Thursday, September 24, 2015

Harry Potter Read-A-Thon

If you follow my blog, or know me in real life, you probably know that I LOVE Harry Potter.  I am a huge Harry Potter Fangirl.  I have always loved the entire series.  So, since it's been a while since I've read my way through the entire series, I thought, "What better way to do that than to do a read-a-thon?"

The Basics:

*The Read-A-Thon will occur from November 1 to December 31.  These are busy months, and doing the event over a two month period gives the participants a chance to take it easy and read at their own pace. 

*You pick the pace.  You can read all the books super quick, or take your time getting through them.  The idea is to just have all seven books finished by the end of December.

*All sign ups must be completed by October 31.  This gives me a chance to create a linkable list of all participants because:

*You are encouraged to go to other participants blogs and cheer them on as they make their way through the books. 

*Check back to this blog regularly, because in addition to writing my thoughts on the books, I will also be having trivia and prizes!  I will also have links to other blogs who are participating in read-a-thon prize giveaways so you can check them regularly as well! 

*Make sure to post updates on your progress on your blog - we may award prizes to people who post regular updates!

Most of all: Just Have Fun!

If you are interested in participating: Fabulous!  You can sign up as a reader using the form below:

Be sure to include your name and blog link on the sign up form.

I would like to have prizes as part of the event.  I will be donating a few prizes of my own, which will be posted here on my blog in the coming weeks.  If you are interested in donating a prize, please fill out the form below:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Drama - Raina Telgmeier

So, it's been a while since I've  read a graphic novel.  Drama seemed like an interesting choice.  It's a shortish graphic novel based off one year in a middle school drama production.  This is going to be a short review.

The drama group is split into people who love to act and audition for every show, and the people who just prefer to be in the background.  Callie, a seventh grader, is a strictly backstage lady.  She loves being involved in set building and lights.  The story follows Callie and her friends as they put together and star in their production for the year.

As you can imagine, the title has a double meaning, since the friends in the novel have their own real life drama.  Their are breakups and make-ups, new discoveries, fights, and all the other stuff that goes along with being in junior high.  The novel covers the span of one school year and is definitely geared towards kids in junior high. 

The characters are well developed and thought out, and all have their own distinct personalities.  The story was quick to read and fun.  If you have a kid who loves the theater or a kid in junior high, have them read this - they are sure to love it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau

You know me, inevitably a couple spoilers will make their way into this review.  So, if you don't want any spoilers, wait to read this review.  Otherwise: Enjoy.

The Testing, by author Joelle Charbonneau, takes place in dystopian US, now converted into 14 districts (oops, I mean Colonies.)  Outside of each colony, the land is barren and broken.  The government, based in Tosu City, has developed a system called the Testing, in which they take the smartest candidates from each colony and test them to determine who should go on to receive a University education.  Each candidate is put through a series of written tests, a puzzle test with other candidates, and a test in which they are thrown into an arena - oops, I mean open landscape leading back to Tosu City - where they must fight the remaining candidates in a race for survival.

Cia Vale, a resident of the Five Lakes Colony, has hopes of being part of the Testing.  She succeeds, becoming one of four people from her colony to go on to the testing.  There is no guarantee that her family will see her again.  She and her classmates are carted of to Tosu city to undergo a life altering event that is dotted with mutated animals, hover ships, tracking devices, and murderous classmates.

Does any of this sound familiar?  It should - because this book is basically just a ripoff of Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games.  The only difference is that this book has more "testing" prior to going into the arena - I mean, barren wasteland.
In this book, the Five Lakes colony has not had a testing candidate in years (just as District 12 in THG did not have a winner for many years.)  Then Peeta and Katniss - I mean Cia and Tomas - come along, and suddenly Five Lakes Colony has hope.  They have a chance to gain more attention, to send off their students to be tested, to go to university, to help save a failing country.  
 Cia and Tomas, as well as two other candidates from their colony, get sent to the testing arena, and put through the first test with the 106 other candidates.  After the first round, there are less than 100 candidates left, and suicide, murder, and more failing grades in the next two rounds leave just over 50 candidates to pass the arena test.  Before going into the final test, each candidate can choose three weapons to bring with them.  They are then launched into the testing area from an underground location (sound familiar?)  They are told to form alliances with at least one other candidate, but are also told not to trust anyone.  

During their almost month in the arena Tomas and Cia fall in love, meet and kill other candidates, get injured, meet mutated animals, and almost die from hunger and dehydration.  They finally make it back to Tosu city and 20 of the 24 remaining candidates get chosen to go on to university.  

This book was well written, but too much of a familiarity with The Hunger games for me to really get into it.  I would have loved the book a lot more had it been more original and unique.  The fighting in the arena, the mutated animals, almost dying from dehydration, the betrayal from others - it was all just too much of a retelling of the Hunger Games, that I can't really give it more than 2 or 3 stars. In addition to the similarities, there was also the paltry love story between Cia and Tomas.  It was flat at best, and seemed to only exist because the author felt like it should be there.  Not all stories have to have a love aspect to them.  

If you like stories that are similar to The Hunger Games, go ahead and give this a shot.  Otherwise, move on to something more original. 


Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss - Max Wirestone

***Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.  This is my honest review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.***
Title: The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss
Author: Max Wirestone
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Redhook
Dahlia Moss has been unemployed for going on two years, and has no prospect.  She lives with her friend Charise, who has very kindly fed and housed Dahlia for two years for free.  Dahlia's luck changes with Jonah, a man she only met once, shows up at her apartment and offers her $2000 to find a sword that was stolen through a MMORPG called Zoth.  Now, I am not a gamer, so I had to look up what MMORPG meant.  It stands for massively multiplayer online role playing game. 
Throughout the novel, many things happen that seem utterly and totally outrageous, and in some cases downright unbelievable.  I won't give everything away - let's just say that by the time Dahlia gets shot at and dragged over the edge of a balcony by a crazy lady, I have to wonder how all this stuff could possibly happen to one person in the course of just a few weeks.
Anyway, throughout the novel you meet a host of crazy characters.  In addition to Dahlia and Charice, we meet Jonah, who is not around for very long, Kurt, who is generally kind of annoying, and some other people who are mostly referred to by their Zoth names. 
If you follow my blog or know me in real life, you may have figured out that I am a not so closet nerd.  So, the nerdy part of this book resonated with me.  However, I am not terribly familiar with online role playing games.  I live in the land of books and movies.  (I mean, Harry Potter and LOTR anyone?!)  But, even though this book was mostly about computer games, it was fun to read none the less. 
The story was great - I really loved the idea of melding nerd-dom with mystery.  However, there were some glaring grammatical errors that really pulled me out of the story and made me go "What?"  I appreciated how the characters were each separate from each other, with their own distinct personalities.  The author did a good job of developing the characters throughout the story.  I also appreciated the humor thrown in throughout the book.  Most mystery books don't have the humor aspect, because it doesn't usually fit - but in this book, the humor worked well.
Overall - I would give this book a solid three stars.  Five for the story, but one for the grammatical errors. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Next Stop: Love - Miranda J. Fox

***DISCLAIMER*** I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts on the book are my own.

Book: Next Stop: Love
Author: Miranda J. Fox
Publisher: Amazon Publishing (Amazon Cross)
Release Date: September 15, 2015

Sophia - a 25 year old recent law school graduate - has been living under the thumb of her controlling mother her entire life.  So she finally leaves and moves to Berlin.  She has an interview on the day of her arrival - and while riding the train, she meets a man who grates on her nerves in more ways than she can count.  Little does Sophia know that this man, Luca Marcs, is about to become her boss.

Sophia attends her interview and begrudgingly accepts that job, if only to prove that she can do it.  In the end, she loves the job, and much more.  Throughout the novel, we meet a host of weird, funny, and in one case, downright nasty characters who make the novel come alive.  There's Aileen, the tattooed 40 year old secretary, Mary, the snide, rude, callous secretary, Mr. Marcs, Luca's overbearing father and the owner of Marcs Entertainment, and Lisa, Sophia's best friend and roommate.

This novella was short and well written - I whipped through it in a day, and enjoyed ever second of it.  Both Luca and Sophia make changes in their lives and work towards being better people throughout the novel.  They come to trust each other in a way I wondered if Sophia ever could.

Even though this book was shortish, I got into it right away, and fell in love with the characters.  I cheered when Luca and Sophia went on their first date.  I was appalled at Mr. Marcs when he attempted to break them up.  I wanted to cry when Sophia believed Mr. Marcs, and tried to end it with Luca.  I laughed out loud when Sophia met Aileen's mom for the first time.  The characters all fit together so well throughout the entire story, and each had their own distinct personalities.

I found the story to be believable and well thought out and structured.  It was funny at the right moments, and I genuinely believed this story could happen.  I would give this book a solid 5 stars.  Get your hands on it as soon as it comes out - you won't be disappointed. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Maze Runner - James Dashner

***Spoilers:  If you're one of those people who hasn't read The Maze Runner yet, save this review for later, as there are a few spoilers.  If you don't mind knowing a few things that happen, read on.***
The Maze Runner, the popular fantasy novel by James Dashner, is certainly worth the read - but make sure you know that it has an open ending and is part of a trilogy.

The book opens with Thomas, our protagonist, being brought to the Glade in an elevator.  He has no memory of anything that has happened to him in the past.  No memory of family, friends, or even his name.  He meets several other people who live in the Glade, including Chuck, Minho, Gally, and Alby, amongst others.  The first day there is eventful and obviously frightening for Chuck.  The next day something even more frightening for the Gladers happens - another person arrives.  However, this person is different - because she's a girl.  She's the first girl the Gladers have ever had, and she's unconscious.  She wakes up briefly to let them know that she's the end.  The last one.  Then she's out again.

I don't want to give too much of this book away, because I really want you to be surprised.  So, as far as the story, I'll tell you this: the very basic premise is that the people in the Glade are trying to get out by solving a maze (which people called Runners go through every day to figure a way out.) 

Throughout the book, people die, survive griever attacks, fight, discover things about themselves, and learn something they never thought they would. 

The characters in the book are fairly well-developed.  The story kept me wondering from beginning to end, just hoping that the next page would be the one where they found a way out.  From the first Wicked beetle to the last griever attack, I couldn't wait to get to the end of the book.  It's dystopian and marvelous - and it's a book that anyone age 14 and older should read! 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Misadventures of a Playground Mother - Christie Barlow

I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.