Thursday, July 19, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #40

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View and Alison at Alison Can Read. It is a great way for bloggers to make new friends and find new blogs to follow. Go to either blog, follow ALL the instructions and then add your link to the list. It’s just that easy!

This week’s question:

Christmas in July! Someone gives you a gift card for two books (whatever that costs). What two books will you buy?

I would definitely buy Insurgent by Veronica Roth, because I still haven't bought it and I really need to get it.  And I would get Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn because I have heard it is amazing so I really want to read it.

What would you buy? Leave a link to your Feature and Follow Friday in the comment section and I will stop by and check it out!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Rapture by Lauren Kate

*cover photo courtesy of Goodreads*

Title:  Rapture  
Author:  Lauren Kate
Genre:  Young Adult Paranormal
Publisher:  Random House Children’s Books
Format:  Digital Galley from NetGalley
Release Date:  June 12, 2012

*Please note, Rapture is the fourth book in the Fallen series by Lauren Kate. If you have not read the previous books, this review may contain spoilers.*

The sky is dark with wings….Like sand in an hourglass, time is running out for Luce and Daniel. To stop Lucifer from erasing the past they must find the place where angels fell to earth. Dark forces are after them, and Daniel doesn’t know if he can do this—live only to lose Luce again and again. Yet together they will face an epic battle that will end with lifeless bodies…and angel dust. Great sacrifices are made. Hearts are destroyed. And suddenly Luce knows what must happen. For she was meant to be with someone other than Daniel. The curse they’ve borne has always and only been about her—and the love she cast aside. The choice she makes now will be the only one that truly matters. In the fight for Luce, who will win? The astonishing conclusion to the Fallen series. Heaven can’t wait any longer. (Summary courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley)

Oh, the Fallen series. I first fell in love with this series right after the first book came out. My oldest daughter was reading it and she suggested I read it. Well since mom reads their books, I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The first book in the series, Fallen, came out in December of 2009, the second, Torment in September 2010, followed by Passion in June 2011 and now, at last, the final book, Rapture, was released June 12, 2012.  Waiting two and a half years to finally read this entire series, felt like, well, an eternity. I was really glad to finally get to the bottom of Luce’s story and find out the truth behind her love for Daniel. Lauren Kate managed to deliver a book full of twists and turns and revelations the reader just didn’t see coming.

I was a bit worried about reading Rapture, because I really had a hard time with Passion. I didn’t love it like I had the previous two books and reading Passion felt like a chore. That may have been because the chemistry, love and honestly, the passion between present-day Daniel and Luce was missing. The flashbacks of their previous lives and their love just wasn’t working for me. I was worried that Rapture would fail to bring that chemistry back. Fortunately, it didn’t fail. I really enjoyed the relationship between Daniel and Luce in this book, mostly because I felt like it came full circle. Luce was no longer just going along loving Daniel with no concept of the consequences or the circumstances of their previous lives. She finally understands what it means to love Daniel and she is okay with it. They are actually on equal footing in this book, which is a refreshing change. Daniel doesn’t always seem to like it (mostly due to his concern for her safety), but he deals with it fairly well. Luce falls easily into the role of Daniel’s equal, a place I believe she was always meant to be.

I would like to point out that if you read the summary, you saw that Luce was meant to be with someone else. Say whhhaaaattttt? That’s right, someone else. Not Daniel. Umm, I cry foul, good author, because as far as I’m concerned, Luce belongs only with Daniel. But apparently, that is not the case. This little fact added a whole new dimension to the story and kind of threw a monkey wrench into the great mechanism of destiny. So Luce isn’t actually destined to be with Daniel? How is that even possible? Oh, and guess what? Luce’s other love is NOT who you think it is. It might surprise you who it is. It did me. Can you say serious plot twist boys and girls? 

Rapture takes us, the reader, on a crazy ride. Kate pulls no punches with this book and no one is safe. People and angels die. I won’t say who, but be forewarned, not everyone makes it out alive. Sad, but true. I will admit that I shed a few tears as I read this book. The end really pulls at your heartstrings and puts forth a final test that left my mouth hanging open. Be prepared, because the rollercoaster ride starts as soon as you open the book and goes non-stop all the way.

I enjoyed Rapture, but I am glad that it is over. So many books stretch their stories out over years and at times it can very frustrating waiting for the next book (ahem, Mortal Instruments, ahem).  Especially when you realize as you are reading that the books actually only span about a two week time span. A two week time span that took more than two years to read. It’s nice to get to the end of a series, and have it end satisfactorily. If you haven’t read the Fallen series, I recommend reading it, especially because you can read all four books straight through. So grab it, settle in and get ready for an amazing ride.

My grade for Rapture by Lauren Kate:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes

*book image courtesy of Goodreads*

Title:  The Princesses of Iowa  
Author:  M. Molly Backes
Genre:  Young Adult Realistic Fiction 
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Format:  NetGalley Digital Galley
Release Date:  May 8, 2012

Paige Sheridan lives the perfect life. She’s pretty, rich, and popular, and her spot on the homecoming court is practically guaranteed. But when a night of partying ends in an “it-could-have-been-so-much-worse” crash, everything changes. Her best friends start ignoring her, her boyfriend grows cold and distant, and her once adoring younger sister now views her with contempt. The only bright spot is her creative writing class, led by a charismatic new teacher who encourages his students to be true to themselves. But who is Paige, if not the homecoming princess everyone expects her to be? In this arresting and witty debut, a girl who was once high school royalty must face a truth that money and status can’t fix, and choose between living the privileged life of a princess, or owning up to her mistakes and giving up everything she once held dear (Summary via NetGalley).

When you first start reading The Princesses of Iowa, you get the feeling that it will be another Mean Girls in print form, where the nasty mean queens that rule the world and school get their comeuppance in the end. Yes, there are nasty mean girls, and some of them do get their comeuppance in the end, but there is far more to the story than that. Instead of hearing the typical story of the bullied girl, the reader is given the unique perspective of the popular party girl who realizes this can’t be all that life is about. After walking away from a horrible car accident and being banished to Paris to work as an au pair (aka: slave labor) for the summer, Paige returns home to discover that things have changed. Or maybe she has changed.

Paige is an amazing character. Her ability to turn her life around and not succumb to the pressure put on her by her parents, friends, and teachers is nearly inspirational. But she did it in an understated manner. Backes manages to teach a lesson without shoving it down your throat and making it obvious from page one. She subtly suggests that being the person you want to be is the most important thing in the world. She deserves applause just for managing to do that while keeping the book interesting at the same time. At first Paige lets her friends and in particular her mother, define who she is and really who she wants to be. She doesn’t make decisions for herself, she wears what her mother tells her, she takes classes based on what her friends take, she drinks because her friends drink, she acts the way she acts because her friends act that way. She is almost like a robot, spouting out pre-programmed words according to what others want to hear. But all of that changes when Paige takes a creative writing class—coincidentally because she thought her boyfriend was taking it—and meets Mr. Tremont. He encourages her and the others in the class to embrace the world around them, to see the truth and to write what they feel. Paige starts to realize that maybe she can be the person she wants to be, not the person every one else thinks she should be.    

I found Backes to be a really good writer, able to create characters that are very realistic. Paige, Lacey and Nikki are the epitome of the pretty, popular girls who grew up in a small town. They reminded me of many of the girls I went to high school with in my small Montana town. The teenagers in the book even remind of those I grew up around, with nothing better to do than drink, gossip and fight.  Paige’s mom, Jacque, is probably one of the vilest mothers I have ever come across in a book. She is very critical about superficial crap—looks, weight, what people are wearing—most of which is directed toward her daughters. I could not find one redeeming quality in this character; she epitomizes all the bad parents in the world. But how much I hated her is a testament to Backes writing, she created a character I could really feel passion about. Backes also captured the attitude of people in a small town perfectly. The people of Willow Grove, Iowa embody many of the prejudicial attitudes of small mid-western towns. Beware, there are a lot of homosexual slurs in this book, some of which can be offensive. Sadly, that is how some of these tiny towns are and how the people in those towns raise their children. Backes really portrays this well.

I was actually surprised that I enjoyed The Princesses of Iowa as much as I did. I was coming off of a long run of reading contemporary young adult fiction, and I was a bit worn out from reading so much of it. So I started reading this book already a bit prejudiced toward it, for no other reason than it was contemporary fiction (I tend to prefer paranormal fiction). I am glad I let go of those prejudices and was able to enjoy the book. It’s very good and I highly recommend it. There are some themes in the book that would be better for older teens, so I suggest this book be read by high school age and up. I think they will enjoy it.

My grade for The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #39

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee's View and Alison at Alison Can Read.  It is a great way for bloggers to make new friends and find new blogs to follow. Go to either blog, follow ALL the instructions, and then add your link to the list. It's just that easy! 

This week's question:

What drove you to start book blogging in the first place?

I have several reasons. 

1)  I really do feel that I have something relevant to say about books. I am a mother of teenagers and I work with hundreds of teenagers as well, so I feel sort of qualified to discuss what books they might like to read. 

2)  To be honest, one of them was to get my hands on more books. One day, I was talking to a good friend of mine who is a librarian in NC and she asked me if I belonged to NetGalley. I responded with "What the heck is NetGalley?" After she told me about it and how she was able to read books BEFORE they came out, I nearly broke my fingers going to the website! I registered, looked over the books and sent in about four requests. 

3)  I had been batting the idea of a book blog around for awhile and I think that discussion about NetGalley was the push I needed. I had been posting reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing for quite awhile and I really liked it. I figured, why not? Somebody might want to hear what I have to say, right? 

So, I came over here to Blogger and spent about twenty minutes trying to figure out what to call my blog that would be original and memorable. I finally settled on the name and wrote an introduction post. I posted a few reviews--which make me laugh when I look at them now--for books I had recently read and waited to see if I would get any of my books from NetGalley. 

As I started blogging more and more, I realized that I could really promote parents reading the books that their children read. I strongly believe reading brings people closer and my daughters and I are living proof. 

How did you start blogging? Leave a link to your Feature and Follow Friday in the comment section and I will stop by and check it out!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fun Times in D.C.

My girls and I have returned from our excursion to the nation's capital. We had a great time! Of course, we would visit when the city was experiencing record highs. There is something to be said for Arizona and it's dry heat! This was the last trip my oldest daughter would make with the marching band, as she graduated high school in May. Here's a few pictures from our trip:

This is my girls and I in front of the White House.

We sat on the Capital lawn for the fireworks. This was our view; so gorgeous.

The girls in front of part of the FDR Memorial. It was 105 and horrible humidity. We were ready to come home.

The last morning at the hotel. Very tired, very hot and ready to leave.

My girls in front of the United States Marine Corps Memorial--Iwo Jima. Very impressive memorial.

The girls at the Lincoln Memorial.

This is me giving a dinosaur a drink at King's Dominion Theme Park.

This is only six of the almost 400 pictures I took. We had a lot of fun, but we are glad to be home. I will resume posting reviews later this week! Hope you all have a great week!