Tuesday, July 31, 2012

37. This Is Not A Test

Book #37: This Is Not A Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: June 19, 2012
323 Pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. 

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Sloane's world is bad. She lives in fear and hides the bruises and scars left on her skin. Her sister was her only hope at survival but she left months ago. Alone with her abusive dad, she is ready to end her life. There is nothing that will stop her from ending it all.

Then she hears the screams. Then the girl breaks through her living room window. Before she knows it, she is running or her life, surrounded by classmates and hiding in her high school. Something is keeping her there. She does not want bad things to happen to her friends so she stays alive, even though all she wants to do is join the dead outside. Trapped in the school with five others who have problems of their own, Sloane tries to find ways out but catches the eye of handsome Rhys in the process. 

The tension in the high school is truly believeable. Six people who don't have any reason to be together are suddenly struggling to keep each other alive. Twins Trace and Grace hold a grudge against Cary, while Harrison mentally breaks down around them. Rhys and Cary have taken to being the leaders, tying to keep the barricades strong and ration food supplies. As the days pass, so does their hope of survival, but no one gives up. Not even Sloane.

Summers captures the zombie apocalypse perfectly. She does not need gruesome details or constant death to show us how brutal it can be. When it comes to survival, the worst enemy is ourselves. Most of the book takes place in the high school, but you forget that the characters are not out there fighting for their lives. Because they are still fighting. They are always fighting. Barriers collapse when human instinct kicks in. 

In Sloane's world, the zombies have always been there. The constant fear of dying hangs over her every day. And in the midst of chaos, she finds a will to live. This book is not about zombies. It is about discovering what really matters, what is left when everything else is gone. It's about surviving whether there are zombies or not. This is a brutal, no holds barre picture of humanity and how we act when things go down. And I'm not even talking about the zombies outside the school. 

So, without further ado, I ask you to go to your local bookstore and find this book, then purchase it and crack it open as soon as you can. Trust me, you won't put it down until you've reached the last bloody page.

“The thing no one tells you about surviving, about the mere act of holding out, is how many hours are nothing because nothing happens. They also don’t tell you about how you can share your deepest secrets with someone, kiss them, and the next hour it’s like there’s nothing between you because not everything can mean something all the time or you’d be crushed under the weight of it.”  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

36. The Lightning Thief

Book #36: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: April 1, 2006
377 Pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

I watched the movie when it came out a few years ago. I'm the kind of person who can't really get into a book after seeing the movie. This has happened many times where I've bought the book, tried to read it, and failed. So when I finally picked up the first Percy Jackson book, I was nervous about whether I'd be able to do it. Within the first chapter, I already knew the book was going to stand on its own with the movie. And let me just say this, the book is so much better than the movie (yes I know, we say that all the time, but like I said I usually read the book first)

Percy Jackson has had issues in school for as long as he knows. He gets in trouble easier and strange things seem to follow him through different schools. He's been expelled more times than not, so when the class goes on a field trip to a museum, Percy is eager to not get in trouble. Easier said than done. When one of his teachers turns into a Fury, a Greek monster, Percy knows there's something wrong. And when his other teacher throws him a pen that turns into a knife, he thinks that's the strangest thing that will happen. Boy is he wrong. After battling a Minotaur and discovering too much about his life, Percy ends up at Camp Half-Blood, a camp for those child born to one mortal parent and one God. Oh ya, Percy, you're the son of a Greek God. Percy continues his struggles at camp, bullied and tormented as usually. But when Zeus' lightning bolt is stolen and Percy is sent out on a quest to retrieve it, things may be looking up for the kid.

With two friends at his side, Grover and Annabeth, Percy sets out to find the Underworld, thinking Hades has taken the bolt. The novel is so action packed that you don't realize you've read 100 pages until you notice how far along you are. An adventure awaits every corner for the young Half-bloods. They meet other Gods along the way that may or may not be what they seem. They travel into strange places and risk death more times than not. Riordan writes in simple language, which is good since the narrator, Percy, is only twelve. Percy has been through a lot in his life and is still trying to take in everything that's happening around him. Yet he stays strong and does not stir from his mission.

Greek mythology is a key component to this series. It flows perfectly through the novel, never stirring from sight. Riordan shows that the world is under a mist and that there is so much behind that curtain that we don't know. It all sees very plausible. I've been a fan of mythology all my life, so reading about Gods and Olympus brought a smile to my face. The world Riordan takes us to is full of magic, love, hope, and heroes. And Percy fits right in - finally.

“Go on with what your heart tells you, or you will lose all.” 

“If my life is going to mean anything, I have to live it myself.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday!

So this is my first Waiting On Wednesday post (I've been meaning to do one!) Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick for this week is:

The Rise of Nine (Lorien Legacies #3)
Pittacus Lore
Publish date: August 21, 2012

(Summary from Goodreads)

Until the day I met John Smith, Number Four, I'd been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay alive.

Together, we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to separate to find the others. . . .

I went to Spain to find Seven, and I found even more, including a tenth member of the Garde who escaped from Lorien alive. Ella is younger than the rest of us, but just as brave. Now we're looking for the others--including John.

But so are they.

I'm a huge fan of this series. I picked up I Am Number Four a month before the movie came out and fell in love. The sequel, The Power Of Six, was equally if not more awesome. So I can't wait to see how the series ends (surely with a lot of Mogadorian fighting!)

What's everyone else waiting on?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Team Kilt: Round 2!

So the lovely Zachary Moore from Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade series has made it to Round 2 in the YA Crush Tourney (don't tell me you still don't know what I'm talking about!) Now I'm super into this tournament. I love the posts that each advocate writes for their man and I find myself wanting to read all the books I haven't just based on all the wonderful things they say! Our wonderful Team Kilt advocates at Ficitious Delicious know exactly how to get people excited about Zach!

Thankfully Zach is still in the running to win. Problem is, he's up against Will Herondale from Cassandra Clare's best selling series The Infernal Devices. Now I haven't read this series yet (though I have read most of her other one) but I do know that Will is a favourite and pretty much guaranteed the win :( BUT! (yes, there is a but!) we at Team Kilt do not give up even when the odds are not in our favour. Did Katniss give up? No. Did Harry give up? Never. And for those who have read the fantastic series I'm talking about here, Zach never gave up either. Neither did Aura and things worked out pretty swell for the both of them (and for us because it was hot to read!)

Now about Zach. He's a Scot and if that's not enough to make you swoon, he also wears kilts on special occasions (who can resist a man in a kilt?)

Oh sorry, where was I? He is a sweetheart who, even when I'm sure it's all he wanted, waited until Aura was ready to take their relationship to the next step. He's smart, caring and has a wicked sense of humour. He's the perfect package and seriously, he needs your vote!

I don't ask much. I just ask for your vote. I hope you'll take the time to check out the books, maybe read some quotes, and for sure drop by the YA Sisterhood and take a look at the tournament. I can't post a direct link to Zach's round because it doesn't start until midnight, but you'll have 24 hours to get your votes in. Do it for all the men in kilts. Let's look at those lovely pictures the girls from #TeamKilt made one last time ^^^^

Ya. That's what I thought.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vote Archer Cross!

My dear friend Mag from Geek Chic Books is the wonderful advocate for Archer Cross from the Hex Hall series in the YA Crush Tourney (and you all know what that is by now!) Now I haven't been able to read Hex Hall yet, but after reading all the fabulous things she's written about it, I'm going to as soon as I can get my hands on it. Here's the Goodreads summary:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.
As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.
Sounds pretty awesome right? And I know Archer Cross is a killer character and I know he deserves to win this one. I'll let Mag take this away:

The amazing, awesome, FANTASTIC ARCHER CROSS (from Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins) is in the YA Sisterhood’s second annual YA Crush Tournament. That means he’s competing against bunches of other hot YA guys to be crowned the most Crush-Worthy. 
Archer’s match just went up, and I’m asking you—yes, YOU!—to vote for him!! All it takes is a few clicks. A click here, and then a click to select Archer as your vote! I will totally love you forever, and so will Archer!
If you’re not sure WHY you should vote for Archer, check out the post about him at the link above. Trust me, once you get to know him, you will understand exactly why he is so awesome and why you should VOTE FOR HIM!
As an added bonus, if you vote for Archer and/or do anything to spread the word about him and the Tourney, you can enter to win a Kindle copy of Hex Hall on my blog! Because it’s a Kindle copy, I can send it to anyone with an email address, so it’s open internationally. Plus, you don’t have to have a Kindle to read it, so no worries on that front! 
So please, vote Archer and help to spread the word! Get your friends, family, and random strangers to vote for Archer!!

So please go vote because Archer needs us right now (and who wouldn't want him to need them?) 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

35. Savages

Book #35: Savages
Author: Don Winslow
Published: July 13, 2010
303 Pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Part-time environmentalist and philanthropist Ben and his ex-mercenary buddy Chon run a Laguna Beach–based marijuana operation, reaping significant profits from their loyal clientele. In the past when their turf was challenged, Chon took care of eliminating the threat. But now they may have come up against something that they can’t handle—the Mexican Baja Cartel wants in, and sends them the message that a "no" is unacceptable. When they refuse to back down, the cartel escalates its threat, kidnapping Ophelia, the boys’ playmate and confidante. 

Whenever I find out a movie coming out is based on a book, I grab that book as soon as I can and read it before I see the movie. I've done this many a times and never been disappointed. I'm not the type that can read the book after I've seen the movie (there are some exceptions) so I like to get my hands on the book first. So when I saw Savages in the store I had to pick it up since the trailer for the movie had already sold me on it.

The book is written in an easy to read prose format. The chapters are super short and the narration allows for us to see the story from all angles. We're introduced to Ben and Chon, two California guys who own a very successful drug business. They are also both involved with Ophelia (O)
in the most messed up romance you can find.

They're business is going smoothly until the Baja Cartel decides they want in and Ben and Chon want nothing to do with them. Well, this is the Baja Cartel we're talking about so
They get involved anyway
And kidnap O.

Ben and Chon aren't happy, so they take matters in to their own hands.

The plot is fast paced and kept me on the edge of my seat. Violence on every page made me want to keep turning them so I could see how the story played out. Ben and Chon are two very different men. Ben is a humanitarian who travels all over the world to help others. Chon is military man who's only answer to everything is to kill it. They're differences are what make their business run. And when it comes to getting O out, they cross lines they never thought they'd cross for the girl they love. O is an adorable character. She's a little slutty (obviously) but it seems to work. She's a bored Laguna Beach girl who wants anything but the normal California life. She reminds Elena, the head of the BC, of her own daughter and they may save her life.

There is violence. There is death. There is (a lot of) sex. The underlaying theme is that love is our strength but it is also our weakness. What would you do for the ones you love?
How far would you go?
Who would you kill?

The drug business is a scary one. And this book captures it perfectly. The only problem I had with it was that there is a lot of lingo that is not explained and after a little while, it got kind of confusing. But it didn't stop me from reading through it as fast as I possibly could.

"Elena knows that love makes you strong
And love makes you weak.
Love makes you vulnerable.
So if you have enemies
Take what they love."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

34. Before I Wake

Book #34: Before I Wake
Author: Rachel Vincent
Published: June 26, 2012
339 pages
5 Gold Stars


(please I don't want to ruin this series for those who plan on reading it. and you all should, like right now.)


(summary from Goodreads)

I died on a Thursday-killed by a monster intent on stealing my soul. The good news? He didn't get it. The bad news? Turns out not even death will get you out of high school...  Covering up her own murder was one thing, but faking life is much harder than Kaylee Cavanaugh expected. After weeks spent "recovering," she's back in school, fighting to stay visible to the human world, struggling to fit in with her friends and planning time alone with her new reaper boyfriend. But to earn her keep in the human world, Kaylee must reclaim stolen souls, and when her first assignment brings her face-to-face with an old foe, she knows the game has changed. Her immortal status won't keep her safe. And this time Kaylee isn't just gambling with her own life

Kaylee has been through hell and back and it's not over yet. Since discovering that she is a bean sidhe, able to sing for the souls for those who have recently died, her life has been a roller coaster. She's reunited with her father, fallen in love twice, and fought hellions in the Netherworld. But her borrowed time was up (her mother sacrificed herself to save Kaylee) and now her afterlife has begun. And there is still just as much as drama as there was when she was alive and the hellions are still after her soul.

The world that Vincent has created sticks with you after the last page. She takes us into the underbelly, showing us another side of the world that will haunt your dreams. The Netherworld is where the hellions live, feeding off the pain and souls of humans, and they want Kaylee's. But Kaylee is trying to "survive", trying to move on from her own death and get back to where she was. With the help of her new boyfriend, Tod, an undead reaper, she pushes past the grief and suffering to the next step - anger.

Vincent has used the Seven Deadly Sins as the backbones to each novel in the series. Before I Wake is the sloth book and she captures this feeling perectly. Kaylee has no need to sleep or eat now that she is an extractor, an undead human who reclaims stolen souls, so she spends a lot of time alone and wishing for nothing but rest. Tod helps to keep her alive, being the boyfriend that she needs. As much as I love Nash (have been Team Nash since the start) after reading this book, I know Tod is right Hudson brother for her. He is supportive, loving, and ready to die or kill for her. He puts her first in everything he does and she deserves him after everything she's been through. He is her perfect counterpart. There is no doubt in my mind that they are soul mates. Every character goes through a change in this book. Kaylee's death changed everything. Nash is trying to heal, even though it hurts him to see Kaylee with his brother. Sabine is there for Nash, but she is also trying to build a friendship with Kaylee. Sophie is well, she's Sophie, but at least now she understands why Kaylee is the way she is. New character Luca, a necromancer, is the perfect puzzle piece for Sophie, keeping her calm in times of trouble. I hope to see more of him and the others in the last book, With All My Soul.

Kaylee's emotions ring all too true to me. I know the feeling of wanting to let go, of knowing how hard it is to try to do anything when doing nothing would be so much easier. But she is one of the strongest female characters I've read so I have no doubt that she'll push through this and everything that happens in this chapter of her afterlife. Vincent puts us through the roaring emotions tormenting Kaylee and we feel every ounce of her suffering. Where If I Die was a game changer, Before I Wake shows us that no one is safe even after they are dead. Lives are crushed. People are hurt. Friendships are tested. And the story's not over yet. Now I just wish I didn't have to wait a year to see Kaylee get her revenge and happy ending.

“You're not lost, Kaylee. You can't ever be lost, because I'll always know where you are. And if I'm not there with you, I'm on my way, and nothing standing between us will be standing for very long.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

33. The Great Gatsby

Book #33: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published: Originally published in 1922
180 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

The mysterious Jay Gatsby embodies the American notion that it is possible to redefine oneself and persuade the world to accept that definition. Gatsby's youthful neighbor, Nick Carraway, fascinated with the display of enormous wealth in which Gatsby revels, finds himself swept up in the lavish lifestyle of Long Island society during the Jazz Age. Considered Fitzgerald's best work, The Great Gatsby is a mystical, timeless story of integrity and cruelty, vision and despair.

I've been meaning to read more classic literature and this was one of my first attempts at it. I'm certainly not disappointed. F. Scott Fitzgerald is a household name, famous and immortal. I've read quotes from him and snippets of his books and I knew I'd like anything I'd read. He is a genius with words and emotions, throwing you into a world that look picture perfect from the outside and then letting you dive into the disaster lingering within. And even though this book was written in 1922, it still rings true to life now, way too true.

Our narrator, Nick Carraway, has just moved in next door to The Great Gatsby. He's never met him but he's heard stories of the fabulous parties he throws every night. One night, he is invited into the house not even knowing who Gatsby is. When they are finally introduced, the dominoes are only lining up. What pursues is a tragic summer that shows us just how fragile the american dream is.

Jay Gatsby is just a cover up. He throws the parties and hides behind them, hoping that Daisy Buchannan will one day show up and notice him again. Truths are spilled when they've been secrets for years. Love lives and dies and lives become so entangled that it's hard to know where each one ends. We witness all this through the eyes of Nick, who knows everyones secrets because he is trusted with them. But it is a burden to bear and when it all comes crashing down, he's not sure where his loyalties lay. Nick could be the american dream. He could have the perfect lie with the perfect job and wife, but instead he is thrown into Gatsby's life, the false american dream that comes crumbling down. 

This book shows us how different everything is behind closed doors. We don't know which men are beating their wives. We don't know which couples are having love affairs. We don't know who ran over that person in the street or why. We only know what they want us to know. We only see what they want us to see. And nothing is as perfect as it is laid out to be. I learned a lot from this book. I learned to look past what I see on the surface and to try to appreciate what's beneath. Gatsby was played out to be the bad guy, dealing with the wrong people and throwing money around, when all he really wanted was to get back the girl he loved. And they could have lived happily ever after if they had the chance. I learned that those who have a lot of friends on the outside may end up alone in the end. I wished for anything but for Gatsby, but the sad truth is that none of the people who went to his parties were his friends save for Nick and Daisy. It reminds us that we don't have much time to make those connections. Who will show up at your funeral? What do you deserve?

There is a reason this book is a classic. Fitzgerald captures the mood of the jazz age and catapults us into the drama, love, and betrayal of young lives. And there's no way of knowing that all of that isn't still happening behind closed doors.

“There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.” 

“So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.”

Monday, July 2, 2012

32. Masque Of The Red Death

Book #32: Masque Of The Red Death
Author: Bethany Griffin
Published: April 24, 2012
320 Pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

I hadn't read the original Masque of The Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe until I bought this one. I knew I had to read it to fully appreciate this novel since she based the premise off of the original short horror. Poe paints a terrifying scene disguised in lavish fabrics and hidden under flowing gowns. In the short pages, he describes the horror of a plague. Griffin has done the same in her pages and adds a love story to the mix.

Araby has lost the only thing that mattered to her - her twin brother. She now feels like she has nothing to live for and spends her evenings in the Debauchery Club trying to find oblivion. Things quickly pick up when she meets Will for real, a man that checks her for the disease every time she comes into the club, but hasn't spoken to her outside of that. She figures out quickly that he is not the man she thought he was, he's even better. Then of course, there's Elliott, and he's exactly what she figured he be.

The world we're pulled into to is too real. Plagues have killed off societies in the past and could again, and Araby is living in one. Her father has invented a mask that protects people from the plague - it's porcelain and can only be worn by one person or else it looses its ability to keep your air clean. The masks have become a part of everyone and you begin to read people's expressions through their eyes. Nobody is who they seem and everyone is hiding something.

Elliott enlists the help of Araby to start a revolution. His uncle, Prospero, is the master of the city and he'll do anything to put him in his place. Araby is quickly pushed into a world that she's been trying to get out of. The plot flows perfectly from chapter to chapter, and Araby's adventures keep you turning the page. Whereas at the beginning of the book when she is suicidal and pledges not to experience anything her brother couldn't, both Will and Elliot take her far beyond anything she imagined possible. She gradually discovers something worth living for. 

I've heard mixed reviews about Araby, but I enjoyed her character. The hopelessness she felt at the beginning of the book was all too realistic in a world like that. Who wouldn't feel hopeless and lost in a world where people are dying right in front of you? Her family doesn't appreciate the fact that she is the surviving child and she knows her parents see her brother every time they look at her. Meeting Will gives her hope, even if that hope is false. Will is a wonderful character. He is the kind of person who would do anything to protect his family. That may hurt others around him, but it's that selflessness that is needed in a time like this. Elliott is perhaps the complete opposite and would do anything to benefit himself. That makes him dangerous and attracting, I suppose, but I could see right through him. I know his motives are probably going to get some people killed in the sequel. 

This book caught me from the first page and I fell right in. I felt the dread of the plague. I smelled the dying people on the streets. I longed for hope along side Araby. The ending cut off too quickly, before any of the real action and romance could start and I can't wait to discover what Araby will find in the next chapter. 

“And I'm falling in love with you,' he whispers. "But I would throw you in the water and watch crocodiles tear you to bits, if I thought that doing so would accomplish my goals. Do. Not. Trust. Anyone. Especially me.” 

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