January 30, 2011

What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez

Date Started: January 22, 2011
Date Finished: January 30, 2011

Summary: Marisa Moreno is in a tough position. Instead of going to school or doing the things she needs to do, she is stuck watching her little niece, Anita. Marisa is also trying to apply for colleges, University of Houston as her safety school and University of Austin and their engineering programs. However, things are getting intense, she's got a new boyfriend, she's trying to maintain her grades, while attempting to help out her family by working at the local supermarket and teaching Anita to read. Will Marisa be able to pass her tests or will her family's drama bring her down?

Likes: I like the theme of this novel. There are so many teens that are in this position and there are very few books that are out there for people in that stage. I liked that Marisa's issues were real things that most all teens go through regardless of their ethnicity or cultural heritage. I mean, how many of us can say that our goals and dreams were different than our parents ideals for us. I felt that Marisa's situation wasn't uncommon and it was interesting to read about a teen who wants to rise above and do more than people expect her to do. Marisa's parents don't value education the way she does and it's interesting to see them clash. Especially her mother who does two things that are unfathomable, yet in the end is willing to put her own needs aside and do what is right for her daughter.

Dislikes: There were a lot of  "issues" in the book that seem that they were all piled on just for the sake of showing what happens in high school. There are a lot of subplots that aren't fully fleshed out in the end, but it doesn't detract from the overall story and it seems like it's balanced out since it is Marisa's story after all. It did run the risk of overtaking her story, but there are some pivotal points that bring it back to Marisa's story.

Overall: I highly enjoyed this book. It made me think of my days in high school applying for college. November, the month of UC deadlines, was a stressful month and I remember checking out of the social loop for a while until acceptance letters came in. Another thing that I found interesting was reading the first hand account of what it is like to be a part of a traditional Mexican family. Not that it was how all families were, but I hear stories from the teenagers I used to work with and their teachers who explain how things can be some times.

Recommended by: I saw information about the story floating around the internet and it's on my debut author list. When I saw it available on Netgalley, I had to snatch it up!

Acquired: ARC from Netgalley

Publication Date: March 2011

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January 22, 2011

The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Audiobook read by: Ellen Grafton
Date Started: January 2011
Date Finished: January 19, 2011

Summary: Bianca Piper is the average cynical teen hanging out with her beautiful friends at school. She is approached by the school playboy, Wesley Rush who calls her "The Duff" the designated ugly fat friend and on top of that he wants her to put in a good word to her hot friends about him. She promptly splashes her soda in his face. A few weeks later, she's making out with him and eventually leads to something more. And it turns out, he's not that bad of a guy and that maybe there's something more than just sex. But of course, Wesley would never like Bianca. For one thing, he's a manwhore and he would never tie himself down with a girl. And most importantly, Bianca's the Duff and nobody ever goes for the Duff.

Likes: The characters and the voice made up for most of the qualms I had about this book. Bianca was funny, her friends (though annoying to me) were exactly the friends Bianca needed and they were surprisingly well-fleshed out. (And the voice actor did a good job differentiating them). There were a lot of things going on in this novel, divorce, self-esteem issues, sex, relationships, and they tied together pretty well. I also really liked the theme of facing reality. The actions you do have consequences, they don't exist inside a bubble. Bianca may have thought that her relationship with Wesley was just between them, but it was affected the relationship with her friends and family.

And for the most part, I didn't have an issues about how sex was handled in this book. (except for the Vicki). As ideal as it would be for people to just wait until they were ready, the fact of the matter is that not everybody does this. And not everybody has sex because they are in love. Bianca does it for distraction and for her it seems plausible. The relationships (for the most part) are portrayed realistically

Dislikes: As a whole, while the story is pretty good, I'm having a little trouble with the believability factor. I can't place my finger on it, but it seems like something is off about the whole build up to the relationship. I guess I just wanted to see some conflict. It was a little bit too easy to get together. I wanted more tension between the friends and keeping face at school.

I wasn't a big fan of the whole minor Vicki subplot towards the end of the novel. It drew me out of the story and it was incredibly preachy to me. I'm not sure what to think of her character, however minor she was, she almost doesn't seem necessary except to serve as a cautionary tale, as if Bianca's crisis wasn't already enough.

Overall: The story was okay. Even though I'm pretty sarcastic and cynical, I couldn't really relate to Bianca's character. I guess the reason why was that she had such a low opinion of herself, which is realistic, but being as headstrong and forceful as she was, you'd think she would have told Wesley sooner about how the word Duff and the nickname Duffy hurt her. Some of the pacing was a little off to me and things that I wanted to know more about were glossed over.

Listening to it was a strange format opposed to reading it and I think I might have liked it better had I actually read the words. I found myself getting distracted, trying to find something mindless to do with my hands and eyes without zoning out. It happened a few times, but I think I found something to do while listening without missing things. It's definitely a new experience to get used to, but my whole body needs to be engaged to fully commit to an audiobook.

Recommended by: It's been getting good reviews all around the internet and I was curious to read it.

Acquired: Audible.com, I had a credit that I could use to purchase the book, so I figured that I might as well use it on a book I wasn't sure I wanted to buy outright.

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January 20, 2011

Thesis Thursday #1

Thesis Thursdays!

Info: This is just a little feature about writing my Senior Thesis for Creative Writing. Hopefully it'll be helpful to you in some way.

So January 12, I met with my thesis advisor to talk to about the project. She asked what types of stories I liked to read and it'll probably help if you had a general idea of what you wanted to write.

I actually didn't do much that week, but it might help to know why you chose your thesis advisor. I chose mine because I liked the types of books she wrote. I liked her historical fiction and her multicultural perspective. However, I never had her as a teacher before, so she wasn't sure of my writing style. The biggest issue is that I don't really know her personally and she has never read my writing before. At any rate, she is a wise teacher and I am looking forward to sending my work to her.

January 15, 2011

Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger

Date Started: January 9, 2011
Date Finished: January 12, 2011

Summary: Jasbir Dhatt, also known as Jazz to most of her friends and Jassy to her parents, has been a straight A student in the Future Stars and Leaders (FSL), has great friends, a little part time job, and a good family. But then everything seems to come to a hault when the hot basketball player catches her attention. On top of that, her Auntie Kinder is having trouble with her abusive ex-husband. Even worse, Jazz's parents are setting up with her future husband. Can Jazz reunite her Aunt with her first love, while trying not to get in trouble for forging a first love of her own?

Likes: Jazz's character was totally relatable, despite being in a different culture and upbringing. How many people can relate to their parents being a bit unreasonable? With Jazz, her parents were ultra strict with their religion and culture guiding them in raising their daughter. It wasn't that they were being unreasonable, but there was a clash between their culture and the American culture.

The themes of this novel are also compelling. Making our own choices, our own mistakes is so important when you're a teenager (or a young adult like me). This is where things get complicated and the author makes this point by showing the conflict between Jazz in who she is, who she wants to be, and her parents expectations. None of us wants to let our parents down, but at the same time we all want to be our own person. Then there are some of us who are content following the plans our parents set us like Jazz's cousin, Kamaljit (Camel as Jazz calls her). The importance that the author sets out is that these are all choices, some of them are risky and others play it safe. The romance was understated towards the end, I was glad to know that it wasn't entirely predictable and while the ending was a little neat, it was completely wrapped up in a shiny bow if that makes sense. Sometimes we just need to be able to make choice, even if it may be the wrong one.

Dislikes: There's not much that I didn't like. I wanted to know more about Tyler R's family and why he decided to treat Jazz the way he did. Logically speaking, you'd think he'd go to her for help, but when are teenagers ever logical?

Overall: Once again, Neesha does it again. I love to learn about new cultures in this way. It sheds new light on some of the situations I encounter at school. I know some of my friends who discussed dating within the Indian culture and as Americans we were like "You can just stand up to your parents and choose who you want to date." And he said it himself, it isn't that easy for him to do. Reading this story helped me understand how hard it is any culture to date when you have strict parents. It was interesting to read the clashes between Indians from India and Indians from the West Indies and the caste system that still plays a role in the culture. I recommend this book for anyone looking to broaden their perspective with a culture they are not familiar with.

Acquired: Ebook received from the author for an honest review.

You can buy it at smashwords.com

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Loose Blog Schedule

 Blog posting schedule:
This will be the loosest schedule ever just in case things get too hectic around here.I do want to have some sense of structure.

Thursday: Thesis Thursdays (Starting Next Week)  Just some updates on my thesis classes. Teacher has office hours on Wednesdays, so I'll be talking about my experience afterward.

Friday: Friday Follow/Blog Hop.(starting Next Week) I really miss doing these. I'll probably do this every other week just because I have a lot to do.

Saturday: Book Reviews (all the books I read for in one day.)

Sunday: Adventures of a 20 Something Post

I'm co-conspirator on a new blog coming soon, I'll give an announcement as the time comes.

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January 8, 2011

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Date Started: January 1, 2011
Date Finished: January 8, 2011

Summary: Jenna has mysteriously survived a life threatening accident. Her parents have done everything they can to keep her alive. Now Jenna is forced to learn things about herself that she never knew before the accident and define what it means to be human.

Likes: While I was reading this novel, even before the big reveal is released I had a sense of foreboding underlying everything. This definitely kept me interested in seeing what was going to happen. The science aspect actually sounded plausible without the story trying to be overly scientific or preachy about the ramifications of medical ethics. It may not make sense in our real world sense, it does have some logical basis and doesn't break the rules of logic for the sake of introducing a deus ex machina.

The romance wasn't actually a romance in my opinion and I appreciated that. It was two people coming to an understanding that each of them is damaged in same way. The story was also about the relationship between parents and children and surprisingly it is not one of the YA novels that ditches parents and actually has them play an active role to the novel. As well as the grandmother Lily, who is another kick-ass older person who doesn't hide the truth from Jenna. I love learning about Jenna's memories and the world as they come to her.

Dislikes: Argh, I'm not a fan of epilogues or last chapters set too far in the future. I'm curious what happens to the characters after the initial story ends, don't get me wrong, but when they are too far from the novel, it's just strange. The character is so far removed from what happened that it's a bit disconcerting. This isn't just for this novel, but for a lot of novels with epilogues. I wonder if they are necessary at times. In the case of this novel, it was so distant and it was a strange ending to an overall well-written story.

Overall: Another dystopian story dealing with another aspect of society. While some deal with technology, the aesthetics, this dystopian deals with the scientific and medical aspects of the way things are going on now. What will happen when we regulate too much or have the technology to remain alive longer than humanly possible. What if we had the technology to possibly live forever, but indefinitely. Would you choose between 2 amazing years or 200 dull ones? I like how this novel tackles this theme. Would someone on the brink of death want the chance to live, even if they had to continually question what makes them human?

Recommended by: Various blogs. I'm glad I read it for myself. It's got a creepy and eerie feeling to it that I enjoyed.

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January 1, 2011

Dystopian Challenge

Dystopia Challenge

Thanks to Dusky Literati for recommending this challenge as well as the steampunk challenge.

I'm going to be at the Contagion level  which is at  15 books. (Some of these are series)

  1. XVI by Julia Karr
  2. The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
  3. Matched by Ally Condie
  4. The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner
  5. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
  6. Feed by M.T. Anderson
  7. Inside Out Series by Maria V. Snyder
  8. Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld
  9. The Knife of Never Letting Go Series by Patrick Ness
  10. Life as We Knew It Series by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  11. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
  12. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
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The Epic Book Survey of 2010

I did this last year when I was just starting out. I set out to read 120 books this year, but I got to 61, which I think is an all-time record. Anyway, here are some of my favorite books for the year.

  • Most imaginative: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.
  • Funniest: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  • Edgiest contemporary: The First Part Last by Angela Davis and The Hate List by Jennifer Brown
  • Creepiest SF/dystopia: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Most evocative historical: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Best love story: Scott Pilgrim Series by Brian Lee O'Malley

  • Most hilarious:
    • Most of the events from The Character of Rain by Amelie Nothomb
    • The conversation between Zooey and his mom in Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
    • The shitty monkeys on shitty island speech in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.
  • Scariest: The last half of Mockingjay by Susanne Collins
  • Most disturbing: 
    • The last conversation with President Snow and Katniss in Mockingjay by Susanne Collins
    • Finding out how people are released in The Giver by Lois Lowry
    • Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
  • Biggest tear-jerker: When Prim is killed in Mockingjay by Susanne Collins
  • Best plot twist/revelation (no spoilers!!) : The way Rachel's family died in the Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow

  • Best couple: 
    • Anna and Etienne St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
    • Katniss and Peeta from The Hunger Games Series by Susanne Collins
    • Katsa and Po from Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Who you'd want as your best friend(s): Miah from If You Come Softly and Behind You by Jacqueline Woodson, everyone from the Scott Pilgrim Series by Bryan Lee O'Malley
  • Who you fell in love with: Gale and Finnick from The Hunger Games Series by Susanne Collins, Wallace from The Scott Pilgrim Series by Bryan Lee O'Malley
  • Worst (best?) villain: Hilly from The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Best character twist (who you loved, then hated, or vice versa): Shay from Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice
  • Best character name: Knives Chau from The Scott Pilgrim Series.
  • Worst character names: Still getting used to all the names from the Hunger Games Series
  • Favorite all-around kickass female: 
    • Hanna from Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
    • Katniss from Hunger Games by Susanne Collins
    • Deryn from Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
  • Favorite all-around kickass male: 
    •  Gale and Peeta from Hunger Games
    • Marcelo from Marcelo in the Real World (he kicks ass in a different way) by Francisco X. Stork

  • Best book cover: Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves and Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
  • Best title: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, If You Come Softly, My Life as a Rhombus
  • Most memorable voice: Anna from Anna and the French Kiss, Rhonda from My Life as A Rhombus
  • Most memorable first line:. "I bring the sun where ever I go, buddy!" from Franny and Zooey. Not a first line, but it's one of my favorites.
  • Best setting: Alternate history Europe in Leviathan and the Explosionist, Asian inspired fantasy land in Silver Phoenix, the various dystopias of Matched, Hunger Games, The Handmaid's Tale, and The Giver
  • Most beautiful writing: Haruki Murakami, Amelie Nothomb, Penelope Fitzgerald, Kristin Cashore

  • Will any of the books you've read in 2010 make your life list of Favorite Books? Yes indeedy.
  • The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins
  • Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami
  • Scott Pilgrim Series by Bryan Lee O'Malley

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