Sunday, August 29, 2010

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Spoiler Free)

Title: Mockingjay (Book 3 in the Hunger Games Trilogy)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA, Post-apocalyptic, romance, action
Perfect for: those who have read the series, starting with 'Hunger Games'.

NOTE: This review is spoiler-free. Comments on this should be spoiler-free, as well!

Katniss has been thrown into the Hunger Games twice now and each time has survived, mocking the governing power called The Capital. On the brink of war with the districts, the Capital doesn't like that one bit. No one is safe as the rebellion that was only just beginning in 'The Hunger Games' is now at full force in 'Mockingjay'.

Without going into spoiler-ville, let me just say that I loved this conclusion to the Hunger Games Trilogy. The whole series has been pretty dark and this book definitely followed suit. That being said, Collins ended this series perfectly. It is heartbreaking, gut wrenching, gasp making, and pretty much a whirlwind of a read.

'Mockingjay' starts off a bit slower than the other two novels, but rest assured, picks up quickly once it reaches part 2 of the story. Because the focus of 'Mockingjay' isn't just another Hunger Game, 'Mockingjay' has a lot of surprising turns and allows for plenty of character development, specifically in the case of past Hunger Games contestants and best friend Gale.

One of the best things about 'Mockingjay' is that Collins keeps everything real. Nothing is sugar-coated, all the way down to the hunger games impact on the psyche of the heroes we've grown to love. This is truly a story that people will remember.

'Mockingjay' is available online and in stores now!

Fantasy Cast: The Hunger Games

Back in 2009, movie production company Lionsgate bought the rights to a book called 'The Hunger Games' vowing to make a movie trilogy once the three book series was released. Now that all three books are out, they can get to making it.

Here's my fantasy cast for 'The Hunger Games'!!!

Paul Wesley (credits: Fallen, Vampire Diaries) as Gale:

I adore Paul Wesley.  He fell on my radar when he starred in the ABC Family mini-series 'Fallen'.  If you haven't seen it, check it out!!!  Anyway, he seems like a pretty perfect Gale.  Strong, manly, and hot.

Elle Fanning (credits: Because of Winn-Dixie, Astro Boy) as Prim:

Dekota Fanning is too old to play Prim, so the role has to go to her sister, Elle.  If she has even half the talent of her famous sister, she should be able to pull at our heartstrings in the role of Prim!!!

Alex Pettyfer (credits: Alex Rider, Beastly) as Peeta:

I'll be honest here... I haven't seen this kid act yet.  He just really looks like Peeta and I think he'd match up pretty well to my Gale.

Robert Downey Jr.  (credits: Iron Man) as Haymitch:

The actor who plays Haymitch needs to have the ability to make us love him, even with his addiction to the bottle.  Robert Downey Jr. could totally do that.

James McAvoy (credits: Shameless, Penelope) as Cinna:

Oh, James McAvoy, how I love thee.  Really, he's talented and pretty.  Those are two things an actor playing Cinna needs to be!

And playing the title role of Katniss?  In my opinion, it should go to an unknown or at least relatively unknown actress.  Bring in someone we viewers won't associate with any other major roles; someone who the audience will really see as Katniss.  (Not in the crazy way Twilight fanatics see Kristin and Rob as Bella and Edward, but in a less obsessive sort of way!!  Sorry, Twi-hards, you have to admit, asking someone to 'bite' you or 'growl' at you at a signing is weird!) 

So there you have it-- my 'Hunger Games' movie cast.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know!  Remember, keep comments spoiler free!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?

I've thought about starting some sort of rating system here, but lack the computer graphic skills to get anything cool set up.  Right now, you can see a 1-5 star rating on my  Goodreads account for every book on here and more!

Eventually I'll set something up here...  But a new layout trumps ratings!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

S.O.S Book of the Week

The S.O.S Book of the Week  is where I'll let you in on what new releases I'm looking forward to!  S.O.S comes from the term 'Strict on Sale'.  It's bookseller speak for a title that you can't sell before a specific date-- think Harry Potter.  While the books I have here may not be S.O.S titles specifically, they are all new!

While 'Mockingjay' would have been a great choice for this piece, I've already read it, so it doesn't fit the criteria.  Finished it in two sittings, though,  and loved it!  (I'll write a review for it later.  I'm still digesting it all!!!)

This weeks S.O.S. Book of the Week is:

'Monster High' by Lisi Harrison, release date September 7th, 2010, will be a first for me.  I've never read a 'Clique' novel, or any other 'Gossip Girl'-esc story for that matter. The reason I want to read this has all to do with the marketing, specifically the Monster High toy line.  You must have seen these dolls at a toy store near you by now.  Well, those dolls are the characters in this novel, minus the LA transfer student.

Taken from Goodreads:
They prefer to call themselves RADs, but some call them monsters. So far, the "monster" community has kept a low profile in Salem, Oregon, but this year two new girls enroll at Merston High School, and the town will never be the same.

Created just fifteen days ago, Frankie Stein is psyched to trade her father's lonely formaldehyde-smelling basement lab for parties and friends. But with a student body totally freaked out by rumors of monsters stalking the halls, Frankie finds that life in the "normi" world can be rough for a chic freak like her.

She thinks she finds a friend in fellow new student Melody Carver--but can a normi be trusted with her big secret?
Will I love this title?  I highly doubt it.  However, I'd love to enjoy this novel for what it is-- a fun, popcorny toy tie-in.  Of course, when I do finally read this, you all will the be the first to know how it goes!!!

For your enjoyment, here's a mini video based on the toyline!
(*NOTE: if your video is cut off on the right side, click and watch straight from youtube!)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy Mockingjay Day!!!!

Happy Mockingjay day to all you fans who rushed to the bookstore to pick up the last installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy!!!

I know my store had quite a few visits from excited fans ready to whip open 'Mockingjay'.  We also had quite a few staff members practically counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds till they could go home and start reading.  (Yes, I was one of them!)

I just wanted to state here that I promise not to spoil 'Mockingjay' for those reading it.  When I do write my review, I'll be sure to post it under a cut if spoilers are present!  I monitor all my comments, so there won't be any crazy spoilers creeping up there, either!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Review: City of Ships by Mary Hoffman

Title: City of Ships, Stravaganza #5
Author: Mary Hoffman
Genre: YA, fantasy, slight romance, adventure
Perfect for: young and old YA readers who have read the past books in this series

Isabel always feels like the runner up when it comes to her and her brother. She's not as smart, athletic, or popular as him. When she falls asleep with mosaic tiles she found in an italian style bag at school and suddenly wakes up in Classe, a Talian town, all that changes. Classe is in danger of being attacked and it seems Isabel is the only one who can save them.

You know those books that stay with you, even when you've closed them for the night? 'City of Ships' by Mary Hoffman is a perfect example of a book that does just that. 'City of Ships' is written drastically different from the other books in the Stravaganza series.

With the number of London based Stravaganti growing, the story is based as equally in Talia as it is the real world. This change, while startling at first, made for an interesting look at the current Stravaganti in London. I couldn't imagine having the power to go from Talia each night and not have it effect regular, daily life. It was nice to see the relationships between those who have traveled to Talia and how those travelers related to those who haven't traveled to Talia. And, I have to say, I always get a kick out of when the old Stavaganti figure out who the 'current' one is (in this case Isabel), leaving the 'current' Stravaganti to figure out why they're so interesting all of a sudden. It still makes me smile. And that little bit of romance between Isabel and another Stravaganti? Loved it.

Isabel wasn't annoying. Quite the opposite, I liked her perspective. She could have come off as whiny, as characters usually do when jealous of a sibling, but she doesn't. She has quite a grown up air to herself, actually.

As always, the characters in Talia are fantastic. Flavia and her son, the rogue pirate Andrea, were engaging characters. I almost suspected some sort of romantic storyline between Isabel and Andrea, but we'll see what happens with that in future books. (Though I doubt anything will now!)

I found the story to be a little less focused on Isabel's 'issue at hand', in this case her feeling second fiddle to her twin brother, but still enjoyed the storyline for this fifth installment of the Stravaganza series. The role her brother did end up playing in the story was unexpected and very different from something typically found in this series. I did find some odd loose ends in this novel. I'd like to see what comes of Flavia's son and Isabeb's pirate friend Andrea. And also, the biggest question on my mind after finishing: what did Luciano's mother want to tell her son? It's probably nothing big or surprising, but I want to know! Seriously, I'm waiting for the day when the Mulholland's travel to Talia to see him, to perhaps see a wedding or at least meet Arianna.

I really enjoyed 'City of Ships'. I loved the friendships, the hints of romance, and Talia in general. This series as a whole is one of those that everyone should read. So, if you haven't picked up this series yet, check it out!!!

'City of Ships' is on store shelves now and available at your favorite online bookshops!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

S.O.S Book of the Week

A new addition to the blog- the S.O.S Book of the Week!  Here is where I'll let you in on what new releases I'm looking forward to!  S.O.S comes from the term 'Strict on Sale'.  It's bookseller speak for a title that you can't sell before a specific date-- think Harry Potter.  While the books I have here may not be S.O.S titles specifically, they are all new!

The first title I'm choosing for the S.O.S Book of the Week? Well, it's a book that was on display at my store for a week and every time I passed it, it caught my eye.  Seriously, I am looking so forward to it that I'm a bit worried I may be disappointed when I actually get my hands on it.

The book is none other than the August 3rd release (according to Amazon) 'I Am Number Four' by Pittacus Lore.  The back flap is one of those back flaps I both love and hate.  It lets you know nothing and everything at the same time.  It makes you interested without giving away big plot elements.  From what I can tell from the book and reviewers comments, this title is a supernatural adventure starring aliens, specifically an alien named named John Smith, aka number four, who is on the run from a group of alien enemies who destroyed his home planet.

For your enjoyment, here is a look at the book trailer for this S.OS. Book of the Week.  Also, make sure to check out the website for this new title!

(*NOTE: if your video is cut off on the right side, click and watch straight from youtube!)

Another interesting tidbit about 'I Am Number Four'?  It's already been optioned for a movie.  Actually, I should say that the movie is already in production and stars Beastly's Alex Pettyfer and Glee's Dianna Agron. Here's a backstage clip that was originally shown at SDCC 2010.

(*NOTE: if your video is cut off on the right side, click and watch straight from youtube!)

So, if you are looking for a new read, check this book out.  I'll let you know what I think about it when I get my hands on a copy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Title: The Ghost and the Goth
Author: Stacey Kade
Genre: YA, high school, ghost, romance
Perfect for: A rainy day

Dying sucks, especially if you're Alona Dare. She expected a bright light, a long tunnel, something supernatural when she was accidentally hit and killed by a school bus before morning gym. What she got, however, was far less exciting. Waking up a ghost, she quickly learned that the afterlife isn't all that great. Watching your boyfriend hook up with your best friend, not being able to touch anything, and lastly, being invisible to everyone are not easy things to get over. Well, make that almost invisible to everyone.

Enter Will, loner goth boy who has inherited a family gift to see spirits. While he's doing all he can to try and distance himself from the ghosts at the school, Alona has a different idea and latches on to him instantly. 'The Ghost and the Goth' is a story about friendship, with a bit romance and humor tossed in.

'The Ghost and the Goth' is a perfect rainy day popcorn read. If you are looking for a book that is light, fun, and not too demanding or mellow dramatic, this is for you! Stacey Kade has some great characters on her hands and has a talent for writing some realistic, humorous teen dialogue without too much 'teen speak'.

The characters are quite likable. Alona, contrary to what you might expect, isn't your typical annoying cheerleader character. She actually has a bit of depth to her. Will, as well, is a fun character. His family background gives him a unique POV. 'The Ghost and the Goth' is one of those rare titles where the characters are both equally likable.

As I stated earlier, the storyline isn't over the top or mellow dramatic. It's light, fun, and popcorn'y, which are three things I tend to enjoy! Kade did well on creating a story that is a quite addicting read. The pace of the story is practically perfect and the plot elements are interesting and refreshing.  While this is a standalone, it could totally become the first in a series.  Actually, I'd be quite interested in seeing where the characters go.

Overall, don't judge this book by its slightly odd looking cover! It's a good read that you shouldn't miss out on. If you need an easy, popcorn read, this is it!

'The Ghost and the Goth' is available at your local bookstore and online now!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

How many books do you have on your 'to be read shelf’?

Too many to name!!!  I probably have at least 25 books in hand that I have yet to get to. Some are books that I'm just late to the game on-- 'The Graveyard Book' for example.  Others are pre-releases, like 'Reckless' by Cornelia Funke.

According to Goodreads, there are 43 yet to be released books that I really want to add to that number!  

Happy August/News/Bookshelf Updates

Happy August!!
Can you believe we're 8 months into 2010?  Geez, where has the time gone?  I want to thank everyone who decided to follow me/comment last month!  You really do keep me going (however spur of the moment my posts may be)!

While checking my blog stats today, I noticed an interesting referral link...  Turns out the a bit of my review for 'Empire of Night' was posted on the UK Vampirates site!  I'm very surprised I'm the first US review of this title.  Granted, reviews for books in series are harder to come by on blogs and such, but WOW!  I'm super excited to see the quote there as I truly, truly loved 'Empire of Night'.

August 24th is 'Mockingjay' Day! I'll be working at the bookstore on the 24th, so I'm looking forward to seeing all you hungry fans on release day.  Working also means I'll probably keep snatching glances at the 'Mockingjay' cover, trying to convince myself peeking isn't a good idea!!! 

Bookshelf Update:
I took a bit of a break from reading last week, so I'm a bit behind on my stack of books.

Anyway, I'm currently reading 'The Replacement' by Brenna Yovanof.  So far, I love it.  The reference to it being a mix between 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'Catcher in the Rye' worried me a bit, because we all know how much I *love* 'Catcher in the Rye'. (I say dripping with sarcasm!)  My worries were so uncalled for, however, as I instantly got drawn in by the unique, slightly macabre story and characters.  I'm not done yet, but I think this will be a title I remember!

Article: The End of Manga Scanlations?

Scanlations have always fallen into a gray area for me.  For non-manga readers, scanlations are manga that's scanned from the original language volume, then translated, and lastly, posted on the web for readers to either read on websites like OneManga or download via the the scanlaters website. 

The reason I bring this up is that a lot of the manga I have on my bookshelf, I sampled on sites that 'stream', if you will, the scanlations for free.  The sites, One Manga and the rest, were a great way to sample an entire manga volume or series, as opposed to a chapter, because you can't really sample a manga with *just* a chapter.  You really do need more than that to get a feel for the manga's tone, characters, etc and with most of the manga reading demographic having less money to 'chance' on a manga, it seems that the recent disappearance of these manga streaming sites isn't the best route to go.  

I realize piracy is bad, but I highly doubt these websites were making a difference in manga sales.  Working in a bookstore, I've seen the drop in manga sales.  The hey day for manga is over (for the moment) and with that publishers will be cutting down on their titles.  These streaming websites were great places to find the un-licensed  stuff-- stuff that is mega popular elsewhere but won't be published in english by any publisher due to the slump in manga sales.  

I'm not sure what the purpose of this post is.  I understand taking down licensed manga, but shutting down multiple websites just to do that?  That's going too far in my book... 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Review: Empire of Night by Justin Somper

Title: Empire of Night (Vampirates Series, #5)
Author: Justin Somper
Genre: Juvi, Supernatural, Action, some G rated romance,
Perfect for: Readers who have read the first four titles in the 'Vampirates' series.

*Note:  This review has minor spoilers, because, well, the fifth book of a series is hard to review without giving away something!!!  You have been warned!

"Twins Grace and Connor Tempest, still reeling from the recent discovery of their true parentage and its explosive implications, are thrust deep into the heart of the conflict between Sidorio, dangerous Vampirate, and the Pirate Federation. As old friends and foes are thrown together unexpectantly, the twins find their allegiances shifting in ways no-one could ever have imagined... Join the Tempest twins in this fifth dramatic encounter as they battle for the empire of the Vampirates." - Summery taken from Vampirates webpage.

Had you told me Sidorio would become a family man after my original introduction to the Vampirates series, I would have bet you ten bucks you were wrong. Then, upon reading 'Empire of Night', you would be ten bucks richer. I'm usually pretty good at guessing plots, but this book kept surprising me!

Let's talk character development... So good. In fact, it was so good that I found myself talking to the book-- scolding characters for their actions, asking why they were doing this, or how they could even consider that! And I'm not talking about just Connor and Grace-- I mean the whole cast of characters.

While Connor and Grace do a lot of changing and growing during the course of 'Empire of Night' (due to the fact that they are dhampirs aka half vampire), the growth of the secondary characters is one of the many strengths of this novel. Characters like Jez, Bart, and Johnny are fleshed out even further than they have been before. Johnny, especially! I have to admit, I love Johnny's character, even if he's working for the wrong side. His dialogue with Lorcan at the end of this novel is fantastic-- I laughed quite a few times at the exchanges, especially Johnny's comment about Lorcan knowing Grace since she was a baby. Great stuff.

The great thing about the characters in this series are that none are inherently completely evil. Yes, Sidorio is not a good role model and is for the most part 'bad', the way he instantly cared for Grace and Connor touched me a tiny bit. And his wife, Lady Lola, however bad she is, has some great scenes in 'Empire of Night'. I could go on, but I won't bore you with the awesomeness of the rest of the cast, as I'm sure if you have read the series, you already know...

Onwards to the story... It was certainly unexpected. Like I said in my opening, this plot totally snuck up on me. The story is focused heavily on the twins, Sidorio, Lady Lola, and their Vampirates crew. We see some of our old favorites, like Lorcan, Darcy, or Mosh Zu, but they aren't featured as heavily in this title as in past books. Funnily enough, keeping with suit, while Connor and Grace are the closest they've been for a long time, they still hardly interact with eachother. It was a bit odd at first, to tell you the truth, but they each had their own roles to play, so I guess it made sense. Again, chapters pretty much alternated between Connor and Grace's POV and, to my surprise, I found both very interesting. To an even great surprise, I found myself thinking that Connor, yes Connor, was playing his role far better than Grace! I seriously wanted to ring her neck a few times during 'Empire of Night'.

Someone on Goodreads mentioned that the book was 'stressful' and I totally 100% agree. Stressful in a good way-- a very good way. The story was so addicting and the characters were so compelling that it was pretty easy to sink into this title and not come back up until I was completely torn apart by the action, romance, and tragedies found in 'Empire of Night'. Yes, there are all three in this title. And all three are done very well.

Word to the wise-- if you haven't read any book in the Vampirates series, do not read this one. Start with the first book, then continue on through the rest and till you get to this one.

So far, I must say this very well could be the best of the series thus far. They just keep getting better and better.  All in all, this is a fantastic edition to the Vampirates series!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One'sy Two'sy Book Meme

One book that changed your life: 'Twilight'-- Why? Because I found myself connecting it to various real world things. For example, Car and Driver magazine, Volvo's, Lion/Lamb line...

One book you have to read more than once:  'The Grey King'-- I've read it a gazillion times!!!

One book you’d want on a desert island:  It's a toss up between the two books mentioned above!!!  Most likely, 'The Grey King'!

Two books that made you laugh:  'Hex Hall' and most recently, 'Vampirates 5: Empire of the Night'.  They both just have great funny quips.

One book that made you cry:  A Certain Slant of Light-- the end totally got me.

One book you wish you’d written:  Hands down, 'Twilight'

One book you wish was NEVER written:  'The Catcher in the Rye'-- sorry, I really don't like it...

Two books you are currently reading:  'Reckless' and the next is pretty much up in the air!

One book you’ve been meaning to read:  There are too many to name!  But I have wanted to read 'Little Women' forever...

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Few YT Links...

Yesterday my aunt came up to me super excited about a documentary she'd just watched called 'Twilight in Forks'...  (Yes, she's a bit obsessed...)  I thought I'd post the trailer for this Direct to DVD release here, for others like me who seemed to miss the release!

(*NOTE: This layout messes with YT videos a bit. Click the video to go straight to the Youtube version if the right side of the video is cut off!)

I'm thinking I may check this out. Being a recovered Twihard myself, the concept around this sounds pretty interesting. If only netflix would just stream it!

Also on the Twilight front, I found this video "How Twilight Should Have Ended" and thought it was funny enough to share here. One of the things I really like about this video is the animation. It's so Daria. Kudo's the the creators!

That's it for now! Expect a new review soon!