30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1

Okay, I’ve challenged myself to read a book-a-day this month. Each week I’ll do a post on what I’ve read. I figured it’s a way to keep me honest and share my thoughts in a quick style.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton
Release Date: July 28th 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 256
Source: Library

A spine-tingling collection of ghost stories! When a boy finds himself drawn into an empty house one cold night, he enters a room in which twelve unusual-looking people sit around a table. And the thirteenth chair is pulled out for him. One by one, each of those assembled tells their own ghost story: tales of doom and death; of ghostly creatures and malevolent spirits; of revenge and reward. It is only at the end of the night that the boy starts to understand what story he must tell . . .

None of the short stories are super creepy, but most of them are a fun read. This is a great one for those in 5th – 8th grade, especially if they love Goosebumps. The end is a bit open ended and it would be an interesting discussion to see what teens thought happened to Jack at the end.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1FLAWD by Emily-Anne Rigal Jeanne Demers
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher

When you look in the mirror and only see your flaws, it can be hard to be your best self.   FLAWD is your new cheerleader—an energetic guide to seeing your flaws as the doorway to something more.

Through dynamic stories and advice from teens and celebrities around the world, FLAWD will help you to: ·       SEE yourself as perfectly imperfect. ·       TREAT life as playfully as possible. ·       THINK about what really matters. ·       EMBRACE all that makes you, YOU. ·       UNDERSTAND influence and how to use it. ·       KNOW you can be part of a flawd and powerful transformation.   Even though we exist in a culture that thrives on bullying us into believing we're never good enough as we are, FLAWD affirms that you are good enough, ready enough and important enough to be a flawd light in the world.   Are you ready to become fearless with your flaws and change the world by being yourself? Then FLAWD is the book for you.

“Not only does Emily-Anne have strong convictions and a beautiful soul, but she has taken action against bullying. Her actions have had such an immediate and enormous impact on the world already.” —Lady Gaga

From the Trade Paperback edition.

This one was so-so for me. It had some fundamentally good advice, but none of it really clicked for me. I like my advice/self-help/esteem booster books to be one where I’m constantly marking pages. I have a few spots I marked, but not a lot. I’m not sure if this is one of those miss the marks because I’m an adult or one that just really missed the mark period.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1If You Wrong Us by Dawn Klehr
Release Date: October 8th 2015
Pages: 240
Source: Library

After a car crash steals the lives of two people they love, Becca and Johnny become obsessed with a common cause. Officially, the crash is an accident. But Becca and Johnny are convinced: someone did this. As they plot revenge against the person responsible, a bond—intense, unyielding, and manic—takes hold of them. And in an unexpected turn of events, they fall for each other. Or so they think. In an upside-down world where decay is beautiful and love and hate become one, Becca and Johnny find themselves grappling with reality. Nothing is exactly what it seems, including what they’ve come to believe about the crash. The question is: will they learn the truth before it’s too late? No, the question is: when they learn the truth, will they care?

I wanted to love this book so much, but couldn’t. I’m going to do a longer review on this later this week, but the amount of passages I marked for being problematic bothered me. It was a fast-paced read that I would have easily given to reluctant readers had it not caused me to be so grumbly.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: The Scorpion Rules #1
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 384
Source: Library

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.
Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.
As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

I love, love, LOVE the concept of this book. I’ve noticed this one is a hit or miss for most people. I’m still not sure where I stand on it yet. The plot I loved, but there’s something about the relationships that is nagging me. I want to do a longer of this one, but I’m waiting for one of my friends to read it first and hash out what I’m feeling with her. I also want to go back and read some of the passages to see if I can get a firmer grip on why they bother me. It’s still one I recommend checking out, even with the possible problematic bits.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1The Devil Is a Part-Timer, Vol. 2 (manga) by Satoshi Wagahara
Series: The Devil is a Part-Timer #2
Release Date: April 26th 2016
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 176
Source: Library

Old Friends, new enemies! In the Sasazuka neighborhood of the Shibuya district of Tokyo, newly minted part-time burger-flipper and former Devil King Satan (now known as Sadao Maou) clashes with Lucifer, a fallen angel who used to serve him! But how will the onetime king deal with his rival now that his magic power's run dry? Now that the devil is one of us, he's going to have to get creative!

I didn’t love this vol as much as vol 1. There’s a lot of new characters and it’s a little hard to keep track of them all. However, I still love the premise of the Devil King Satan becoming a good guy basically because he lost his powers and feel in love with the human world. This whole questioning what is evil and what is not and if there can be a grey area is fun. So, while this one wasn’t as fun as the first one, I’m still highly interested to see where the series goes.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida
Series: Tokyo Ghoul #2
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Pages: 208
Source: Library

Ghouls live among us, the same as normal people in every way—except their craving for human flesh. Ken Kaneki is an ordinary college student until a violent encounter turns him into the first half-human half-ghoul hybrid. Trapped between two worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn more about Ghoul society and master his new powers.

Unable to discard his humanity but equally unable to suppress his Ghoul hunger, Ken finds salvation in the kindness of friendly Ghouls who teach him how to pass as human and eat flesh humanely. But recent upheavals in Ghoul society attract the police like wolves to prey, and they don’t discriminate between conscientious and monstrous Ghouls.

This is easily becoming one of my favorite mangas. I know vol 2 may be a little early to say that, but man, I am loving it so far. This was was less gory by far than the first one. To me this is neither good nor bad, but I know some people had a bit of trouble with the goriness of the first one. This is another manga that is pushing what is good/what is bad lines. With Keneki being both ghoul and human now, he doesn’t know quite where to put his alliance. It’ll be interesting to see how he changes as the series continues.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1First Love Monster by Akira Hiyoshimaru
Series: First Love Monster #2
Release Date: October 27th 2015
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 176
Source: Library

Kaho isn't a thing. You can't treat girls like objects. Although high schooler Kaho and fifth grader Kanade have started dating, Kaho is constantly at the mercy of Kanade's childish whims. And when a mysterious hottie with a Kansai accent--whom Kanade happens to call "Aniki"--arrives, will unimaginable trials await the couple's blossoming love?! A fast-paced super-love comedy filled with madcap heart-throbbing mayhem!

This manga is just….weird. I just don’t know how to feel about it. I mean, it’s a high schooler dating a 5th grader, which just ew. However, I love the innocent sweetness  of exploring your first love time thing. There’s absolutely nothing “more” happening (even though she thinks it’s coming at some points), but it’s still just a bit creepy. I’ll give this one a vol or two more before I abandon it completely.

 

Book Review: The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys


Book Review: The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect BoysThe (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys by Barbara Dee
Release Date: Sept. 30, 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

According to Finley and her BFF, Maya, middle school boys can be put into three separate categories: tadpoles, croakers, and frogs. Per their official Life Cycle of Amphibian Boys, while tadpoles are totally not developed yet (read: boys who still love fart jokes and can’t have a normal conversation with girls without making fun of them), a frog is the top of the boy food chain—evolved and mature. Sadly, not many boys have reached that elusive frog status at Staunton Middle School. Finley thought she had everyone pegged, until Zachary Mattison enters the picture. After suddenly leaving the year before, Zachary’s surprise reappearance at SMS forces Finley to see him in a new light. And when the official life cycle list falls into the wrong hands, it causes a battle between the boys and girls that turns into an all-out war—one that Finley isn’t sure anyone can really win...

I’ll admit I went into this book expecting a fluffy romance, but instead got something that was more  about friendship and growing up. Finley experiences all sorts of growing pains throughout the book and her relationship with Maya is something she struggles with the most. Maya hit the boy-crazy stage before Finley, something that puts them on a slightly uneven footing. Finley hates that Maya is constantly telling her she doesn’t understand boys. Sure, she may not have had a boyfriend, but does that mean she doesn’t know anything about boys? She thinks not and it’s the source of many fights. I love how realistic their friendship felt. Relationships, even with your best friend, are rarely smooth sailing. You have fight-you make up, it’s all about being on a roller coaster and just hanging on. This is magnified even more in middle school, when emotions and hormones are all over the place, and even the smallest thing can cause an upset. I really liked how Dee  perfectly captured that and how they worked through it. (Even if it did take a little nudging from her mom.)

Finley’s budding crush was captured well, too. She didn’t want to really admit she had feeling for Zachary, but it was obvious that she did. And it was equally as obvious that he felt the same. Well, maybe obvious to everyone but Finley. I couldn’t help but smile as she lamented over him calling her and talking to her whenever he could. I just wanted to pat her hand and tell her it was okay, he just like-liked her. Although, I did have a small issue with her getting mad about his CINCH acronym, especially since it wasn’t much different that what she was doing with the Life Cycle of Amphibian Boys. The only real difference was his was about how to get close to the girls he liked and hers was about weeding out who was datable and who was not. I know Finley doesn’t see the Life Cycle like this at first (if ever really), but it’s truly what it’s about. Of course, on that same note, Zachary starting the war over the Life Cycle seems just as silly. Although, I do believe he was more upset that she lied and insulted him (and the other boys) than the Life Cycle itself.

Speaking of the Life Cycle and the war, it’s hard not to cringe when Finley walks back into the room and hears two of her classmates reading the Life Cycle notes allowed. I’m sure we’ve all been there, at least on some level. That moment something personal, and maybe a little uncool, is announced to everyone. My heart totally went out for her. The war that follows is a bit silly and realistic, but works well in the book. I like that it stayed relatively innocent when it could have become something that was much meaner. How they resolved the war, felt a bit too mature/level headed, but it wasn’t too far out of the bounds of being plausible. (Mainly, I’m not used to working with teens that are that mature! Usually, it takes prodding from me for them to work out their dramas.)

Overall, if I had to use one word to describe The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys it would be cute. I already know this will be included on my list of book talks when I go school visiting in May. Perfect for those tween girls, especially those looking for “clean” reads.

Audiobook Review: Perfect


Audiobook Review: PerfectPerfect by Ellen Hopkins
Series: Impulse #2
Release Date: September 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 622
Source: Publisher

Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there.

Cara’s parents’ unrealistic expectations have already sent her twin brother Conner spiraling toward suicide. For her, perfect means rejecting their ideals to take a chance on a new kind of love. Kendra covets the perfect face and body—no matter what surgeries and drugs she needs to get there. To score his perfect home run—on the field and off—Sean will sacrifice more than he can ever win back. And Andre realizes that to follow his heart and achieve his perfect performance, he’ll be living a life his ancestors would never have understood.

Everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go? What would you give up to be perfect?

Plot: There is something about the strive for perfection that I can relate to. I suppose that we can all relate to. That balance between becoming what your parents wish and what you wish is tricky. And when you’re 16…17…18…it’s hard to make your parent see you are more than just a silly child and that your dreams are not fantasies. While the means to get there may be different, the basic strive to perfect is fundamentally the same.

Out of four character Hopkins presents, Cara was my favorite. I related to her struggle the most out of all of them. I kind of adored all the scenes with Dani and the way she sent Cara’s world upside down (in a mainly good way.) Had I been reading the print version, I would have had to force myself not to skip ahead to her parts. I hate everything she is put through due to Sean, but I love the way that Dani helps her through, too. I believe out of the four she is the one that grew the most through the story and has one of the most hopeful, bright futures ahead of her. Among all the sadness she somehow finds a way to be who she really is.

I would be remiss not to mention Andre. He came in pretty close behind Cara as my favorite, although, I felt like he had the least to overcome. Still, I love how he had a good head on his shoulders and was by far the most grounded. Love may have made him do crazy things, but he never lost that cool, level headed thinking. His dreams may not line up with his parents, but he that making money wasn’t all there was to life. The whole doing what you love above all and you’ll find a way to pay the bills is a message I try to sell daily. Andre’s parent may not be happy, but he’ll go far–and maybe even earn his own mansion on the hill.

Audio: Hopkins has a way with words that truly makes her the Queen of Verse. Perfect is no exception, and for me, was brought to a whole new level via the audio book. Hearing the words spoken aloud really turned up the wow factor. With each character having their own distinct voice, they became real like, tangible, as if I were listening to one of my best friends talk.

I will admit there was a little confusion as to who was who at first, especially between Cara and Kendra, but once I had the voices down I was set. Honestly, I’m not sure if the mix-up would have disappeared so fast if I had been reading the print version; if only because Kendra and Cara were so closely tied together/had a lot in common. For example, they were both cheerleaders, both popular, and both loved Connor. However, their paths to perfection are quite different so I would have gotten it straight, but hearing their voices made it much easier.

My only complaint about doing audio for Perfect is I missed the different typography that Hopkins brings to her novels. I was able to pick up some in the way she ended and began a character with the same word/ideas, but the rest just doesn’t translate to audio. While the audio worked brilliantly nor do I regret choosing it over print, but I do plan on flipping through a print version to see what subtle messages Hopkins added through it.

Have you read Perfect? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought!

Audiobook Review: The Unwanteds


Audiobook Review: The UnwantedsThe Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
Series: The Unwanteds #1
Release Date: August 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 390
Source: Publisher

When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill: Each year all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination

It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called ArtimÉ. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.

But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of ArtimÉ that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

Plot: The tagline says Harry Potter meets Hunger Games, but I’m not quite sure it fits. I’ve been saying The Unwanteds is what would happen if Matched, Unwind, & Harry Potter had a baby. While there were elements that I had seen in other books, nothing quite like what McMann brought to life. A world that almost instantly drew me in and didn’t let go. The story was fast paced and enjoyable from start to end. Alex can be moody and whiny at times, but he and his group of friends were great characters. I kind of wish the friends, especially Samheed and Lani, had gotten more page time, but overall they were a nice rounded group.

I think the other thing I would have liked to seen more of was Quill and maybe even ArtimÉ. Don’t get me wrong McMann paints a decent picture of both, but I would have liked to have seen the people/creatures/things in each world a little more. We actually see very little of Quill. It is mainly through flashbacks and through Aaron’s eyes, which both felt a little jaded to me. I would have like to have seen the world through Samheed’s eyes a bit more–he was one of the few characters who had loved Quill, but wasn’t a complete monster. With ArtimÉ, there was just so much. I would have liked to learn more about the past student/families and the various creatures that lived there. And OH, the blackboards. I could have done with a lot more interaction with them!

The battle that comes is of no surprise. McMann foreshadows that almost from page one. However, the twist and turns that happen during the battle are nice. There were several things I had not seen coming and was pleasantly surprised, even if it did wrap the plot up into a nice little bow. I’m not sure if McMann is planning to turn this into a series, there is certainty room to, but works well as a stand-alone. And while a little on the larger side, I think this quick read is perfect for MG reluctant readers.

Audio/Narrator: There is something to be said about good narrators. Often they are what make an audio book and Simon Jones is no exception. There were a couple of his voices that took me a bit to get used to — like Simba’s and a couple women’s voices — but once I did they worked perfectly. Ms. Octavia was probably my favorite voice; the southern sweet drawl he used fit her like a glove. The different voices Jones used helped distinguish the character and really brought them and the world to life. I enjoyed his narration/story so much I even brought the discs into work with me one day so I could continue to listen.  It goes without saying that I would happily listen to any book that he narrates in the future.

Have you read/listened to The Unwanteds? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought!

 

Book Review: Forbidden


Book Review: ForbiddenForbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Release Date: June 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 454
Source: Publisher

A shocking, heartbreaking story of taboo romance that’s as compelling as it is controversial.Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As de facto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: A love this devastating has no happy ending.

I’ve been watching my cursor blink for the last thirty minutes as I tried to decide how to write this review. All I can think over and over is that this is the hardest review I have ever attempted to write. I have so many thoughts about this book and it’s been increasingly difficult to express them coherently. How strange is it to say I completely and utterly enjoyed a book about incest. It feels so wrong to say, but Forbidden was a heart breaking story that sucked me in and didn’t let go, even after the book ended.

Lochan and Maya are the eldest of five siblings. Their father has left them, their mother has essential as well, which leaves the two of them to care for the household. At seventeen and sixteen this is no easy task. When they should only be worrying about school, they must instead also worry about bills and keeping food on the table. Oh, and they have to make sure no one finds out else they risk social services coming in and splitting them up. It’s a shaky, chaotic world to say the least; one where Lochan and Maya have only each other to rely on. At thirteen months apart, they’ve been more like best friends than siblings. Well, and maybe a little more. When an attraction blooms between them, Lochan and Maya have to face a grave decision. Can they honestly cross that forbidden line in order to follow their hearts?

I will admit this tale will make many people uncomfortable. Suzuma does not sugar coat the relationship. Nor does she glorify it. Lochan and Maya are in a constant struggle of should they or shouldn’t they, knowing that incest is illegal and even sick. They know what they feel is unnatural, but at the same time they can’t help the emotions that overtake them. Considering everything they’ve been put through, it’s hard not to understand how they ended up on that path. Suzuma will have you wishing they could somehow find the happiness they truly deserve.

My only real complaint is I have no idea how to sell this to teens. While those who have read Flowers in the Attic will have an easier time with Forbidden than others, it’s not an easy book to necessarily recommend. It’s not something like Divergent where I can put into teen hands without a second thought. I can only imagine how many I would scare away or parent complaints I would get when I say I have this amazing book on incest. However, it will be in my library. I’m still brainstorming ways I can highlight it, without wrath/challenges coming down on me. My best solution at the moment is to do an “issues” book list; one that tackles life hard and uncomfortable issues. If anyone else has a suggestion, please let me know!