Monthly Wrap-Up (January 2011)

This is a new feature I decided to try out on my blog. At the end of each month I will post exactly what happened on my crazy little blog for that previous month. January has been an extremely busy month so there is a lot to cover!

Books I Read In January:

Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols

Beastly by Alex Flinn

Fade by Lisa McMann (Book Club)

What Can’t Wait by Ashley Hope Perez (2011 Debut Author Challenge)

Girl v. Boy by Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout

Faithful by Janet Fox (Y.A. Historical Fiction Challenge)

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (2011 Debut Author Challenge)

Other Words For Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal (2011 Debut Author Challenge)

* That is a total of 8 books for the month of January. I am only 8% done with my goal to read 100 books in 2011. I need to pick up the pace in February!*

Books I Reviewed In January:

Jane by April Lindner. (Read my review here.) This book was fantastic. It gives a new, modern-day twist to Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre.

Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols. (Read my review here.) I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of this book (a fact that is still super exciting to me). I am a HUGE fan of Jennifer Echols and Endless Summer just proved to be yet another great book (technically it is two books but still..) by Jennifer.

Beastly by Alex Flinn. (Read my review here.) I loved this book! First, it is a playoff of one of my favorite Disney stories. This is a  modern version of Beauty and the Beast told from the Beasts perspective. Second, it has been adapted for film! None other than uber cute Alex Pettyfer plays the beast in the movie version! (I included the movie trailer in that particular review; I am so excited!)

 What Can’t Wait by Ashley Hope Perez. (Read my review here.) I received this book through netgalley to read and review. I was so excited to start reading this 2011 debut novel! It really is a must read!

 Fade by Lisa McMann. (Read my review here.) This was the latest book we chose to read for book club. It has been great being able to read this series! I love it.

Faithful by Janet Fox. (Read my review here.) Because of this wonderful book, I am now obsessed with historical fiction. It is a beautifully written book full of great characters and imagery!

Girl v. Boy by Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout. (Read my review here.) Loved this book! It is a super cute novel about Battle of the Sexes. I loved the constant arguing between the main character and her anonymous counterpart.

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. (Read my review here.) Yet another great book by a 2011 Debut Author. This particular novel is about angels, my new obsession. I just loved it!

Miscellaneous Things On The Blog In January:

Like I said earlier the month of January was just crazy! I decided to jump on board with all the crazy bloggers who do In My Mailbox hosted by The Story Siren. It has been great so far! I am definitely spending way too much money still but I love being able to just hop from blog to blog and to be able to see what fellow book lovers are picking up to read.

(Read my IMM posts here, here, here, and here.)

I also happened to have a rough patch during the month of January. The loss of my job, the lack of sleep, and my dad’s wackiness caused me to make a blog post in which I complained a lot.

 (You can read my complaining post here.)

On the happier side of things, we got puppies this month! My dog Tipsy finally gave birth to five pups almost three weeks ago. So far all the puppies are healthy, hyper, and extremely adorable! It is going to be tough when we have to get rid of them in 5 weeks.

(You can see pictures of my adorable little puppies in my post right here.)

Back to the World Of Books for a second; I had my first ever Author Interview! I was (and still am) extremely excited and honored to be able to interview the lovely Ashley Hope Perez. Her novel, What Can’t Wait (an excellent book) is one of the books I read and reviewed in the month of January. I asked her 11 questions (11 questions for a 2011 debut author…do you get it???). Ashley was just awesome! She answered every single one. Thanks again to Ashley for that!

(Read my SUPER AWESOME interview here.)

And sticking in the World Of Books for a second, I joined yet another challenge. This one is hosted by Thoughts of a Book Junkie and it is called the A-Z Challenge. Throughout 2011, I will be reading one book per letter in the alphabet. It is an awesome challenge so you should check that out right here.

(Be sure to check out my A-Z Challenge list here.)

Wrap Up:

So that is it for the month of January. It has been an awesome month! Checked back in roughly 28 days to see how the month of February turns out!

Book Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Title: Unearthly (Unearthly #1)

Author: Cynthia Hand

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 435 hardcover

My Rating: 5/5 stars

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

After reading that synopsis, how could you not want to read this book?

Wow! That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Unearthly. For angels being such a popular category in the world of young-adult, Cynthia Hand did such a phenomenal job of making her story unique! The story follows a young girl named Clara; she just happens to be an angel-blood, part human, part angel. This whole angel business is still pretty recent news to Clara and her younger brother Jeffrey. Of the little she knows about angel-bloods, there is one thing she is sure of, she has a purpose here on earth. The way angels receive their purposes can range but Clara happens to get hers through series of visions. Her visions lead her and her whole family away from their California home and friends to the small mountain-town of Teton County. It is in this small town that Clara meets the man of her dreams (literally, he is the exact same guy in her visions!), named Christian. So far she isn’t sure what exactly her purpose is, but she is instantly drawn to this boy. Aside from studying Christian’s every move, Clara manages to find a few more friends. Wendy is a sweet girl who just happens to have a not-so-sweet (but completely cute!) twin brother named Tucker. Clara also meets Angela who just may have more in common with Clara than she could have expected! When Wendy and Angela leave for the summer, Clara is forced to befriend (or to do more than befriend him) Tucker, as well as try to figure out what exactly her purpose on this earth really is. The plot for this story was just awesome. There are twists & turns, mysteries, romance, really it just has it all!

Now for my thoughts on this wonderful little book: The characters were great! I absolutely love the realness and quirkiness of Wendy and Angela. Wendy happens to be a fellow nerd (for lack of a better word). She is sweet, good-natured, and a true friend. Angela is stranger that is for sure. She is so direct in everything that she does; she really says exactly what is on her mind. I am really excited to see how these two characters play a role in the next novel. As for boys, this book is chop-full of awesome ones! First there is Christian, the vision boy. He seems like a nice, all-American guy, who happens to be extremely cute. What girl wouldn’t be attracted to him? Then there is Tucker, Wendy’s smart-mouth, obnoxious brother who also seems to be extremely cute but more like a rugged, hot cowboy. The banter between Tuck and Clara is so cute (and funny)! I love their form of flirting! Then there is Jeffrey, Clara’s younger brother. The relationship between these two is so realistic. They have the same arguments of real brothers and sisters (even though they are a tad bit more different from normal ones), yet they are there for each other when it really matters. I am excited to see how Jeffrey’s character changes and grows. I am especially excited to see if we ever find out what his purpose is! In general this was just a great paranormal fantasy book by a wonderful 2011 Debut Author (any author who uses the word Adorkable in their book, is wonderful to me!). I’m so excited to see what Cynthia Hand comes up with next!

In My Mailbox (4)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. It is a way for book bloggers to post what they have received for review, borrowed from a friend, bought at the bookstore, or picked up at the library. Here is a list of the books I have gotten this week (This having no job thing is really kicking my booty! So only three books this week due to lack of income):

Borrowed:

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

In her imaginative second novel, an unusual love story, the highly acclaimed author of Elsewhere offers a unique exploration of teenage identity and self-discovery. The heroine, a teen who is forced to re-invent herself and reconstruct her life after she suffers a head injury that leaves her with a four-year memory loss, grapples with many issues teens will find familiar: romance, changing friendships, and a dysfunctional family. But this teen s amnesia gives her the perspective to see herself and others clearly for the very first time. At times funny and always thought-provoking, this tale effectively touches upon themes of chance, loss, and choice, in a moving story readers won t soon forget. (Summary, courtesy of Goodreads.com)

My thoughts: I read Elsewhere for my Young Adult Lit class in high school. I absolutely loved it! (Partly because Gabrielle Zevin is an excellent writer and partly because Mrs. Andersen was/is a great teacher!) I am borrowing this book from my best friend, Kati. She is in love with this book and insists I need to read it ASAP. So I am taking her advice and reading it; I am quite excited!

Bought:

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents rules;especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father’s office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, she’s tempted to peek inside, as the contents might be the key to a lucrative chemistry scholarship.
To improve her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen’s sanity. Maybe his life. But Jill’s accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and compels her to risk everything, even Tristen’s love just for the thrill of being . . . bad. (Summary, courtesy of Goodreads.com)

My thoughts: I chose this as my “J” book for the A-Z Challenge that I just joined a few days ago (check out my full list here!) . I haven’t heard a whole lot about this book but  I pick it up literally EVERYTIME I go to the bookstore. I finally purchased it today! It sounds dark, eerie, and mysterious; I can’t wait to read it!

Rhymes With Cupid by Anna Humphrey

Rhymes with Cupid is about a girl named Elyse who, after a terrible heartbreak last Valentine’s day, has sworn off dating as well as celebrating the February 14th holiday. Both things are a bit of a problem, though, since a) she works at a gift & stationery store, surrounded by tacky, sparkly cards and annoying singing Cupid dolls and b) she ends up meeting this guy named Patrick who works in the same mall and is her new neighbour and her driving instructor and is really cute and incredibly charming… which, you know, might be okay except for the whole ‘sworn off dating’ thing and the fact that he seems to be into her best friend. (Summary, courtesy of Goodreads.com)

My thoughts: I have been so, so, so excited to read this book! I just happened to go to the bookstore today and it was the only copy! I am thinking it must have been fate. An also “must have been fate,” moment, this book is about a girl who hates Valentines Day. I just happen to be a girl who HATES Valentines Day (well only on the years where I am single; this year happens to be one of them). That dreadful day is quickly approaching, so I think it is just perfect timing to read this book!

Well that is it for my mailbox this week! What did you get in yours?

 

Book Review: Girl v. Boy by Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout

 
Publisher: Hyperion
 
Pages: 311 paperback
 
My Rating: 4/5 stars
 
All’s not fair in love, war, and high school journalism.
 
 Sixteen-year-old Luisa Perez is not looking to win any awards for school spirit. In fact, she and her friends make it a point to avoid all activities considered “extra-curricular.” So when her English teacher volunteers her to be an anonymous columnist for the school paper, Luisa’s first impulse is to run. But, unlike her high-school dropout sister, Luisa does want to go to college—it may be her only ticket out of a life spent working at the cowboy-themed diner where she waitresses part time—and it would be nice to something on her applications.

Her first assignment is to cover her high school’s latest fundraiser, which pits the girls against the boys. Luisa will cover the events from the female POV, while another anonymous writer provides the male perspective—or, at least, that’s how it begins. The two columnists soon find themselves engaged in an epic battle of the sexes—a battle that Luisa is determined to win. Just who does this guy think he is, encouraging his peers to act like Neanderthals with their girlfriends? And why can’t Luisa shake the very sinking feeling that her new unidentified nemesis might also be her new boyfriend?

If you are looking for a super fast yet super cute book to read, then Girl v. Boy is for you. I absolutely adored the take on this “Battle of the Sexes,” story. Up until her sophomore year, Luisa Perez has always been “just another girl.” In fact, she is one of the nine Luisa Perez’s in her school; un-unique to say the least. This year however, Luisa just knows something has got to change. When a teacher asks her to write an anonymous column under the penname Newshound, she knows that it is her one chance to really stand out. At first it starts out as a little banter between Newshound and another anonymous columnist named Scoop. But what starts off as friendly rivalry, turns into an all-out war. Before she even knows what’s happened, Luisa’s column is being printed in other schools all around her area! Just as her writing is starting to heat up, so is her previously non-existent love life. At first Luisa just seems to be going through guy after guy, something that has never happened to her before.  However, none of these guys seem to work out until Joey Carella shows up. At a first glance he seems like just another undetermined guy who hangs out with her (sort of) brother in law. However, there is just something different about this guy that makes Luisa decide to keep him around. As the time nears for Luisa to the reveal her secret identity, she worries about what Joey will think. What she doesn’t know is that Joey is keeping a secret too. *Cue dramatic music*. This is a super sweet novel that puts a unique twist on Battle of the Sexes. I loved the cute, sweet relationship between Luisa and Joey as well as the non-cute and very un-sweet relationship that we saw between Newshound and Scoop (we get to see their hilarious news articles in the story!). I recommend this book to all!

Book Review: Faithful by Janet Fox

Title: Faithful (Faithful #1)

Author: Janet Fox

Publisher: Speak

Pages: 319 paperback

My Rating: 5/5 stars

I read this novel for the 2011 Y.A. Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by Y.A. Bliss. At first I was somewhat leery on the novels I would be reading for this challenge. So far I have stuck to books written in the present day or future. After reading Faithful I am completely hooked! I can’t wait to read another book that takes place in the past. Now, let’s get on with the review:

Sixteen-year-old Maggie Bennet’s life is in tatters. Her mother has disappeared, and is presumed dead. The next thing she knows, her father has dragged Maggie away from their elegant Newport home, off on some mad excursion to Yellowstone in Montana. Torn from the only life she’s ever known, away from her friends, from society, and verging on no prospects, Maggie is furious and devastated by her father’s betrayal. But when she arrives, she finds herself drawn to the frustratingly stubborn, handsome Tom Rowland, the son of a park geologist, and to the wild romantic beauty of Yellowstone itself. And as Tom and the promise of freedom capture Maggie’s heart, Maggie is forced to choose between who she is and who she wants to be. 

Everything about this book blew me away. First of all the setting of the story was truly genius. The characters and story line only add to its awesomeness!

The story takes place during 1904 in the beautiful Yellowstone National Park (I have never been there, but I do know how to put Google to work; it is gorgeous, absolutely breathtaking!). Janet’s attention to detail is superb. I felt like I could see the prairie lands stretching on for miles and miles, or could see the wildlife roaming free,  even the humongous geysers spraying water clear up to the sky felt so real. I found myself actually getting excited every time she started to explain the area the main character was inAnother interesting detail is that this novel takes place in 1904. It really was a whole different world at this time. During this time period it was still very common for girls to be introduced into society. Young girls were brought up to act like perfect ladies at all times and were required to respect the men around them at all costs. In the Author’s Notes of Faithful, Janet states “I chose to set Maggie’s story in 1904 because the world was changing so rapidly at that time (automobiles and airplanes, moving pictures and women’s suffrage), and because the Old Faithful Inn, designed by Robert Reamer, who designed many of the most memorable Yellowstone’s buildings, opened in early June of that year.”

As for the characters and story line, it was truly fantastic. The main character, Maggie, starts out just like every girl getting ready to be introduced into society. She attends all the right parties, respects her father regardless of his attitude, and tries extremely hard to overcome the pain of her mother’s disappearance that happened the previous year. Mere months before she is to be introduced, Maggie’s father drops a bombshell; they are packing up and moving to Yellowstone National Park, a place that is the complete opposite of Newport, Maggie’s hometown. Maggie’s father is determined that a change of scenery will do the two some good but Maggie feels differently. Maggie is determined to make this trip as miserable for everyone else as it is for her. However, once Maggie is in Yellowstone she is entranced by its magnificent beauty and a change starts to take place within her. Meeting Tom Rowland might also ease some of Maggie’s bitterness. He is the first guy to actually treat Maggie as an equal; this both baffles and amazes Maggie all at the same time. When Maggie learns of her father’s real intentions for making this trip, she throws herself into a secret investigation to find the truth of her mother’s disappearance. The truth is a lot closer and A LOT more shocking than Maggie could have ever expected. Yellowstone turns out to be a pleasant surprise to Maggie. With the help of Tom & Mrs. Gale (a new, independent, wonderful woman that Maggie meets), Maggie finally finds out exactly what she wants out of life. She no longer remains silent and allows her father to rule over her life, she takes a stand for what she really wants.This novel is full of beautiful imagery, fascinating characters, and an intriguing storyline.

 Faithful is one Y.A. Historical Fiction novel I will never forget!

** Quite a few hours after publishing this post, I found a wonderful video of Janet being interviewed about Faithful. It is about 14 minutes long, but it is sensational. I suggest you watch it.**

Book Review: Fade by Lisa McMann

Title: Fade (Dream Catcher #2)

Author: Lisa McMann

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Pages: 248 hardcover

My Rating: 5/5 stars

*For book club, we are continuing on with Lisa McMann’s Dream Catcher trilogy. I have fallen completely in love with these books; I don’t know why I waited so long to read them*

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They’re just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.
Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody’s talking. When Janie taps into a classmate’s violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open — but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie’s in way over her head, and Cabe’s shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.
Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability — and it’s bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what’s to come is way darker than she’d feared…. 

As the second book in a series, there is not a whole lot I can say that won’t cause any spoilers. What I CAN say though is that this series is enthralling, amazing, and a super quick read. Fade continues with the story of Janie. As Janie’s powers as a Dream Catcher progress we see the struggles that she goes through (mentally and physically) as well as the stress that school and her new job at the police department have on her. With the help of an unexpected old friend, Janie is able to learn A LOT about her rare abilities. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t come without a cost. Janie’s super powers may just cause as much harm as good. Speaking of good, Janie was added on to the local detective force. Her newest case hits pretty close to home. She is assigned to search the dreams of teachers to try to find a possible rapist. This sticks Janie right in the middle of a huge, real-life nightmare. The dangers of her new job are definitely putting a huge strain on her relationship with Cabel (yes, that’s right, he is still in the series and yes, he is still super adorable). When things start to get more dangerous than normal, Janie is forced to choose between her relationship or finding out who the perp is before he attacks again.

The suspense in this series just keeps adding up! I love that there is a new mystery to solve. Once I started reading, I was continually guessing what was going to happen throughout the whole book. Nearly all my guesses were wrong but I am still happy with the outcome. I love that the story takes place in my home state, Michigan (because really, NOTHING exciting happens here), I love that we are able to see Janie and Cabel grow as people, I love that we get to see Janie and Cabel’s relationship intensify, and I even love that we find out some very important news about Janie’s powers.

Lisa McMann’s Dream Catcher trilogy is extremely addicting; once you start reading you won’t be able to stop!

The 2011 A-Z Challenge

I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to do anymore challenges, well that was until I came across The Thoughts of a Book Junkie’s Blog. I thought that this challenge would be easy, fun, and a great way to possibly win some free books (come on, who doesn’t love free books =). All you have to do is compile a list of 26 books that you will read throughout the year. Easy enough, right? Well the catch is, is that there has to be one title for each letter. Do you know how many books are out there with a Z as the first letter of the title? There isn’t many, but the few that I did find sound great! Now for the awesomeness of the challenge: There is plenty of possible giveaways just for joining, it’s international, & it can be combined with other challenges! You better believe I am using books that are part of the Y.A. Historical Fiction Challenge (**) and the 2011 Debut Author Challenge (*). So now, on to my list of A-Z books.

A- Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton*

B- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys**

C- Choker by Elizabeth Woods*

D- Dead Rules by Randy Russell*

E- Entwined by Heather Dixon*

F- Falling For Hamlet by Michelle Ray*

G- Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

H- Haven by Kristi Cook*

I- Illegal by Bettina Restrepo*

J- Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

K- Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler

L- The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder*

M- Moonglass by Jessi Kirby*

N- The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab*

O- Other Words fo Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal*

P- Possession by Elana Johnson*

Q- Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade

R- Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer*

S- Sirenz by Charlotte Benarrdo & Natalie Zaman*

T- Timeless by Alexandra Monir*

U- Unearthly by Cynthia Hand*

V- Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez*

W- What Can’t Wait by Ashley Hope Perez* (Review, Interview)

X- XVI by Julia Karr*

Y- You Had Me At Halo by Amanda Ashby

Z- Zen and Xander Undone by Amy Kathleen Ryan