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Thursday, April 28, 2011 | By: Traci

Review: The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch (ARC)

The Magnolia League

Rating: 4 out of 5
Publication Date: May 3, 2011

The Magnolia LeagueSummary: Alex used to live on a communal farm in California with her mother growing plants and using them for herbal medicine. Now, she lives in Savannah Georgia with her grandmother that insists upon making her into the perfect Savannah woman and turning her into a Magnolia; a high ranking society member that everyone knows, respects and talks about. Alex wants nothing to do with those people at first. She has plans, to change the world, to make a difference, not dote on herself and others. Slowly however, Alex begins to accept the other Magnolia girls as friends. She begins to hang out with them, and even like them. Then, reality hits as Alex finds out, the Magnolia League isn't just about parties, and meetings, it's about magic, and Alex will have an important role to play in their society if she decides to stay. 

My Thoughts: I was surprised by this book. I expected a completely different turn of events, but, I am still pleased with how it turned out. I think my general annoyance with this book are all of the pot references. Yes, I get it. She grew up on a hippie farm. She, for the most part considers herself a hippie. For someone that claims she wasn't into the whole pot smoking scene on the farm sure talks about it a lot, thinks about it and relates things in her life to her memories of it. It's just too much pot talk for my liking. 

Also, while this story is quite interesting, I was really hoping for more action. There are some interesting spots, with blips of action, but I want more. I suppose I was hoping for a book that got into the action faster, and moved on to reaching the climax a bit farther into the story. However, I am NOT disappointed. I really liked this, and if there is a follow up I cannot wait to read it. 
Tuesday, April 26, 2011 | By: Traci

Review: Amber Frost by Suzi Davis

Amber Frost (The Lost Magic)
Rating: 4 out of 5

Amber Frost (The Lost Magic)Summary: Grace Stevenson is rich, popular and has everything she wants, especially the most popular, attractive, rich guy at her private school, Craigflower. Then, she meets him, Sebastian. He's strange, a loner, and a foster kid. The type of guy Grace is supposed to stay away from. However, strange things happen when Grace is around him, Sebastian always seems to get what he wants, and Grace is starting to get what she wants. She realizes that living the life she lives, dating Clarke, and being rich and popular really isn't what she wants. Quite frankly, she's just not happy. Grace and Sebastian begin to date and things spiral out of control, and she realizes who he really is. He's hundreds of years old with some sort of magical power, one that allows him to get everything he wants. The problem is, he can't remember everything of his past life. But, does Grace really play a more important role in his life than they thought?

My Thoughts: OK, I'll admit it, after first I was very annoyed with this book. All we hear about in the first few chapters are how attractive Grace is, how she's so beautiful, and how she has everything she wants, how don't forget how beautiful she is. It's disturbing to have one person love themselves so much. It really took me several chapters to get into this book. However, once the action began to pick up, and we begin seeing a different side of Grace, one that isn't a walking, talking robot for her mother, it really started to get interesting. At first, I really felt like this book was another Twilight, minus the vampire aspect (and I hate Twilight), but it did take a different turn, one that leads us down a completely different path. I am very irritated with the ending though because that means I have to read the next book to find out everything that happens. It was kind of a slow start I suppose, because it seems that the follow up will contain all of the action.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | By: Traci

Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes Free with Bonus Material
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

13 Little Blue Envelopes Free with Bonus MaterialSummary: Ginny Blackstone's aunt tends to cause some disruptions in the family. She does things that Ginny's mother considers unconventional. The biggest of those things is the fact that she disappeared from her New York apartment without a trace, a phone call, or an email for several years. Only when a man calls to inform them that she has died in London from cancer, do they get to know what happened to their beloved relative. After that fateful phone call, Ginny receives a box of envelopes in the mail with numbers on them. Ginny's aunt is sending her on a mission, she is to go to London and begin retracing the very same steps her aunt took before her life ended. What happens next is a summer adventure for a shy girl, that is brought out of her shell and experiences a lot of life on her own.

My Thoughts: This book sounded like a really great concept. I really like the fact that Ginny gets sent on a mission by her deceased aunt. I like that it definitely is a coming of age tale where she must learn a lot of things about life on her own, and hopefully begin to understand her aunt and where she was coming from; why she left Ginny, whom she supposedly cared so much about. It is unnerving however that Ginny just follows her aunt's instructions blindly, full believing that she'd make everything OK for her considering she knows nothing of what her aunt had done in Europe. I get that is supposed to be the point, as her aunt knew nothing or anyone either, but still, sending a teenager to Europe is kind of a scary thought. This is another of those young adult novels where the parents just completely disappear leaving the teen completely on their own.

I enjoyed reading about Ginny's experiences, but sometimes I feel as if they were extremely drawn out. I really enjoyed the outcome, one of my biggest issues with this book are the characters. I just didn't feel that attached to any of them. None of them feel are really in-depth characters, they're pretty one dimensional and, we don't get to know much of them, but they're always referred to in passing. It's not a bad novel. I would really like to read how this series finally ends with the second book, but I really hope there are some improvements in the next. 

Review: Yum Yum by Catherine Hnatov (ARC)

Yum, Yum
Rating: 5 out of 5
Yum, YumSummary: This is a children's book. The book depicts different animals as they munch on colorful items throughout the book. This book contains 12 pages and seems quite suitable for the infant/toddler age range. This is a board book. This is an ARC from Netgalley. Thanks for the copy!

My Thoughts: I teach one year olds for a living so I'm constantly on the lookout for new books that I can read to them to catch their interests. The older children are beginning to recognize their colors, so this book is great for them. The first things that caught my eyes were the colors. They are bright, and bold, definitely eye catching.

Secondly, I really like how the pages are not cluttered with pictures. They are simple which makes it a lot easier for younger children to focus on the images, therefore it's easier for them to pick out what they see. The pictures are also simplistically drawn, so there are not a lot of details for them to sort out. It's quite easier to tell what each animal is which should hold their attention quite well. This is a cute little book that I think anyone could enjoy!
Sunday, April 17, 2011 | By: Traci

Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room: A Novel
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Room: A NovelSummary: Room is told through the eyes of Jack, a just turned five year old living in an 11x11 garden shed with his mother known only to readers as Ma. Jack's mom was kidnapped heading to the college library, knocked out and forced to live her life in the garden shed as a sexual slave. They have the most basic of necessities, and must rely on their captor for everything. If Ma makes him mad, they might go without food or electricity for days. Life in Room for Jack is all he knows, except for what he sees on TV, and mostly Jack things all those things he sees on TV aren't real and only exist within the TV itself. Slowly, Ma begins to tell Jack more about her kidnapping, the baby that came before him that died, her life before she was kidnapped, and that more importantly, they are things out there that Jack just doesn't know about, like trees, and dogs, and doctors. When Ma can't take it anymore, she devises a plan to get them both out. At first, Jack doesn't think he can do it, but Ma insists; to be free, Jack must pretend he is dead, and run at the first chance he gets.

My Thoughts: Let me start this by saying, I found this book very hard to put down. I began reading it yesterday evening and finished it today. I loved the plot and was rooting for these characters to get out when we are first introduced to them, but I do have some small complaints about this story that make it quite hard fully enjoy.

I understand that Room is all jack knows, but the kid is five; his mother has taught him big words that many five year olds can't even say, and yet, Jack still, for the most part baby talks. That is frustrating. You have a kid talking about omnivores, and yet he talks about meltedy spoon, or having 'some' (breast milk). I just find it hard to believe, that a kid that has his mother teach him how to read and write, would be talking with baby talk.  The baby talk makes it hard sometimes to read through the story, because all you read is one giant block of baby talk text.

Also, be prepared to jump around a lot. True to the mind of a five year old, Jack can jump from thought to thought rather quickly. However, that does not make it hard to follow as his thoughts progress rather easily from his previous thought.

All in all, I found this to be an enjoyable read. One that was quite hard to put down, one that I found myself rooting for the characters and wishing nothing but evil upon their captor.
Saturday, April 16, 2011 | By: Traci

Review: I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four
Rating: 4 out of 5

I Am Number FourSummary: Four is tired of running. He has been on the run with Henri, his Cepan, or guardian since he was young, ever since the Mogadorians took over his home planet of Lorien, destroying it and killing everyone he knew and loved. Now, he runs for his life. The others that fled with him are slowly dying, in order. He is number four, he was just brandished with another scar on his ankle, Number 3 his dead, and he is next. That is how he ends up in Paradise Ohio, a small town that Henri hopes they can hide in, lay low and if need be, just run again. But, Number Four falls in love, he finds real friends, and he doesn't want to leave. He thinks that just for a moment, they might be able to stay in Paradise. And then, they come for him. Now, he decides, is the time to fight.

My Thoughts: I had heard bad things about this book at first. I wasn't that interested in seeing the movie, but I thought it could not hurt to read the book. I was not disappointed, although there are some parts that I really disliked having to read through. The book is told through the eyes of Number Four, so everything reads with I or We. At first, it's a bit strange, but the pace picks up and makes it a lot easier to read. When the war begins, I found that part hard to read, but because of violence, but because the scenes seemed quite long, drawn out and sometimes boring. It took awhile for a fight scene to play out and it was just one right after the other.  I just kept waiting for the war to end, so we could get to a more interesting point, even if everyone died or whatever, I just wanted the war to end.

However, this was a pretty enjoyable read. It was fast, wasn't riddled with too many boring parts (except the war) and it made it easy to feel for Number Four, and to really want him to make it out alive. I say go ahead and read it.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | By: Traci

Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

Rating: 4 out of 5
BeastlySummary: Kyle Kingsbury has it all, a rich and famous father, a maid, lots of friends and the hottest girl for a girlfriend. However, Kyle isn't exactly the nicest guy. He puts a lot of people down, plays pranks on them and is sure to be as mean as possible. However, Kyle finally mouths off to the wrong person. Kyle decides to play a prank on a chubby, goth girl from school. He asks her to the dance, only to stand her up while everyone looks on, pointing and laughing. He hopes to see her cry, but instead of crying she makes a vow; Kyle Kingsbury will get what is coming to him. Thanks to a witch's curse, Kyle is turned into a beast. And he has two years to find a girl that loves him, that can look behind his outward appearance and truly love him for who is on the inside, or he will remain a beast forever.

My Thoughts:  Like the last Alex Flinn book that I read, it starts off a bit slow, and a bit strange. However, the story quickly picks up. Kyle's character is easy to dislike. Flinn wastes no time at all turning him into a character that many people will hate. I must say, it's nice to see him get what is coming to him.

Some of my favorite parts of this book are the chat room scenes. I like getting a glimpse into the lives of other fairy tale characters that have been turned into animals/creatures due to a witch's curse. I really like the idea of fairy tales recieving a modern twist. It's nice to see that these stories aren't dying, but are adapating to our modern times. I really liked this one and feel that if you enjoyed fairy tales, and have read Cloaked by Alex Flinn, Beastly is probably one that you will enjoy as well.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 | By: Traci

Review: The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston

Rating: 4 out of 5
The Witch's Daughter

The Witch's DaughterSummary: Bess grew up during a much older time. She watched her mother keep herbs and heal others and assist women in child birth. Then, the plague strikes their town and her brother falls ill, then her father and younger sister. Before she knows it, Bess and her mother Anne are left alone, and then, Bess falls sick. She is sure she is dying until one day, she wakes up, cured and spared of any signs of the plague, even though others in her village have passed on. This does not sit well with the towns folk, Anne, her mother is accused of being a witch, and she is executed for her crimes. Before she dies, Bess is sent to a mysterious loner in the woods by her mother. She urges her to learn, to protect herself and most of all live. Bess learns what it means to be a witch, and she takes the oath, just before she is to be killed herself. What follows is the tale of an immortal, gifted woman, on the run from someone who wishes to have her soul forever.

My Thoughts: At first, I was a tad put off by this book because it is told in two different ways. Through journal entries of Bess' current life, and then through back stories of her old lives. The journal entries are sometimes very short and straight to the point which doesn't leave much to the imagination. However, as the story progresses, it is much easier to get into the lives of Bess. I found it very easy to get extremely frustrated about a lot of things that happened to Bess. I so badly wanted her free of her eternal tormentor, and was always very frustrated at each turn. This is definitely a must read in my opinion if you can deal with sometimes slow starts! Also, I admit, in the beginning it may be hard to like Bess as a character because of her attitude. She is very off putting and kind of rude, almost ready to push away any contact from others which makes me wonder why we're learning about her life at all. However, she does chip away at her exterior and does begin to open up to one main character which is where all of the stories of her other lives take place.
Monday, April 11, 2011 | By: Traci

Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. MartinSummary:  A Game of Thrones is definitely an epic fantasy novel. We follow several different Kingdoms and families as they live their lives separately before finally emerging together as war wages between all the Kingdoms. The Starks live in Winterfell where Ned Stark has several children Sansa, Bran, Rickon, Robb, and Arya, and one bastard son Jon that his wife does not claim. Things go relatively smoothly until a friend comes to visit the Kingdom and offer Ned the job as the King's Hand. Reluctantly, Ned accepts and he travels to their Kingdom to begin his duties, with his bastard son Jon joining the Night's watch. There, Ned learns a lot of things that probably should have been left in the dark. It's there, within those Kingdom walls where his fate is sealed, as well as the fate of his children.

My Thoughts: Ordinarily this is not something that I would read on my own. I began reading this for an online book club. And, I definitely found it quite hard to read at first. There are many, many, many characters and places to keep track of. However, as you get into the story, it definitely gets more interesting. It kind of reads like a soap opera, at least to me because there are so many things going on behind the scenes that really are the entire basis of the story. It is not a terrible book, but there are a lot of things to contend with, violence for the sake of violence and a lot of sexual assault. There are some boring parts too, especially all the war stuff. That alone doesn't really want to make me read it. I skipped through those parts, but all in all it is not a bad read. I am considering reading the rest of the books to find out what happens.
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