Monday, January 30, 2012

Review of Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again
No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon - the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by...and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama - the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape...and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

Ever since I picked up What My Mother Doesn’t Know in middle school, I’ve had a soft spot for novels in verse. If you tell me about a novel in verse that has gotten rave reviews and has won a major award, such as Inside Out and Back Again, chances are that I am going to pick it up. Although I think that Lai has a talent for creating atmosphere and depicting genuine emotion, this novel did not stick with me.

The book is divided into parts, and I never felt as though I was given too few details to understand the story. In terms of plot and characters, I felt that Lai did an excellent job of creating characters that were distinctive. I think Ha’s mother was one of the most realistic characters in the story for me because I could understand why she felt and acted the way she did. However, there were times when it felt as though Lai was so focused on her other characters that Ha’s development got neglected.

You wouldn’t know it from my blog, but I’m a big fan of reading poetry, so I like novels in verse. It’s a form that lends itself well to contemporary novels (which Inside Out & Back Again is not) because it allows for luscious descriptions of environments and characters but also works well for those moments where tons of emotion is packed into a few short words. And this book is full of all of those things. Objectively, I found Lai’s writing beautiful but subjectively, it didn’t leave a lasting impression and I’m not sure. Not being able to figure out why I didn’t like this book bothers me, because I like to discuss books intelligently and give solid reasoning behind my feelings.

While I can see why some readers will connect with Inside Out and Back Again, that didn’t totally happen for me. Even though I enjoyed my experience reading at the time, I felt unsure of what I had to say or what I really remembered when I sat down to write this review. Regardless, I think Inside Out & Back Again offers a fresh perspective on style on the topic of Vietnam, and is worth taking the time to read.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Giveaway: The Girl Who Was On Fire Movie Edition

If you are like me, you cannot get enough of The Hunger Games. While I imagine that many of you share my anticipate for the move in March, I have something which I believe could tide you over until then. Smart Pop Books has graciously offered a copy of The Girl Who Was On Fire Move Edition for me to give away to one lucky reader.

Katniss Everdeen’s adventures may have come to an end, but her story continues to blaze in the hearts of millions worldwide.

In The Girl Who Was on Fire, thirteen YA authors take you back to Panem with moving, dark, and funny pieces on Katniss, the Games, Gale and Peeta, reality TV, survival, and more. From the trilogy's darker themes of violence and social control to fashion and weaponry, the collection's exploration of the Hunger Games reveals exactly how rich, and how perilous, protagonist Katniss’ world really is.

• How does the way the Games affect the brain explain Haymitch’s drinking, Annie’s distraction, and Wiress’ speech problems?
• What does the rebellion have in common with the War on Terror?
• Why isn’t the answer to “Peeta or Gale?” as interesting as the question itself?
• What should Panem have learned from the fates of other hedonistic societies throughout history and what can we?

The Girl Who Was On Fire covers all three books in the Hunger Games trilogy.

Still interested? Check out the rules and fill out the form below.

*One reader will win a copy of The Girl Who Was On Fire Movie Edition.

*Open to U.S. readers only. Sorry, international folks.

*The giveaway will end at 11:59 p.m. on February 5th.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review of Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country by Allan Richard Shickman

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country (Zan-Gah, #2)
The prehistoric saga continues in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, the sequel to the award winning Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure. In this story, Zan’s troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. His obsession is the destruction of the wasp men, his first captors, who dwell in the Beautiful Country. When he, Zan-Gah, and a band of adventurers trek to their bountiful home, they find that all of the wasp people have died in war or of disease. The Beautiful Country is empty for the taking, and Zan’s people, the Ba-Coro, decide to migrate and resettle there. But the Noi, Dael’s cruelest enemies and former tormentors, make the same migration from their desert home, and the possibility develops of contention and war over this rich and lovely new land.

Although it’s not the type of thing I would normally pick up on my own, I enjoyed Zan-Gah when I read it in 2011, so I was curious to hear where our characters Zan and Dael would go next. It turns out that the twins’ next adventures not only give us more information about what’s happened to them, but also shows the reader how Shickman has improved as a writer. Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country was a fast-paced read filled with great characterization and juicy historical information.

When I first reviewed Zan-Gah, the author of the books left a comment about how Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country is geared at a slightly older audience. Considering everything that Zan and Dael endure both between the two books and in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, I definitely agree with this statement. I also thought that their characters were both much more well-developed and even more engaging for the reader.

Shickman particularly gives Dael a bit more focus and delves further into what has happened to him. Not only was this interesting to me, but I found it necessary to better understand his story. The one thing that became problematic at times was that Shickman became more experimental with his writing and while it was fine for the most part, there were a few times when I’d be reading and say, “That’s not quite working.”

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country provided everything one could ask for from a sequel. I’m curious to see where Shickman takes his characters and readers next, so I’ll be reading Dael and the Painted People soon.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publicist in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)
The New York Times bestselling novel.

This is the riveting first-person narrative of Kvothe, a young man who grows to be one of the most notorious magicians his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

We all have friends such as Allison, Misty, and April who push books on us. When my book-pushing friends manage turn out to be right, I am so thankful for them. Not only is The Name of the Wind a great fantasy story that kicks off what promises to be an amazing trilogy, it is the most beautifully written book I read in 2011.

The Name of the Wind is a book that takes patience and curiosity to start. Rothfuss doesn’t give the reader all of the details right away, but starts off the novel in an anecdotal fashion. As I read, I found myself trying to figuring out how all of stories Kvothe was telling fit together.

Given how brilliant The Name of the Wind was, I know that by the time the Kingkiller Chronicle ends, every plot thread is going to come together in a mind-blowing, heartbreaking, and stunning way.

Rothfuss is a seriously brilliant writer. Yes, every sentence of his prose is beautiful and emotional. However, everything in his world from the magic in the novel to the Chandrian is really original.

As I turned the final pages of The Name of the Wind, I immediately wanted more. Good thing I already have Wise Man’s Fear waiting on my shelf. The Name of the Wind is an amazing fantasy novel, and after getting a little bit of Patrick Rothfuss in my life, I’m eager to read anything he writes.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton
Release date:
January 31, 2012

Life as the Preliator is harder than Ellie ever imagined.
Balancing real life with the responsibility of being Heaven’s warrior is a challenge for Ellie. Her relationship with Will has become all business, though they both long for each other. And now that the secret of who she really is has come out, so have Hell’s strongest reapers. Grown bold and more vicious, the demonic threaten her in the light of day and stalk her in the night.

She’s been warned.
Cadan, a demonic reaper, comes to her with information about Bastian’s new plan to destroy Ellie’s soul and use an ancient relic to wake all the souls of the damned and unleash them upon humanity. As she fights to stay ahead of Bastian’s schemes , the revelations about those closest to her awaken a dark power within Ellie that threatens to destroy everything—including herself.

She’ll be betrayed.
Treachery comes even from those whom she loves, and Ellie is broken by the deaths of those who stood beside her in this Heavenly war. Still, she must find a way to save the world, herself, and her love for Will. If she fails, there will be hell to pay.

Despite being a bit dubious about it, I picked up Angelfire last spring on the recommendation of Allison at The Allure of Books. Plus, I had the opportunity to attend a Dark Days of Winter tour stop where Courtney was signing.

Guys, Angelfire. Was. AWESOME. It included awesome fight scenes and a little bit of romance. Suffice it to say, I am eager to see where Ellie's story goes next.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'm Excited to Read In 2012

For those of you who have been living under a rock and may not have noticed, 2012 looks like it's going to be an awesome year for book releases. There are a lot of books coming out this year that I'd like to read, and that list is only going to get longer as the year goes on. With that said, I'm going to dedicate this week's Top Ten Tuesday to books that are coming out in 2012. Sure, there are tons of books in my TBR pile that I want to read, but I wanted a chance to feature books that haven't gotten any love on the blog yet. Plus, there are some debut authors in here, and I wanted to make sure they some hype before their release dates.

10.) Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Releases January 3, 2012)
I love this cover. I love fairy tales. I love fairy tale re-tellings. If those three things hadn't been enough to persuade me to pre-order a copy, the all around positive reviews it's been getting would've done it.

9.) The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
(Releases January 10, 2012)
Okay, so who isn't looking forward to this one? I've only read one John Green book, Looking for Alaska, but I loved it and put it on my favorites shelf. To be honest, though, I think I had The Fault In Our Stars pre-ordered before that point. I can't wait to get more John Green.

8.) Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton (Releases January 31, 2012)
A lot of great sequels are coming out in 2012, such as this one. I don't know if you've read Angelfire, but if you haven't, I've got news for you: it's awesome. I'm eager to soak up every juicy detail of what happens to Ellie and Will next.

7.) Trafficked by Kim Purcell (Releases February 16, 2012)
Why isn't this book getting more hype in the blogosphere? Trafficked is supposedly about human trafficking, which is not a subject a lot of YA novels deal with. You'd think that everyone who loves heavy contemporary novels would be tripping over themselves for this one. I know I'm intrigued, and plan on getting a copy once it's out.

6.) Fever by Lauren DeStefano
(Releases February 21, 2012)
Lauren DeStefano's writing is gorgeous. Her world is disturbing, terrifying, and intriguing. I feel like I've been waiting for Fever forever, but based on what I'm hearing, it'll be worth the wait.

5.) Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (Releases February 28, 2012)
You guys have heard of Anya's Ghost, right? Well, Friends With Boys comes to us from the same publisher, namely First Second, and is also a graphic novel. As soon as I heard these details it went straight onto my wishlist.

4.) When the Sea Is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen (Releases February 28, 2012)
When I first saw this cover, I actually thought of the movie Bridget Jones's Diary, specifically the scene where Bridget tries to make soup but it turns out blue. Although I actually like the cover and find it super creepy, its color scheme reminds me of Bridget's soup. Once I got past that and read the summary, When the Sea is Rising Red immediately went on my to-read list. I'm eager to get my hands on it.

3.) Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (Releases April 24, 2012)
I love Edgar Allan Poe and since we have to wait until FREAKING AUGUST for Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh, I'll need this one to help tide me over. I'm a big fan of this eerie cover. Plus, this book comes out on April 24, and my birthday is on April 1. I think this may have to be a late birthday present for myself.

2.) Endlessly by Kiersten White (Releases July 24, 2012)
I know, I know, I still need to read Supernaturally, and I'm excited to do so. However, I think I can get to it by July, when I will be able to have this amazing purple cover in my life.

1.) Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh (Releases August 28, 2012)
Oh, Simon and Schuster! You originally said this was going to be out in February of 2012 and now it's been pushed back to August! Why? Was it something we said? Something we didn't say? Okay, okay, all joking and theatrics aside, I am pumped to read this one. Nevermore was freaking awesome, and I want to know what happens next! I just hope that some cruel twist of fate doesn't cause Enshadowed to wind up with an even later release date.

This list certainly doesn't cover every 2012 release I'm looking forward to, but it names quite a few of them. What books are you guys psyched for this year? Have you read any of the books listed above? Be sure to let me know in the comments.

Monday, January 2, 2012

In My Mailbox (50) and What Are You Reading?

In my mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Sweet Venom bookmark
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare + notebook

Don't Breathe A Word by Holly Cupala
Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Invisible I by Stella Lennon

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Sisters In Sanity by Gayle Forman
Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (My review)
The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
My Name Is Not Easy by Debbie Dahl Edwardson
Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
Blogs and bloggers mentioned:
Jessica of Chick Lit Teens
Shanyn of Chick Loves Lit
Misty of Book Rat


Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Currently reading:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country by Allan Richard Shickman
Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
What I plan to read:

The Lost Saint by J.K. Rowling
Possess by Gretchen McNeil

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 In Summary and 2012 Blogging Resolutions

Happy New Year! I hope that everyone's 2012 is off to a safe and happy start. I never really wrote a post summarizing 2011, so before I talk about my goals for the future.

I started off 2011 with a goal of reading 75 books and a hope that mid-way through the year, I'd be starting a graduate program to earn my master's of library and information science. I also said that I wanted to post more regularly and get lots of posts scheduled ahead of time. Well, I started graduate school in August and I'll be done in August of 2012. I work 20 hours a week and am really happy with how I did this semester. One major plus of graduate school was finding a children's literature book club which meets monthly. Of course, what you guys care about is the blogging--how many books did I read and did I achieve my goals?

91 books and yes, that includes books I read for school. Guys, I am really happy with this total. Even though there were still a lot of books I wanted to read in 2011 that I did not get to it, I'm pretty happy with that figure.

I didn't really post more or schedule posts in advance as much as I'd like. I was really good about it for a little while in the spring, but once school started in August, I fell behind. I kind of figured that would happen, but I wish I'd gotten even more scheduled before starting school. However, I did get to meet some really awesome authors in 2011, like Meg Cabot, Maggie Stiefvater, and Gayle Forman, all of whom were incredibly kind and wonderful in person, and get to know some really awesome bloggers like Amber, Mariya, Brittany, Sarah, and the lovely ladies over at Fictitious Delicious.

You'd think that my biggest goal of 2012 would be to post more frequently but in reality, that's not the case. Instead, I want to focus on quality. Even if I only put up 3 or 4 reviews and an IMM in one month, I want them to be good reviews that accurately express my opinions of the books I read. I've been using Christmas break to catch up on my reviewing, and my goal is to be 100% caught up a week from tomorrow. Plus, I have a couple of other posts that are working their way up my blogging to-do list.

I'll be making a few small changes to the blog in 2012. You'll notice that I have not mentioned any of the challenges I signed up for at the beginning of 2011, and that's because a while ago, I decided that for the time being, I'm not going to participate in challenges. Yes, I love the idea behind challenges. However, I often forget when to link things up, or where, and I'm not a big fan of writing posts about the progress I'm making on said challenges, because I don't think they make particularly entertaining posts for you guys.

I'm also going to start writing mini-reviews. This fall, I decided not to review the books I read for class. Part of my reasoning here was that if I did, I'd never be able to keep up with reviews. Another part of me figured that you guys probably don't want to read reviews of that many adult non-fiction books. However, I have read some books that I figure you guys might like to hear my thoughts on, such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Plus, next semester I am taking a class on young adult literature were we are going to read over 50(!) books, and I'd like to keep you guys updated on my thoughts on those books. Lastly, I think mini-reviews will be a great fit for this blog because I'm trying to listen to more audiobooks. However, I only listen to audiobooks of things I've already read, as my attention wanders. That said, mini-reviews would better fit how much I have to say about most audiobooks.

Of course, let's not forget my reading goals. In 2012, my goal is to read 100 books. I have zero doubt in my ability to do so. It's happening.

In terms of my personal life, I'm not making a ton of resolutions. Graduate school has dramatically increased my screen time, and reminded me that it really is time that I start eating healthier and exercising more. I've also been working a little bit on a novel, and I haven't really touched it much in graduate school because of all the paper writing. So instead of forcing myself to touch this WIP while I'm exhausted, I'm going to try and finish it by the end of 2013. Maybe that will change, but it feels like a reasonable goal right now. I'm also making some deliberately silly resolutions, because one has to have some fun in life. Example? Decrease my animosity towards squirrels in 2012. I won't even try to explain that one.

2011 has been a great year, and I think that 2012 is going to be even better. To end this post, I present you with the complete list of books I've read in 2011 (titles which are italicized were not reviewed in 2011). I hope you all have a safe and Happy New Year, and I would love to hear what you have planned for 2012.

1.) These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
2.) Entangled by Cat Clarke
3.) The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
4.) The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins
5.) Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash
6.) The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald
7.) Vixen by Jillian Larkin
8.) The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
9.) Falling In Love With English Boys by Melissa Jensen
10.) Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney
11.) Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings by Sophia Bennett
12.) Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
13.) The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha
14.) Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
15.) The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone
16.) The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
17.) Angelfire by Courntey Allison Moulton
18.) Possession by A.S. Byatt
19.) If I Stay by Gayle Forman
20.) Heist Society by Ally Carter
21.) Wither by Lauren DeStefano
22.) Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
23.) Zan-Gah by Allan Richard Shickman
24.) 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
25.) Hex by Ramona Wray
26.) Emma by Jane Austen
27.) Delirium by Lauren Oliver
28.) Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
29.) Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
30.) But I Love Him by Amanda Grace
31.) Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman
32.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
33.) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen
34.) What Comes After by Steve Watkins
35.) The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
36.) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
37.) Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
38.) The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt
39.) Back When you Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith
40.) The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre by John William Polidori
41.) Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
42.) The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
43.) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
44.) Insatiable by Meg Cabot
45.) The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton
46.) Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey
47.) Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
48.) The Girl Who Was On Fire edited by Leah Wilson
49.) Cut by Patricia McCormick
50.) Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer
51.) Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
52.) The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green
53.) Looking for Alaska by John Green
54.) The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
55.) Alone Together by Sherry Turkle
56.) Contagion by Joanne Dahme
57.) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
58.) The Information by James Gleick
59.) Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
60.) Scholarship in the Digital Age by Christine Borgman
61.) Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
62.) The Giver by Lois Lowry
63.) Everything Is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger
64.) The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
65.) The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
66.) Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
67.) Saving June by Hannah Harrington
68.) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
69.) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
70.) Skim by Mariko Tamaki
71.) Double Fold by Nicholson Baker
72.) Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
73.) Remix by Lawrence Lessig
74.) The Access Principle by John Willinsky
75.) Digital Copyright by Jessica Litman
76.) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
77.) Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
78.) Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
79.) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
80.) Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
81.) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
82.) Where She Went by Gayle Forman
83.) Chime by Franny Billingsley
84.) Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
85.) Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
86.) The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
87.) Forever by Judy Blume
88.) Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
89.) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
90.) The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
91.) Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden


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