This book made me physically angry - I want to punch something, particularly Dave Eggers. I refuse to give it any more of my time and, as such, refuse...moreThis book made me physically angry - I want to punch something, particularly Dave Eggers. I refuse to give it any more of my time and, as such, refuse to write a review. (less)
This book was comprised of a number of essays featuring Betty's opinions on everything from Red Carpets to Getting Older. The writing is sprinkled wit...moreThis book was comprised of a number of essays featuring Betty's opinions on everything from Red Carpets to Getting Older. The writing is sprinkled with stories from Betty's past which add an incredible sweetness. It is humorous and touching while impressing upon the reader that Betty White is, in fact, down-to-earth, accessible and endearing. (less)
Cover Impressions: I really like this cover. The colors are muted but eye-catching. You...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: I really like this cover. The colors are muted but eye-catching. You get just enough of a feel for the setting of the book and I LOVE that the cupcake dresses are featured.
The Gist: Phoebe Swift has suffered a terrible loss. Riddled with guilt and regret, she removes every trace of her old life and sets up Village Vintage, a vintage clothing shop, in the hopes of burying herself so fully in her business that she does not have time to dwell on the past. In sourcing clothing for her shop, Phoebe encounters Therese Bell, an elderly woman with painful past of her own. Through the tale of a child's blue coat, both women will come to a new understanding of love, loss and regret.
Review: In moving to a new school this year, I found myself in the thick of traffic for the first time since I started working. In an attempt to circumvent the frustration of the bumper to bumper drive, I turned to the audio of A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff. The narrator, Violet Mathieson, had a wonderful voice couple with a beautiful accent. She was also quite skilled in creating voices and accents for each of the characters. A Vintage Affair so enraptured me that I actually looked forward to getting stuck in traffic as it ensured me a few more moments in that world.
The characters themselves are almost all deeply flawed and beautifully broken. The pain of both Phoebe and Mrs. Bell was palpable, as was the love for their lost friends and their regret at not having made different choices. Supporting them, was a cast of men and women who all had issues of their own and who evoked in the reader a sense of understanding and sadness. There are no villains here.
The descriptions in this novel made me long to walk into Village Vintage, to hear the bell tinkle overhead and to trace my hand along some of the beautiful fabrics that were sure to greet me. If you have not developed a love of vintage clothing already, A Vintage Affair will certainly set you on that path. I, personally, have fantasies of a deep purple cupcake dress.
While this novel is not exactly fast paced, it doesn't lag either. The stories unfold themselves in intervals and, more often than not, the readers sneaking suspicions are proved correct. The true beauty in this novel lies in the underlying humanity behind the characters' actions and the pain and regret that is so relatable by anyone who has suffered a loss.
I highly recommend a venture into the painful and poignant world that Isabel Wolff has created. (less)
Cover Impressions: Meh. Not a fan. The color is awful and clashes grossly with the "Reco...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Meh. Not a fan. The color is awful and clashes grossly with the "Recorded Books" bands. I am not a fan of the all small letter title and author name, nor of the odd picture in the corner. It all feels a little hipster to me and I'm not sure that I am cool enough for it.
The Gist: Charlie is starting his first year of High School. Feeling more than a little scared, he begins writing letters to a mysterious reader and chronicles the life of he and his newfound friends. His letters are filled with astute observations and a frank openness that allows a rare glimpse into the mind of a sensitive, damaged, and troubled young man who is struggling to find himself.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was one of those books that I think I enjoyed more as an audio book than I would have as a physical book. The narrative is told through the letters that Charlie writes to a mysterious reader. This format would appear to be rather limiting but it actually works quite well in allowing an in-depth glimpse into the mind of a very intelligent, but damaged young man.
Charlie does not view the world the way that an average 16 year old would. He feels things and notices things that others would simply pass by. He is also maddeningly selfless, to the point where he allows others to hurt him, rather than speak out against their actions. Below the surface, however, lies a font of anger and the possibility of violence. Charlie is the type of character that you want to hug. Entering is world makes me wonder about my own students and what issues they might be dealing with that we can never see.
The other characters were so fascinating and compelling that I am a little disappointed in never being able to see their side of the story. I would actually be very happy if Chbosky were to write two companion novels chronicling that one year of high school but from Sam and Patrick's points of view. The reason I chose to finally read this book, was because of the trailer and the casting of Emma Watson as Sam. Having finished the book, I can now say that I am very much looking forward to seeing the movie and I hope they do these wonderful characters justice.
I would like to note that this is not a book that I would place in my junior high classroom. There are many instances of drug use, sex and violence that would make me recommend it for an older audience.
Age: 16 and up (AT LEAST!) Gender: Both Sex: Masturbation, Rape, Molestation, Heterosexual Sex, Homosexual Sex Violence: Fighting, Rape, Suicide Inappropriate Language: Fuck, Queer, Faggot, Pussy Substance Use/Abuse: Marijuana use, Smoking, Underage Drinking, Use of LSD(less)
Cover Impressions: The cover has some beautiful elements but, for me, it feels like it i...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover has some beautiful elements but, for me, it feels like it is missing something. The script is stunning, the trees create a fantastically creepy atmosphere, but I keep looking for something else to rest my eye upon and there just isn't anything. If I were designing this cover - I would have added a full moon so we at least had a focal point.
The Gist: Ethan Wate is counting down the days until he can escape the small town of Gatlin. He spends his days barely tolerating his classmates and his nights struggling to hold on to a girl that he has never met. When Lena Duchannes arrives at Stonewall Jackson High School, everyone can tell she is different. Ethan finds himself seeking her out and will soon discover that they have a mysterious and powerful connection.
Review: I have encountered this book (and the others in the series) off an on throughout my forays through the world of YA. In reading the synopsis, however, the whole mysterious romantic connection turned me off from picking up the book. Then I encountered the trailer for the movie to be released in 2013 and it looked so good I just had to give the book a shot and decided to try the audio version.
Let me tell you, it was loooooooooong. Normally, I find audiobooks make my commute better and make dealing with traffic a heck of a lot easier (just more time for the book!). But this one left me frustrated. I found myself yelling at the characters as they whined about their lives. Boo hoo, my home town is boring (Ethan) Wah Wah my life is weird and full of magic (Lena). I swear, if I heard Lena say "I am going to go dark" one more time I was going to throw my ipod under the wheels of a semi. It was even more irritating because the underlying plot was great. It had lots of mystery, great settings and interesting characters. But it seemed that just as I was getting some answers and seeing the plot progress, we would revert to moody Lena, queen of complaining. I really wanted to shake her - you have super-fun powers, DO SOMETHING WITH THEM! While Beautiful Creatures had a wonderfully creepy setting and some fantastically exciting scenes, there was just too long in between them and I got tired of waiting.
I was not a huge fan of the narrator, though he was competent enough. However, at one point, the narration switches to Lena and a female voice. I did not like her at all! This new narrator displayed little to no emotion and it completely pulled me from the world that the author had created. Because this occurred during a particularly important and action-filled section of the book, it was incredibly jarring and ruined those emotional moments for me.
This book is also guilty of perpetrating one of my pet peeves: the uncaring school. As a teacher, I take a real offense when I encounter books that feature teachers and administration who turn a blind eye to the blatant bullying that occurs in their school. I take a special offense when the teachers and administration become and active part of the problem. Yes, there are bad teachers out there. Yes, there are bad principals out there. But the majority of us did not get into this profession so that we could ignore the obvious distress of our students.
The ending of Beautiful Creatures left me unsatisfied. There were just too many questions left unanswered and, while I want the answers to them, I am just not willing to read/listen to the next book just yet. Especially as other reviewers have noted that it is even more angsty than the first.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing Violence: Fist-fighting, Magical attacks, Stabbing Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Piss (there may be others but I forget) Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking, cigar smoking (less)
Cover Impressions: Definitely interesting. Stands out from the typical YA cover. Love th...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Definitely interesting. Stands out from the typical YA cover. Love the font and the red shoe. Will fit nicely with the cover for Scarlet, can't wait to see the covers for the two after that.
The Gist: In this updated re-telling of the classic Cinderella story, Cinder, a cyborg, lives with her horrid adoptive mother and two sisters. Her city of New Bejing has been decimated by a mysterious plague and no one can find a cure. When a chance encounter with the sought after Prince Kai and a brush with the plague brings Cinder under scrutiny, she begins to learn about who she was before her surgery and the important role that she may play in the country's security.
Review: I don't normally go in for Sci Fi novels. Which will explain why I didn't get around to this book until a year after the release date. I was finally tempted by the great reviews and the fairy tale aspect.
The character of Cinder is interesting, if occasionally infuriating. She refuses to believe that she is anything special and has a lot of difficulty standing up for herself. She has a tendency to talk herself out of taking any action and this often drove me to distraction. At the same time, she is clearly a caring individual (in a world seeming to be populated with the most unfeeling of citizens) and with wonderfully sarcastic wit. Her step-mother, Audrey was cold and calculating, but at times came off as bit too cartoonish in her hatred. I loved the addition of a sympathetic sister and cheered Marissa Meyer on in being able to make some difficult choices as to the fate of her characters. I truly enjoyed Prince Kai and could feel a real spark between him and Cinder. I really was rooting for them to finally get it together (ie for Cinder to stop fighting the inevitable) and was horrified by the unwanted advances of Queen Levana.
The plot was fairly predictable and I really hope that Meyer didn't intend the final big revelation to actually be a big revelation for the reader. I did enjoy the unexpected twists on the Cinderella story and the reversal of the plot (ending with the ball instead of starting with it). It allowed the book to be based on the fairy tale, but with enough originality to be given its own life. I especially liked the tidbits that alluded to future characters and allowed me to wonder where this might lead in future novels.
The ending was a little unsatisfying. I kept seeing the minutes tick away and thinking "she can't possibly end it without more resolution". I guess I was hoping for some emotional or romantic payoff - all that chemistry for nothing! I can deal with the cliffhanger ending this time, but I really hope Meyer doesn't make it a habit.
For those interesting in the audiobook, it is voiced by Rebecca Soler, who is wonderful. Her pacing is good, her voice is fantastic and she is able to pull of a number of accents throughout the book.
Bring on Scarlet!
Age: 12 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing Violence: Mind Control, Gunplay Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking Other Issues: Descriptions of Medical Procedures (less)
Cover Impressions: Not a big fan of the cover. The imagery itself is kind of bland and I...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Not a big fan of the cover. The imagery itself is kind of bland and I think that having the author on the cover is a little cheesy.
The Gist: Carson Phillips is determined to escape his small town and gain early acceptance into Northwestern University - the first step on his way to becoming the editor of The New Yorker. But, just being brilliant and maintaining an impeccable GPA isn't enough anymore. In order to stand out from the crowd, Carson starts a literary magazine, but in order to get submissions, he must resort to blackmailing his fellow students
Review: From the very first line, I loved the main character. Carson Phillips is snarky and snarly and too smart for his own good. He is surrounded by people who either ridicule him, hold him back or downright sabotage him. I loved reading his dialogue with the other characters, but the introspection tended to get a little repetitive and droning.
The other characters helped support the story without stealing the spotlight. I loved Carson's dedicated relationship with his Grandmother. Having watched a grandparent suffering with altzheimer's, I found his interactions based in reality - from the hope that springs forth on the good days to the humor that can be found in the smallest moments and the devastation that comes from the worst of days. I also enjoyed the complex relationships that Carson had with his parents and wanted to shake/strangle both of them (at one point I was actually screaming at stereo because I was so mad at his mother's actions).
The writing is much tighter than I expected from a first time author who is, primarily, an actor. Except for those moments of lagging introspection, the plot moved quickly. I was with Carson every step of the way and felt his consternation with every setback. The one thing that did lose me was the ending. Naturally, I can't really speak of it without giving anything away but, suffice to say, it left me asking "the fuck dude?" and wanting to call up the author, begging for a re-write.
Overall, I really enjoyed Struck by Lightning and am looking forward to seeing how the film version holds up.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Instance of sex between teacher/student - no description Violence: Bullying Inappropriate Language: Lots Substance Use/Abuse: Marijuana Use (less)
Cover Impressions: This cover works really well with that of the first in the series. I...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: This cover works really well with that of the first in the series. I love the font treatment and how the author's name is incorporated. The muted colors are reflective of the tone. I am really happy that Elizabeth is also featured on this one and the pose suggests familiarity and closeness without leaning to romance.
The Gist: Having failed to save his twin brother from the clutches of death, Victor Frankenstein is ready to leave the world of the occult behind but, it seems, the fate is not quite finished with him. He stumbles upon a portal to the spirit world and finds his brother in a strange, in-between state. With his new found power and confidence, Victor, Elizabeth and Henry promise to bring Konrad back - by any means possible. Even if it means dabbling in dark forces that they may not be able to control.
Such Wicked Intent tells the story of Victor Frankenstein's first steps on the path to creating one of the most feared and villified creatures in the literary world. Victor is an incredible character who is both magnetic and repulsive. The reader cannot help but root for him, even when he shows the most vile characteristics. He is accompanied by is friend, Henry who, in this installment, shows some depth of character and begins to step out from behind the shadow of the Frankenstein twins. While the other characters were interesting and complex, can someone please explain to me the draw of Elizabeth? Is she the only teenage girl that these boys have been exposed to? Why does EVERYONE fall in love with her? In the first half of the book, she was shrill, annoying and nauseating in her piousness. It is not until the spirit world begins to reveal the cracks in her perfect persona that I begin to even be able to tolerate her. I often found myself rolling my eyes or even yelling at her for her actions (a common practice I have developed with irritating characters in audio books).
The creatures in this book are pretty terrifying. One in the very obvious, deep down gut kind of terror and the other in the much more sinister, there's something wrong but I can't quite put my finger on it kind of way. I absolutely loved the treatment of the butterflies and the crucial part that they played throughout the entire book. I couldn't help hearing the voice of Bart Simpson in my head "Nobody ever suspects the butterfly..." The world building in Such Wicked Intent was incredibly detailed. The laws behind the Spirit World were clear and the possibilities that this setting opened up were endless. It was clear from the beginning that the power held there would be far too tempting for Victor's own good, but it was also interesting to see the impact that it had on the other characters.
The pacing of this novel was spot on. The darker aspects of the character's nature lend well to the sense of building tension. There are some true moments of excitement and terror as we watch the characters explore the new world that has opened itself and battle the monsters that it has breathed forth. I do hope that any further books will take the story beyond the halls of Chateau Frankenstein. One could suspend disbelief at it having secret passageways, staircases and libraries but to now add a mysterious cave filled with dark and dangerous drawings - eventually the teens are going to have to search beyond the ancestral home for their next adventure.
I did have a few issues with the narrator for this audio book. His voices for the young male characters were a little too close for easy understanding, but it was his female characters that were downright laughable. They always came out oddly breathy and over-dramatic. I was very glad that there were not more of them and that, other than Elizabeth, they didn't have much to say.
I actually enjoyed Such Wicked Intent much more than the first in the series - a feat that happens very rarely. I have not yet seen anything to indicate that there will be a third book, but I certainly hope that this is the case.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Fist Fighting, Swordplay, Attempted Rape Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Cover Impressions: Pretty. Not quite as interesting as the cover for Cinder, but it fits the theme well and I do love that color red.
The Gist: While Cinder attempts to escape from prison and her upcoming execution by Queen Lavana, Scarlet Benoit is desperately searching for her missing grandmother. She meets up with Wolf, a street fighter with a mysterious tattoo that may be connected to the disappearance and the two plan to take on an entire gang of mercenaries. As Scarlet searches for the truth, she uncovers secrets about her grandmother, her family and their mysterious connection to the missing Lunar Princess.
I listened to both Cinder and Scarlet as an audiobook. I have to admit, I found the whole Sci-Fi/Fairy Tale Mash Up little predictable in Cinder. I felt like Cinder was always two steps behind and I was just waiting for her to catch up. In Scarlet, however, the plot did not follow the fairy tale quite as closely and I found it to be much more suspenseful. I had a vague idea that eventually the characters would find one another but I really was in the dark about how the rest of the story would develop and how the grandmother and wolf elements would be incorporated.
The romance develops quickly, but is not instant and, by the end, is very believable and sweet. I am a big fan of multi-faceted characters and Wolf certainly fits the bill - one never really knows where his loyalties lie. I loved the character of Thorne; thief extraordinaire and lover of all things female, he was an excellent addition to the cast of characters and added some well-needed comic relief. Scarlet was not my favorite from the very beginning and I found myself anxiously awaiting Cinder's chapters, but she did grow on me. In fact, when she finally met up with Cinder, I was cheering on her take-no-prisoners attitude and giving her kudos for being the only character to tell Cinder off.
Meyer still doesn't shy away from killing off important characters. One particular death left me sad and angry in a way that only the best books can. The manner of deaths vary and are often gruesome. Scarlet features some very tense scenes involving some truly terrifying characters. The pacing is well done and I was on the edge of my seat for much of the book. This novel clearly set up for the third installment in the series but had a strong enough plot to be satisfying all on its own.
Scarlet featured quite a few accents and the narrator of the audiobook did a very good job of the distinguishing the characters without allowing them to overpower the dialogue. I was very happy to note that there is a marked difference between the voices of Scarlet and Cinder.
Time to start counting down the days until Cress is released!
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Gunplay, Knifeplay, Mind Control, Torture, Animalistic Attacks Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Title: World After Author: Susan Ee Publisher: Brilliance Audio/Skyscape Release Date: November 19, 2013 Rating: 3/5
Cover Impressions: The cover works ver...moreTitle: World After Author: Susan Ee Publisher: Brilliance Audio/Skyscape Release Date: November 19, 2013 Rating: 3/5
Cover Impressions: The cover works very well with the one for the first novel. I love the difference of the bat wings this time and am hoping that is an indicator that we will get lots of Raffe this time around as well.
Review: World After picks up directly where Angelfall left off, with Penryn back with her family - but paralyzed and left for dead. As she begins to stir, the member of the resistance are shocked to find her alive and wary of both her, her taser wielding mother and her stitched and strange baby sister.
When the hunger drives Paige to unspeakable acts, a mob chases her away and Penryn sets forth once again to reunite her family. This time, without Raffe. Her search takes her deeper into the Angel's territory and reveals their nefarious plans for human beings and the world.
The world, this time around is especially bleak. I couldn't seem to find any hope that the human race is going to survive and it is made the book a little difficult to get through. There were very few moments of triumph or even simple success, compounded by the fact that any gains made by the human race in the last book are quickly revealed to have had no impact whatsoever.
This novel is incredibly dark and has some really disturbing scenes of violence. I found it particularly difficult, as a mother, to listen to the scenes involving parents being separated from their children. About halfway through, another blogger mentioned that this series is meant to be 5 books. I am entirely sure that I could handle this level of hopelessness for that many more novels. I feel like the battle between angels and humans is like a man and a mosquito and I seriously need a win on the human's side before I die from frustration.