Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Host

The Host
Stephenie Meyer
352 pages

From the inside flap:
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away.
Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy.  Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged.  Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining 'wild' humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end.  Wanderer, the invading 'soul' who has been given Melanie's bod, was warned about the  challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories.  But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Wanderer probes Melanie's Thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance.  Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer's mind with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding.  Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing.  When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they love.

One of the most compelling writers of our time, Stephenie Meyer brings us a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the very essence of what it means to be human.

My Thoughts:
I read this novel a while back, after I became a fan of the Twilight series.  I know that no one may believe me, but an old roommate and I found the Twilight books right before the second one, New Moon, was coming out (and before it was a huge revolution of all things vampire).  I'm not sure when The Host was published in relation to the Twilight series, but I just remember being so excited that Ms. Meyer had written another novel, adult genre this time.  I was not disappointed.
I've heard so much commentary of Stephenie Meyer's writing ability.   And I don't want to start a debate by any means, but I am so impressed with is her ability to draw you into a world you might otherwise avoid.  For instance, before Twilight I never read vampire/paranormal fantasy.  In fact, I never read Fantasy at all.  (Now it is one of my favorite genres.)  But in The Host, she takes an alien invasion and makes it seem plausible.  I noticed this first when I was attempting to explain to my dad what The Host was about.  I can't tell you the number of people who have looked at me crazily when I recommended this book.  So what's it about?  "Well, you see these things called Souls, which are actually aliens from a distant planet, invade humans and take over their brains.  But this one human Melanie and Soul Wanderer become friends in the same body as they talked to each other through thoughts."  I mean, you can see how crazy it can sound if you attempt to explain.  Finally, I normally just look at people and say, "Read it.  You'll understand."  Just as with the Twilight series, you are drawn into a world different than our own, but yet you don't feel out of place or confused.  Instead, you just keep reading to find out what happens.

I loved this book.  I would even go so far as to say that I loved this book more than Twilight (gasp!).  I know, I know.  But I loved The Host because it was written for adults.  It was like Twilight but more developed and adult-like.  The characters were very well developed.  I felt that I knew both Melanie and Wanderer, and Ms. Meyer did an excellent job of dividing a co-existing friendship.  I laughed, oh and awed, and sat on the edge of my seat at so many different parts of the novel.  It is awesome.  I've read The Host twice, and I loved it each time.  There is enough to the plot that I can reread it and not be bored.  The details only enhance the story, and I found I had missed some things the first time because I wanted to know the ending.   

I could gush on and on about this book.  The way Ms. Meyer writes from the Soul's point of view aids the theme of the essence of humanity;  The thoughts of seeing humanity through other's eyes; The many different characters and how you grow to love all of them; The unpredictable nature of romance; The surprises in the plot.  I think you can see the point.  But the best review I can give you is to go read it!  If you love Twilight, do not stop at go, do not collect $200 - go straight to the bookstore and get this book.  Pick a day to make time, put off those review books for one more day, and pick up something fun.  For those who are wary of the Twilight series and perhaps new to fantasy, I suggest you try this book out.  It was an introduction to science fiction/fantasy genre for  me, and I found something I love.  You just might as well.  Keep an open mind for the first couple of pages, and then you'll get sucked in.  I gave this book one of my rare 5/5, which means it was incredibly awesome and you all should read it and love it too.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After
Susan May Warren
384 pages

God has answered Mona Reynolds's prayers and given her the opportunity of a lifetime: she is about to open her own bookstore-coffee shop, the Footstep of Heaven. Now Mona has no time for love and no hope that a man can ever be the hero of her dreams. But when she hires mysterious drifter Joe Michaels to be her handyman, she discovers that it isn't only in fairy tales that people live "happily ever after."

My Thoughts:
I got this book free on my kindle.  Ok, slight tangent here:  Does anyone feel the need to take advantage of free books, even though your TBR list is a mile long, and you may never read them?  I have to say that it's a bit of a compulsion for me.  I mean, they could only be free for a day.  I have to save that money!  But I have to say that as my kindle gets more and more crowded, it bothers me some.  I mean, when I am reading a couple books at once (which I seem to be doing of late), it often takes me forever to find the title I'm looking for through all my new downloads.  And it's frustrating having so many items on my kindle (over 187 - how cluttered!).  I have a blog that highlights free ebooks (Books on the Knob), and I also get a daily Kindle "newspaper" that features the free ones as well.  So you can see how my compulsion is fed.   At one point, I thought that those books offered free had to be bummers that simply hadn't done well.  But, I've found several books that I've read, and enjoyed greatly, free before.  So I had to adjust my thinking (which fueled my free ebook downloading habit even more).  Being a perfectionist and chronic list maker, I have to say that the lack of end to the books on my kindle and the continuous additions to an ever growing list of books to read stresses me out.  It puts me in a pickle.  Anyone else have this trouble or it is just me?

So despite the stress that free ebooks puts on my list making habits, I still tend to download free ebooks.  This one was a book I found before Christmas, and it is still featured as a free ebook at Amazon.com.  (I am purely a Kindle user, so I am only familiar with Amazon.  I apologize Nook owners.)  I have to say that it was perfect for what I needed.  I read this book after reading The Hunger Games.  Though I loved The Hunger Games with all of my heart, I needed something light-hearted after being sucked into another, more-oppressive world.  This book was the perfect solution.

Happily Ever After was an adorable romance that, though it touched on some darker themes, generally stayed light and fun.  Mona and Joe were cute together, and I loved how they had little arguments and such going on.  Made for a fun romance.  The author also discusses some deeper things as she included the backgrounds of each character.  She writes a story of the need for forgiveness, and the peace and healing that can come when one accepts the forgiveness God has given them and releases guilt.

Overall, this novel was a cute, fun story.  It was a perfect light distraction from the darker, seriousness that can sometimes comes with life and in books.  I read it in one afternoon, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, cute read.  If you have a kindle, definitely check it out.  It's worth the stress (or at least my stress) of a never-ending list of books.  Plus, it's free right now!
My Rating: 3/5

Enquiring Minds Want to Know (12)

Each week Dollycas's Thoughts hosts the meme "Enquiring Minds Want to Know." She posts questions for us to answer each week in order for us bloggers and readers to get to know each other beyond our books.  Check out her's and others answers here.

1. What is the outside temperature where you are today?
My phone puts the temperature at 24 degrees right now, with about an inch of snow on the ground.  But the temperature is supposed to drop with it snowing all week.  (sweet!)

2. Do participate in any special winter sports or hobbies like skiing or snowmobiling, etc?
I don't participate in winter sports (or sports at all for that matter).  I would love to try snow skiing, as I love water skiing, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

3. If you had to choose between a week long stay in a mountain lodge with lots of snow, activities, friends, food and beverages or a week alone on a deserted white sand island with just a bag of books and food and water which would you choose?
Mountain Lodge!  Though the beach is nice, I love cold weather.  And the idea of a wonderful vacation (not counting cool places to go or anything) for me would be a snuggly lodge with snow outside, warm tea or hot chocolate inside, a great book, and fun friends/family.  My family actually did this a couple of years ago, rented a cabin and just hung out for several days.  It was wonderful.  I love curling up by the fire (gas or real, I don't care) with a cup of tea and a great book.  Or playing cards with family around the living room with the fire crackling in the background.  Sounds perfect.  Whose ready for vacation?  ME, ME!  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Three Rs Challenge


So I know I said I would be finished with challenges, but I really like this challenge.  Plus, I am trying to do this anyway with my reviews.  I want to give credit as well as link to other reviews, which can give a reader several perspectives.  So, I think this could be a great way to keep track of that and keep me accountable.

Here's the DL from the blog:

The Three R's is a collaboration of the minds of Cheryl from CMash Loves to Read, Julie from Reading with Restraint, and Gina from Hott Books. The ideas, the creativity, and the technology - respectively. We're each putting forth what we can do to spring this to life.

It all started because Cheryl wanted to remember the bloggers who write the reviews that begin our journey to a new book, new series, or new author. Every day each of us reads the reviews of others shaping our TBR lists. Then we occasionally remember to note them in our post but, more often than not, we completely forget about the reviews that brought us to the wonderful book we've just read.

So this challenge is for them!

We'd like to link our reviews that mention the blogger that suggested the book we've read and are now reviewing.

How thankful are you?

  • 1-6 Books (~1 review every 2 months)
  • 7-12 Books (~1 reviews every month)
  • 13-24 Books (~ 2 reviews every month)
We're not making this a difficult challenge, actually, it's going to be very simple!
  1. This challenge will begin on January 1, 2011 and end on December 31, 2011.
  2. Write a starting post stating how thankful you plan to be in the upcoming year and link it to the linky we'll have on the starting post.
  3. Read a book recommended  to you by another blogger. (This book can be a crossover from another challenge.)
  4. Review the book & Recognize the blogger who recommended it to you.
  5. Recommend the Book in our Recommend linky by linking your review post naming the blogger who recommended the book to you.
Easy, right? Who wants to be in on the fun?

What else will we be doing? We'll have quarterly giveaways for our participants to enter and unannounced special drawings for commenters on the site so be sure to leave your email address with your comment!

Are you ready?
Yes, Yes!  I'm ready!  :)  I am planning on doing the 13-24 books category, which I will try to do 2 reviews a month from a recommendation.  Perhaps this will help slim my TBR list down.  Anyone else get excited about books from other bloggers?  Do you try to give thanks to those who introduce you to those awesome series?  This challenge (I hope) will be another way for me to step-up my blogging and get more involved in the book blog world.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

To BEA or not to BEA?

For those of you who simply read my blog for book recommendations, this will be a slightly personal post.  So if you are uninterested, feel free to just skip it.  I will be back posting reviews and book info this afternoon.

So recently, there as been quite a bit of rumblings about the BEA.  It is a huge Book Expo event held in NYC in May.  I had almost decided to pass it up this year, until I started reading more about it (bad Hannah - never investigate more.  Ignorance is bliss.)  Kristi at The Story Siren has posted several information posts about the BEA which include links to other information.

Intro to BEA
BEA: Budget Tricks and Tips

Now you see why I'm struggling so much with this decision?  It looks incredible, no?   At first, I thought it would be so incredible to be able to go.  I am now more on top of my finances, so I could potentially save the money over the next couple of months in order to go.  But I guess the question that keeps lingering in my mind is whether or not I belong there?

I know this may sound a bit like whining, and I apologize greatly.  I guess I am simply asking for the advice of other bloggers/readers on the subject.  I am a relatively new blogger.  I started in July of 2010 and have only recently been blogging regularly.  I don't have a huge following (not that numbers are all that matters).  I don't review ARCs, mostly because of my shyness in contacting book publishers/authors/etc and because I still have so many books I missed out on in college.  I've never interviewed an author (though it is something I have been wanting to do in the next couple of months).  But I mostly started this blog as a way to get to know other readers and to learn how to form coherent thoughts and discussions on books.  I have made many friends over the last couple of months, close friends whose opinions I value more than many people I know in real life, especially when it comes to books.  I have learned to be myself and not apologize for who I am and the fact that I love to read and that I spend most of my time reading.

But I guess my thought process becomes who am I to consider myself "important" enough to go?  I don't mean that as derogatory as it sounds.  But the BEA is a trade convention.  I have heard several people comment on the professionalism of the book bloggers last year and their frustration at the number of people who did not seem to belong there.  I am not considering  going just because of the free books and awesome autographing experience.  In fact, I really thought you had to pay for all of those books until a couple of days ago  (and I'm still not completely sure how all of that works).  I would be ecstatic to get to meet some really cool authors, and I know that many of the bloggers I follow religiously are almost more important to me than some authors.  But who am I but a small-town blogger from Tennessee?  What questions would I ask to an author if I ever met one?  I can't think of anything original to say or some brilliant insight into their book that they've never heard of before.  Even now, I feel shy tagging people on Twitter (I wish I had an etiquette book when it comes to Twitter, because I constantly worry about offending people), especially authors - though I am wanting to promote them more than actually promoting me.  But who am I to write a review criticizing a book, especially now that I am aware that they might actually read it?  I mean, after all, I've never written a book before.  (Don't worry - I am continually fighting to make my reviews honest, even though I am incredibly shy about it.  I am simply trying to be professional and tactful with the idea that these are my opinions and feelings about a particular book.)

I guess what I am wondering (and it may have to be a personal decision) is where I am wanting all of this to go.  I started out with this as a hobby.  And it has kept me entertained and from being incredibly lonely in a new town with me not-so-great-at-making-new-friends.  But I read of others who are constantly pushed to read more/schedule their reading/trying to find time to read what they want to read, and I worry that my perfectionism and strive to please others will make me get in too deep.  I, above all, want this to be fun.  I am at that new relationship stage where everything is exciting, and I hope I always stay that way with books.  I get excited about new books to read, and I have seen some unique bloggers who are still very passionate about reading.  It seems that they are not struggling with the "work load," so I know it's possible.  But it's still hard for me to imagine myself having something to say that others want to read.  Perhaps it is time for me to get out of my shell even more by "networking" and being more open to being a book promoter and not simply a book reader. 

So ultimately, I am wondering your thoughts.  Is anyone going to the BEA and looking forward to the excitement?  Has anyone else struggled with the workload that could come with the introduction of ARCs and networking to your blog?  Or have you found that it opens up a whole new world of good friends that love books as much as you do?  Thoughts?  Comments?  Suggestions?  Tired of hearing me whine?  I'm finished now.  Thanks for listening.  :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

CSN Stores Giveaway Winner!

I'm pleased to announce my winner for the CSN stores $25 gift code.  Give a congrats to:
Belle Decouverte!!

Thanks to everyone who entered.  And a big thank you to CSN Stores for this amazing opportunity allowing me to host the giveaway!  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lock and Key

Lock and Key
Sarah Dessen
432 pages
Rating: 3/5

"Ruby, where is your mother?" Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return. That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it's a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

My Thoughts: 
I was first recommended this book by Jennie from Life is Short. Read Fast.   In fact, this novel was the first book of Sarah Dessen to be on my TBR list.  So, I guess Jennie really was the first one to introduce me to Sarah Dessen, who now is one of my favorite YA authors.  So excited that I stumbled upon Jennie's review!  As far as Lock and Key goes, I loved the cover, and the description sounded amazing.  I have to say though, that I did not enjoy it as much as I have all of the others.  I am not sure if this was the first Sarah Dessen book that I read if I would have the same opinion.  But it simply was not my favorite of her novels.

The general premise of this book, as you can tell from the book description from Goodreads, is that Ruby has grown up with an unreliable mother and has hence learned to not rely on anyone, thereby not letting anyone get close to her.  As she moves in with her sister, she has people around her that attempt to break down those barriers, and the story is how she learns to be apart of a family and to have true friendships that include the give-and-take that all relationships do.  

Just as Auden, from Along for the Ride, was the character I could relate to the most, Ruby was the Dessen character I could relate to the least.  Perhaps it is because I never experienced the things that Ruby did, but reading about her life was very foreign to me.  I had to learn to accept her mindset in order to not get frustrated and yell at the pages.
I also had a hard time grasping the other characters besides Jamie (Ruby's brother-in-law).   Jamie was very readable to me, and I could picture him easily in my mind (perhaps because he reminds me so much of my uncle).  But the other characters, Cora, Nate, Ruby's friend from her previous school, they were all hard to imagine in my mind.  I guess I simply could not put all their pieces and actions together to make a whole character.  I just never really grasped who they were supposed to be as characters, and that made the novel harder to enjoy. 

On another note, I want to give a shout-out to Ms. Dessen for once again creating a picture of healthy relationships.  She has a wonderful talent for creating a realistic picture of how relationships work.  She shows the ups and the downs, and I love that in this novel, she shows how one person's baggage can affect everyone surrounded.  She also portrays the difficulty that working through baggage can be.  There are some novels that oh-wave-a-wand-and-things-are-better, and it just makes me want to laugh - because I believe we all know that real life does not work that way.  Instead, Ms. Dessen actually writes about how relationships can be worked on, and she even makes it interesting.  Kudos to her talent! 

Ultimately, I gave this novel a 3/5 because I did not enjoy it as much as I did all of Ms. Dessen's other novels.  The plot was good, and I thought the lessons learned were appropriate.  I just found the novel not as enjoyable to read.  I could not grasp the characters, and the story just did not seem to jump off the page at me (which might have been a personal issue).  However, the novel was a fun read, and I am not disappointed in the time spent reading it.  If you are a first time Dessen reader, I would recommend picking this one up as a second read.  But I would recommend it to all Dessen and YA fiction fans.  Read and enjoy.

Other reviews about Lock and Key:
Life is Short. Read Fast. review
Books Obsession review
Under the Boardwalk review

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reminder: Giveaway

CSN Stores $25 gift code giveaway ends today at midnight!   Click on the link to go enter.

Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride
Sarah Dessen
384 pages
Rating: 4.5/5

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

My Thoughts: 

I picked up this book simply because my library had it.  I am happy to say that the library has many Sarah Dessen books, and I have been reading through them of late.  This book sounded nice and the cover was so lovely, so I just added it to my stack of books to check out.  I'm happy to report that I was not disappointed.  

Auden was a character I greatly related to.  As opposed to other novels where reading is a learning experience for me or a view of a different type of life, Auden was almost a mirror reflection of myself.  I enjoyed learning her story, and I could relate to her well.  She is a studious, perfectionist that grew up in a house full of adults that expected her to act the same.  (Me being the youngest, I can related just a tad).  I love her decisions to be exposed to the world she's never experienced - creating her "summer of fun."  It made for an exciting read.  

So during her summer at her father's house, Auden meets a group of girls that expose her to the girlfriend arena.  Can I just say that I love Auden's reaction to the majority of things they do?  My sister is a girly girl, and I can related to Auden's expression of "Ew!  MORE pink?!"  There are several other instances where I giggled at the interactions between her and her new found girlfriends.  Ms. Dessen simply had me rolling in laughter at many of the comments Auden makes.  Ms. Dessen takes her humor from the everyday occurrences of life, and I truly enjoyed the humor she portrays.  

Alright, so Eli.  Can I just say that I love Ms. Dessen's way of portraying romance?  I loved Eli.  I have a good friend that reminded me of the character Eli, so I could picture him perfectly.  But I believe the reason that I enjoy Ms. Dessen's books so mush is that she shows romance growing from a friendship.  Not that I don't love the love-at-first-sight concept, but to me, that is so rare.  It's more realistic and enjoyable for me to read about how characters are friends and have an actual relationship (more than just that kissy-kissy-lovy-dovy stuff - though I know we all enjoy that as well) and fall in love.  I also love the way that Eli and Auden's relationship is one of individual growth.   They both have obstacles to overcome, and their relationship is not one of dependence, but independence.  They support each other as they learn to be their own individual unique person.  That may make zero sense, but if you read the book, I believe you'll understand what my confusedly typed words are attempting to explain.  I simply enjoyed how Ms. Dessen portrays a generally healthy relationship.  

Ultimately, this novel was my favorite of Ms. Dessen's books that I have read so far.  I related the most to Auden, but I loved so many different aspects of this book.  I did not predict the ending, and I read the entire book in two days.  It was a great view of different relationships, and I would recommend it to all teenage girls for an enjoyable read that shows how healthy relationships can work.  I also recommend it to anyone who loves YA fiction, as it is the best example of realistic YA fiction I have read.  It's one of the few books on my shelf that I will pick up and reread to enjoy again.  I not only enjoyed getting to the ending, but I enjoyed the journey through the pages that brought me to the conclusion.

Other reviews of Along for the Ride:
Nice Girls Read Books review
Featured in The Story Siren's Top 10 Summer Reads
Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings review 
Mundie Moms review 
Patricia's Particularity

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Enquiring Minds Want to Know (11)

Each week Dollycas's Thoughts hosts the meme "Enquiring Minds Want to Know." She posts questions for us to answer each week in order for us bloggers and readers to get to know each other beyond our books.  Check out her's and others answers here.  This week is on a bit of a heavy subject.  But as part of getting to know each other is seeing a reaction in a tragedy, I thought I would continue with meme this week as well.

1. Where were you/how did you hear about the tragedy in Tucson?
I believe I was at my parents' house and caught a glimpse at a newspaper.  You may dislike me for this thought process, but in the event of honesty, I am going to share my view.  I tend to not follow national news; in fact, I don't generally follow news much at all.  I grew up in Memphis, and so much of news from there (or almost anywhere these days) is so depressing and violent.  Because I work with death every day, I find that the last thing I want to do at the end of a work day is turn on the tv to watch more horrors.  Perhaps that is naive and shallow, but it's apart of a coping mechanism for me to be able to give myself completely to my job.  But back to the topic at hand, I drove back to Memphis a couple of days ago and glimpsed a newspaper (I don't receive one myself) that mentioned the tragedy.  I have only recently received most of the facts of the event.

2. Do you think it is the politicians and the news media that stir the pot to make these events more likely to happen?
I don't know that they make them more likely to happen, but I do believe that they make it worse when it does.  The most relevant thing I can speak of is 9-11, when I saw the event happen so many times on TV that I stopped crying at it.  That image is forever burned into my head (firstly, because of the horror) but mostly because it was reviewed and discussed relentlessly throughout the next few days.  It was a severe tragedy, but it's hard for me to believe that those who died are honored by the continued reliving and rehashing of the event.  I guess I wish things were handled a little more tastefully.

3. Do you think we will see any changes in the way our representatives in our home states or in Washington interact with their constituents/us?
I'm sure we will.  It may not be tomorrow, but just as airport security is still being affected, I think security in all places will be affected throughout the country.

I apologize for the seriousness of this post, simply because this is a hobby and generally a getaway for many people.  But I pray for those who are affected both directly and indirectly by such a tragedy.  Until next time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Girl v. Boy

Girl v. Boy
Yvonne Collins
288 pages
Rating: 3/5

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?

My Thoughts: 

This novel reminded me a bit of what it's like to go back to high school.  Like Sarah Dessen, Yvonne Collins creates a picture of the high school life - with one or two major differences from my own experience, so that she gives a new perspective to ponder.  Having to work your way through high school and strive for the opportunity to go to college was new to me.  I went to high school with the unquestionable choice of going to college; what college was the only question.  But private school generally had that purpose.  Once again, I was reminded how different my high school experience was from others. 

Besides a different view of high school, Girl v. Boy was a fun, light-hearted novel.  The columns between the journalist cracked me up.  I often laughed at the stereotypical behavior of different characters that created the humor contrast.  The popular girl, too-cool-for-Luisa's-advice.  The popular boy, openly interested in only fulfilling his wants and needs.  The popular-but-invisible crowd of followers.  I loved laughing at the honesty shown through anonymity.  The plot was generally predictable, but the ending was fun getting to.

There were some small points that greatly annoyed me, thus deterred from my general enjoyment of the novel.  First of all, Luisa goes through three different guys in the book.  And every one seemed to be the "love of her life."  How can somebody go being completely invested in one guy to being completely invested in another within the week?  It made her seem shallow to me.  Perhaps Collins meant it as irony, but I wasn't like that in high school (but I did only date two guys the entire four years).  It just caused me to have less appreciation for her as a character.  I was also a bit annoyed at her honesty in the columns.  Though funny at times, I could not believe some of the things she wrote.  Perhaps I am a bit paranoid, but I cannot imagine being so completely honest, especially at a high school, when there is always a possibility of being found out.  But then again, hindsight is always 20/20.  (or being an outsider with an overall view of 20/20)  It just seemed a bit like she had it coming.  

I gave this book a 3/5 because I enjoyed the read and had many laughs from Luisa and her counterparts, but there was one too many annoying traits for me to keep me from enjoying it thoroughly.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fun young adult fiction and doesn't mind a bit of immaturity.  Take the book at face value, and it is an overall fun read that would provide a wonderful afternoon of entertainment on a snowy day.

New Years Reading Resolutions Giveaway Winner!

I'm so excited to announce my winner for the New Year's Reading Resolutions Giveaway.  And the winner is......


She has replied to my email, and I'm sending out the books today.   She's getting Perfect Chemistry and Poison Study.  I had over 230 entries.  Thanks so much to everyone who entered.  And congratulations again to Sena!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Years Reading Resolutions Giveaway Hop Complete

New Year's Reading Resolutions

As so many of you astute readers have probably noticed, the New Year's Reading Resolution Giveaway Hop is now complete.   I am working on summing up things and picking a winner, so I should have that posted soon.  My other giveaway from CSN Stores is still running until Saturday.  Thanks for all the entries and good luck to everyone on their reading resolutions.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Enquiring Minds Want to Know (10)

I've been totally lax on this meme, and I have missed it terribly.  But I'm back!  Each week Dollycas's Thoughts hosts the meme "Enquiring Minds Want to Know." She posts questions for us to answer each week in order for us bloggers and readers to get to know each other beyond our books.  Check out her's and others answers here.

1. How would you build the perfect sandwich?
Well, since I'm a hunger-eater-by-suggestion, I definitely  jumped off and got some food when I saw what this weeks questions were about  (toast and jam).  But back to the important topic of sandwiches, I would have to say that my perfect sandwich consists of my own personal homemade sourdough bread, ham, provolone cheese, mayo, and lettuce toasted to perfection.  A bit boring I know, but it's the bread that makes the sandwich - so it's perfect to me.

2. What is your favorite flavor of potato chips?
Though potato chips aren't a favorite of mine, I have to say that that spot would be taken by Harvest Cheddar Sunchips.

3. Now add the perfect beverage to complete this lunch.
Coco-Cola Classic!!!  I'm a HUGE Coke fan.  When I moved to this foreign land, I actually found out that some weird people actually drink Pepsi.  What's wrong with people around here?  Don't worry, I'm working on converting them.  :) 

Since this post is all about getting to know each other, I thought I would share some fun pics.   Any chance to show off my baby.  I can't find my camera charger, so these are from my phone.  Isn't he adorable in the snow?!
His first taste of snow (he's been too afraid to lick it until now)

Puppy prints

CSN Stores Giveaway

I wanted to let you guys into an incredible discovery I found recently.  I was contacted with the opportunity to host a giveaway for CSN Stores.  I have to say that I am very impressed with CSN Stores.  They are a company of over 200 online stores that offer almost everything under the sun.  I checked it out during one boring night of television.  They have everything: from modern dining furniture, cool bookshelves, a vast selection of children's toys, and great cookware.  I found some great glasses I'm coveting at the link provided.  For those of you who are awake at weird times (like 1 am my time right now), it's the perfect solution.  I found everything I was searching for while checking it out.  For instance, my dad is a huge Sooners (University of Oklahoma) fan, and being in a different state makes it hard for me to find good gifts for him.  I got over 1000 hits on my search for his present.  A 1000!!  That's enough to cover birthdays, Christmases, 4th of Julys until kingdom comes.   I can't tell you what it is yet, because I haven't celebrated Christmas with my fam yet, but it's pretty awesome.  But that's just one example.  I definitely bookmarked it for birthday season coming up. 

So I have a $25 gift code to offer some lucky person.  I'm running the giveaway from January 8th to January 15th (11:59 pm EST).  One entry per person.  Just fill out the form below.   You don't have to be a follower to enter.  This contest is open only to US and Canada residents.  I will pick the winner (random.org) within a few days.  I will contact the winner by email, and he/she needs to reply by one week or I'll need to pick another winner.  Good luck everyone!

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
374 pages
Rating: 5/5

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

My Thoughts:
I am not sure what I could say about this book that someone hasn't said.  Being 2 years old, I'm sure most of you have heard about The Hunger Games and heard the hype that came along with it (especially when Mockingjay came out).  Just like Harry Potter, I put off reading these books.  Partly, because there is apart of me that does not want to be a follower but wants to be original.  Partly because I knew that something everyone talked about being "so incredible" could only bring me disappointment.  Then, this morning at 5 am, I was reading some blog posts, just browsing to wake myself up, and I stumbled upon My Overstuffed Bookshelf's review of The Hunger Games.  I can honestly relate to over half of what she was saying about putting it off.  I just kept procrastinating and putting it off and keeping it on my TBR shelf.  Well, this morning I finally said, "OK!  I get it!  I'll read it!" And I sat down and started it immediately.

What I didn't expect to do was finish it.  I believe I read this entire book in one sitting (minus one bathroom break for the puppy and myself).  I have been snuggled on my couch while it snows outside for almost 5 hours.  Not a personal record, but definitely not what I imagined the first five hours of my day to shape up to be.

Ok for those of you are don't like to be followers, who held out on Twilight (the books) and Harry Potter, don't let your pride keep you from a great enjoyable read!  What the heck was I thinking, having this book in my possession for TWO WEEKS and not reading it?!  The Hunger Games was a fast-paced, wonderful read that surprised me throughout the novel.  It wasn't all blood/guts/killing like I thought it would be.  In fact, there's a pretty great story line to it.  I was shocked at how fast-paced it was (partly because I was expecting the Games to happen throughout the three novels).  Plus, never once did I think, oh my, I've been reading for so long.  Instead, I looked up and said to Benentt, "Where did the time go?!"

Like I have said before, there have many, many praising reviews on this book.  So I will not attempt to write about literary qualities, the depth of the characters, or the sentence structure and quality of Collins' writing.  Instead, I will simply say that I loved Katniss as a main character.  I felt her struggle and brief moments of happiness throughout the whole book.  I love Peeta.  In my mind, he's completely adorable, surprisingly resourceful, and I can't wait to read more about both of them in the next novel.

I gave this book one of my rare five star ratings, because I loved it!  I can't wait to get ahold of the next book, and I am excited to see what unfolds for Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Prim.  Perhaps it's not the most well-written story ever read or has the most suspense out of all the novels in the world.  I'm sure others could find flaws in it.  But it's not each of the individual characteristics of the book that make it wonderful, it's all of them put together.  I loved it.  I read it in one morning, and I will brag about it to most anyone I meet.  If you haven't read it, go read it.  I promise it won't disappoint.  It's one of those books you don't sigh at end because you're frustrated with some flaw, wanted it to end differently, or just were dissatisfied with it in general.  You sigh because it's over and you are transformed back to the living world.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


For several months, my sister has been nagging me to get a twitter.  She's given me all the pros and tried to answer my odd questions of "So WHAT'S this for?"  Basically I didn't get it.  And I guess I can say I still sorta don't.  But I am being a good follower, and I officially have a Twitter page!  I'm not completely sure why I need another source of media for me to spend time on, but I'm enjoying it.  I've found several of my favorite bloggers on twitter, and I can stalk those few celebs I'm in to.

For those of you who are techno savy, please don't judge me by my small attempts to get into the computer world.  Blog aside, I have very limited when it comes to webpages and such.  I had to use the Help section to figure out how to link up to my Twitter.  So, those of you who are way ahead of me in the game, any suggestions?  Still not sure what a hashtag is or how to find/link to one.  But I'm learning.

So for anybody who just can't get enough of me or wants to connect in another media, feel free to follow!  As I have four followers right now, I will check you out.  And feel free to correct me if I'm doing something wrong, because despite the awesome cuteness of my puppy, we don't have any idea what's going on.

Follow hannahmatkins on Twitter

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Years Reading Resolutions Giveaway Hop

New Year's Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone.  I know I'm a little late on that, but the last couple of days I've been thinking about the past year and the new year to come.  It was a big year for me.  I started blogging in the past year.  I graduated college, basically moved to a new state, and started a new job.  I renewed my love for reading, met many new blogger friends, found lots of new-to-me authors, and read more books in six months than I had in the past 8 years.  It's been eventful.  I'm excited to see what 2011 holds.  I have not officially set any New Year's Resolutions, but most of my reading resolutions revolve around the Challenges I'm participating in.  I've read many inspiring posts regarding goals for this year.  I wish everyone good luck and a lack of frustration if the year does not go exactly according to plan.

True to fashion, New Year's has provided simply another excuse to celebrating reading and host a giveaway.  Lori from Pure Imagination, Candace from Candace's Book Blog, and Angela from Reading Angel are hosting this years New Year's Reading Resolutions Giveaway Hop.  Thanks to everyone involved for the work put into the hop.  

I decided to giveaway two of my favorite reads of 2010: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder and Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles.  I am opening the contest internationally (to any place The Book Depository ships), and I will be sending the books via The Book Depository.  Perhaps these books can help fulfill some of those reading resolutions you guys have made.  I decided to make it simple, so one entry for everyone.  Just fill out the form below.   The giveaway hop runs from January 3rd to January 9th (at midnight EST).  I will try to announce the winner a couple days after that.  I will contact winners by email, and they have one week to reply with address info and such (otherwise I'll pick another winner).  Good luck everyone! 

Be sure to check out other giveaways with the linky below!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Poison Study

Poison Study
Maria V. Snyder
416 pages
Rating: 4/5
Yelena, convicted of murdering the son of a powerful general, awaits execution. But with only a few hours left, she is offered an incredible reprieve -- and agrees to become the new food taster for Commander Ambrose, the military leader of Ixia. Living in a palace and eating only the best meals is a dramatic change for Yelena, who spent the last year locked up in a rat-infested dungeon, eating gruel. But she soon realizes that she has more to worry about than ingesting potentially lethal poisons in the commander's meals. The general whose son she murdered has vowed bloody vengeance, and everyone in the commander's retinue look at Yelena as an untrustworthy criminal. The longer she stays alive, however, the more she begins to understand her own perplexing abilities -- all of which will be put to the test when cunning rebels plot to take control of Ixia.

While many genre-blending novels seem to unintentionally dilute the literary domains involved, Poison Study is both a riveting romance and a spellbinding fantasy. The richly historied and vividly described realm that Snyder has created is completely convincing and large enough to encompass (hopefully) many more novels featuring Yelena, an enigmatic heroine with so many secrets and so much promise. Paul Goat Allen (taken from Barnes and Noble)

My Thoughts:
I couldn't believe it when I read that this was Maria V. Snyder's debut novel.  I was doing a bit of research before writing this review, as it's been a couple of weeks since I read it, and I was so shocked to find that bit of news.  I found her book astoundingly awesome, especially as it was a debut novel.  Normally, I'll give just a little bit of leaway if it's a debut novel, as it's the first - sometimes it takes a bit of practice to make perfect.  But Ms. Snyder blew me away.

Upon reading Poison Study, you are entered into the world of Ixia.  I love that Ms Snyder did not particularly make it seem like a completely different fantasy world.  It had enough "normal" elements that I was not confused or frustrated by the increasingly complicated world of fantasy.  Instead, she added bits and pieces of Ixia's history while telling the story; and before I knew it, I could have given a history lesson on the territory of Ixia while I didn't even realize I was learning about it.  I greatly appreciate an author's ability to create a fantasy world/story without having everything be complicated and different. 

I loved Yelena as a character.  I felt her need to simply survive, and I enjoyed watching her grow to remember how to live again (after being condemned to execution, survive is excitement, living is compete utter happiness).  As she gets to know the characters around the castle, I fell in love with her circle of friends and questioned the different friends and intentions just as she did.  Though I did not connect with her, as in we are similar, I loved getting to know her as a character.  And when things come to light, I felt her pain, hurt, disappointment, happiness, and love just as if we were best friends.

I feel that I should probably include a bit of a warning in a review as well.  Ms. Snyder has taken a beautiful fantasy and woven some serious subject matters into it as well.  She has an incredible ability to write of such matters, and those who are faint of heart should beware that you will get to know on some level the effects of abuse and evil.  That being said, I would take caution to recommend this novel to a younger generation.   It was shelved at my library under adult fiction, and I believe that though the fantasy can appeal to youth, it will also be entertaining for adults as well.  Include the seriousness, and it makes a believable, moving story for both adults and mature youth to read.

This novel included so many different elements: fantasy, action, humor, and romance.  Each part seemed equally balanced, and I love it.  I loved the side-romance story, especially since it was not super gushy, cutesy, and overrated.  It was just perfect for the novel  Ultimately, I would recommend this book to anyone who even slightly enjoys fantasy.  It's become one of my favorites, and I can't wait to pick up Magic Study.  I have added every one of Ms. Snyder's books to my TBR list, and I am so excited to have found a new favorite author!

This book was recommended to me by Katelyn at The Bookshelf Sophisticate.  Jump over to her blog and read her review of Poison Study as well.