Friday, January 31, 2014

Review: "The Giver" Classic a Month #1.2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry
3.5 out of 5 stars

I wanted to give myself something easy for the first classic of 2014 so I decided to finally read The Giver, which has been sitting on my shelf for several months now. I never read it when I was younger and didn't really know a lot about it until I started hearing about the movie coming out soon. I also didn't even know it had sequels/companion books so I'm going to try to get those from the library soon, because hello cliff hanger. :P

If you're like me and have never read it, here's the basic plot: way, way, way in the future there are small communities like Jonas' that have made life "perfect". In other words, super regulated and removing of all basic choices. When they hit the age of 12, each citizen is given their career. Jonas gets picked for an extra special one, The Receiver. The book spans about a year and a half to two years and tells all about Jonas' journey to realizing that his world maybe isn't perfect after all. And that's your spoiler-free review, so stop here if you still want to read it!

The book felt a little "flat" to me in some parts. It took me until roughly halfway thru to realize that they weren't seeing color or hearing music. I just thought they were overly polite & structured and that was about the only change. I enjoyed the "daily life" of the first half of the book. I laughed when little sister Lily described getting angry and her little fists. I teared up when the weaker twin was "Released". (And come on, who didn't see that immediately as a euphemism for "euthanize"??) Asher was good comedic relief, but I didn't feel the importance of him or Fiona that Lowry seemed to want to make them. Jonas was a decent young boy with little to no personality, until he met the Giver. (All this "giving and receiving" reminds me of that Friends episode lol.)

The Giver was a nice old guy who didn't want to make the same mistake as with his first replacement (Rosemary) again with his new, young Receiver so he starts out nice and slow with the memories. I loved his memory of Christmas, that was probably my favorite part. But somewhere along the way, he gets ornery and decides that maybe Jonas is right. Maybe the people do need these memories and choices. And all of a sudden, they're planning a mutiny. It just seemed very rushed and out of nowhere to me.

Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.

Questions that didn't get answered for me (mostly rhetorical, since I'm planning on reading the sequels):
1. How did the people stop seeing color? Is it in their water or food?
2. How is the climate controlled if there are no borders to other communities?
3. Why are all the Receivers born with those strange, light-colored eyes? Wouldn't that make it pretty obvious who the next in line is and they could start training earlier?
4.  Is Rosemary actually dead? (Don't answer that one! :))
5. Did Jonas & Gabriel die at the end? (I'm going to say no, but that they were hallucinating with the sled and all.)
6. Is the Receiver/Giver's gift magic or science?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: "Kristy & The Baby Parade: The Baby-Sitters Club #45"

Kristy & The Baby Parade: The Baby-Sitters Club #45 by Ann M Martin
2 out of 5 stars

Kristy narrating + lots of babies + a poorly executed K*Idea = one awfully boring book. One of the only good things about this book is that the cover artist didn't make them look as awful as they should have. Also, there is a truly stupendous Claudia outfit later on. And by "stupendous" I mean "horrendous". :)

Okay, so the book starts out with Kristy baby-sitting David Michael & Emily Michelle and she sees an ad in the paper for the town baby parade. I know, weird right? There's so many things wrong with a baby parade, I can't even talk about it. Kristy immediately thinks of Emily Michelle because she's the Cutest Adopted Baby Ever. (Maybe I should call her CABE from now on, it's shorter!) Before she can start planning for it though, she has to reminisce about all her friends and family and how she had the most brilliant idea in the world to start a Baby-Sitters Club. Gag.

At the BSC meeting later on, Mrs Prezzioso calls up and needs a regular sitter for a few weeks, conveniently between the hours of 3:30 and 5:00. Does the whole town shut down during club hours so no one has to need a sitter?? I don't understand! Kristy is the only one available and surprisingly doesn't complain about having to sit for Miss Priss. But before she can take the job, Mrs P wants her to take a baby care class and all the BSCers agree to take it too. Claudia even suggests that they can call themselves "infant specialists" afterwards and Kristy demotes her to Junior Officer for having an idea before her. (Not really, but she was jealous.) So they start taking the class and they're all amazed by all the pregnant women wandering around lol and then they all (even Kristy) get a crush on one of the male instructors, which is totally odd and just kind of goes away after Kristy realizes that he's a dad? Um okay. (side note: you know you're getting older when you think the dad is cuter than the teenage boy in sitcoms!) They learn lots of stuff in the class and have to take a test at the end, which Kristy aces, but had a surprising moment of self-doubt beforehand. And now Kristy can baby-sit for Jenny and Andrea. Yay.

Mrs P wants to enter Andrea in the stroller contest for the parade and wants demands Kristy to help decorate the stroller. She has already gotten a costume for a queen. Yeah, a big curly wig, heavy crown, and high ruffled collar on an infant. That sounds smart. Maybe Mrs P should have taken that infant class. Kristy agrees to help, because for some reason, she thinks she'll get fired if she doesn't. She's kind of disappointed that she won't be able to help Emily Michelle now. But then she talks to the other BSCers and they mention how some of the other babies they watch, like Lucy Newton and Squirt, would be super cute in the parade and they decide to make a big float and enter all the babies together. And now let's take time out for What Claudia Wore to her baby-sitting job for Jamie & Lucy. I kind of think she missed the boat on her shoes; am I the only one whose (who's?) mom painted the cheap white canvas sneakers to look like watermelons as a kid? Yes? Well my mom was pretty awesome. :)

Here’s what she was wearing (I saw her later that day at our meeting): an oversized red blouse with black buttons, green leggings with white, tie-dyed streaks, and black high-top sneakers with all kinds of buckles and straps on them. (The laces were untied, which I guess is the cool way to wear them. I’d be tripping over them all day, but Claud can pull it off.) Can you guess what her earrings were? Dangling watermelon slices. Get it? She was dressed like a watermelon, head to toe.
(click here for links & details)

Okay, so the girls all get together to discuss their float and of course, they all have very specific ideas of what the theme should be. Do they really have to all go with their personalities ALL the time? Can't Stacey want a sea creature themed float instead of sophisticated New York City? And really Mallory? We're going to dress up a bunch of babies as horses for your stupid childish Misty of Chena-whatever books?? No. Anyway, they finally agree to a nursery rhyme (which was Mary Anne's idea & Stacey called babyish) and pick "The Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe". Kind of smart, since there's lots of kids. But now they have to build a giant shoe. And apparently, that's a little beyond Claudia's level of talent. 

For the first time ever, the girls don't communicate on a big project and everything ends up a disaster. Claud's giant shoe looks like a "lumpy, streaky red mountain" and Mal's costumes are hideous pink ruffly things that make the babies cry. The girls all end up arguing and Dawn even decides to put her baby, Eleanor, in a different outfit completely. The day of the parade comes and they are all mortified to be on the float. Poor Charlie has to pull the thing behind his Junk Bucket and puts on a disguise to hide from his friends. They are by and far the worst float, the one in front of them is a professional looking carousel and behind them is a tropical rain forest themed. The girls suffer in silence through the long parade and through the judging (which they obviously did not win, but surprisingly Queen Andrea did) and Kristy asks Charlie to drive the float straight to the dump afterwards. He delights in watching it get crushed into a tiny cube. The girls all realize that they were being dumb and that the project didn't work because they didn't communicate (seriously, how "after school special" can we get?) and they call each other up to apologize. The End.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review: "The Vinyl Princess"

The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz
4 out of 5 stars

After reading The Lucy Variations a while back, I went in search of more music-inspired books and came across this one. I was finally able to pick it up at the library and I am very happy it was my second read for 2014. This book is about music, yes, but it's all about the classic rock & roll, where Lucy was all about classical. I was kind of surprised I rated it 4 stars, because it does have its flaws, but overall I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it to music buffs.

Allie is 16 years old and a music fanatic. Her job at Bob & Bob Records fuels her appetite for old vinyls and weird people. She is excited to have a whole summer of just working at Bob's and starting up her new music blog, called "The Vinyl Princess". I love that she starts a blog, but her sudden fame was highly unbelievable. As I'm sure most of you know out there from your own blogs, it's hard to get followers and comments, and she goes from zero comments one day to 18 people commenting in one hour a few days later. Yeah, no. It doesn't happen that way lol. That was one of the few things that annoyed me about this book. Anyway, she also starts up a fanzine that I would love to see the cover of: a vintage pen-and-ink of an ice princess on skates wearing a tiara, executing an arabesque, using an LP as a skating rink. Anyone want to draw that for me? :) (eta: okay, I totally did not see that on the author's site the first time I looked! Doh!!)

This story is mostly about Allie and her love affair with music, but also about her family and friends. Her mom and dad split up a year or so ago and they have both started moving on, leaving Allie to deal with the repercussions. She has a crush on a guy who comes in the record store and turns out to be hiding something pretty big. Her best friend gets her heart broken by a musician and Allie's beloved record store is in danger of closing. Can she survive the summer? And more importantly, does she have the right music for it?
(Pic taken by me)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Special: Baby-Sitters Club All Grown Up: Mallory!

I finally wrote up Mallory's All Grown Up post! I know, I'm such a slacker. ;) Mallory was hard at first, especially because I haven't read very many of her books yet. (Also slacking on that bah!) Okay, here we go!

(click here for details & links)

Mallory really flourished after she transferred to Riverbend boarding school towards the end of 6th grade and she continued to grow and mature throughout high school and college. Finally being accepted for her quirks and appreciated for her writing and drawing talents really helped Mal become the person she is today. Thanks to a hefty scholarship and part-time job at The Strand, Mal was able to go to NYU and graduated with honors. She lived with Jessi for a year after graduating, but after one too many arguments over wet dance tights hanging in the shower, she decided to move back to Stoneybrook. Her parents graciously offered to let her stay in her old room, but Mallory refused to share with Margo and Claire, so she got a cheap apartment in the downtown area near her job at the public library. Working with Claudia's mom was a dream for Mal and even more so when Mrs Kishi introduced Mal to their newest employee, a young Irishman named Liam. Ever since Ben Hobart, she'd had a soft spot for red bearded men with accents. Mallory & Liam soon became a serious item and after a year of dating, Liam proposed in the middle of children's story-time hour and Mal accepted, much to the children's delight.

Liam encouraged Mallory's dream of becoming a published author and it paid off. Turns out Mallory really is a talented writer and illustrator...her first children's book, titled Sebastian the Seal Goes to Sailing School, was a huge success and led to a line of seafaring adventure books. Her next series will be based on the country mice she first came up with back on that big trip to New York City with the BSCers. Speaking of her former co-babysitters, she sees Mary Anne regularly at the library of course and occasionally runs into Kristy at the market. Jessi rarely comes to visit, especially after her parents and younger brother and sister moved back to Oakland.

Liam and Mallory both came from huge families and after all those years of sharing a bathroom with 3-6 other kids, they decided that one child was more than enough for them and had a little girl named Madeline in their second year of marriage. A stray cat and roly-poly puppy named Bert round out their happy little family and they now live around the corner from the Pike family home. Claire is the only one still living at home and is always happy to baby-sit for little Maddie, for a hefty price. And that is where Mallory is now, I hope you enjoyed this much delayed installment of the Baby-Sitters Club All Grown Up!! :)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

TILT: Meme-palooza!!

Things I Love Thursday is simple today...books books books! I love reading about books, talking about books, looking at books, smelling books...oh yeah, and reading books. :)

(these and more can be found on my Books Books Books Pinterest board!)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review: "Deceptions: Sweet Valley High #14"

Deceptions: Sweet Valley High #14 by Francine Pascal
2 out of 5 stars

Before Reading: Yes! This is the next one after the Kidnapping! I finally have two in a row! That guy is not the studly Todd Wilkins!! Also, did Elizabeth get a haircut? Those swoopy bangs are NOT flattering. This is another book from the International Order of Rainbow Girls. :)

The Main Plot in 50 Words or Less: Follow-up to Liz's kidnapping, now she has to deal with the new guy's advances. Is she in love with Nicholas? What about Todd? What about Jessica?

The Second Plot in 20 Words or Less: Jessica uses her feminine wiles to get Randy, a computer nerd, to hack into school computers and change her grade.

Opening Lines: "Come on in," Elizabeth Wakefield said to the tall, good-looking boy who was standing in the doorway of the Wakefield home. But Nicholas Morrow didn't move. His dark, soulful eyes were riveted on Elizabeth.

Closing Lines: "Maybe it's just a false alarm," Jessica said, putting her arms around her sister. Elizabeth grasped at this slender straw. "Maybe," she said. "But Mom & Dad want us to meet them at the hospital right away. Steve's already there."

Best WTF Lines: "This is called a floppy disk." and "Do you think I've lost all my charm? Am I old?"

Happenings in SV: The book opens right where the last one ended, with Liz's welcome home party from being kidnapped. Nicholas is immediately infatuated with Elizabeth, instead of Jessica, who is in love with him. Nicholas insists that Liz go out with at least once and she finally agrees because she's a nice person., the dude is pushing it too far. Also, hello? She's completely in love with Todd, star basketball player and local teen heartthrob. Nicholas takes Elizabeth to a super fancy restaurant where they run into Todd & his family. Liz pretends to be Jess but it backfires (of course) and she manages to hurt both Todd & Jess. There's an important basketball game towards the end against bitter rivals Big Mesa and Todd plays horribly at first because of his broken heart. But it all works out in the end and everyone is happy and Liz & Todd get back together.

Steven is totally a bummer the whole book because his girlfriend, Tricia Martin, is going to die soon. So inconsiderate of him (according to Jess). Jessica gets Randy to change her math grade, but they get caught. Surprisingly, she agrees to confess to the principal, but only if Elizabeth goes with them. She does and manages to keep them both from getting suspended or into any kind of trouble.

Fashion Icons: [Regina] wore a stunning blue dress that highlighted her eyes and set off her light complexion. Her hair, worn long, was as dark and wavy as Nicholas'.

[Jessica] was wearing a pale-blue miniskirt and a matching V-neck sweater.

"Cara Walker says the dresses that just came in at Foxy Mama's are fabulous."

He [Todd] was wearing a new white polo shirt that showed off his dark tan and lean, muscular build.

For her date with Nicholas, Elizabeth "decided on a natural-silk shantung dress that was practically the color of her honey-blond hair. The style was simplicity itself, but Elizabeth dressed it up with a pair of matching shoes, a gold belt, and a bracelet." Nicholas "was wearing a pair of charcoal-gray slacks and a black dinner jacket with a tasteful maroon ascot fastened about his neck." Seriously? They both sound hideous and old!!

Twin Hijinks:  Well, Nicholas falls for one twin over the other, even though he knows nothing about either one. When they are out at dinner, Liz pretends to be Jess so she doesn't get in trouble with Todd. He falls for it, but then goes to the girls' house after, to apologize for doubting her, and ends up kissing Jessica, thinking it's Elizabeth. Scandalous!

Other Thoughts: Nicholas Morrow is kind of icky. He redeemed himself by the end, apologizing to Todd, but I don't buy it. I can't remember if he goes bad again later, but I wouldn't put it past him. My main problem with this one was Liz's wishy-washiness (washy-ness?) She says she's soooo in love with Todd but she agrees to go out with this other guy who has professed his love for her after 20 minutes of meeting her. It's okay to go out with a guy friend, but not a guy friend who loves you and wants to steal you away. It seemed very sleazy and like she was channeling Jessica thru most of the book.

The Next Book*Is this really the end for Tricia Martin? Find out in Sweet Valley High #15, PROMISES.

*(not necessarily what I'll be reading)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: My 8 Bookish Resolutions for 2014

Great timing for The Broke & The Bookish, I was considering doing a resolutions post soon anyway! Looking back at my 2013 resolutions, I didn't do so great, particularly with the last 4. That stinks. Maybe my word of the year should be "Maintain". :p Ooh, how about "Focus"? I actually like that, yep I'll use it!

1. Read 110 books for 2014. I had originally set it for 150 since I way passed my goal last year. But thinking about it, I want to make more time for blogging and actually reviewing most of the books I read, so I lowered it.

2. Read at least 20 Baby-Sitters Club books and review them. I can't believe I thought I could do them all in 1 year (while blogging them all)!!

3. Keep my to-read shelf down to one shelf. O_0 I've done really well the last few months of not buying new books and reading off my shelf, so I was able to condense it down to one 2 foot shelf instead of two! Haha! And I'd like to keep it that way, so I need to read some more before I can buy some more.

4. Try out vlogging. I'm a little nervous about being on camera but I want to move past that and be able to do at least 1 video a month.

5. Continue reading a classic a month and branch out even more. What classic is a must read for you? Have I read it yet? If not, tell me below!

6. Write more non-review posts. Yesterday, when I was doing my favorite for 2013, I realized that I should do more like that. They were a lot of fun to write.

7. Enjoy blogging again. Don't make it into work, when I need a break, I'll take one. When I want to blog every day, I'll go crazy!

8. Continue to utilize my library, especially when the new one opens back up in March! (Picture courtesy of MrLibraryDude)

And that's all I have! :) What are your goals/resolutions/words for the year? How did you do on last year's?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Best & Worst of 2013

A little delayed, but Happy New Year to all my lovely readers and stopper-bys! :) I enjoyed my holidays and my break from blogging, but I think I'm ready to get back to it. I missed writing about books and bookish things! And I want to try some new things here, just not sure what yet. That will take some thought. Anyway, I'm going to start off the week with my best and worst of 2013 along with some favorites. "Worst" isn't exactly all that bad though, I didn't have any 1 star books for the year! Just a few that didn't quite agree with me lol. Let's break this down a little, shall we?

Number of books read:
158 Total (goal was 130, woo!)
12 Classics
22 Rereads
27 eBooks
22 Graphic Novels
8 Baby-Sitters Club books

Most Read Authors:
10 Ann M Martin
7 JK Rowling
6 Terry Moore
4 Christopher Pike, Francine Pascal, Lauren Oliver, Joe Hill, Caroline B Cooney
3 Cecily von Ziegesar, Neal Shusterman, LM Montgomery, Wendy Mass, Tarryn Fisher, James Dashner

Favorite Covers:
Unsouled (Unwind #3) -super creepy
Numbers #1 -the hardbound has embossed white numbers on a white background on the inside cover, I liked it because it was "feely" lol.
Hater #1 -very bold with the red on white.
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour -this book is just begging to be made into a movie with this cover!
Spanking Shakespeare -because it's funny
Bad News Ballet #1 -because I squealed when I saw it at a book sale and it took me back to my childhood.

5 Star Rereads:
Harry Potter (duh)-I finally talked my sister into reading it with me this summer and of course, she loved it! :)
Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore-my favorite graphic novel series
Anna & The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins -I enjoyed revisiting this and loved it just as much as the first time!
The Thing About Jane Spring by Sharon Krum

5 Star New Reads:
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Light (Gone #6) by Michael Grant -a fabulous ending to a fabulous series
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Lover Reborn (Black Dagger Brotherhood #10) by JR Ward
Locke & Key Vol 4: Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern -we watched Hugo over the weekend and I loved it, that's how I would think The Night Circus would look as a movie.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Anne of the Island (Anne of Green Gables #3) by LM Montgomery

Almost 5 Star New Reads:
The first 3 Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead -so much better than Vampire Academy, in my opinion.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman -deliciously creepy
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson -so, so sad but very good!
Kidnapped (Sweet Valley High #13) by Francine Pascal -ridiculous SVH plots at its best!
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon -one of my dad's favorites, I can see why!

Amazing Classics:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Not So Great Reads:
Just One Year by Gayle Forman -it made me sad that I didn't enjoy this sequel as much as the first.
Deceptions (Sweet Valley High #14) by Francine Pascal -ridiculous SVH plots at its worst, I'll be reviewing this one this week!
Where it Began by Ann Redisch Stampler
Doll Bones by Holly Black

Not So Great Classics:
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley -I really wanted to be scared & I wasn't
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger -my expiration date has passed for this book
Nancy Drew #1 by Carolyn Keene -again, I'm just too old for this stuff lol

Favorite Non-Review Blog Posts I Wrote:
Banned Book Week 09/24/13
TTT: 10 More Books I'd Turn Into Movies 09/10/13
The Summer Romance Formula 08/21/13
TTT: My 10 Favorite Graphic Novels 08/13/13
That Time I Met Ann M Martin & Neil Gaiman 04/29/13
TTT: My 10 Best Bookish Memories 02/05/13
She's Crafty...She's Just My Type 02/03/13
Book vs Movie: Anne of Green Gables 01/12/13

And finally, department of random, my favorite page from a graphic novel... a young female in an intergalactic army many, many years in the future takes a break reading a vintage romance book in Saga: Vol 2 by Brian K Vaughan. :)
(Artist is Fiona Staples)