Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2012 Completely Contemporary Challenge

I started this blog a bit later in this past year. So I was really sad that I missed out on a lot of cool reading challenges around the blogosphere. Luckily, 2012 is on its way and a new year means new opportunities to enter all of these challenges! I'll be participating in the Story Siren's 2012 Debut Author Challenge as well as Chick Loves Lit's Completely Contemp Challenge. The Contemp challenge is really to set your own, attainable goal and read that number of contemporary YA novels from the past two years and next year. Since this is my first challenge, I'm going to stick with a goal of 3 per year. Here's my projected list:

2010
1. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

2. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

3. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson



2011
4. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

5. The Future of Us by Jay Asher

6. Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt


2012
7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

8. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

9. The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins



Lola and the Boy Next Door
By Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton
Date Published: September 29, 2011
Pages:
338
       Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.




I wasn't sure Perkins would be able to top her debut, Anna and the French Kiss (which I recently reviewed here). While Anna still bests Lola and the Boy Next Door, I'm glad to report that it's by an extremely slim margin. Lola was just as thoughtful and likeable as Perkins' first novel, and another testament to the fact that young adult chick-lit can stretch a bit deeper than one might expect.

All of the elements that made Anna stand out can be found in Lola. Everything is in the details. Perkins' plots are really nothing new- girl meets boy, they fall into like, external hurdles (the inevitable other boyfriend or girlfriend) get in the way, angst ensues, but then love triumphs in the end. This plot is resurrected by all the memorable details Perkins instills into her characters, from Lola's ostentatious fashion to Cricket's messages on his hand.

Perkins really has a knack (I've been using this word a lot lately) for creating likeable, swoon-worthy male leads who are likeable because of their imperfections. Cricket may be awkward and nerdy and "overly nice" (though honestly I've never understood the whole 'nice guys finish last' thing), but he feels real in ways that Etienne St. Clair (of Anna) does not. In fact, I think I actually may prefer Cricket.

Paris was truly a character in Anna. Perkins once again illustrates her ability to capture the essence of a city, to the point where the city magically plays a prominent role in the story. I almost feel as if Lola could not have taken place anywhere outside of San Francisco.

I enjoyed all the appearances made by St. Clair and Anna and was happily surprised that they were a more integral part of this story than I thought they would be. I expected a once sentence cameo, or a brief mention. However, it's important to note that Lola and Cricket definitely stand on their own and I didn't wish to see even more of St Clair or Anna because I completely believed and understood that this was Lola and Cricket's story.

I'm looking forward to 2012's Isla and the Happily Ever After, the final companion novel in Perkins' trio of novels.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Favorites


Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

1. Julius, Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes : This was just absolutely hilarious to me first-grader self. I think I really identified with it because when my little brother was born, I sort of look down on him with animosity at first because I was jealous.
2. The Magic Tree House #20: Dingos at Dinnertime by Mary Pope Osborne : This book was really the stepping stone between pictures books and chapter books for me. I remember finding it in a stack of books my older cousin gave me, back when I still had never read "a real book without pictures" before. I got hooked and went through the rest of the series at the time.
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling : Must I even explain how important this book has been in my life? This is where it all started, where I realized that I loved reading. I grew up with Harry in a sense, since I discovered his world when I was only six.
4. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner : These had such a pivotal role in whetting my appetite for mystery.
5. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis : I happened on Narnia by chance. I didn't find Narnia through a wardrobe, but I did find it in a stack of my teacher's books when I needed to find a book for independent reading. Along with Harry Potter, the world of Narnia has since then been one of my favorite places to return to.
6. Nancy Drew: Nancy's Mysterious Letter by Carolyn Keene : I LOVED Nancy and I still do. I went through all of them in a matter of months (quite a feat for my young age)
7. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator : ASoUE, while grim for children's books, always fascinated me because of its three protagonists. The Ersatz Elevator is probably my favorite because I felt like it was the most inventive and engaging.
8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine : I've read this 5x, I swear. My favorite adaptation of Cinderella.
9. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie : Magic and never growing up! I think I've always appreciated fairy tales with a darker edge. I'm a fan of the real Peter Pan over Disney's version of him.
10. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale : I think I went through a phase where I just really loved stories about magic and princesses mixed with a bit of darkness. The Goose Girl can also easily be appreciated by any teenager, I think.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro



Never Let Me Go
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: April 5, 2005
Pages:
288

     Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.

Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is
.
The past month my assignment in English class has been to read a Man Booker Prize winner or nominee. Since I had been meaning to get around to Never Let Me Go for the longest time, naturally I decided to choose it! (It was a nominee for the prize in 2005). 

Through the eyes of Kathy, the narrator, we're bombarded with memories and brief moments in time. There are really quiet, lovely depictions of life and never-ending English countryside. The story is slow-paced at times, and not much action actually occurs, but the character interactions are magnetic. 

Yet despite the nostalgic tone (which I loved) and sense of peacefulness, there is always something disconcerting lying behind Kathy's narration, as it was probably meant to be. Perhaps its the resigned way in which Kathy regards her future, when readers can only think: Why didn't any of them ever try to escape their fates? I don't want to give away a large aspect behind the mystery of the novel, but as the story progresses, this sense of a loss of innocence as the characters move away from their childhood ignorance increases and it's heartbreaking.

This novel isn't for everyone. The themes are a bit more mature, and will not please those who prefer plots where major events occur. I felt drained once I had finished it. I felt tired because I had invested so much into the lives of these characters only to reach the end and discover their fates. Though it was somewhat unsettling (for a reason), I loved the quiet poignancy that pervaded Ishiguro's writing. I appreciate that Never Let Me Go gave me a lot to think about and suspect that this book will keep haunting me even after I have written this review.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None
By Agatha Christie 
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date Published: 1940/2011
Pages:
247

     First, there were ten - a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal - and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.
Can you believe this is actually the first Agatha Christie novel I've read? I've seen plenty of visual adaptations of her stories, from TV specials, movies, to plays, but never really sat down with one of them. I called myself a sucker for mysteries and had never read anything by the Queen of Mystery!

I read And Then There Were None right at the end of my summer break, devouring it in about a day. It has a lot of the elements you'd expect: creepy, large house isolated from the rest of civilization, inclement weather, people with suspicious backgrounds, dark rooms, plenty of room for the killer to hide. Everything was pulled off well; there were more than a few times where I actually felt frightened. The poem about the Ten Indians, and the porcelain Indians that were smashed each time one of the characters died was a nice, creepy touch that heightened the urgency of finding the murderer.

I didn't expect that ending at all! And that's what makes the best mystery sometimes.
My first venture with Agatha Christie was a positive one, and I have Murder on the Orient Express to look forward to!


 


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Unread on my Shelf

 
Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte : I don't know how I haven't gotten around to this yet! My interested in Jane Eyre was piqued by the most recent film adaptation starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. I've always been a bit wary of the Brontes because of the darker tones their writings possess, but I think it would be a good challenge for me. And there's the fact that Jane is me or I am Jane...

2. Juliet by Anne Fortier : Modern Romeo and Juliet?! I also don't know how I've just let this one sit on my shelf for so long. I've heard mixed things about this, so maybe that's why I haven't opened it yet.

3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern : A circus, magic, and romance- all enticing things in one acclaimed bestseller- I'm just going to stop saying I don't know how I haven't finished this yet.

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro : Luckily, I've chosen to read this one for my English class this month, so I should have a review up when I'm done!

5. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay : I've also heard good things about this one, and I believe the movie adaptation has come out, or is coming soon.

6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson : Do I even have to explain why this is another book that I should have already read? Two movie adaptations, lots of talk, strong female character...

7. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen : I think Dessen's books are always kind of hit-and-miss. I love This Lullaby and Just Listen but was not really a fan of Lock and Key. I think I stopped reading What Happened to Goodbye because the beginning was a bit slow.

8. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: One of my favorite series of all time is the Gemma Doyle trilogy. I think Bray's forays into the modern world (as seen in Beauty Queens and Going Bovine) are just something that I have to get used to, since I was really drawn to her writing in Gemma Doyle.

9. Halo by Alexandra Adornetto : Most of the reviews I've read about this one haven't been particularly favorable, calling it another Twilight with a cliche supernatural romance and vapid female narrator. At the same time, the whole concept of angels really does interest me.

10. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie : A mystery classic! I'm a sucker for mysteries.

I plan on getting to all of these... eventually!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Hunger Games: Official Trailer



The trailer for Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games was released this morning. The film will be released in theaters March 23, 2012. If you haven't already read the trilogy, now would be a great time to! It's never too late to start. The Hunger Games really re-kick started my reading addiction into action and was probably the main inspiration for this blog.



On another note, I should have a whole slew of reviews coming soon; college application season has been crazy!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins




Anna and the French Kiss
By Stephanie Perkins 
Publisher: Dutton
Date Published: December 2, 2010
Pages:
372

     Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

    I don't deny that I was initially wary of reading this one. Everything from the title to the cover to the plot to the characters to the setting seemed to radiate cheesiness. Anna and the French Kiss seemed But I was completely, utterly wrong and I'm extremely glad that I was.

I finally gave in and picked Anna up at the library after reading more rave reviews from other online bloggers. What exactly was it about this book that had everyone else swooning? I still can't exactly say, but something- or everything- just works. It was fantastic. 

Perkin's writing is fluid and engaging; after the first couple of chapters I couldn't put the book down. I might have devoured this in one weekend instead of starting my college applications-Shh! She put such care into the characters- Anna and Etienne especially- and I found myself invested in Anna, Etienne, and their group of friends. While I thought some of the supporting characters were lacking, I didn't mind because I was completely captivated by Anna and Etienne the entire time. And the setting! I don't think this novel would have been as effective if the story took place anywhere else besides Paris. It didn't feel like Perkins was forcing the plot and her characters into the setting, as some authors often do, Paris being the "City of Love."  

Maybe Anna works because everything feels natural. The setup isn't exactly anything new or groundbreaking- new girl travels to a foreign country, meets boy, they fall in love- but I appreciated that the entire journey felt realistic. Anna and Etienne's relationship developed gradually and I felt every high and every low they went through. As Anna fell in love with Etienne, I also fell in love with him. I'm quite tired of recent YA books that seem to force the romance and push for an immediate "love at first sight" angle. This novel was such a refreshing break to that trend and presented a love story that I could really believe in. The dialogue was also witty and I believed that these words could come out of the mouths of a bunch of teens.

I don't think I can write a review that will do this book any justice. Anna and the French Kiss seems to perfectly capture that feeling of falling in love and while it was not flawless, it's one of the best YA books I've read this year. I was hoping that I would be able to contain myself from finishing it today because I just didn't want it to end, but paradoxically I couldn't stop reading. I think it's always the ones that surprise you that stay with you the most. I could keep going on and on about this book, but I recommend that you read it yourself as soon as possible. I'm not looking forward to returning Anna to the library, but I'm sure I'll get my hands on my own copy soon for gazillions of rereads to come.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Forgotten by Cat Patrick



Forgotten
By Cat Patrick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Date Published: June 7, 2011
Pages:
288

     Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that's left is a note telling her about a day she can't remember. The whole scenario doesn't exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can't seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can't make sense of, she realizes it's time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.
    Forgotten first caught my attention when Paramount bought up the rights for a movie adaptation starring young Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld (a favorite of mine). This was months before the novel was even released on store shelves. I was intrigued.

     The premise for Patrick's debut novel is great. A teenage girl wakes up each morning unable to remember the past, but has the ability to "remember" visions from the future- until they happen. The best part of Forgotten for me was reading to see exactly what the ramifications of London's affliction were and how she dealt with them. The fact that she seemed to accept who she was despite her strange circumstances was admirable.There were a few instances where London wondering if she could rid herself of her problem, but they didn't drag the story down into a hole of angst.

      At the same time, I didn't particularly like her. Patrick's characterizations came off a bit flat and the dialogue and narration were cheesy at times. London's relationship with Luke was adorable but slightly cringe-worthy at times. I did genuinely like Luke, however, and was glad that this wasn't another "I love you but I have to stay away from you"set-up because I'm getting quite tired of those in YA fiction.

     Still, Forgotten kept me on the edge of my seat purely by its intriguing premise. The end of the novel is clearly set up for a sequel and I'm interested in where Patrick plans on taking London, Luke, and the rest of the characters.

Note: I'm back! I know it has been way too long; summer school and a host of other things have kept me extremely busy. But I'm anxious to return to that huge stack of books I still need to get through! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth




Divergent
By Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date Published: May 3, 2011
Pages:
487

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
    I wasn't so sure it would live up to the months of hype surrounding it, but Divergent greatly surpassed all of my expectations with flying colors. The setting was great, the plot was engaging , the characters were amazing. If you were me, you'd probably be thinking, Another teen dystopian novel? Many of the elements in Divergent are similar to say, The Hunger Games, but Roth managed to create something original that captivated my attention the entire way through. The concept of a society made up of different factions was really intriguing and I found that I only predicted a couple out of a myriad of plot twists. It's been a while since I've been so thoroughly surprised and entertained by a book! I like Tris, the narrator. I think I'm still learning to connect with her, but I really felt for her toward the end of the book. But I'm glad that she was flawed, and that there were moments when she made mistakes without remorse. She felt real. I adored Four, and appreciated that he was different from the usual "hero" we've been seeing a lot in YA nowadays.

   I finished this book earlier today and I'm still at a loss for how I should even begin to fully and coherently express my happiness with it in this review. It's not working, so I'll just leave it at this: if you haven't read Divergent, go now! By far the best debut novel, and novel (period) I have read this year so far. I couldn't put this book down and I suspect my teachers may be a bit cross with me. For once, I'm not that annoyed that this is going to be another trilogy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

If I Stay by Gayle Forman



If I Stay
By Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Date Published: January 1, 2009
Pages:
196

     In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...
    Oh what an absolute sob fest.
     I had heard about If I Stay for a while now, but just managed to get around to reading it now. I'm not sure I loved it as much as most people have, but there was something touching about the story, in how simple it was. I'll admit that I teared up in more than a couple places.

    I think I found that I couldn't completely connect with all of the characters because they just seemed so perfect... and thus distant? Or perhaps they were supposed to come off that way, as about half of the book is composed of flashbacks from Mia's point of view, and half of the book happens from Mia's perspective as a silent, detached (literally) observer.

   Despite its flaws, If I Stay was really beautifully written. Like the book's strong theme of music, Forman's writing comes off as quite lyrical. The story may not be particularly original or humorous but I appreciated its introspective nature and the ending, though a cliffhanger, was wonderful.
   I guess knowing that a sequel was recently released, helped ease the questions of "What's going to happen? What?!"  that were racing through my head at the end! But at the same time, the story could have ended there and I would have been content.

Note: I've decided to stop using the rating system because I didn't like having to constrain myself to choosing between a 4 or a 5 or a 4.5 and etc.! And sometimes it's really difficult to sum a book that way.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hiatus

If my lack of recent updates wasn't obvious enough:
I'll be taking a hiatus for a few weeks, as I'm going through some intense exams and final school projects.
I have a stack of about 20 books I have to read and review, so there's something to look forward to after!

I hope to come back with a bit more time on my hands to make this a better blog.
Thank you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want To See Become Movies

 Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish .
1. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray : I was so disappointed when production on this was dropped.
2. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford : WWII Romeo and Juliet with Asian Americans - heart-wrenchingly good. It would probably be one of those movies you'd need to have a box of tissues with you to get through.
3. Goose Girl by Shannon Hale : This has been one of my favorite books for years and I feel like it's been forever since a fairytale-esque movie without dark/supernatural undertones was made.
4. Gone by Michael Grant : Do I even have to explain why this would be an awesome movie? No adults, kids with powers, action and suspense, survival?
5. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer : Another great series that has been around for a long time, and has the potential to be a great set of fantasy/suspense movies.
6. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin : I could see this as a heartwarming indie flick.
7. White Cat by Holly Black : I'd love to see Black's world of magic mixed with mafia on screen
8. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare : City of Bones is going to be a movie, but I'd be really interested in a Clockwork Angel film. A steam-punk, demon-killing action combination set in Victorian London. It just sounds like a great movie premise. 
9. Maximum Ride by James Patterson : A family of mutant flying children on the run? Sarcastic, witty dialogue and interactions? Yes!
10. Catching Fire/Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins : I know I'm slightly cheating with this one, since The Hunger Games is in production, and the rest of the trilogy will most likely follow. But... :] I'm still a bit wary of the casting choices so far, but I'll have to wait til I see the actual movie (or even the trailer).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare


City of Fallen Angels
By Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Date Published: April 5, 2011
Pages:
424
Rating: PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket
Photobucket
     City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever. Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.
      The entire Mortal Instruments gang is back in the newest installment. Going into City of Fallen Angels, I was a bit wary because I feel that this series concluded perfectly at City of Glass, which tied up the entire story pretty well. After finishing the fourth novel, I still stand by the fact that Clare could have left this as a trilogy, but I won't complain too much because I really did miss all of Jace's snarky comments, which never cease to entertain me.

     Along with Jace, all my favorite elements in TMI were back: the humor, Shadowhunter action, a lot of romance, and some unpredictable plot twists. I admit that the story began quite slowly, and I felt myself slipping because it had been so long (a couple years?) since the last book came out and I found that I had to reacquaint myself with the entire world. But the new plot eventually reeled me in. But I continued to feel that City of Fallen Angels dragged in a lot of places, which I don't remember feeling with the rest of the series (as stated before, this could just be because I haven't read Clare's writing in a while). Even all of Clary and Jace's romance scenes seemed to drag; I miss that old quick bantering they had before. 

   City of Fallen Angels did hook me however, and made me realize that I'm not too tired of The Mortal Instruments- yet. I should be on board for the next two books in the series. I did really appreciate how Clare tried to bridge the gap between her new prequel series, The Infernal Devices, and The Mortal Instruments, with some revelations and references in this book; The next couple of years are dotted with releases from both series, which may make everything quite confusing. Honestly, I think I'm a bit more invested in seeing where The Infernal Devices will go now. TMI will always hold a special place on my bookshelf, but it really could have ended at number 3.

   But really, the ending of City of Fallen Angels?? What's going to happen now?

Monday, April 4, 2011

News: Peeta and Gale Finally Cast

Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are Alright) has been cast as Peeta Mellark and Liam Hemsworth (The Last Song) has been cast as Gale Hawthorne in Lionsgate's upcoming production of The Hunger Games. Both will star alongside Jennifer Lawrence, who was cast as Katniss last month.

The film is looking at a March 23, 2012 release date.

I'm not thrilled about these choices; I was pulling for Hunter Parrish as Peeta. But I'm glad that Hutcherson has proven himself to be a fairly decent actor in the past; Hemsworth, not so much. I suppose we'll have to wait and see though. 

Source

Sunday, April 3, 2011

News: April 5 Releases

April 5 is looking like a big day in the YA lit world. I'm especially excited to get my hands on :



City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare
I've been a fan of The Mortal Instruments for a while now and was excited when Clare announced that she would be extending the series by three books. I'm a little wary of how she'll be building on the original trilogy, but I guess I'll have to wait come Tuesday.

 



Red Glove (Curse Workers #2) by Holly Black
I just recently read and reviewed White Cat, the first in Black's Curse Workers trilogy and after that cruel cliffhanger, I'm excited to pick up the next one.




 
Plague (Gone #4) by Michael Grant
I still need to read #2 and #3 in the Gone series, so I wont' be reading the newest installment quite so soon but I loved Gone!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Bookish Pet Peeves

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish .
 
1. Excessive/the same adjectives: I feel like authors have been doing this a lot lately to describe their characters for the sake of making them seem more attractive or "exotic" (cough Stephenie Meyer cough). "Velvety" "Marble" etc.
2. Stickers on books: I hate this. The residue they leave on covers is annoying, and it takes forever to sit there and slowly peel them off.
3. Cheesy Dialogue: Who wants to read the same, predictable lines over and over again? Especially the "I love you but we can't be together *because I'm a vampire/werewolf/fallen angel*" and its derivatives.
4. Characters who whine: Books are incredibly difficult to get through when the main character won't stop complaining and her streams of incessant whining just ring in your ears; it's hard for me to keep on if I can't stand the main character.
5. Grammar Errors: A couple mistakes are understandable. But I expect published books to be pretty polished since they go through rounds of professional editing.
6. The Trend: I find the increasing amount of paranormal/supernatural/vampire novels after Twilight, and now those of the dystopian genre following The Hunger Games, to be overbearing and unnecessary. If the author really does have their own take on the genre, then great. But if it's another generic vampire/werewolf story just to sell...
7. Sudden love: When the characters fall in love inexplicably at first sight and all you can think is.. Huh? How did that happen? It's so unnatural and jarring, but unfortunately has been occurring a lot in books these days.
8. Loose ends: I dislike endings that just completely seem to cut off the plot and you're left with all these unanswered questions.
9. Love Triangles: I'm starting to get a bit tired of these drawn-out triangles, especially in stories where two characters are obviously meant for each other but the third is just thrown in there for the sake of having a love triangle. And the whole Team A or Team B thing? Agh.
10. Shiny paperbacks: This honestly isn't too terrible, and I own tons of shiny paperbooks and manage to not throw a fit. I just don't especially like how they collect smudges and fingerprints so easily. But I can live with them!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

The Lonely Hearts Club
By Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Point
Date Published: December 29, 2009
Pages:
285
Rating: PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

     Love is all you need...or is it? Penny's about to find out.     Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows - no more. It's a personal choice...and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born; The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her non-dating ways...which is too bad, because there's this certain boy she can't help but like.....
      After reading Prom and Prejudice and now The Lonely Hearts Club, I can conclude that maybe Elizabeth Eulberg just isn't the author for me. I found that I didn't cringe while reading The Lonely Hearts Club as much as I did with Eulberg's sophomore effort, but this novel still felt empty. It was typical young adult fare, running on dialogue that was cheesy and forced, even for teens (for example: "what to the evs"...) and descriptions of everyone's outfits, from that "sequined belt" to that "white fitted tee and navy blue corduroy blazer."

   Also, I know that "anyways" is accepted colloquially, but it really bothered me seeing it in print so many times. The use of "anyways" instead of the proper "anyway" is sort of a pet peeve of mine, so the fact that Eulberg uses it in more than a couple of instances really stood out and threw me off.

   But I would be lying if I didn't admit that I did enjoy parts of this book; the writing definitely picked up in the latter half, though it remained completely predictable. I did appreciate how Eulberg stresses the importance of friendship and girl power. Too much of YA these days stresses the importance of romance over familial relationships and platonic friendships. And while The Lonely Hearts Club ends up the same way most young adult novels do (SPOILER: with the girl getting the guy... which isn't really a giveaway at all), it does a good job of making sure that Penny, the heroine, is firm in staying true to herself and maintaining her friendships. She isn't letting her new relationship take over her life.

   What initially interested me in this book, and kept me interested, was its many allusions to the Beatles. I loved The Lonely Hearts Club, Penny's eccentric Beatles-obsessed parents, Abbey the stuffed walrus, the song references. I have Eulberg to thank for my rediscovery of the band, and I'm definitely blasting their music right now!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

News: Jennifer Lawrence Cast as Katniss Everdeen

Today, Lionsgate officially confirmed that 20-year-old Jennifer Lawrence, who has recently skyrocketed to fame for her Oscar-nominated performance in Winter's Bone, will be playing Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming movie adaptation of everyone's favorite young adult dystopian, The Hunger Games.

The announcement comes after months of seemingly endless speculation; just about every Hollywood actress from the ages of 14 to 21 seemed to be a contender for the role. Lawrence was first reported to have been offered the role four days ago, but no official confirmation was given until now.

Other fans also had been hoping for the casting of 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, another rising starlet who has recently shot to fame for her (also) Oscar-nominated role in True Grit. It appears that Lionsgate has made the decision to age the characters up, as Katniss is described as 16 in the novels. Lawrence's casting will probably act as a guide in casting the rest of the characters, especially love interest Peeta Mellark. 

Personally, I'm glad that they're casting older rather than younger, because The Hunger Games does contain a lot of graphic violence and it does deal with a lot of heavy emotion that a younger actress may not be able to pull off. I did lean toward Hailee and would have preferred her, because I adore her and she has the acting chops. But in the end I think that Lionsgate made the right decision with Lawrence, who from what I've heard, definitely has the ability to pull off Katniss' grittiness and steely persona. And while concerns have been raised over her appearance, which is not exactly brunette or gray-eyed, these can easily be alleviated with hair dye or contacts. For me, the fact that she can act well and that the director and author both approve is comforting. Though I really do hope they end up giving her brown hair. Jennifer may not look like the Katniss that I've always visualized in my head, but that's the beauty of going back to the books and being able to imagination the characters and the story on your own!

Author Suzanne Collins had nothing but praise for Lionsgate's choice, commenting that
Jennifer's just an incredible actress...So powerful, vulnerable, beautiful, unforgiving and brave. I never thought we'd find somebody this perfect for the role. And I can't wait for everyone to see her play it.
I love The Hunger Games. It sits at the top of my favorite books list (adult and young adult) for being a story. I devoured the entire trilogy this past winter break and they inspired me to read more again, and thus create this blog. The movie, which is looking at a March 23, 2011 release, will definitely be at the top of my to-watch list. 

And now the fandom waits with bated breath for the rest of the casting announcements. I'm happy that we finally have a Katniss and can finally move on to the rest of the characters. I'm ready for Peeta!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gone (Gone #1) by Michael Grant




Gone (Gone #1)
By Michael Grant
Publisher: Harper Teen
Date Published: July 1, 2008
Pages:
558
Rating: Photobucket
PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket
    In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE. Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.
      Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.
     It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...
  I've seen Gone around bookstore shelves for a long time now. I was always intrigued, but never managed to pick it up these past few years. At 558 pages, the physical size of Gone is a little intimidating, but I seemed to breeze through this one quite quickly and realized that all those times I didn't decide to read it, I was missing out. Gone's exploration of a grownup-free society is staggering and reveals both the best and the worst sides of young teens as they struggle to survive in a world where they're forced to be the adults in (literally) the blink of an eye.

     I loved Sam's battle with leadership and realizing the potential he has. At first, he shies away from the responsibility of caring for everyone who has been left behind but in the end he steps up because he realizes that there are no adults to magic away the problems and the survival of everyone in Perdido Beach depends on him. I'm glad that Gone addresses this fear of leadership because I think it's genuinely something that teenagers struggle with in the real world. Gone definitely also makes you appreciate the roles and the experience adults have around you; though many teens and kids often wish that grown ups would disappear and leave them alone, the truth is that everything would be in chaos. It's another case of "You don't know what you have until it's gone." We imagine a world of unrestricted access to TV and internet, dessert every meal, or no school- but

   Though keeping up with all the extremely diverse and numerous characters may be confusing, I really liked all of them. They all had distinct traits and it wasn't difficult to differentiate them by the end of the book. I especially loved Astrid (I think it's my preference for smart characters who are always one step ahead of everyone else; think Hermione Granger) and I found that I could really identify with her, though she's probably ten times smarter! And Sam and Astrid are now on my favorite literary couples list.

   Gone is definitely drive by action and plot. It's refreshing to find because a lot of young adult novels lately have revolved around romance in supernatural situations or dystopian worlds. While it has both supernatural and dystopian elements, the focus isn't on the romance (Thankfully! Sometimes a break from all of that fluffy love is nice). Some parts did seem to drag, mostly because Grant likes his descriptions, but overall, it was fast-paced and a definite page turner.

   I love this world that Grant has created (and the nuclear element is eerily similar to what's happening in Japan right now) and can't wait to dive into Hunger, Lies, and Plague, which is coming out April 5.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Would Want as Family Members

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish .
This is my first time participating and I'm excited to keep up with it every week!

1. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter): I really have grown up with Hermione in a way and already feel as if we've always been sisters nearly my entire life. I love her compassionate and understanding character, as well as her intelligence and determination. We have a lot in common - like our love for books- and I definitely look up to her as a role model. We'd have great conversations all night long!

2. Peter Pevensie (Chronicles of Narnia): I've always wanted a protective older brother, and Peter's done a great job demonstrating that he is exactly that with his three younger siblings! Plus, who wouldn't want to be siblings with the High King of Narnia?

3. Lucy Pevensie (Chronicles of Narnia) : I would love Lucy as a little sister. But I've always found her to be an inspiring character in all her innocence and love for others, as well as in her great faith. I think that I'd have more to learn from her in the end.

4. Mrs. Weasley (Harry Potter): If I could just adopt the entire Weasley family, I would. But time and time again Mrs. Weasley has demonstrated how much she truly cares for her children. Let's not forget her duel with Bellatrix  :) Also, I want yearly homemade Christmas sweaters!

5. Percy Jackson (Percy Jackson + The Olympians): A brother with super-cool demigod powers? Yes please. It'd also be good to have his humor and sarcasm around to liven things up.

6. Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice): I adore her relationship with Jane and can see myself constantly turning to her for sisterly advice. I'd also come to her with all my snarky comments about society and love to hear all of her witty replies. She'd be the strong, older sister in the family. Darcy as a brother-in-law would be an added bonus.

7. Jem Carstairs (Clockwork Angel): Jem would be the supportive cousin I'd go to if I needed someone to listen to all my problems. I love how he's quiet but surprisingly funny.

8. Mr. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice): A father who stands up for his daughters! I love how supportive he was of Elizabeth and his genuine concern for her happiness.

9.Sunny Baudelaire (Series of Unfortunate Events): One word: adorable. As long as she stays away from my hair.

10. Peeta Mellark (Hunger Games): Husband much, much later? :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black



White Cat (Curse Workers #1)
By Holly Black
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Date Published: May 4, 2010
Pages:
310
Rating: Photobucket
PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

     Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
      Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a fa├žade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his fa├žade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
      It's been a long time since a book has truly gripped and surprised me at every turn. But White Cat did exactly this; with the exception of its beginning (which was a bit on the slow side), it was far from bland or predictable. Black spins a suspenseful, intriguing tale in a world where con men intermingle with magic, much to the fear and disdain of the general public.

   I was happy that I could connect with Cassel, the narrator/main character. It's rare to find a male narrator in the young adult genre today, and Cassel ends up being a good one. A guy's perspective on things is refreshing in a sea of female voices like those in Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Gemma Doyle trilogy. He was intelligent, sarcastic, and not entirely dependable (which makes sense later on) and I felt like I could really invest in his character. The secondary characters are all great too and all contribute important elements to the story.

   What this book's success really rides on (for me anyway) is its plot, and the innovative world it has been set in. I really like the dark setting she crafted, where everyone wears gloves in order to protect themselves from the bare touch of curse workers, the scourge of society, who have abilities ranging from changing emotion to manipulating luck. Black has this ability to build up the suspense and keep you guessing. I admit that reading this late at night was a bad idea because I found myself terrified and shuddering more than a few times. Who could have seen that ending coming? I sure didn't.

   For me, White Cat was more captivating than Black's earlier Tithe trilogy. It's hard to go in depth about this one or I'd be giving away important plot points, so I won't. But just know that reading White Cat is a lot like riding a roller coaster you've never been on before, where you don't know when or where the track curves or plunges downward. I'm looking forward to Red Glove, the second in the series, which is coming out in a few weeks, lucky me!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Prom and Prejudice 
By Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Point
Date Published: January 1, 2011
Pages:
231
Rating: PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

     After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.
     Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway?
      Prom and Prejudice is a cute, simplified retelling of-you guessed it- Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Euhlberg does an interesting job of connecting the characters, names, places, events, etc. of the classic to a modern-day setting. Euhlberg takes on a literal interpretation of Austen's story, only, in a world with phones, coffee shops, and Macy's. It was really amusing to see what she would come up with whenever a new character was introduced because they all had the same names as their original counterparts. However, this was really the only thing the book had that kept me going.

     The book reads quite like it was written in a few hours. The dialogue was stilted at times, because Euhlberg tended to switch between modern and Austen era language. Honestly most teens don't speak like they live in the 18th century today, even if they are ridiculously wealthy. I found the characterizations of all the characters to be over exaggerated, so I couldn't sympathize or connect with anyone, not even Liz, the main character and narrator of the story. For me, once a connection with the narrator is lost, it's hard to enjoy the rest of the story. I did like Will Darcy's character a lot more, but I may just be biased (Mr. Darcy being one of my favorites and all). I'll admit that there were some moments where I could not help cringing at the writing style.

     It's a light, breezy read for a boring Saturday. If you're looking for something profound or suspenseful, you won't find it here. Cheesy fun? Yes. But while I found this book to be lacking, the fact that its style seems to cater to a younger audience may be a good thing. In an age where the classics aren't painted as the most "fun" or "exciting", Prom and Prejudice might just encourage those who haven't read its inspiration to look into it. I love the fact that years and years later, the classics are still as relevant as they were back then- and Euhlberg's sophomore effort is a testament to that. But my go-to book on a rainy day, or whenever actually, will happily remain Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.