Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Format: eBook
Page Count: 352
Synopsis: Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes? 

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.
Review: I'd heard lots of great things about this book before going into it, so I was excited. And at first, I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of things going for it--humor, a relatable protagonist, easy-to-read prose. But unfortunately, things went downhill from there.

   Overall, I felt this book tried too hard. It tried to be meaningful, tried to be moving, tried to be one of those life-changing, turn-your-perspective-upside-down, walk-away-a-better-person novels. And ultimately, it failed. Instead, it came across as a transparent, sub-par imitation of a John Green novel.

   I'll mention the good things first. Ezra Faulkner. He's our main character, the golden boy turned outcast. I liked him. I thought I wouldn't, but I found him surprisingly relatable and likable. He's funny and pretty genuine. I also liked the humor of this book. The dialogue is really witty and dry. There are also many pop culture references littered throughout the novel, which I enjoyed. Also, I really loved the secondary characters, particularly Toby and Phoebe. Toby was Ezra's best friend when they were younger, but Ezra ditched him when he became popular. Toby was hilarious and such a good friend! I also loved Phoebe, a girl in Toby's clique. She's gutsy, animated, and all-around adorable.

   But then, you enter Cassidy Thorpe, Ezra's love interest, and all the good things suddenly become dull and negligible. You see, Cassidy Thorpe is a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl--you know the type: strange, adventurous, there to suddenly change moody boy's life. That's her. And while I'm usually fine with MPDGs, I hated her. She was just about the most transparent and obnoxious character ever. She was so typical. She liked to go on adventures and wear vintage dresses and think of life in a "new" way and weave flower crowns--basically the exact same as any other girl who is meant to be depicted as "different." But she wasn't. The author desperately tried to make Cassidy into some kind of mysterious, exciting girl, but failed. Cassidy was over-the-top dramatic and thought she was much more charming than she was.

   As mentioned before, the book was too ambitious for itself. I didn't buy into anything the author wanted me to. It wasn't emotional or meaningful and it certainly didn't make me see people/the world differently. Cassidy's last scene where she begs to be "misremembered" was so unspeakably pathetic. It hit me with full force then that I wasn't absorbing anything beautiful from this book. It only fanned the flames of my irritation.

   This book had so much potential, it really did. But the character that Cassidy Thorpe turned out to be completely ruined its chances of being an enjoyable book for me. Looking back on it, there were great things about this book: I loved the writing, the humor, and some of the other characters. But that was all eclipsed by Cassidy.

   I wanted to love this book a lot more than I did.

   2.5 keys.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Champion by Marie Lu

Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Format: eBook
Page Count: 274
Synopsis: He is a Legend.

She is a Prodigy.

Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position. 
But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything. 
With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

Review: I wish all trilogies were like this one. Marie Lu has crafted an incredible trilogy that only improved with each book. Champion is undoubtedly my favorite of this trilogy. The plot raced along at a breakneck pace, the characters were developed and exciting, and the conclusion was wrapped up well.

   My favorite character of the trilogy has always been June, and she still remains my favorite. She is so intelligent, yet has hints of vulnerability. I love her loyalty, her fierceness, and the way she reacts to everything that's thrown at her. I also love Day, too. Day's loyalty lies with his family above all else, which I respect. Sometimes, I found myself frustrated with Day, but overall, he was a remarkable character.

   The romance between June and Day in this book ripped my heart to shreds, honestly. The insurmountable crack between them due to June's actions before she truly knew him was so heartbreaking. There's nothing worse seeing two people who love each other, but also hurt each other. The angst, the drama, the misunderstandings... it tore my heart! I love the two of them together too much to accept anything else.

   Marie Lu definitely knew where she was going with this conclusion. The plot was always exciting and fresh. Every scene was absorbing, every decision thrilling. It was action-packed and suspenseful and emotional. It was everything I want the last book in a trilogy to be.

   Champion is a beautiful conclusion to a thrilling trilogy--undeniably one of the best conclusions I've read. I'd recommend this trilogy to everyone and anyone, as its breathtaking conclusion has confirmed this trilogy to be among one of my favorites.

   5 keys.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fire with Fire by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Page Count: 528
Synopsis: Lillia, Kat, and Mary had the perfect plan. Work together in secret to take down the people who wronged them. But things didn’t exactly go the way they’d hoped at the Homecoming Dance.

Not even close.

For now, it looks like they got away with it. All they have to do is move on and pick up the pieces, forget there ever was a pact. But it’s not easy, not when Reeve is still a total jerk and Rennie’s meaner than she ever was before.

And then there’s sweet little Mary…she knows there’s something seriously wrong with her. If she can’t control her anger, she’s sure that someone will get hurt even worse than Reeve was. Mary understands now that it’s not just that Reeve bullied her—it’s that he made her love him.

Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, burn for a burn. A broken heart for a broken heart. The girls are up to the task. They’ll make Reeve fall in love with Lillia and then they will crush him. It’s the only way he’ll learn.

It seems once a fire is lit, the only thing you can do is let it burn...
Review: I read Burn for Burn last year and enjoyed it. I think I recall comparing it to potato chips: addicting, but not all that satisfying. It was an entertaining read, but only that. Fire with Fire was a lot different. If the series continues improving like this, I cannot wait for the next book.

   There's something incredibly spellbinding about Fire with Fire. There is never a single dull moment. I am in awe of how Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian created a story that captures your attention and doesn't let go. The pages fly by so quickly, despite the rather large page count. Fire with Fire is 528 pages long, but I wouldn't be surprised if most readers read it in one sitting. It's addicting.

   Lillia, Kat, and Mary are still our protagonists. They're a trio of unlikely friends with common goals of revenge. But after their plan went wrong, they were unsure of themselves. The chapters alternate in the three girls' perspectives, although I didn't really see a pattern. Each girl sounds distinct from each other, but they're all relatable and likable.

   My favorite character was Lillia. She's a bit of a princess--she lives a privileged life, but she doesn't usually act that way. Sure, she likes to indulge in luxuries, but that doesn't make her egotistical nor does she dangle her wealth over people's heads. Kat is gritter. Her family barely gets by, she associates with some sketchy people, but she's still really likable. She's incredibly loyal and although she's temperamental, to me, it made her even more likable. Plus, she was definitely the comedic relief of the three girls. And finally, there's Mary. She's a strange one--the one that labels this novel as paranormal. She's a really vulnerable character, although she has immense power. I cannot wait to see which direction her character goes in.

   Most of the characters are really nicely developed, especially Rennie and Reeve. I was extremely surprised at the conflicting feelings I felt for Reeve. Also, Rennie always surprised me. She's a bit of a typical mean girl with some stellar twists.

   The predictability of Fire with Fire is tricky. Some plot points were very obvious, and while I was reading, I thought I knew what was going to happen. Lillia's feelings were predictable, as was Rennie's New Year's "surprise." Near the end, I already assumed I knew what was going to happen. But then, I didn't. The ending was one of the craziest and biggest "WTF" moments I've ever experienced while reading (and not at all in a bad way!). After reading the last couple of pages, I was left so confused and breathless--and it was amazing.

   I'm extremely impressed with Fire with Fire, honestly. With well-rounded characters and an ending that will leave you begging for the next installment, Fire with Fire blows its precedent out of the water. There's drama, romance, humor, and of course, revenge. I'm so excited for the rest of this series!

   4.5 keys.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 391
Synopsis: Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancĂ©e of the young mayor.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.
Review: Where to start... There was probably a lot riding on this book. It's the conclusion to a well-loved trilogy, and based on how Pandemonium ended, Requiem should have tied up many different plots. But it didn't. Not completely.

   Requiem starts off slowly. It moves consistently, but it's rather uneventful. And in all honesty, it lacks the passion and romance and beauty that were abundant in the first two installments. It's that kind of passion that made me a fan of this dystopian trilogy, because the love all felt heartfelt. This book strayed from that kind of theme, and instead, turned to the road of plotting action and executing it in a way that I thought was boring.

   It's a dual POV narrative, which I didn't think was all that necessary. I didn't feel like Hana's story was so important that half of the book had to be told in her perspective. This might be because I never liked Hana in Delirium. She was more likable in this novel, but I still am not a huge fan of her character.

   In the previous books, I really liked Lena. But in this installment, she frustrated me. I hated the way she treated Julian. (***Mild spoilers for Pandemonium***) If I brought Julian into the Wilds, promising a great life of freedom, and the Wilds ended up being a nightmare, I would feel ashamed. I would feel so sorry for Julian and embarrassed by my promise. But no. Instead, Lena felt ashamed of Julian. Julian, the boy that trusted her word and escaped the world he had known just because he loved her. Julian, the boy who was trying so hard to fit in to the Wilds. (***End of spoilers***) Honestly, I wasn't won over by Julian in the previous book, but I really liked his character in this book. It revolted me how Lena treated Julian in this book because he honestly didn't do anything to deserve it.

   I thought this book was very predictable. I feel like Lauren Oliver took the most obvious route for the plot and added the most cliche drama/tension. I felt everything coming before it happened, and I was disappointed by the lack of originality and creativity.

   The beginning was slow, and then the ending was rushed. Everything happened so quickly, and Lauren Oliver didn't elaborate enough on the way things concluded. Hana's plotline was left dangling helplessly. The reconciliation between Lena and her love was ridiculously short and passionless, and this happened without any sever between Lena and the boy she didn't choose.

   All in all, I was disappointed by Requiem. I expected much more from it, including better development and a satisfying conclusion. It wasn't a bad book. Lauren Oliver's writing is still great, and she tells the story well. It just wasn't what I was hoping it would be.

   3 keys.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Publication Date: September 1, 2005
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 550
Synopsis (from back of the book because I like it better than the Goodreads one): It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.

Review: I don't know how to start this review. But I do know that this is probably going to be looooong. Be prepared, and if you make it to the end of the review, I seriously love you. I guess I'll first list my initial thoughts while reading this book.

   Initial thoughts:

  • The narrator is... Death? What? That's cool.
  • I feel no attachment to Liesel. 
  • Liesel is so selfish.
  • Markus Zusak, your writing style is definitely strange.
  • Where is the plot? Honestly!
   As said, those were my initial thoughts. My initial thoughts are extremely different from my final ones. Here's a little hint on how I feel about this book: I stayed up reading this book, shed so many tears that the rhythm of the droplets hitting my blanket began to resemble a soft drum beat, and upon finishing the book, stayed awake for perhaps an hour before closing my eyes long enough to fall asleep. 

   I'm going to be honest and say that if The Book Thief wasn't my required reading for school this upcoming year, I would have probably dropped it and never looked back. The first half of the novel (and I seriously mean the first half! I wasn't invested until well over 200 pages in) was dull, in my opinion. I felt like there was no urge for me to keep reading. I couldn't identify the main plot, nor did I have an ounce of desire to follow the rest of Liesel's story. Thank goodness to BookTube-a-thon (a YouTube readathon) and the fact that it's my summer reading, otherwise, I probably wouldn't have finished this book. I was honestly spending weeks on this one book that everyone had praised so, so much. That's another thing: everyone under the sun seems to be obsessed with this book, and when I started reading, I felt so left out because I couldn't understand the hype at all. 

   Liesel was a character I didn't like for a long time before slowly changing my mind. I think this was because the protagonist and the narrator are not one and the same. The narrator is Death himself which I thought was a really great and unique idea. However, because of this, I felt distant when it came to Liesel. I was receiving her story second-hand and I didn't have an emotional connection to her. On several occasions, I found her extremely selfish, and in turn, found myself disliking her. 

   This all changed around half-way in. Something changed for me. There was a plot suddenly. Liesel developed as a character. Of course, she still had flaws, but there was more to her than the things I disliked. Her relationships with all the characters suddenly glowed right in my face. I especially loved the development of Hans Hubermann, Liesel's foster father, and Max Vandenburg, the Jew they hide in their basement. Both characters were so compelling to read about, I just loved them. And, of course, I absolutely adored Rudy Steiner. 

   After finishing the book, I understand now. I understand why so many people love and praise this novel. I see the investment that people put into this book. Based on my experience, after finishing the book, I felt like I had lost a piece of my soul within the 550 pages. The ending of this novel affected me so much. I had no idea this book could do that to me, especially after such a rocky start. 

   Back to Death as a narrator. (Sorry for the lack of organization in this review. So many scattered thoughts!) I found it unique, but I feel like there were flaws. (Obviously not everyone will agree with me on this.) I thought that Death was an inconsistent narrator. There are times when he makes snarky comments, and there are other times where his monologue-ish thoughts are really mushy. And when it came to the plot, it was the most non-linear plot I've ever encountered. Death likes to jump back and forth, revealing spoilers that will happen in a few years or a few months, and then he goes back in time. He tells you what's going to happen and then goes back to lead up to it. I don't exactly know how I felt about that. 

   As mentioned before, Markus Zusak's writing is strange. Honestly, I can't think of a better word to fit his writing style. I'm sure many readers are eager to label Zusak's writing as "beautiful" and "poetic," which in some cases, is very, very true! Please don't get me wrong. But at other times, he makes the strangest analogies. His figurative language ranges from "wow, that was breathtaking" to "how does that even make sense." My friend fell in love with Zusak's prose, as many other readers did, but I'm not a quick fan. Some things were just so weirdly worded, or the analogies were so far-fetched, that I couldn't help but choose strange over beautiful

   I think that's all I wanted to mention. I understand that this review is ridiculously lengthy. There is just so much I had to say about this novel. Based on my reading experience, The Book Thief is a certain kind of gem that needs a bit of polish before you can see its beauty. But once the dirt is gone, prepare to be blinded by how this novel shines.

   4.5 keys.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 435
Synopsis: Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?

Sarah Dessen's devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.
Review: If you know me, you know I'm a big Dessen fan. I've yet to encounter one of her books that I loved as much as The Truth About Forever, but Dessen still manages to make me invested in her characters, their story, and how one summer allows for their development.

   People critique Dessen by saying her books are calculated and formulaic. And, yes, while I'll admit that it's pretty true, The Moon and More kind of throws readers for a loop. While there are still the constant Dessen elements of personal growth, family issues, and romance, it's the last one that is significantly different in this book. It's not as different as in Dreamland (because, let's face it, Rogerson is the opposite of a classic Dessen boy), but neither love interest is like Wes or Dexter or Owen.

   First, let's talk about our main character, Emaline. Emaline is a girl who has lived her whole life in Colby. She loves the beach town, but she yearns for something more. Part of her wants to stay with her roots, but another part of her wants to break free and do, see, discover something more than Colby. She's smart on paper (hello, the girl got accepted into Columbia!), but I don't think she really acted all that studious or intelligent. However, I did become fond of her character. She's hardworking, even when she doesn't have to be, and she's nice. She wants to help almost everyone, which sometimes can be annoying on other characters, but I didn't feel that way with Emaline.

   Emaline and Luke have been dating since freshman year, which is quite impressive. And in this small town, that's basically like paving the path to marriage. But then Luke does something despicable, and the couple splits. This is where I had a problem. Considering they've been together throughout all of high school, Luke did something to basically end that. It seemed extremely out of character to me. I felt like it was just a catalyst in the plot to create room for the new love interest, Theo. But I digress.

   Oh, Theo. This boy drove me up a wall sometimes. Dessen manages to create an unlikable love interest in Theo. And it's not an extreme dislike either, considering he doesn't abuse the main character (Rogerson from Dreamland), nor does he get the main character in a car accident that leaves her hospitalized (Macon from Someone Like You). No, he's just... not likable? He almost has the dorky, nerdy appeal that sometimes gains momentum, but then he'll do something that erases all progress. He is labeled as sophisticated and exciting in the synopsis, but in reality, he's immature, egocentric, and embarrassing. (He's the kind of boyfriend that makes a big show about every. little. thing.)

   More on Emaline. I liked her character a lot. She wasn't as passive as some of Dessen's other leads, but she definitely didn't do much whenever Theo did something embarrassing. I wanted Emaline to step up for herself and maybe even do the smallest of things like telling Theo she didn't want to go to an Asian restaurant. But there is one thing that I loved about Emaline: the kind of ex-girlfriend she is. She's not at all one of those catty ex-girlfriends that thinks mean thoughts if her ex has moved on. She doesn't close off all ties with her ex. No. She just acts normally and kindly and it's a breath of fresh air! She acts like a great ex-girlfriend should, which I positively adored.

   I feel like Emaline's relationship with her immediate family (including her step-family) was sacrificed for the emphasis with her relationship with her half-brother, Benji, and her father. I understood why it was chosen to put the focus there, and Dessen does include little snippets of a growing relationship between Emaline and her step-sisters, but I kind of wish it was a more well-rounded family development.

   All in all, I really enjoyed The Moon and More. If I could fix something, it would be plot. The plot does move pretty slowly, which made it difficult to keep on reading. However, overall, The Moon and More spotlights a teenage girl trying to balance her own growth while strengthening her relationships with the people she cares about. Though I don't think it's Dessen's best novel, I still liked it, and I'd recommend it to other Dessen fans.

   4 keys.

P.S. Sorry for all the references and comparisons to Dessen's other works. I know some people probably won't like that, but it's difficult to refrain when you've read so many of the same author's other books!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reminder: Bye Google Reader, Hello Bloglovin'!

As you might know, Google Reader is going to be gone by tomorrow, July 1. But, there is no need to panic! There's an easy alternative.

Bloglovin' is a super easy and efficient way of browsing through your feed! Right when you sign up (whether by email or Facebook), you're offered the one-click option of importing your feed from Google Reader, so you'll still have all the blogs that you used to.

I know I've already posted about this before, but seeing as tomorrow, Google Reader will be gone, I thought I'd post a quick reminder.

Here's a GREAT post about Bloglovin', how to get started, and its benefits: CLICK ME!

You can follow The Book Basement by clicking here or by clicking the little icon on my sidebar. And of course, subscribing by email is always an option!

Hope y'all are having a great day, and decide to move over to Bloglovin'! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Format: eBook
Page Count: 368
SynopsisWhen sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.
Review: The biggest lesson learned from this book: Never doubt Gayle Forman. Ever. If you think something won't work, just leave it to Gayle Forman. She'll leave you breathless and shocked.

   If I'm being honest, I probably wouldn't have picked this one up if it wasn't written by Gayle Forman. But I loved If I Stay and Where She Went so much, I had to get this one. And at first, I wasn't really feeling it. I was reading it for the sake of reading. Allyson was kind of dull, her best friend Melanie was just a pain, and everything blurred together. Even when Willem was introduced, I wasn't feeling him either. He seemed too much of a playboy, and not much of a sweetheart.

   When Allyson returns from her adventure as Lulu after Willem leaves her, she kind of falls into a depression that lasts months. She neglects her schoolwork, distances herself from her family, doesn't socialize--I like to say that she pulls a Bella from New Moon. (But at least Bella did her schoolwork.) It's extremely easy to get frustrated with her during this period. You want to shake her and maybe scream, "Quit with all this teenage angst and get on with your life!" You just have to bear through this section, because it gets better. Way, way better.

   Allyson starts taking new classes and meets a new friend. Things start looking up. She grows into a stronger, better version of herself, though she still struggles to understand who she wants to be. At this point, I fell in love with Allyson's character. She was more focused, more logical, and she began to nurture an admirable determination. And when she decided to go back to Paris to get answers, I was all for it.

   The plot takes a huge turn here because it turns exciting. It's almost like a game that Gayle Forman plays--she builds up so much hope that Allyson will find Willem again, and then she crushes it... several times over. By this section, I was reading it because I enjoyed it. In fact, I couldn't put it down. It was exciting, suspenseful, emotional, and beautiful. And oh my goodness, the ending had me screaming. I cannot believe Forman ended the book there. And then, she has the gall to add ONE page of the next book, which does nothing but increase my anxiety and arouse more questions!

   There's not much of Willem in this book, and I don't really know how I feel about him. On one hand, we don't know much about him, so it's difficult to judge. But on the other hand, we hear so many despicable things that he's done (granted: from word of mouth), and you can't help but judge him! I'll have to decide when I read the sequel. He has a long way to go if he wants to win me over, though!

   All in all, Just One Day is an emotional roller coaster of a ride that combines a flawed, but thoughtful protagonist with a beautiful journey. Gayle Forman weaves together a gorgeous story that will leave readers aching for the next book, like I am.

   4.5 keys.

P.S. i have a video review for this book up on my youtube channel here.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Top 3 Things: I Love in Books

Hey, everyone! Lately, I've been posting review after review, so I thought I'd add in some variety. Today I'll be listing the top three things I love in books.

The more I blog, the pickier I get when it comes to reading. (I think.) I can definitely say that I read more critically and analytically now than ever before. This could also be that it comes with the territory of getting older, but I think blogging probably has escalated the process.

But anyway, let's get started!

1) Relatable characters/Character development: I cannot stress enough how important characters are in a story to me. I have to be able to connect with or relate to the characters to fully appreciate a novel. Otherwise, I tend to enjoy it less. It doesn't mean that the character has to be perfect or flawless. In fact, I really like flawed characters. That's a tricky claim, though, because it has to be a reasonably flawed character. I understand that that is really subjective, but I guess I'll put it this way: I can like a character who makes rash decisions or is impulsive; however, I dislike characters who remain that way throughout their whole story. Layered, relatable, flawed (to an extent) characters are my absolute favorite, and in turn, make me love certain books.

Examples of my favorite characters: Tris from Divergent, Anna from Anna and the French Kiss, Percy from Percy Jackson and the Olympians/The Heroes of Olympus

2) Beautiful prose: When you read books, it's easy to notice different writing styles. Some are more direct while others are more poetic. I really love beautiful prose. You know--the kind of writing that makes you stop, reread the passage, and just revel in its beauty. Sometimes, what makes it beautiful is its relatability; other times, it's how "quotable" it is. It doesn't necessarily make for a better book, but it's definitely an enjoyable aspect of a novel.

Examples of authors who I think write beautifully: Lauren Oliver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Green

3) Complex romance: One thing that I usually must have in the books I read is romance. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a swoon-worthy boy! However, the romance has to develop fully for me to believe it. This means no insta-love! Instead, I love it when authors are able to weave together a layered love story with its ups and downs. Sometimes, this means creating a love triangle, but that's a discussion for another day! Seeing (or reading, I guess) two people develop feelings for each other and watching their feelings intensify is just a beautiful thing, and the authors that are able to capture that in their books are seriously amazing!

Examples of my favorite romances: Mia/Adam from If I Stay/Where She Went, Macy/Wes from The Truth About Forever, Hazel/Gus from The Fault in Our Stars

So those are my top three favorite things in books! Of course, there are so many other aspects of a good book: pacing, plot, friends/family, genre, concept, etc. But I think characters, prose, and romance are the things I love the most in books.

What'd be on your top three? I'd love to know.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Introduction to YouTube (AKA: I HAVE A FACE?)

Hey, everyone!

I've been wanting to try making videos for quite some time, but I've always been too shy and nervous to actually post anything. Perhaps I'll regret this later, or delete it after a few hours, but I made a YouTube channel for The Book Basement*.

*Actually, I made it in December of 2011. But I never posted anything until now.

Below is my first video. (I KNOW--I HAVE A FACE! Crazy, huh?) I'm probably making this a bigger deal than it actually is. But omgomgomg.

Here's the link to my channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/thebookbasement.

Please leave a comment, like the video, or (oh my goodness) maybe even subscribe. (Though why anyone would want to watch my face, I don't know.)

Thanks so much for bearing with me!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Prodigy by Marie Lu

Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Format: eBook
Page Count: 371
Synopsis: June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

In this highly-anticipated sequel, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.
Review: If you thought Legend was good, just multiply that by 100. That should probably give you a good feel of what Prodigy is like, because wow, things get so intense in this phenomenal sequel!

   Prodigy starts not too long after Legend ends. I'll admit, I thought the beginning was kind of slow, and at first I was a bit confused at the parts I didn't remember from the first installment. But gradually, things came back to me, and the story line picked up. The plot in this book was just fantastic. It was thick and layered, exciting and emotional. It was always interesting, and honestly, the plot was smart. It wasn't just thrown together. I feel like Marie Lu started out with a full puzzle, cut up the pieces, and then scattered them, so that while reading, it seems strange, but in the end, everything adds up perfectly. And, oh my goodness, the ending! Tell me I'm not the only who cried? Am I? Okay...

   The character development in this installment was absolutely great. On the one hand, we have June, our female protagonist. I love, love, love June. She's so intelligent, analytical, and quick on her feet. She's a fighter and is just plain tough. In Prodigy, we get to see her intelligence as well as her more vulnerable side. On the other hand, we have our second narrator, Day. While I liked him in Legend, I had problems with him in Prodigy. He was sometimes extremely frustrating and self-centered. I feel like because he grew up from nothing, he let the fame of being a huge celebrity-like rebel go to his head. Also, he tended to blame anyone but himself. While I did harbor negative feelings toward Day, that doesn't make this book less great. In fact, I feel like Marie Lu intentionally wanted us to feel these different, mixed emotions as the characters grow in depth.

   The romance in this book definitely took a huge turn from Legend. Unfortunately, there were extra love interests thrown in, which is kind of disappointing. But they're not all that serious. Tess is no longer the little, younger sister-like figure to Day anymore. Instead, she's an infuriating, grudge-holding girl. While I felt like her development into a suitable love interest was abrupt and quite unbelievable, she did serve a necessary purpose for development in Day's character. Anden, on the other hand, I actually kind of liked. I don't ship June with him, but he definitely was surprisingly likable.

   I love the originality in Prodigy. During Legend, I felt like it was bit too cookie-cutter dystopian at times, but in this book, I really began to discover the refreshing ideas of Marie Lu's world-building, such as the Colonies. The Colonies were definitely not what I was expecting, and I'm super excited that we got to see a glimpse of them in this book! I love the contrast between the Colonies and the Republic, and I really love how the goal is not to bring down the government, but to restore it to the original United States.

   All in all, Prodigy is an exceedingly excellent sequel to Legend. It's more intense, action-packed, and substantial than its predecessor (which was already a great novel). Although this review is pretty critical, don't let that mean it's a bad novel! In fact, it's the opposite. Prodigy is an awesome book that really outshines the previous installment. I cannot wait to see where Marie Lu goes with this series!

   4.5 keys.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Publication Date: April 1925
Publisher: Scribner
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 180
Synopsis: In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.
Review: I admittedly saw the film before reading the book. (I really hope this does not become a habit.) I enjoyed the film, but I enjoyed the book more. There's something absolutely lovely about Fitzgerald's writing. It's simple, but it has a certain resonance and beauty to it. I really like the writing in The Great Gatsby, above all else. The way Fitzgerald captures the setting, the characters, and the events makes for an interesting read and, in the end, an acclaimed classic.

   The narrator is Nick Carraway, neighbor of wealthy party-thrower Jay Gatsby, and cousin of the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. Nick is a fantastic choice of narrator because he has just the perfect connection in the whole web of characters. He isn't particularly likable in any sense, but his voice stands out in the prose. However, he is overshadowed by the other vibrant characters like Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

   Jay Gatsby is probably one of the most fascinating characters in literature I've read about. At the tender age of seventeen, he set up a future for himself to be a powerful, wealthy man. He spends his whole life, chasing that dream and one girl: Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby is a kind-hearted man, really, when it gets down to it. He's dedicated, passionate, stupidly in love with an awful girl but disillusioned. He's helplessly stuck in the past, and doesn't know what to do when time goes on without him. Gatsby is a flawed character, but an excellent one, in my opinion. The way his story ends made me so heartbroken. It's so wasteful that such a great man spent his time chasing an unworthy goal.

   Daisy Buchanan... oh, Daisy! Daisy is the love of Jay's life, but she married a wealthy man named Tom Buchanan. (Tom is just an awful man. Awful. Both of the Buchanans are, really.) There's something about Daisy that leaps off the pages. The way she's described, the things she says--she's an extremely memorable character. In the era of frivolousness and indulgence, women are seen as docile. Daisy conforms to that image. She's intelligent and has such a sarcastic sense of humor, it makes me want to like her. But her priorities are so shallow! Of course, that's how it's "meant" to be during this era and in correspondence with her social status, not to mention who she's married to. She makes incredibly terrible decisions, but that's how she's supposed to be. You're not supposed to like her. I think she represents the destruction and poison of high social status in the 20s.

   I think the weak link of this novel is definitely the plot. It's a short book, so the slowness of the plot didn't bother me all too much, but compared to the characters, the plot definitely seems to take a backseat. It's slow, and not quite as important as the characters themselves, but I will admit, there were times when I got bored. It wasn't as engaging as it could have been, and the beginning definitely could have picked up quicker. Also, I felt the pacing was inconsistent.

   I believe I'm supposed to read this in junior year, so I can't wait to analyze it in English class. There are so many themes and developments to discuss. I definitely appreciate the literary value in this book, and I'm glad I read it (especially after watching the film). The Great Gatsby involves depth, colorful characters, and lovely prose, but lacks plot and consistent pacing.

   3.5 keys.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

False Memory by Dan Krokos

Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion
Format: eBook
Page Count: 336
Synopsis: Miranda wakes up alone on a park bench with no memory. In her panic, she releases a mysterious energy that incites pure terror in everyone around her. Except Peter, a boy who isn’t at all surprised by Miranda’s shocking ability.

Left with no choice but to trust this stranger, Miranda discovers she was trained to be a weapon and is part of an elite force of genetically-altered teens who possess flawless combat skills and powers strong enough to destroy a city. But adjusting to her old life isn’t easy—especially with Noah, the boyfriend she can’t remember loving.

Then Miranda uncovers a dark truth that sets her team on the run. Suddenly her past doesn’t seem to matter... when there may not be a future.

Review: After all the excitement that I harbored for this novel, I must say that plot-wise, this book was amazing. However, it did lack certain substance, such as character development.

   Right from the start, False Memory pumps thrills and excitement. Miranda North, our protagonist, wakes up, knowing nothing about herself except for her name. She asks a cop to help her, but things quickly go awry. Enter Peter, a teenage boy who seems to know her and what she is, and this begins our quickly paced adventure. The plot is full of drama and action, which I really liked. It made for an interesting and quick read. However, I must admit that some plot twists were blatantly predictable. 

   The pacing of this book is very fastfastfast with little time to catch your breath. It's fun, it's quick, and it's entertaining. But the quickness of this book also results in the lack of character development. There's hardly any description of the characters when they speak, so you don't get a strong idea of how each character feels at certain points in the plot. I understand that a lot of character details are meant to be imagined, but still, you need at least some basis to ignite the imagination in the right direction. This was quite a challenge for me while reading because I normally invest most of my reading experience into the characters.

   There's a love triangle in this novel! And although it's understandable as to why the love triangle exists, I found myself feeling detached almost. I didn't believe in the romance between Miranda/Peter, nor did I believe in the romance between Miranda/Noah. This could be another effect of my lack of connection with the characters, but I didn't buy their love. At most, it seemed like physical attraction.

   Dan Krokos's writing style is very minimal and simple. It doesn't offer much description or insight on the characters. I've realized that I'm not a fan of such writing, but it does seem fit for a book like this one. False Memory is more plot-driven than anything else, which I guess suits Krokos's writing well.

   I know that this is science fiction, but I had difficulty believing everything: what Miranda was, the purpose of it, all the roles of the higher people. It was all hard to actually buy. I felt like there wasn't enough reasoning behind any of it, which hindered my enjoyment of the novel a bit.

   False Memory is an adventurous, exciting debut sure to please fans of Maximum Ride. (Seriously. It's pretty reminiscent of the Maximum Ride series--at least, the first three books.) It's fast, entertaining, and chock-full of action. However, if you're looking for something with more substantial characters or thoughtful prose, I'm not sure this is the book for you.

   3 keys.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Publication Date: February 1, 1999
Publisher: MTV Books
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 213
Synopsis: Charlie is a freshman.
And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
Review: Oh, boy... I'm almost afraid to review this book. The Perks of Being a Wallflower already had so many odds againt it before I read it, I think it's almost a bit unfair. This was one of the few scenarios when I watched the film before reading the book. I didn't care for the film, but my friend loved the book. He handed it to me a few days ago and said, "You're going to read this."

   And so I did. I read it even though I was sure that if I had a nickel for every time I saw the quotes, "We accept the love we think we deserve," or "In that moment, I swear we were infinite," on a hipster photo, my wealth would rival Beyonce's. I read it even though the movie was disappointing. And I read it even though I had a strong feeling that it wouldn't be my cup of tea.

   I tried my best to go into this one with an open mind. And while I did not despise this book, I didn't particularly enjoy it. Charlie was a strange character. I had a difficult time relating to him. He didn't feel like a 15/16 year old to me. Instead, he sounded more like a young, naive child, despite some heavy themes of sex, drugs, and sexual assault. Perhaps that was intentional, as this book documents his growth as a character, but I found it a bit jarring. His closest friends, Sam and Patrick, weren't particularly appealing to me either. Sam was a girl that caused my feelings towards her character to be pulled in different directions. Patrick was funny and provided bursts of delight, but also had that certain misfit quality that all of the characters had.

   This book is written in letters to an anonymous "friend." And while I thought it was fitting of Charlie's character to write this whole book in letters, it also failed to compel me. There was no constant plot going on to leave me wanting more. In a way, if I stopped after one letter and never picked the book up again, the story would've still felt complete.

   The writing is very dull and dry, in my opinion. Similar words and phrases are constantly repeated, making the reading experience very tiring. There are certain parts that contain a subtle beauty, such as the quotes that have been tired out by all the pictures and bracelets they've been printed on, but overall, the writing was very lacking of emotion.

   Perhaps my review is unfair because I already has a preconception of the book, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower failed to impress me, despite the many fans of it that I've encountered. I'm not sure if I'd personally recommend it, but many people love this novel, so I would encourage other interested readers to give it a shot.

   2.5 keys.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Format: eBook
Page Count: 574
Synopsis: Annabeth is terrified. Just when she's about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon masthead, Leo's fantastical creation doesn't appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that's only one of her worries. In her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving demand: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close—the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth's biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he's now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader, but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.

Narrated by four different demigods, The Mark of Athena is an unforgettable journey across land and sea to Rome, where important discoveries, surprising sacrifices, and unspeakable horrors await. Climb aboard the Argo II, if you dare....
Review: Holy snap. This book was just one huge, exciting ride. Rick Riordan has outdone himself. Thankfully, Annabeth and Percy are finally reunited, letting the fangirl in me finally have peace. However, their adventure is anything but peaceful. Oh, no--this book brims with excitement and trouble. And I loved every minute of it.

   Thank the gods--Percy and Annabeth meet again. Their relationship is much more intense after such a long separation, and seeing the broken cracks in both characters after such a difficult time was surprisingly touching. The other heroes featured in this book are just as fierce as they were when they were introduced in the previous books. Out of Jason, Piper, Frank, Hazel, and Leo--the other protagonists besides Annabeth and Percy--I think Piper and Leo are my favorites. I connect with them better than I do the other three. Percy and Jason are practically equals in their own camps, so naturally, there's a bit of a feud between them at times. They both feel the need to be leader and to be the head of things, so there's some tension between the two boys. However, Annabeth usually eases this tension. Hopefully, Percy and Jason's rockiness won't deter them from their bigger goal in the next books.

   But although there are seven heroes, one particularly shines in this novel: Annabeth Chase. Annabeth is the daughter of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, craft, and warfare. This immediately tells the reader that Annabeth is an intelligent girl, but never before have we been exposed to exactly how amazing Annabeth really is. She stands out with her wit and wisdom, and her special attributes are on full display in this installment. Annabeth has always been one of my favorite characters in the original Percy Jackson series, but this book completely blows her previous achievements out of the water.

   Oh, the twists and turns in the plot left me breathless! It was impossible to put this book down, because there was always something big going on. The way each hero pulls together their own unique powers to fight for a larger goal is wonderful, and the way they have their own personal dilemmas creates an intricate plot that Riordan does a noteworthy job of crafting.

   The ending made me want to cry and pull my hair out, especially because the next book doesn't come out until this fall. The cliffhanger left me hanging on with slippery fingers, and left me in such unrest! The Mark of Athena is probably the best Heroes of Olympus novel so far, reaching a new height of intensity and peril. It's going to be nearly impossible to wait for the release of The House of Hades.

   5 keys.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Publication Date: October 4, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 513
Synopsis: Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring any bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth 

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem — when the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams. 

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery — although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely — enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart. 
Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.
Review: I am loving this Heroes of Olympus series! I didn't like this second installment quite as much as I liked The Lost Hero, but nonetheless, this book was fantastic.

   Finally, Percy's back! He isn't exactly the same Percy from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series because unlike the first series, this one isn't completely focused on him. Instead, this series focuses on seven individual heroes, Percy being only one of the seven. Because of this, Percy isn't quite as heroic as I remembered him to be nor does he seem as much of a leader, but nonetheless, I liked him. He's just as loyal to his friends as before and thankfully, his adorable sense of humor hasn't faded!

   Frank and Hazel are the two new protagonists we meet in this book. I must admit, I didn't exactly warm up to them as quickly as I did to Leo, Piper, and Jason in the first book. Frank seemed to throw himself pity parties and Hazel's chapters started out pretty slow with many flashbacks. However, as the book started to wind down, and as each character shined in their own powerful way, I grew fond of the new protagonists.

   This book's pace is a bit slower, I think, compared to the first book. There's a lot more detail and description behind the two new characters' back stories, which was equally interesting and dull, if that makes sense. I liked some of the past stories, but I also thought some were too slow. However, Frank and Hazel's histories are extremely important to the story and to the plot, so I definitely understand why Rick Riordan included them!

   The cliffhanger is just dreadful. Thank goodness I already have a copy of the third book, or else I'd be dead.

   All in all, I'm so happy I picked up this series. Rick Riordan is an expert at crafting an engaging story with lovable characters, intricate mythology, and lots of adventure (as well as some lovely romance).

   4 keys.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 557
Synopsis: Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.

Leo has a way with tools. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god.
Review: I read my first Rick Riordan book in the fourth grade. It was The Lightning Thief and it ignited my love for Greek mythology. The way Rick Riordan can intertwine classic Greek myths so flawlessly into new adventures and modern times is incredible. I quickly fell in love with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. When the first book in the Kane Chronicles came out, I was super excited. It was Egyptian mythology, which I'm unfamiliar with, but I had hope in Rick Riordan's writing. However, The Red Pyramid left me very underwhelmed and disappointed. That's why it's taken me so long to pick up The Lost Hero. I wanted to revisit Percy Jackson so badly, I finally just had to read this series.

   Unfortunately, The Lost Hero contains very little of Percy Jackson himself. However, I completely fell in love with this book and the new characters Riordan introduced. Our new protagonists are Jason, Piper, and Leo. Jason is a serious guy. He doesn't joke around a lot and he seems to carry around a certain sadness. But I loved him. He's responsible and a fighter and a really great person. I can say the same for Piper. She's the daughter of Aphrodite, which upsets her, because she finds Aphrodite's children conceited and shallow. But Piper proves herself. She's vulnerable, but strong and smart. Leo is a fireball (ha! that's actually punny!) of humor and loyalty. He is really funny and silly, but he's so helpful. Each protagonist brings their own specialties to create a tight-knit, heroic group of teenagers.

   The plot and Rick Riordan's writing are just as captivating as I remember them to be from elementary. I am obsessed with the way Riordan can tie old myths with his own original stories seamlessly. The fact that you can identify mythical characters in a new kind of story and setting is part of the fantastic experience of reading Rick Riordan's books. The plot is so fascinating, and the way the characters interact with each other makes it even better. The themes of friendship and teamwork make The Lost Hero such a fun read.

   I really loved The Lost Hero, and am so excited that my love for Rick Riordan's writing has rekindled itself. I just purchased the sequel, The Son of Neptune, today and can't wait to read it. The Lost Hero is an exciting, adventurous novel with fabulous characters and pitch-perfect storytelling.

   5 keys.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Divergent Book 3: ALLEGIANT

I'm sure that many of you already know by now, but I feel the undeniable need to make this obligatory post.

Veronica Roth has released INCREDIBLE NEWS--the name of the final book in the Divergent trilogy.

You can watch the video and read the post HERE.

This is so exciting, you guys, I can barely breathe.

Someone hold me.


(tell me what you think of the title! i love it! it definitely was NOT what i was expecting, which makes me admire veronica even more than i already did!)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Format: eBook
Page Count: 242
Synopsis: Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan's Hundred Oaks High.

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?
Review: Parker Shelton is a character I immediately disliked. With her boy obsession and bad reputation, my first impression of her was definitely not a great one. It was even enough to make me put down this book for a while. However, I renewed my faith in Miranda Kenneally's writing when I remembered how much I loved Catching Jordan, and I decided to finish this one. And (probably) unsurprisingly to most of you, Miranda delivered!

   Parker is definitely a girl I had trouble connecting with. She spends quite a bit of time on her appearance in hopes of impressing boys, and doesn't think much of hooking up. Her mother caused a large scandal in her church after coming out as a lesbian, so Parker feels the need to prove to everyone that she's not like her mother. That was one of my problems with her. Another was that she was quite selfish. One character has a drug problem, and even overdoses at one point, and Parker honestly does nothing to help the character. On top of this, said character is one of her relatives. Of course, Parker does grow throughout the novel, but I was never really won over by her. I sympathized with her, especially later on when it seems like it was her against the world, but that was about the extent of it. My lack of connection with Parker was probably my main problem while reading this book.

   However, there were quite a few things I did like about this book. After all, it is Miranda Kenneally! She has a way of weaving together some heavy issues with cute boys and humor. I really liked Corndog (AKA Will)--at least, most of the time. He was really sweet and friendly! I also liked Tate. He was such a surprisingly amazing friend to Parker. I didn't like Brian Hoffman, though--never did, to be honest. I'm not sure if I'm alone in that!

   All in all, Stealing Parker is an entertaining and dramatic book about boys, family, and finding oneself. The book goes by very quickly, a bit too quickly in my opinion, and I didn't find Parker very likable nor relatable, but there are several great things in this book. I don't think it's on par with Catching Jordan, but there are many readers who beg to differ!

   3.5 keys.

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