Friday, March 29, 2013

my favorite dystopian serial novels

Hunger Games / Catching Fire / MockingJay - Suzanne Collins
These were one of the first YA dystopian series I read. I fell in love with the plight of the characters and the energy and tension of the story. While the second two books were also good, as a stand along, the first is my favorite. I assume most readers will know of these already so I won't recap their plots.

Maybe it's due to the covers, but I get these next ones confused all the time. if you asked, I could now, of the top of my head, tell you which each are about

Divergent / Insurgent / #3 - Veronica Roth
Set in Chicago, the world is divided into five factions, each focused on a particular virture. At the age of 16, each citizen must chose their faction, one with they will stay with the rest of their lives. Our female protagonist must decide to stay with her family, or go with her gut. And of course this all leads to running, fighting, a little falling in love... the typical YA dystopian plot.

Legend / Prodigy / Champion (coming soon) - Marie Lu
In a divided United States an elite member of society, June, must partner with the country's most wanted criminal to discover what's really going on in the government and try to reconcile the nation. I think this would make a great movie, would be similar to many military fantasy movies and lots of good action.

Delirium / Pandemonium / Requiem - Lauren Oliver
Love is a desease. Everyone gets a cure on their 18th birthday. But between then and now, dun, dun, dun.... This series has a really strong second book and I'm really looking forward to reading the last book in the series. (I just discovered there are also short ebooks between each of the main 3 books, more to enjoy)

Honorary Mentions...
The Mortal Instrument Series: City of Bones / City of Ashes / City of Glass / City of Fallen Angels / City of Lost Souls / City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare
The Infernal Devices Series: Clockwork Angel / Clockwork Prince / Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare
The Uglies: Uglies / Pretties / Specials / Extras - Scott Westerfeld

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Insurgent (Divergent #2) - book review

BookInsurgent (Divergent #2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA
Publisher/Publish Date: Harper Teen / March 2012
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 525
Rating: 4/5
Other books from author: Divergent Series
GoodReads  •  Amazon
One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. (Summary via GoodReads)
Oh boy! That's quite a gripping summary. (**there are spoilers ahead**)

This was a great sequel to Divergent. Does a great job of getting the reader right back into the story and continues the action, the love story and the suspense. 

This series is set in a universe where everyone belongs to one of five factions, based on their personality: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). I don't know about you, but this just seems like it's gonna cause some problems and of course it does. But, I think it's also a really interesting look at what we hold to be virtues, and what we put value in. And that can be a good and a dangerous thing. 

There are some hints at the end of the book that there may be more than meets the eye, so I'm really excited to read the next book.

Like many YA dystopian novels I like, this one also features a strong, female, lead character. Sometimes though, I feel like her decisions and conversations belong to someone much older than her, so it doesn't always seem true to character. But I like her determination and how real she is with her emotions and struggles.

You'll like this series if you like Delirium, Hunger Games, or Legend.

Book 3, still untitled, is expected to come out sometime in 2013.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

blog lovin'

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This weekend...

Fit in some reading this weekend as I waited for my friends at a new coffee shop. The Mill opened in February and is already a happening place in the Alamo Square neighborhood of San Francisco. Check it out if you are ever in town.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Legacy of Rescue - Book Review

Book: Legacy of Rescue: A Daughter's Tribute
Author: Marta Fuchs
Genre: Memoir
Publisher/Publish Date: December 2011
Source: NetGalley, ebook courtesy of author
Pages: 208
Rating: 3.5/5

Marta Fuchs' Legacy of Rescue: A Daughter's Tribute tells the story of her father Morton (Miksa) Fuchs and Zoltán Kubinyi, the man who saved him and over 100 other Hungarian Jewish men during the Holocaust as the Commanding Officer of their forced labor battalion.
Zoltán Kubinyi was taken as a POW by the Russian Army, died a year later from typhus in a Siberian labor camp, and was buried in an unmarked grave, leaving behind a young wife and infant son. Due to Marta's father's testimony, Zoltán Kubinyi, a devout Seventh Day Adventist, was posthumously honored as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. 
The story of rescue came full circle in the Summer of 2011 when Marta and her brother took their children (all in their '20s) back to Hungary to meet the rescuer's family. The rescuer's son, now in his late '60s, never knew his father, and with his wife and granddaughters – the great grandchildren of Zoltán Kubinyi -- Marta's family talked about the heroic actions of his father and how this courageous man none of them knew has made such an indelible impact on all their lives. (Summery via GoodReads)

After having the opportunity to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site in Germany a few years ago, I read many books on the Nazi Holocaust, and took a fascinating college class on the history of that catastrophe. So though I have broad knowledge of the events, this was new to me.

Told from the POV of Fuchs' father, a Hungarian Jew, this book covers life in Germany and the concentration camps only briefly. It follows her father life, who was forced to work in labor camps, and also includes stories from her mother and other family members. Most of it narrated word-for-word by her father.

Later when she has first hand stories to share of visiting the places from her father stories, it helps bring it full circle. I can appreciate the emotional impact of retracing her father's steps.

Though the writing stye threw me off at the beginning, as I continued to read I liked that it put me in the story. The book could have been improved with my supporting text by Fuchs to expand on and tie the stories together, though I enjoyed experiencing it alongside him.

You can find out more about the book on it's website: Legacy of Rescue

A Huffington Post article by the author: Why I Could Write a Positive Holocaust Book

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Clockwork Angel

More young-adult fantasy novels... they may be my favorite genre.

This is the fourth book I have read in this series. The first three, (known as the Mortal Instruments), are set in present time, While Clockwork Angel, the first in The Internal Devices series, is set in London during the reign of Queen Victoria.

The story deals with London's Downworld, and the Shadowhunters who protect the civilians from vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk. It follows a young girl Tessa Gray, as she travels to England, gets kidnapped by two downworlder sisters, and is rescued by the Shadowhunter. The story continues with a lot of twists and a couple love stories.

I enjoyed that is wasn't too sappy, was a well written, smart plot, and has good character development. I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series, Clockwork Prince, and the third, Clockwork Princess, which comes out on March 19. And a movie based on the original series The Mortal Instruments, is coming out this year, can't wait.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict - Book Review

Book: The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Genre: Children's / Mystery
Publisher/Publish Date: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / April 2012
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 480
Rating: 3/5
Other books from author: The other books in the Mysterious Benedict Society
GoodReads  •  Amazon
Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict has more problems than most children his age. Not only is he an orphan with an unfortunate nose, but he also has narcolepsy, a condition that gives him terrible nightmares and makes him fall asleep at the worst possible moments.  
Now he's being sent to a new orphanage, where he will encounter vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances – and a mystery that could change his life forever. Luckily, he does have one thing in his favor: He's a a genius.
(*warning, this includes some spoilers*)
Nicholas is a character I fell in love with. He's cute, charming, smart, and a little quirky. While the book was a nice intro to his character and gave us the history of what happened prior to the other Mysterious Benedict Society Books, it falls a bit flat.

I think the only reason I didn't like this as much as the other Benedict Society book is the few number of characters. The voice of the book is the same, and I love that. And as I said, I love the character of Nicholas as well as John, and Violet, but the other characters are all bullies or shmarmy orphanage directors that didn't have much substance. 

The book mostly revolves around the mystery of the lost treasure, and the searching for it on the grounds of the orphanage. Stewart provides us with a beautiful setting, but fell behind in the plot points.  There wasn't really anything else going on, causing there not to be too much conflict. Maybe part of that was that I knew he would turn out ok, since I knew his future, but it just didn't do it for me.

If you like the other Mysterious Benedict Society I would read this one so you know the whole story. But if you are new to the series, please don't read this first. Start with the first book and fall in love with the endearing characters, and the complex plot lines.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Book Review

Book: Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Author: Maria Semple
Publisher/Publish Date: Little, Brown and Company / December 21, 2012
Source: SF Public Library
Pages: 336
Rating: 5/5
Other books from author: This One is Mine. Also, the author wrote for Arrested Development, if that gives you a taste for the style of this book.
GoodReads  •  Amazon

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. 
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. 
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world. (Description via GoodReads)

** spoiler alert ** 
Loved it! Great story and a quick read. I stayed up way past my bedtime finishing this book. And I'm afraid this review makes it seem a lot more serious then it is, but trust me, it's light-hearted and fun.

The story, told mostly in emails, letters and notes from the daughter, tells the story of a wife's disappearance after a series of unfortunate events. Many of the characters are zany and over the top, but with enough truth to ground them in reality. How the story is told leaves some cracks, which are filled in at the end of the story and adds mystery and suspense. Especially funny is the stories of the suburban moms, and the importance they put on their school and school events and what the leads to some very interesting situations (I think a map of the neighborhood would have helped me understand how the mud slide would have actually happen.)

Much of the arc of the book evolves around a trip to Antarctica the family is planning and it made me want to look into cruises to Antarctica:)

My only complaint is that the time between when she left LA till the time of the story seems a bit long. I think it would have made more sense and easier to comprehend if it was only 10 years or less.

** Perfect for a vacation

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Prodigy by Marie Lu

[Book #1 I have read for the 2013 YA Contemporary Challenge]

Since I read so many young adult, dystopian series, I sometimes get confused and mix up the plot lines. While I know I like the book, I could not tell you the main character's names and the title of the previous book. Honestly, I wish there was a good way to keep track of these sorts of things, and get alerted to when the next book comes out (if someone knows of something like this, let me know).

Onto the book review.... [**spoiler alert**]
Prodigy is the second book in the Legend Series, was published in January and written by Marie Lu. There is actually a 0.5 book in the series, Life Before Legend, a short eBook, that takes place before Legend, that I have yet to read.

Prodigy begins where the last book leaves off, with Day and June arriving in Vegas to try and work with the Patriots. A little back story. Years before, Antartica began to melt, and much of the eastern coast and some of the western coast of the United States is now underwater. The story takes place in a United States that is now separated into the Colonies (east), which is fighting a war with the Republic (west) run by the Elector (sort of dictator-ish). June grew up in a well-to-do Republic family, and trusted the Republic until she discovers they killed her brother, and she partners with Day, a well known rebel.

The Patriots are a group of people trying to destroy the Republic, and bring back unity to the States. Whatever means necessary. June and Day need their support to try and find his brother, but as June goes on a mission to set up the new Elector for assassination, they begin to doubt the goals of the Patriots, not knowing who to trust.

This book has all the aspects that I enjoy in a good YA novel, strong, multi-layered characters and a complex history to their current world that makes sense and holds together. Some scenes seem straight out of an action movie, in a good way, and make for an heart-stopping ending. It is a little predictable though, I could see the multiple love triangles coming for miles (or is it a love square?). Though that didn't make me enjoy it any less.

And now I have to go sit and wait for the next book in the series to come out.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: World War Z by Max Brooks

I started reading this before realizing they are shooting a movie of the book, but now looking forward to seeing what I read translated onto the screen.

World War Z is written as a collection of interviews, with an assortment of different WWZ experiences from different people. This threw me off at first, and made it take me a little while to get into the story. Though once I got the hang of that I really enjoyed it. I found it a really interesting look at how it might truly look if there was really a zombie infestation, and how the world may react. How would be fight them? How would we escape? What would life look like after we had won the war?

Would recommend to those who enjoy zombie books and movies

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My lovely weekend

I hope everyone had a great weekend. The weather here in SF was beautiful!! I have to say, this is one of my favorite time of the year, before it gets too rainy, and before the foggy summer.

I discovered a community garden in my neighborhood. I was enjoying the sun so much and wanted to stay outside longer so I biked over to Golden Gate Park and walked around there for a little while.

Sunday I got lunch with a friend (all that food isn't mine), and sat outside soaking up the warm weather.

I did actually get some reading in. My stack of books to read is at an all time high (literally), and they are all pretty big books. Need to spend some quality time this week with my head in a book.

How was your weekend? I hope you had the chance to get outside also.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Wonderstruck

Wonderstruck, a book from the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick, tells two stories, set 50 years apart. One told in pictures, and one in words.

If you are unfamiliar with Selznick's work, his line drawings beautifully tell the story which weave together in a surprising and inventive way.

While it is technically a children/young adult book, the strong characters and riveting plot line makes his books a great read for anyone.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Other things I've been up to

While I love to read, I love to do a bunch of other things also, and have been keeping myself pretty busy this month. Here is some Instagram evidence of my other hobbies.

I hosted a brunch for some friends, and made them mugs...

and some body scrub.

I have been working on a new triangle quilt. This will be the largest quilt 
I have made, and I love the fabric. It's excited to see it coming together

Fitting some reading in while fueling myself at Starbucks.

Got a bunch of books at the library today. Thank goodness for my bike shelf!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Red Carpet Burns - Book Review

Book: Red Carpet Burns
Author: Georgia Cassimatis
Genre: Memoir
Publisher/Publish Date: Harlequin Enterprises Australia / February 1, 2013
Source: ARC ebook review copy from Publisher
Pages: 289
Rating: 2/5 (but fun!)
Other books from author: While she has written for Australian Cosmopolitan, US Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire & Harper's Bazaar, this is her first book.
GoodReads  •  Amazon

What if "The One"...Isn't? 
After meeting the gorgeous and charismatic Simon, Georgia Cassimatis swaps her fabulous life in Sydney for Los Angeles, risking it all for a chance at love. Georgia soon finds out, however, that Simon is not the man he seemed to be, and she has left her entire world behind for a loveless marriage with a man who is intent on making her miserable. 
LA is a tough town — especially for a girl with no friends, no money and no job — but Georgia finds her way through the liars, fakes and cheats to become a successful celebrity journalist and soon realises she’s fallen in love again — this time with her new home town…LA.
Description from Publisher's site
A story of love gained, and lost, and psychics and celebrities. This memoirist bravely opens her heart to share with us the ups and downs of her time in LA.

Reading this book felt a lot like reading US Weekly. Some juicy gossip, short chapters, not much depth, but... a lot of fun. One thing is author was successful at, which lots of authors aren't, is being likable. Especially important in memoirs. Even though she was talking about her adventures in dating in LA, and trip and great dinners, she still came across as down to earth and with a good head on her shoulders. This was like reading a friend's journal.

Pick this up on the way to the beach.

Escape from Camp 14 - Book Review

Book: Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
Author: Blaine Harden
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Publisher/Publish Date: Viking Adult / March 2012
Source: Audio Book from SF Public Library
Pages: Hardcover, 205
Other books from author: A River Lost & Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent
GoodReads  •  Amazon
When I see videos of the Holocaust it moves me to tears. I think I am still evolving--from an animal to a human. Shin Dong-hyuk
Imagine growing up in a prison camp; not knowing any other way of life. Having very little to eat, only one set of clothes which are replaced just once a year, and being forced to work 12 plus hours a day.

Shin Dong-hyuk is the only person known to have been born in a North Korean prison camp and later escape from it. It's a fascinating look into a secretive world, and what life looks like when you have no knowledge of a loving family, God, civilization, comfort, or joy. Born the second son of parents who were only allowed to see each other a few times a year, he was in the prison camp to atone for the sins of his grandparents.

The book covers his time in the camp, how he was able to escape, and then, once he made it to South Korea, how he worked on settling into his new way of life.

In South Korea, he was placed in a program that would help assimilate him to culture outside of North Korea. Teaching him and others who had left North Korea the truth about the world and the truth about their country. Unlike other defector's from North Korea, he was in some ways starting with a clean slate. He had not been taught the propaganda that the others grew up learning, so for example, when he was told who really started the Korean war, he easily accepted it.

With the help from people in the US who heard about his story he had the opportunity to travel and eventually moves to California, working as a human right activist. He struggled with guilt his discomfort in telling his story and being able to relate to the American's he would speak to. And since his escape was in 2005, this is still an ongoing story, so it sort of leaves us hanging at the end.

Though I had read the original Washington Post article about him (also written by this author), I appreciated that the book also covers recent events, such as how he's adjusting to life in the US. Now free, he's racked with guilt, finds it challenging to stay at one job, is learning about social norms and how to love. He is still working as a human rights activist, living in Washington state and Seoul, South Korea.

Friday, March 1, 2013

February - What I Read

Boy did March sneak up on me, but I think I did a pretty good job this month considering it's a short month.

At the beginning of the year I made a goal to read 50 books this year, which I though was a conservative goal. I may have underestimated myself. So far I've read 13, and according to GoodReads I am six books, 11% ahead of schedule. Maybe I can get that percentage up for next month.
More Or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, by Jeff Shinabarger
A recently published boom and my first ARC review. My review (FYI: I really loved it!)

Disco Bloodbath, by James St. James
I blogged about it last week.

Prodigy, by Marie Lu
I have a review of this coming out later this month.
Forgotten God, by Francis Chan
A book I've been wanting to read for awhile, and I got my hands on the audio book at the library. While I don't love listening to audio books that often, it's great how quick it is to get through a book. This book focuses on the neglect of the Holy Spirit in today's church. How it's the true true source of the church's power and calls for us to refocus on the forgotten God.

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Loosely based on the story of Cinderella, though in this story she's a cyborg. As crazy as that may sound, this was actually a really great book. And unlike most other dystopian novels, this wasn't based in North America, but in New Beijing. Scarlet, the second book in this series (Lunar Chronicles) was published February 5th and I am looking forward to reading that soon.

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, by Blaine Harden
I have a review of this coming out later this month. I highly recommend reading this.
This Book is Not Good For You, by Pseudonymous Bosch
How can you not love a title like that. This is the third book (out of five) in the New York Times bestselling Secret Series. Two adventurous 11-year olds, Cass and Max-Ernest head off to track the Midnight Sun organization, after they kidnap Cass' mother. While I enjoy this series, the plot tends to be pretty shallow and repetitive, but I really enjoy the characters. And they are easy and fun to read, so I think I'll stick with the series. Recommended for 3rd - 5th graders (or thirty-somthing adults).

In process...
Infinite Jest: going to work on this book a little at a time. Only 51 pages in so far, but I am really enjoying it.
Red Carpet Burns: a memoir about moving to LA for love.
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict: one of my favorite contemporary series which I consider a cross between J.K. Rowling and Roald Dahl.