of it - ghosts exist, they live in castle, that castle is gonna be moved. You go in expecting something realistic, you're not going to be in the right mind frame.

But there's things about this that I didn't like. The man in a dress trope is transmisogynistic. Encouraging kids to not take medications that they need (even if they decide they don't) is not a good idea, and it's bad disability representation to do the "sunshine and friendship will heal all your issues" thing. Also, there's a running joke about "prairie ghosts" and Native American ghosts that is kinda racist.

So while I enjoyed the book, it's hard to say if I would recommend it for kids. I think the new covers are neat (this one is actually a bit darker in real life, with richer colours), but the content in this one is... somewhat dated, and problematic. It's really hard to look at these things, because I've loved Eva Ibbotson since I was small, but ... I don't wanna be the one who says that stuff is okay. I think she has better stuff that I would reach for first.

The Search by Nora Roberts

Published: July 6th, 2010 by Putnam
Genre: Romance
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 488 and I'm gonna have to go with that because I don't have the copy I read anymore.
Part of a series? No, I don't think so.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life-a quaint house on an island off Seattle's coast, a thriving dog-training school, and a challenging volunteer job performing canine search and rescues. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare...

Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf serial killer, who shot and killed Fiona's cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona found the peace and solitude she needed to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He's the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy, foisted upon him by his mother. Jaws has eaten through Simon's house, and he's at his wit's end.

To Fiona, Jaws is nothing she can't handle. Simon, however, is another matter. A newcomer to Orcas, he's a rugged and in-tensely private artist, known for the exquisite furniture he creates from wood. Simon never wanted a puppy-and he most definitely doesn't want a woman. Besides, the lanky redhead is not his type. But tell that to his hormones.

As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona's life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands...

Thoughts: My mom kept reading me bits of this because of the puppy, Jaws, that were hilarious, and I had just finished finals, so I sat down and spent an evening reading this. I don't really review most of the romance I read because I review YA/MG, and I track/tag my picture books, so romance is about the only thing I just... read. So I have no notes or anything from this, but I enjoyed it. I really needed something like this after finishing finals/my final projects. This isn't even a mini-review, this is just a "I read this".

Okay, the next thing is neither one book nor really a review nor a first time read, but, hey, I need to get this post up and clean some books out of my room, so let's go with it!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Published: January 1st, 2008 by Scholastic
Genre: Dystopian YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 374
Part of a series? The first book of the Hunger Games trilogy.
Got via: I bought it at Walmart.
Amazon (also the kindle copy is only like 3 dollars) / Book Depository / Indiebound
(I'm also going to throw it out there that the boxed set is only a little over 20 dollars for paperback, 36 for hardcover, and under 15 for kindle, because, hey, that's a nice deal, and I like to tell you guys these things.)

Summary (from goodreads): The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

(I'm going to put the summaries for the second and third books, too, so after this point, here be spoilers. If you've managed to avoid Hunger Games spoilers for 5 years, 3 books, and 3 movies - congratulations! What's the address of the rock you live under???)

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Published: September 1st, 2009 by Scholastic
Genre: Dystopian YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 391 in my hardcover copy.
Part of a series? The second book of the Hunger Games trilogy.
Got via: I also bought this one at Walmart.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Published: August 24th, 2010 by Scholastic
Genre: Dystopian YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 390 in my hardcover copy.
Part of a series? The third and final book of the Hunger Games trilogy.
Got via: Lindsay gave it to me because I was having a lot of trouble finding it where I live. (Love you!)
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

Thoughts: I have a notebook around here somewhere that I took all my notes in. Well, some of my notes. I reread the Hunger Games as a school project, and wrote a 5000 word essay on it for my final project for my Social class, so those notes are completely different from my regular "reading" notes, and for the other two, I just like writing stuff down as I read. I was not necessarily writing down review notes.

So my notes for the first book are largely on the "ways this relates to democracy" and my other homework stuff spectrum, but it was really nice to reread it. I am a person who enjoys rereading - I used to have a very, very small collection of books as a kid, and I read them all time after time. I can't do that to the same extent these days, but I still enjoy rereading.

And I really do like these books. Honestly, I love the movies (except I haven't seen Mockingjay yet 'cause I'm waiting to watch it with a friend and we've both been ridiculously busy), which isn't always the case, but I do love both the movies and the books, although I am good at separating them, too. There are things in the books that simply would not work in a movie.

Funnily enough, actually, some of the things I enjoy about the movies are exactly opposite that what I enjoy in the books. I like the fast pace of the Catching Fire movie, but I like the way the book spends so much more time showing us District 12, the people there, showing what Katniss' new life is like. I like how much more time people get in the book versus the movie a lot, although I also understand that things that are great in books sometimes just don't work on screen.

My notes make little sense here, honestly, because the further I read because the less coherent I was. Mockingjay makes me cry like a baby. Half of my notes are just me going "I'm not ready". One thing I really like about Mockingjay, though, is Katniss' experience of PTSD - she's mentally ill and physically disabled (actually the one thing that makes me really angry the movie is that it glossed over how injured both Katniss and Peeta were in the games, especially Peeta's leg and her ear) and I like that that makes people so angry because I'm sort of vindictive like that.

So this is really rambling, but I have too many feelings to really do this in a short form - 5000 word essay, remember? This will probably have to be my best effort! Plus I really want to get this up before March is over so I don't break my "at least one post per month this year" goal.

Oh, and I thought you might like to see my copy after I finished my homework.

I like post-its. I counted and there was 4 pink paper post-it strips, 8 green paper ones, 20 of those green plastic flags that are clear on one side, 43 blue plastic flags. I really like those plastic flags, by the way. They're really nice for studying.

See you in April!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, February 16, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (16): ESP Edition

If you're new around here or I just haven't done one in a while, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or whatever reason fit my fancy. Sometimes I do ones that are kind of... themed.

Because that kind of thing pleases me.

Although in case, it was mostly accidental, and I'll show you how it happened as we go along.

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Published: I believe it was first published in 1955. My copy was a ebook I borrowed from the library that was published by Penguin in 2010
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Binding: Ebook!
Page Count: It varies.
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): First published in 1955, The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear story of genetic mutation in a devastated world, which tells of the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.

David Strorm's father doesn't approve of Angus Morton's unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realize that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands

Thoughts: I actually had to read this for a class I'm taking. I'm not super into science fiction, especially adult science-fiction, and it wasn't really my favourite book ever. It was interesting, though, and I enjoy the class. Do not like Wyndham's views on women, and I did sometimes find the prose very purple. Plus it seemed like he kind of lost the message he was going for halfway through. Anyways, I can knock something off a list somewhere, and this makes the rest of this post kind of fun!

I'm going to go by chronological order after this, I believe, although this one is somewhere in the middle.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Published: Originally published in 1988, I believe, but I think my copy was published in 1998 by Puffin, but it's somewhere in my room and I don't feel like chasing it around.
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 240 so we'll go with that.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: Someone donated it to the library, so I bought it.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she's just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It'll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

Thoughts: Everyone loves Matilda, don't they? I mean, except maybe the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your House, but what's her deal, anyways?

Okay, but seriously. I love Matilda. I read it at a bad time in my life (the trip to attend my grandmother's funeral), but I still have majorly fond memories of it. There's just something about Dahl that's special, there really is. And the illustrations are lovely, too. So when I saw this at the library on sale for a quarter, of course I snapped it up! And since I'd gotten to the library early, and no one else was there yet, what else did I have to do besides sit down and read for a bit?

Anyways, highly recommended! And the movie's pretty good, too. Also, I just listened to the audio sample on Amazon, the newest one is read by Kate Winslet. There's an older version read by Sarah Greene, and there's nothing wrong with that, but the sample I heard of the Kate Winslet version is really fun. She's got a good voice. I may have to check that out from the library at some point.

Now, there was quite a gap between these two books, but it works nicely anyways!

The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts

Published: This edition was released in March 2011 by Aladdin which is owned by Simon & Schuster, but it was originally published in... goodreads says 1980. This article I found on Tor says written in the 70s. Probably published 1980, or at least that's the best I can find!
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Paranormal
Binding: Mine is a paperback
Page Count: 181 in this version
Part of a series? NO AND IT SUCKS
Got via: This copy I bought, and I'll tell you all why in just a second.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate link - although you could likely get a used copy, too, for pretty cheap.)

Summary (from goodreads): Katie Welker is used to being alone. She would rather read a book than deal with other people. Other people don't have silver eyes. Other people can't make things happen just by thinking about them! But these special powers make Katie unusual, and it's hard to make friends when you're unusual.

Katie knows that she's different but she's never done anything to hurt anyone so why is everyone afraid of her? Maybe there are other kids out there who have the same silver eyes... and the same talents... and maybe they'll be willing to help her.

Thoughts: This was basically one of my favourite books as a kid. I had a copy that somebody, I think maybe my grandmother, gave me, and I literally read it until it fell apart. I mean, I still have it, but it is held together by about three rolls of tape and my childhood hopes and dreams. That thing has been with me for over half my life, so it's not going anywhere, but it's also not exactly readable.

I found out about the reprint a couple years ago, actually before the cover had been finalized, I believe, because I have this in one of the files on my computer, possibly from an old project, not that I can remember, but I also can't find it anywhere online:

Which was totally fine with me. Took me a little to adjust because, well, when you literally read a book to pieces, you get used to the cover. But I didn't buy it because I had a copy, and also I was/am totally broke, so I don't buy two copies of a lot of books unless it's by accident with books like Goosebumps and library sales or garage sales. Just recently, though, I started really thinking about wanting to reread it, and I'm honestly scared to read my copy, it's so roughed up. Then I got some book money (either from the Grammarly thing I did, or from a Christmas present - I can't remember which site I got those from at the moment) so I thought, "Why not?" And it was only something around six or eight dollars because it was a bit older by then, so I didn't feel like a total dork buying something I already owned, even though wearing something out is a totally legit reason to buy a new one!

Anyways. I put it on my to-read stack and forgot about it a bit until I started my English class and we read the Chrysalids, and I started thinking about this because, hello formative book! So I decided to reread it!

And to be honest, I have a really hard time believing it's basically 2015 (it's 2014 when I'm typing this, but I'm gonna schedule it, so it probably won't post til next year - HELLO FUTURE), and that this book is at least thirty-five years old. This book is... thirteen years older than me. Now I feel really old, wow. But the book is not super dated, really. The language at times is a touch old-fashioned. There's at one point a mention of a molded salad, and that just seems so seventies/eighties to me that it's hilarious. (Also I actually had to look it up to know what it was.)

But there's a lot of stuff that really isn't dated. The fashion is simple, so you can easily picture them as current fashions, like shorts and T-shirts. Some technology is lacking, like cellphones and computers, and that could make the plot somewhat different today, but there's also a certain amount of sense it makes, because her mother is stated to be pretty broke, barely being able to afford their apartment is "the best she could manage, and she'd have to cut down on something else to pay for it". Mind you, it does rely a lot on Yellow Pages instead of Google, but still, that's about the worst of it. There is also an unfortunate stereotypical character who is fat, and depicted as lazy and gluttonous, but it is balanced by a very nice fat character. Katie also thinks a bit on her choice of language about the first character, and comes to the conclusion, basically, that it wasn't very nice. So it's not the best on that front, and a couple of the lines are a little mean, but it's quick, at least. And, to be honest, I've read worse in modern books, and I expect more out of those than a book published in 1980.

Katie does come off as very empathetic, even if sometimes it takes her a moment, and she has some moments where she is incredibly wise beyond her way, but not in an annoying way. It's more of a reflection of a life spent dealing with people being afraid, or leary of her. She's also a huge reader who doesn't make friends easily because other kids her age find her strange. Three guesses why I loved this book as a kid!

I also really love, as an adult, how many women there are in this book. There are a lot of female characters, and they're wide and varied. Some are very good, like Katie's friend Mrs. Michaelmas, and some are more of an annoyance to Katie, like her baby-sitters, which she obviously does not need, being a whole ten years old (haha), but none of them are ever villanized for their choices. Besides the one baby-sitter (the fat one, who is very stereotyped), pretty much none of the characters are shallow or caricatures. Katie's mother, who left her when she was very young, is distant, and while their relationship is strained, but she is not demonized for leaving Katie. (Neither is her father, although he is not a large character in the book, and the relationship there is very interesting.) At one point, Katie ends up at a sleepover with several girls. She's quiet through it, and she doesn't know any of them, but they're all kind to her, giving her food and including her in their activities, despite none of them having a clue who she is.

So while this is a little dated, and I'm not super fond of the fat character's depiction, none of that is enough to turn me off of it. I still really love it, honestly, and I wouldn't feel bad at all giving it to a kid today. I think it's clever, and there's a lot of it I appreciate very much as an adult. It's a really good story, and I desperately wish there had been a sequel! Like that was one of my great disappointments in life as a kid! Definitely a keeper. All in all, I'm glad I bought a new copy so I could actually read it, and while that one bit stuck out to me as an adult, it is only really in one chapter, and I can put it aside because of everything else that I love, including positive fat characters.

And I like the new cover. It's not mine, obviously, but it's shiny, and I think it would catch a kid's attention today. Also it takes elements that were actually in the story (Katie's silver eyes, the apple, her glasses, her face being slightly off-putting in a way that would creep adults out), so that's nice. Here's an interesting post that mentions the art on the cover.

But hey, let's be nostalgic for a second, and I'll show you "my" cover:

THE FASHION. Kids today probably wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole! There are others, but this is obviously the One True Cover.


Dark Visions by L. J. Smith

Published: This edition was published September 3rd, 2009 by Simon & Schuster, but the original books were published in the mid-90s.
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Binding: One giant paperback
Page Count: 732
Part of a series? It's the full Dark Visions trilogy bound-up in one volume. It goes The Strange Power, The Possessed, and The Passion if you read them individually.
Got via: I think I bought it at Walmart.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Kaitlyn Fairchild has always felt like an outsider. Her haunting eyes and prophetic drawings have earned her a reputation as a witch. But Kait's not a witch: she's psychic. Tired of being shunned, Kait accepts an invitation to attend the Zetes Institute, where she can study with other psychic teens and have a fresh start.

As Kaitlyn learns to hone her abilities with four other gifted students, she starts to discover the intensity of her power - and the joy of having true friends. But those friendships quickly become complicated when Kait finds herself torn between two irresistible guys. Rob is a healer - kind and gentle, he's surrounded by good energy, while Gabriel is aggressive and mysterious - a telepath concealing his true nature. Together, Rob and Gabriel's opposing forces start to threaten the group's stability, and when an experiment traps the five teens in a psychic link - a link that threatens their sanity and their lives - Kaitlyn must decide who to trust... and who to love.

Thoughts: This is the only one that I really did on purpose. I did want one more book to fit in this kind of theme I had going on, and I owned this and it'd been forever since I'd read it last, so I went with the impulse. I own the first one separately, and have since I was a tiny child. I read it about a million times, and absolutely loved it as a kid. Combined with the last book, this was one of the

These have some odd similarities to the Girl With the Silver Eyes. You have a Kait, which is very similiar to Katie, who has "strange eyes", and magical powers. In this case, it's premonitions versus telekinesis, but both books feature the main character who finds a group like her and has telepathy within that group. I should put this as a spoiler, I guess, even though the one book is older than me and these ones are only a few years young but as much, but hey, stop reading at some point if you care - anyways. This has the school for people with special powers, although in GWTSE that's only vaguely mentioned as a possibility. Both main characters are from small farm towns. Both are said to never cry, although that changes with Kait. Obviously, there's more different than the same, but that's kind of fun to notice.

Anyways, while TGWTSE ages pretty gracefully, this one does... not. It's kind of cheesy now, and since I'm now over the age of 12, the writing is not amazeballs anymore. 17 year old Kaitlyn flying alone at 17 in a red dress and 2 inch pumps, and doing twists in the airplane bathroom, really made me giggle. Some of the characters can be a little stereotypical - Rob is the "good guy" all blonde and Southern, Gabriel is the "dangerous bad boy" named Gabriel Wolfe and all MANPAIN, Anna's character unfortunately falls into the whole "Magical Native American" trope, although I do like that she holds a connection to her family and roots that is near and dear to her heart - it's not done out of malice, but it is somewhat clumsy at times. The dialogue can be a bit dated, it's kind of judgemental about people who look different (like with hair dye and piercings, not skin or anything), Kait is kind of passive sometimes, and there's a lot of InstaLove.

But it was fun. Yes, it's cheesy and super dramatic, but it was fun because of that, too. I kinda felt like I was ten again, in a good way. The second and third I only read maybe once, because they were really hard to get (I had to order the third one from outside our region, which took a massive amount of work and came with a swack of paperwork I couldn't lose - nowadays, I can order from the whole province, but that's how long ago it was), so they were mostly new, which was kind of fun. It was fun seeing what I did remember, though. And all in all, it was a decent way to kill an afternoon. Sometimes it's just fun to read something kind of fluffy and silly, you know?

I  also do like the new cover of the bind-up. The grey stuff on the side is actually just shiny on mine, and it makes a pretty effect. These bind-ups all look really nice together, and it made them a LOT easier to find than the old copies! I have another of the Forbidden Game trilogy, and I think I'd like to read that sometime soonish.

Oh, and here's the cover  I grew up with (and still have!) just for fun:

This is like all the 90s rolled up into one. The hair! The giant head and tiny dude! The really weird cliff-area they're randomly standing on! The fact that I'm pretty sure she's wearing sneakers with that dress!

Also, what's up with either of the covers not getting that she's a redhead? She's not blonde! And they both make her super blonde. Not cool, covers. Not cool.

So, anyways, if I was gonna do the "is this worth the shelf space" test, I'd totally go with yes. They aren't going to be everyone's cup of tea, and a lot of it is nostalgia, but I do still think they've got a good story, and I still like them for what they are. So keep!

Okay! This got a little long, but it was a lot of fun!

Tell me what you think!

Peace and cookies,