Category Archives: TV
Title: What The Spell?
Author: Brittany Geragotelis
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 1/29/2013
Length: 288 pages/9 hours, 41 minutes
Series?: Life’s a Witch #1
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Format: Digital Audiobook
Source: Review copy from publisher
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge
This is going to be one of those books that is hard to write a review for, because I respect what the author is doing, but it just isn’t for me.
The story: On Brooklyn’s sixteenth birthday, her parents finally unlock her powers as a witch. Brooklyn, who has felt invisible her whole life, immediately embarks on the quest to make herself more popular. She alters her appearance, weasels her way into “The Elite” at school, and even tried to work her magic in romantic relationships. However, membership in The Elite comes with many tests, and some kids are starting to question how Brooklyn is able to do everything they ask. If she’s not careful, The Elite might figure her out — risking more than her popularity in the process.
If you are a twelve year old girl, you will love this book. Seriously. It’s one of those YA books that’s actually written for ACTUAL YA’s — not just YA-loving grown-ups and smart kids. This is book candy, wish-fulfillment, teen-tastic, drama-luscious, completely unrealistic in-every-way fun. I can see if falling into the hands of kids who do not usually enjoy reading. It’s like a WB/ABC Family show in a book. Basically, it’s a lot like Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and y’all know we loved that stuff in middle school.
However, as an adult I found it very hard to read and very unrealistic. I didn’t like Brooklyn throughout the entire story and found her extremely frustrating and shallow. I couldn’t relate to her at all. The concept of The Elite annoyed me, too — it perpetuates the stereotype that the popular group is like a club, with strict membership, perks, and assigned tasks non-members wishing to join. That is not how that works! In reality, popular groups in high schools are far less strictly defined and probably even harder to get into. It’s not as simple as “complete these tasks three, and a member for life ye shall be” (I made that up, that is not in the book).
Also, as a teacher, I found Brooklyn’s relationship with her guidance counselor/adult mentor strange. I can’t not mention this. The woman gets all offended when Brooklyn can’t help her at a charity event, which bothered me as an educator. The woman is supposed to be a guidance counselor, a professional, who would understand this type of behavior in a high school kid. I understand her speech about “I’m disappointed in you” and “you let me down,” but this guidance counselor seems to think of Brooklyn as a colleague rather than a sixteen year old girl. It’s weird.
FINAL GRADE: C As someone who has already made it through high school alive, this book was not for me. But as a librarian/teacher who knows that some kids just need light, fluffy books, I can see the value of the novel. We do need more books that are less literary for our kids who read as an escape. So I respect what Brittany Geragotelis is doing here, but I will politely pass on the rest of the series.
Required Reading: Required for all fans of witches in novels, fluffy pre-teen books, and drama-licious high school stories. Required for pre-teen reluctant readers.
Library Recommendations: Buy it for your middle school library, it will get checked out. Content warnings include witchcraft, kissing, mention of sex, drinking, and a lot of unkind behavior.
What “fluffy” books did you enjoy as a middle/high school student that you would probably not like now?
by Lauren Oliver
Random House/Listening Library/Harper Teen
CD borrowed from public library
[#42 in my 75 book challenge]
Is it just me, or was this book the very definition of pandemonium? Pandemonium is the second book in the Delirium trilogy, and it suffers from middle-book syndrome. If you’ve not yet read Delirium, you can check out my review here. Be aware that, since this is the second book in a trilogy, this review will contain spoilers from Delirium (but not for Pandemonium). Speak now or forever hold your peace…
ALL ABOARD THE SPOILER TRAIN!
Pandemoniumis the story of Lena’s life after her escape to The Wilds. After the “incident” at the fence, she’s flying solo…but not for long. The narration alternates back and forth between “Then” and “Now,” and each part tells a different story. In the “Then” chapters, we see Lena meet a group of invalids and learn about life outside of society and away from The Cure. In the “Now” chapters, Lena is infiltrating the Deliria Free American (DFA) in a New York City Rally. We have to read both stories to find out how Lena ends up back in New York society, posing as one of the cured, and what kind of dangers she gets into with her mission.
The word “pandemonium” means “wild and noisy disorder or confusion or uproar,” and I was struggling to get through this story for those very reasons. The alternating narration confused me. I was far more interested in the “Now” plot than the “Then,” so I mostly found myself zoning out for half the story. I listened to the story as an audio book, so the format may be at fault here — though my fellow blogger April over at Good Books and Good Wine loved the audio book, I wasn’t so much a fan. Sarah Drew, of Grey’s Anatomy fame, was the narrator, and I found her distracting. Maybe it was her or maybe it was Oliver’s writing style (or maybe both), but it felt like a 10 hour-long super-intense poetry slam…which was exhausting. I love Sarah Drew’s film acting, but it just didn’t work for me here.
However, the book wasn’t a total loss. Again, I’m focusing on the negative parts, which isn’t exactly fair. I did like the “Now” part, I liked Julian, and I like the direction that Oliver took Lena’s character. Lena is a strong female lead, and she’s taking a stand because she fundamentally believes that her society is WRONG about Deliria. She’s not just risking her life for one boy, which is why I was so glad when Lena crossed the fence without Alex at the end of the first book — Lena needed to stand on her own, and she did. And, of course, the ending blew me away and left me ready to read the third book.
FINAL GRADE: C Good. It definitely has some flaws, but it was worth it to read through this middle book to prepare for the conclusion of the trilogy. If you liked Delirium, be aware that this installment is different, but necessary. I would not read it as a stand alone, but I would recommend it to my students who liked Delirium. It definitely has a place in my library (it’s totally middle school appropriate) and I will be reading Requiem when it comes out next February.
Have you ever found that an audio book clouded your impression of a novel? Which one?
by Kiera Cass
Purchased from the Nook store
[#38 in my 75 book challenge]
Here’s how I would describe the story: The Hunger Games meets The Bachelorette. You have a dystopian society (Illea) with a really strict caste system. Royalty are Ones, on down through the homeless who are Eights. When it is time for Prince Maxon to marry, one girl from each of the thirty-five districts is selected from any caste system to compete for the prince’s hand in marriage. It’s televised, the girls live a lavish lifestyle in the palace, and there is no set time frame for the process — it can take weeks or years.
Our protagonist is America Singer, a Five from the district of Carolina. She’s in love with Aspen, a Six, but she’s convinced to enter the Selection anyway. She gets selected. Cue Cinderella moments: delicious food, instant status, beautiful dresses, maids, and (of course) a love triangle on the horizon.
If you read the reviews on Goodreads for this book, it is quite obvious that everyone either loved it or hated it. There was very little in-between. I happened to love it. I had no problem with the “borrowed” plots or less-than-stellar writing because I feel this one has potential as a trilogy. While the fancy-pants stuff takes center stage here, it is obvious that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. There are political secrets and cover ups galore waiting to be uncovered in the future novels. The pretty-pretty of The Selection is just a facade for the frightened monarchy. The second book in this trilogy will really tell us where it’s all going, because we don’t even really know yet.
The story is well-paced and kept my attention so I read it in two days. America is an okay protagonist. She grew on me. But I like the idea of her and Prince Maxon. Since we’ve got a true love triangle on our hands here, I stand firmly on Team Maxon. Both America and Maxon grow throughout the book, and I can’t wait to see what twists Cass will throw at us to shake things up in the following novels! I’m hoping to see America become a little more kick-ass and I have a lady in mind that I hope Aspen can fall for so he’s not sad about losing America.
The one thing you must know before reading this book is that IT DOES NOT END. It’s a trilogy, and the end is wide open. If this type of thing frustrates you, wait until all three are published and then read it. Personally, trilogies kind of drive me crazy, but I guess I’ll play the game. The waiting game. I’ll be watching the TV show on the CW based on this series while I wait.
FINAL GRADE: B I liked this book because I read it for fun and I read it as an independent work. Trying to hold it for a direct comparison to The Hunger Games will leave a reader very disappointed. It’s not in my Top Ten Favs of All Time, but I enjoyed the read and I’m glad I bought it. I will absolutely buy a copy for my media center because I know my students will LOVE it. Though sex and virginity are mentioned early in the novel, both the sex and violence are mearly mentioned, neither seen nor committed by the protagonist. I would also recommend it to my 20-something friends who like girly books (you know who you are!).
I also have to note that there was a lot of drama surrounding this book, the author, and negative reviewer on Goodreads in January, which has caused a lot of people to post negative reviews and refuse to read the book. I know very little about the drama, but I also don’t really care. Same goes for any other drama that has erupted in the book blogger world as of late. I prefer my drama in books, not in real life. I’m judging the book, not the author, when I write a review, positive or negative.
Lord knows I’d be in trouble if an author/agent/publisher/fellow blogger ever swooped in and started judging me based on my writing on this blog. Yikes. My stuff isn’t terrible, but it’s not exactly prime for publication. Y’all, writing for a living would be hard work!
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we’re looking at books that we think would make great movies. This can either be due to the desperate desire to see a beloved story/character played out on the big screen or because the book just seems perfectly suited for the theater. I wrote a post about my views on books into movies, which included my favorites and a wish list, so check it out if you get the chance! Here are my top picks:
Top Ten Books I’d Like To See Made Into a Movie
[aka movies I'd pay $15 to see, even though I already know the ending]
1.) Divergent by Veronica Roth
The scene where Tris ziplines down the Chicago skyline from a skyscraper? That alone would be worth it.
2.) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I just want to see the battle room in action.
3.) The Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart
Okay, so this one is purely selfish. I just want to see the cute outfits and you KNOW it’d have a great indie music soundtrack.
4.) The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
…so I can watch the movie and decide if I really want to read the books.
5.) Bunheads by Sophie Flack
I could watch ballet movies for hours.
6.) The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
This would make an amazing kid’s movie that grown-ups could also enjoy, especially if they put a good budget behind it and did it well.
7.) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Just imagine all the pieces coming together at the end for a twist and a bang! But I also think the period feel could be done well, and the scenes with the $20,000 Pyramid would be fun.
8.) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
It could ride the coattails of the Downton Abbey obsession AND the paranormal romance obsession, all in one book. I didn’t ever finish the book, so it would also inspire me to do so.
9.) The Maze Runner by James Dashner
It’s just asking to be made into an action movie with crazy special effects.
10.) Any Agatha Christie Novel
Now here’s a movie franchise I could take part in! I would love to see Christie’s stories OR new stories based on hers told on the big screen in the 21st century. The TV movies and adaptations and whatnot are nice, but they could really kill it (pun intended) with a good budget and some great actors.
Basically I’ll go see any movie that comes out for a book I’ve read. What movie would you like to see on the screen? What movie do you wish you could write/produce?
[Also, note that my book cover collages are back! I found a post-Picnik site that will do them just like Picnik: ipiccy.com!]
The Selection by Kiera Cass
I’m about halfway through this one, and OMG YOU GUYS, I love it. It has some flaws, but I don’t care. If The Hunger Games and The Bachelorette got together and created a baby, it would be this book. I’m not one to get lost in wish-fulfillment, but c’mon!
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
I know some of you were upset that I liked Goblet of Fire less on my re-read of it. Well, you will be pleased to know that I like this one much more on round three! It’s slow going because I already know what happens, but I’m about halfway through the audiobook.
The Know-It-All by AJ Jacobs
Non-fiction, the story of a man who reads the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica in one year. I have been working on this one for over a year, and I’m twenty pages from the end. Good thing I wasn’t trying to read the encyclopedia, huh? I would have FAILED. TAKE THAT, NOOK BOOK! I cannot resell you, so I WILL finish you!
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
The story of a girl and a boy who meet at the airport and fall in love over the events of the following 24 hours. I read maybe 20 pages before getting sucked in to The Selection. But since this one is required reading for April, rest assured that I will tackle it in the next four days!
Across The Universe by Beth Revis
Sort of a sci-fi love story, I’m still not sure what this book is actually about. Something about a girl getting un-cryogenically frozen on a space ship and trying to figure out who did it. Just got the audiobook via Overdrive at the public library, after being on the waiting list for about six weeks. I burned it to nine CD’s last night. Depending on if I can renew Harry Potter, I will be starting this one on my drive to Virginia tomorrow.
A note on my post-Picnik photo-editing woes: Getting a graphic with book covers like this was a PAIN in the ASS. I had to use Pixlr, which is like a light, web-based version of Photoshop, to create the basic gray background and add each book cover. Resizing and aligning the covers sucked, but I know how to do it now. Then I uploaded the saved collage to Picmonkey to add the framing, rounded edges, and caption. Yikes, that’s a lot of work. It took me two hours! Granted, it will go faster next time. But it used to take 5 minutes in Picnik.
So, in short, I’m still playing with graphics in a post-Picnik world. If anyone has advice on how they are displaying book covers in better way, please let me know! I like there to be a simple elegance to it.
This week I am taking a break from the assigned Top Ten Tuesday topic over at The Broke and the Bookish to do a top ten list of my own. The topic today was supposed to be Top Ten Books That Deceived Me, but I didn’t think I could come up with ten and I wasn’t feeling the topic.
So instead I’m going to talk about TV.
‘Cause y’all know I don’t just sit around and read all day. I’d addicted to my TiVo (yes, TiVo. I’m a diehard TiVoer and refuse to use the cable company’s DVR). Though I only have about ten channels at the moment, these are my favs to catch on network TV, Netflix, and Hulu. So here we go with a distinctively non-bookish Top Ten Tuesday:
Top Ten TV Shows I Love
[shows I never miss an episode of]
1.) 30 Rock – I have seen every episode a bajillion times, it’s my go-to show on Netflix. Liz Lemon is my hero, the writing is superb, and the cast is hilarious. There are a million jokes hidden in the dialogue of every episode. I love quoting the show and it always makes me laugh ridiculously hard at least once an episode. It’s my favorite show. Ever.
2.)How I Met Your Mother — Some may say the show is going downhill, but I will continue to watch. I love the continuity within the series and the fact that 2030 Ted is an unreliable narrator, so sometimes the stories are exaggerated. I love Barney Stinson most of all.
3.) Big Bang Theory — Sheldon Cooper. Need I say more? Again, this one is kind of going downhill for me, but the legacy of the first few wonderful seasons keeps it above the pack in TiVo queue.
4.) Modern Family — I’ve just recently really fallen in love with Modern Family. I knew I’d like it, but I just didn’t have time for it. I love the characters and the multiple subplots in each episode. My favorite characters have to be Mitchell Pritchett, Phil Dunphy, and Alex Dunphy…but who am I kidding? I love them all.
5.) Dance Moms — Okay, here’s the part where I proudly announce my love of reality TV. Yes, I love bad reality TV. I love Dance Moms because I like watching the kids dance, but also because I love how badly staged the drama is. It’s so, so, so fake.
6.) Project Runway — I enjoy the sassy outfits and the general fact that this show has historically focused more on the actual competition than the drama back in the living quarters. However, the 1.5 hour format has gone into this a lot more. I don’t really care for the 1.5 hour episodes, but a few “bloop bloop bloops” of the TiVo and I can skip ahead the good stuff: the runway shows. Drool.
7.) Toddlers and Tiaras — Shock and awe. I’m sold. See #5 about my love of trashy TV. It makes me feel like I will be an okay mother one day if there are really people like that running around out there. Plus I totally knew kids and families like that in grade school.
8.) Real Housewives of New York/Orange County — I think this one sprung from many afternoons of Bravo marathons. Those bitches are CRAZY and I eat it up.
9.) Penn and Teller: Bullshit! — I have a hard time finding episodes to watch, since I don’t have Showtime, but I desperately want to own this show on DVD. These guys are libertarians and they aren’t afraid to be skeptical about things and speak their minds about it. Recycling? Family values? Boy Scouts? Nothing is safe. Plus I always laugh.
10.) Downton Abbey — Though I admittedly love the half-hour sitcom and reality TV, Downton Abbey did capture my heart. I’ve watched series 1 on Netflix three times, and I’m trying to get ahold of series 2. This is one show that I put everything away for and focus on 100%.
What TV shows do you love? And do you know where I can find Downton Abbey?
by Jodi Picoult
Washington Square Press
Purchased in paperback
[#26 in my 75 book challenge]
Ooooohhh, Picoult, you sure have a way of showing me both sides of a complicated issue. You’ve made me sympathetic to murder-suicide, anti-gay ex-husbands, and kids who refuse to donate a kidney to their sisters. And now you’ve made me sympathetic to neonaticide.
In this novel, a newborn baby is found dead in an Amish barn, and Katie Fisher is on trial for the murder. Big-city lawyer Ellie Hathaway ends up not just representing Katie in court, but also living in Amish country as her client’s court-appointed guardian prior to the trial. Like all Picoult novels, the story grows more and more complicated as we find out more about Katie’s life. We are given one twist and turn at a time, even throughout the trial in the last 1/3 of the book, and are left wondering exactly what happened until the last few pages when the truth comes out and the verdict is given.
Though I like Picoult’s books and read them like 400+ page candy, I found myself not liking either Ellie or Katie in this story. That fact didn’t hurt my overall enjoyment too much, but it was problematic none-the-less. I didn’t find myself feeling sympathetic toward the commitment-phobic, workaholic lawyer (ohmygoodness, will a few month living the simple life cure her?!) and I didn’t feel any sympathy toward Katie. She’s supposed to be sort of mature and naive at the same time, but I felt like I didn’t trust her from page one. And that trust didn’t even change at the end of the book.
Why do characters always have to hold on to secrets that they KNOW will be important (like who the baby daddy is) and that they know will be found out? And why on earth do they seem surprised that other characters in the story want to know these things? You are on trial for murder, honey. The baby daddy IS IMPORTANT. Characterization aside, though, it was a good page-turner of a book.
FINAL GRADE: B I liked it, in a quiet way. The ending wasn’t quite satisfying for me, which is why it’s knocked down from an A to a B. There are a few flaws, but overall it was what I was expecting in a Picoult book — legal drama with a lot of depth and a good twist. I’ve seen many people list this as one of their favorite Picoult books. I can see why, but I’m still sticking with The Pact as my #1.
Other Picoult books I’ve read:
My Sister’s Keeper
Have you read any Picoult novels? Why or why not? Which is your favorite?
(Also, did you know Picoult’s name is pronounced Pec-o? I learned that while researching this novel. Fun fact.)