Thursday, June 30, 2011

May/June Reading Recap

Shine by Lauren Myracle
This is the first book I've read by Lauren Myracle, and I can't say that I enjoyed it because the subject matter was heavy, but I'm glad I read it. I've been watching a lot of TV lately, The Killing and Twin Peaks come to mind, and this really reminded me of those shows because of the murder mystery feel to it, though it's much more than that.

Oubliette by Megg Jensen
Book two in the Cloud Prophet trilogy - oh, how I hate having to wait for book three! Go check out Megg's blog because she's pretty awesome, and she loves to give stuff away! :)

Anathema by Megg Jensen
Ooh, I have such love for this book! It's the first book in the Cloud Prophet trilogy, and I love me a trilogy. I started writing a review for this and the next book, but I have yet to finish it. Perhaps when I read the last book.

Summer's Crossing by Julie Kagawa
This is an Iron Fey novella. Here we have Ash and Puck off on an adventure together. Wait, what? Yes, the two fellas are working together, even though they want to kill each other. Read it on my Kindle because it was free - yay!

Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos
I wanted to connect with this book more than I did. It's told in three voices of immigrant girls who become friends at school because of their inabilities to fit in with the Americans. More about it here.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Whoever led me to believe this was a love story did not read the same book. No, it's the story of a man looking back on his life, focusing on memories of his time in the circus as a young twenty-something (where he happens to fall in love). I liked it okay. Haven't seen the movie yet, which is mostly why I read it when I did.

The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez
I'm so happy I had the chance to judge this book for Nerds Heart YA because I may not have read it otherwise, and that would be a shame. Review here.

Full Moon by Rachel Hawthorne 
I liked Moonlight and was still in the mood for some werewolves, so I picked up the next book in the Dark Guardian series. Each story follows a different girl who is approaching her first transformation and in need of a boy to coach her through it. It sounds awful, I know. But the way it's written is not so. :)

Huntress by Malinda Lo
I read this at the wrong time. I didn't have the attention span for it, and I never felt propelled forward in the story. But the writing is so beautiful! More here.

Moonlight by Rachel Hawthorne
I was in the mood for a werewolf book, and this one fit the mold nicely. More about it here.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Nerds Heart YA - First round winner!

Today is the day! The first judging decisions of the Nerds Heart YA Tournament are revealed!

To review, the Nerds Heart YA Tournament is a way to publicize fantastic YA books with diverse characters and settings that didn't get a whole lot of buzz last year. Nominations were accepted online, and the Nerds Heart YA team, composed of dedicated book bloggers, narrowed the list down to 32 titles. From these 32 books, there will emerge the 2011 Nerds Heart YA Champion!

Heather from Book Addiction and I co-judged the following two books in this first round of judging. Take a look at the brackets to see what else is coming up soon!



The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
published May 2010 by Random House
288 pages (hardcover), MG/YA

Fourteen year-old Lucia, her little brother Frankie, and her parents are living in Cuba at the start of Castro's Revolution in 1961. This doesn't mean much for Lucia because she's your average Cuban girl - interested in fashion, American magazines, and of course, boys. But the Revolution recruited followers for only so long before it became mandatory to outwardly support Castro or be labeled a rebel and punished as an enemy. This means that either Lucia and her brother sign up for Castro's youth camps or they get sent to the U.S. to try to find a better life. Lucia's parents made the painful decision to send their children away as a part of Operation Pedro Pan, so they flew to Miami, Florida and were taken in by a Catholic church with many Cuban members. From there, the brother and sister were moved to a foster family in Nebraska, who took them in and treated them as their own.

Goodness gracious, how I loved this book! I'm astonished at how much I liked it since historical fiction isn't a genre I normally read. But I felt like this book wasn't boxed in by genre labels. The Cuban Revolution provided a very distinct context for the story, but the story itself - a family torn apart because of their beliefs, immigrating to another country for a better life, and hoping to reunite - could be plopped into a variety of cultures and/or time periods. Knowing that the book was largely based on the author's parents' personal experiences was a huge bonus because it added that authenticity I would have questioned otherwise. And when a book is that personal, I think the writing really shines. It was such an emotionally-charged story, and the characters and settings were so well-developed that I felt like I knew Lucia and could walk through her Cuban town. When they moved to the U.S., I felt how scared they were that they wouldn't see their parents, that they would even be separated from each other, but how brave they were trying to be so that they could make it on their own. And thank goodness a wonderful and kind family fostered them because I was not going to have a sad ending in this book! That's all I'll say - please go read it if you haven't! It's a gem.

Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos
published May 2010 by Simon & Schuster
297 pages (hardcover), MG/YA

This book is told in different perspectives by three eighth-grade immigrant girls who find comfort in their shared otherness and become friends - Jaya, Maria, and Lola. They live in Meadowbrook, New Jersey but come from different parts of the world, and their mothers are all nannies and/or maids. The girls struggle to fit in at school and to experience what it's truly like to be American.

I liked this book. In my mind, I kept comparing it to The Help by Kathryn Stockett (which if you haven't read, you need to go do so - like right now) because the mothers in Tell Us We're Home were, in fact, the help. I could relate to much of the book because I come from an immigrant family too, and even though our life situations were different, the feelings of being an outsider and not quite understanding the culture were very familiar. Although I liked getting to know three characters from distinct backgrounds, I felt like I often got their cultures confused, got the characters themselves confused because each chapter jumped from one character to another. And there wasn't one that I was really interested in - they each had a unique story, I guess I just didn't connect with that part. That being said, I think it's a good story, and a story that needs more telling because the immigrant experience is so vast and diverse.

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez wins in the First Round of Nerds Heart YA!

While Heather and I liked both books, we both LOVED The Red Umbrella and declared it our clear winner. Yay! I can't wait to see how the other battles go...


Friday, June 10, 2011

I love my Kindle.

No, Amazon didn't pay me to say that. And they certainly didn't pay me to write this post. But I felt compelled to. Mostly because it's taken me SO long to get on board with e-readers. Especially with this Kindle thingamajig that just kept disappointing me at every turn. No library lending? No Harry Potter? Bad editing? Hmmph! What do I need it for?

But it's little. And it doesn't weigh very much. Less than the lightest of paperbacks. Yet I can store as many books as I want on it. Huh. What a thought. Stop rolling your eyes at me; I know I'm a bit slow. Or if you're rolling because you're a non-believer, well, I understand. I was one too. All I can say to that is you just have to try it to believe it. The reading experience is not so different from print books. And dare I say it's enhanced? Yes, I just might. I haven't figured out all of the advanced features, but I do appreciate the built-in dictionary and the ability to highlight favorite passages. I like also that I could change the orientation from portrait to landscape, so that it felt more like I was holding a real book. Yes, it still feels fake to me. I'll get over it, eventually, maybe.

So, the first book I read on my Kindle was Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos. It was a good choice because I had to read it for Nerds Heart YA (and you'll hear more about the actual book in a couple days), which meant that I had to read it. The one thing I missed was the actual feel of turning pages (not quite the same as clicking a button) and being able to physically see how much I've read (a percentage bar of progress isn't enough for me). As for the display screen, it felt just like a book. I read it in bright sunlight without any glare and at night with a lamp just fine. Love it!

But then comes the lending problem. I'm a library user - hello, I'm a librarian. I buy books for my school library, not for myself. So what's a girl to do with this Kindle when Amazon promises to play nice with libraries soon but never specifies when that will actually happen? Be a savvy shopper, that's what! I certainly can't afford to buy all the new releases, but there are some great books out there that are free or relatively inexpensive, and I was thrilled about this. Because I don't have the luxury of going to my fabulous library here in Italy. They do have libraries, but see, their books are written in Italian. And I don't speak Italian. Mmhmm. So yes, I was saying - let's find some free/cheap Kindle books!

Here's what I downloaded last night:

Shine by Lauren Myracle
published May 2011 by Amulet

$2.99 on Kindle
When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice. Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

The Allegra Biscotti Collection by Olivia Bennett
published November 2010 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

$0.00 on Kindle - that means FREE!

This one sounds like a fluffy beach read. Lots of fashion and fun for the younger teen crowd. And it's free!

Summer's Crossing: An Iron Fey Novella by Julie Kagawa
published June 2011 by Harlequin Teen

$0.00 on Kindle - FREE!
A Midsummer's Nightmare? Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Summer Court prankster, King Oberon's right hand, bane of many a faery queen's existence—and secret friend to Prince Ash of the Winter Court. Until one girl's death came between them, and another girl stole both their hearts.
Now Ash has granted one favor too many and someone's come to collect, forcing the prince to a place he cannot go without Puck's help—into the heart of the Summer Court. And Puck faces the ultimate choice—betray Ash and possibly win the girl they both love, or help his former friend turned bitter enemy pull off a deception that no true faery prankster could possibly resist.

Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elizabeth Eaves
published May 2011 by Seal Press

$0.99 for Kindle
Spanning fifteen years of travel, beginning when she is a sophomore in college, Wanderlust documents Elisabeth Eaves’s insatiable hunger for the rush of the unfamiliar and the experience of encountering new people and cultures. Young and independent, she crisscrosses five continents and chases the exotic, both in culture and in romance. In the jungles of Papua New Guinea, she loses herself—literally—to an Australian tour guide; in Cairo, she reconnects with her high school sweetheart, only to discover the beginning of a pattern that will characterize her life over the long-term: while long-distance relationships work well for her, traditional relationships do not. 

Seduced by the Wolf by Terry Spear
published August 2010 by Sourcebooks Casablanca

$0.00 for Kindle - yes, that means FREE!

This looks more like a book my mom would read, with the half-naked man on the cover and all. But look at the pretty wolf! And I have been in a werewolf mood recently. So, hopefully the romance isn't too sleazy for my taste.

That's FIVE books for less than FOUR dollars! Pretty fantastic, if you ask me. AND! That's not all! There are SO many cheap or free books in the Kindle store that I've already read and wish I hadn't, so that I could read them on my Kindle (because I don't usually re-read, that's not my thing).

Check out these links for more info:

Oh! And I didn't even mention all of the classics that are in the public domain that are free too. I downloaded Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Bulfinch's Mythology, and The Tales of the Brothers Grimm. And there are free word games too! Okay, okay, I'm done. Really. :)

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