Archive for December, 2013

Shizuko’s Daughter Review

Genre: Young Adult

Shizuko’s Daughter by Kyoko Mori is a young adult novel about an adolescent girl named Yuki Okuda. The story spans through Yuki’s teenage years and takes place in four different locations, but mainly focuses in Kobe, a city four hours away from Tokyo. Readers go through different points of view to understand the full story and to get different perspectives on the events taking place in the novel.

Yuki is twelve years old when her mother commits suicide. After this horrible incident, Yuki is forced to grow up without a loving mother, and she has to deal with the grief on her own since her father is hardly responsive. While she attempts to cope with her mother’s death, she has to deal with her father and his new wife. The stepmother treats Yuki badly, and Yuki’s father does nothing to help the situation. Yuki grows up alone and must overcome her sadness while learning to move on with her life.

Shizuko’s Daughter is an inspiring book. Mori brings up a depressing topic and is able to make her readers feel involved with the story. Throughout the novel, many events in Yuki’s life can trigger an emotion in the reader whether that is sadness, anger, or joy. There are plenty of moments that will cause sadness or anger and can make the reader want to jump into the story to help and protect Yuki. This reaction is due to the wonderful way the story is set up and how it flows from year to year or month to month, depending on the chapters. There is a focus on important moments in Yuki’s life without meaningless conversations or events. Everything that happens is important to the story in some way or the other.

The chapters, in this novel, were published separately first before they were a part of Shizuko’s Daughter. It is interesting to see how well each of the chapters fit together. Even though the novel skips through Yuki’s life to focus on main points, Mori sets it up in such a way that it makes sense for the piece. The story goes through the difficult steps in Yuki’s life as she learns to deal with her mother’s suicide and her terrible father and stepmother. The readers see the key moments in Yuki’s life that define who she is as a person and who she will be in the future.

While the arrangement of the story is good, the characterization is even better. The characters are realistic, and with each chapter, there is a sense of the different personalities coming to life. The reader is able to get into the mind of the mother, father, stepmother, grandmother, and grandfather. This shows alternate ways to look at the piece. Each person sees Yuki differently, and readers are able to see Yuki in another light, depending on who is talking. This creates a more realistic version of Yuki and shows how the family views Yuki’s situation. The story is not a one-sided argument with Yuki being the only person the reader is able to get any feedback from.

Shizuko’s Daughter is such a breath of fresh air for young adult books. Mori tells a fascinating story that can be quite sad and depressing because of the topic, but it’s an enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a deep and motivating story, but be prepared for the heart-wrenching and tragic moments.

My Rating: ★★★★

To-Be-Watched Movies/TV Series

Unlike my To-Be-Read Books, I have less movies that I need to watch. I also have some TV series that I need to watch, so I decided to combine the two.  I still have not located a jar, so this will be my TBW Box. I’m a bit reluctant to call it that because I googled TBW and ended up finding some funny definitions. Just go ahead. I know you want to.

20131221_221306TBW Movies

I just find it so adorable!

The Rules of the TBW Box:

This will be similar to how I pick from my TBR Container. I’ll pick two slips of paper out and choose which movie or TV series I want to watch. There are around 50 slips of paper inside. I’m excited to see how this will work for movies. Hopefully, I don’t just continue to watch movies I’ve already seen a hundred times (I’m probably not exaggerating about that number either). I tend to watch movies over and over. I’m surprised my DVD Player hasn’t spit out the discs and been like “Enough, woman! Pick something else.” So, to avoid my DVD Player coming to life, I will enforce the TBW Box as soon as possible. I’m sure the box is too adorable to abandon, anyway. I mean, look at that little face.

To-Be-Read Books

To-Be-Read Books

Since I have a huge amount of books I need to read, I decided that I would make a TBR Jar. However, I couldn’t find a jar, so I will have a TBR Container. Oh yes, the title just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

TBR ContainerTBR Container

Isn’t it beautiful?

The Rules of my TBR Container:

Once I finish a book, I will draw two slips of paper out and choose which book I would like to read. This keeps me from being constricted to one choice and keeps me entertained enough to maintain my container. Plus, this might help me get through all the books I still need to read. So far, the container has about 180 slips of paper. I know, I know, I’m a slacker with reading. I just can’t control myself when I see a book for sale or on clearance. I mean, it’s practically begging me to buy it. Anyway, enough of bookaholics anonymous. I do hope this will help me start reading a bigger variety of books from my shelves, and maybe, I will be able to put a dent in my TBR pile. Wish me luck on my quest to conquer my unread books!

Divergent Review

Genre: Young Adult

Divergent by Veronica Roth is dystopian young adult fiction. In this degraded Chicago world, there are five factions that make up society; they include Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. Each one dedicates the culture to a certain virtue: honesty, selflessness, bravery, kindness, and knowledge respectively.

Beatrice Prior, the protagonist, is a sixteen year old girl that has grown up in the Abnegation faction. Since she is sixteen, she must choose a faction that she’ll remain in the rest of her life. This is decided through a test all students must take in order to properly choose. After taking the test, she finds that she is different from the other students and must keep it a secret if she wants to live. Beatrice is given a difficult choice between her family and a new life in a different faction. She makes her decision and goes on to train to fit in with society. Beatrice discovers that her world is being threatened, and she must try to save the ones she loves and cares about.

While reading, it’s fairly obvious that this book is intended to be a trilogy because some information is left out, such as learning more about each faction instead of only the overall idea of the different factions. It would have been nice to learn more about the history of how the factions were created and what caused the factions to be formed. A little more world development would have added even more to the novel and would have helped the reader create the world in his or her head.

Besides world development, character development is lacking in the two main characters, Beatrice and Four. I felt that Beatrice or Tris, as she later refers to herself, didn’t develop within this novel. She didn’t seem to grow as a character, and sometimes, her choices didn’t make a lot of sense (e.g. her shooting a particular person when she could have wounded him/her). I know there was a certain reason why she had to, but it should have been explained sooner. As for Four, he was a bit of a cliché that occurs in young adult books. He’s a handsome, older guy that has a dark past that haunts him, and he instantly fell for the protagonist.

After watching a few interviews with the author, there was one piece of information that I found to be quite interesting in one of her interviews. She was asked, “What do you enjoy about writing for teen readers?” Her response was that teenagers tend to look at the story as a story and do not interpret everything as adults do. While I agree with this in some aspects, I also disagree with it. I find that the best young adult books are the ones that can be enjoyed by teenagers and adults. Interpretation gives the story a different perspective.

I will say that I did enjoy reading Divergent for its entertainment value, but it wasn’t one of my favorite books. I’ve read that the second book Insurgent starts off right where the first one stopped and that it explains more about the factions. I’ll most likely continue to read the trilogy to see how the story progresses and to see if the following books can fill in the holes that the first book left.

My Rating: ★★★

December 2013 Book Haul (#2)

December 2013 Book Haul (#2)

You can never have too many books (at least that’s what I tell myself when I buy more).

*All descriptions taken from Goodreads.

A Hunting We Will Go – Hal Friedman
Genre – Thriller

The Ultimate Hunter. . . Arthur Combs is LA’s hottest story. Dubbed Starman, this terrifying serial killer is a monster who preys on beautiful, famous women–guided by the sadistic urges of a mysterious partner.

The Perfect Prey. . . Katlyn Rome is LA’s hottest TV news anchor. Intelligent and ambitious, she is the leading reporter on this career-making story–and Starman’s next target.

In A Deadly Battle For SurvivalAs Starman closes in, Kate turns to the one person who can help her survive, veteran cop and department outsider Dan Jarrett. Together they must outwit a diabolical psychopath in a game with only one rule–kill or be killed.

The Search – Christiane Heggan
Genre – Mystery

When Philadelphia assistant district attorney Sydney Cooper gets an urgent late-night call from her best friend asking to meet her, she can’t help but wonder what kind of trouble investigative journalist Lily Gilmore has gotten herself into this time. But exasperation soon turns to fear when she becomes the sole witness to her friend’s brutal kidnapping. Knowing she cannot rely on local law enforcement, Sydney believes she’s Lily’s best hope for survival.

Armed with only her determination, Sydney delves deep into Lily’s two latest high-profile cases — with shocking results. But when Jake Sloan, an enigmatic stranger, comes to her aid, Sydney slowly realizes that Lily’s disappearance is more complicated than she ever imagined. In a perilous race against the clock, Jake and Sydney must uncover a kidnapper’s motives … before the search is too late.

Hush – Anne Frasier
Genre – Mystery/Thriller

It’s criminal profiler Ivy Dunlap’s job to unravel the psyches of the most dangerous men alive. None haunts her dreams more than the killer who took her son’s life sixteen years ago, then silently disappeared into the dark. Now an urgent request for help from the Chicago police has reawakened Ivy’s greatest nightmare.

The Madonna Murderer has returned to fulfill his calling. This time Ivy understands the killer instinct. She knows what man is capable of. This time she’s ready to confront her deepest fear, face-to-face. For the very last time…

Intensity – Dean Koontz
Genre – Mystery/Thriller

Past midnight, Chyna Shepard, twenty-six, gazes out a moonlit window, unable to sleep on her first night in the Napa Valley home of her best friend’s family. Instinct proves reliable. A murderous sociopath, Edgler Foreman Vess, has entered the house, intent on killing everyone inside. A self-proclaimed homicidal adventurer, Vess lives only to satisfy all appetites as they arise, to immerse himself in sensation, to live without fear, remorse or limits, to live with intensity. Chyna is trapped in his deadly orbit.

Chyna is a survivor, toughened by a lifelong struggle for safety and self-respect. Now she will be tested as never before. At first her sole aim is to get out alive until, by chance, she learns the identity of Vess’s next intended victim, a faraway innocent only she can save. Driven by a newly discovered thirst for meaning beyond mere self-preservation, Chyna musters every inner resource she has to save an endangered girl as moment by moment, the terrifying threat of Edgler Foreman Vess intensifies.

Cold Fire – Dean Koontz
Genre – Horror/Thriller/Mystery

Now repackaged–the classic story of reporter Holly Thorne, who is intrigued by the strange, quiet Jim Ironheart. Jim has saved 12 lives in three months, and now Holly’s falling in love with him. But what power compels an ordinary man to be a hero? Reissue.

Genre: Young Adult

Shayla’s Double Brown Baby Blues by Lori Aurelia Williams is a novel about a young girl named Shayla Dubois. The story follows Shayla a thirteen year old girl who loves to write and who must confront different problems that she encounters in her life. She must learn that her life is changing and that she has to figure out how to deal with all the changes.

Shayla’s father has remarried and has a new baby girl named Gift. Gift was born on Shayla’s birthday. Shayla must deal with her father showing more love to the new baby than he ever showed her. While dealing with the jealousy towards her new stepsister, she learns that her best friend named Kambia is receiving packages that remind Kambia of her horrible childhood. Shayla tries to help her friend and through the process discovers more about her friend’s tragic past. Shayla has also become friends with Lemm, a boy at her school. She finds out that he has his own dark past that he must face, and Shayla does her best to support her new friend all she can before he puts his life more at risk. Even though Shayla has a kind heart and tries to help her friends, she must first learn how to deal with her own feelings and help herself.

The story flows as a poem would and has been described as being poetic. The description definitely fits the narrative. The story is told so beautifully through Shayla’s perspective. How issues are described by Shayla’s Grandma Augustine and others is truly mesmerizing. There is a tale for everything, according to Grandma Augustine, and each tale has a specific lesson for young Shayla. Even though Shayla may not believe her grandmother that is what makes Shayla a believable character. She is relatable, and she reacts to situations as a thirteen year old might. Although she seems more mature than most girls or boys her age, she makes mistakes and has to deal with consequences.

Shayla develops a lot as a character as she has to deal with new problems showing up in her life. She goes from being jealous over a new baby to putting her own feelings aside to help others who need her. Shayla has to deal with major issues throughout the story. The reader can get really involved with the plot, and it is a story that is hard to stop reading. The story is captivating and keeps the reader wanting to find out what happens next. Characters in this novel are realistic, and there are points in the book that it is possible to not like one of the characters for something he or she does. The characters make the plot convincing.

Shayla’s Double Brown Baby Blues is a remarkable story that deserves more recognition. The story flows well and keeps the reader’s attention. The characters are plausible, and by the end, the reader may want to know more about what happens next in Shayla’s world. While this is not the typical book for every young adult, it has important messages in it about how to overcome difficult obstacles, and it’s definitely worth reading.

My Rating: ★★★★

December 2013 Book Haul

December 2013 Book Haul

*All descriptions taken from Goodreads.

Undone – Brooke Taylor
Genre – Young Adult

When Kori Kitlzer, the “dark angel” of the 8th grade, tells Serena Moore that they are more alike than she thinks, Serena is instantly intrigued.  As their friendship solidifies and their lives entwine, Serena tries to become more like the fearless, outspoken, and ambitious Kori. Soon Serena doesn’t know where she begins and Kori ends. But when a twist of fate yanks Kori away from Serena, she will need to find a way to complete her best friend’s life left undone.

Undone is a striking debut novel about friendship, family, and the secrets we keep from the people to whom we are closest.

I Will Save You
– Matt De La Peña
Genre – Young Adult

Kidd is running from his past and his future. No mom, no dad, and there’s nothing for him at the group home but therapy. He doesn’t belong at the beach where he works either, unless he finds a reason to stay.

Olivia is blond hair, blue eyes, rich dad. The prettiest girl in Cardiff. She’s hiding something from Kidd—but could they ever be together anyway?

Devon is mean, mysterious, and driven by a death wish. A best friend and worst enemy. He followed Kidd all the way to the beach and he’s not leaving until he teaches him a few lessons about life. And Olivia.

Shrinking Violet
– Danielle Joseph
Genre – Young Adult

High school senior Teresa Adams is so painfully shy that she dreads speaking to anyone in the hallways or getting called on in class.

But in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks out – doing mock broadcasts for Miami’s hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather. When a slot opens up at The SLAM, Tere surprises herself by blossoming behind the mike into confident, sexy Sweet T – and to everyone’s shock, she’s a hit!

Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ’s awesome taste in music. But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest — and a prom date with Sweet T is the grand prize – Sweet T’s dream could turn into Tere’s worst nightmare…

Miles From Ordinary – Carol Lynch Williams
Genre – Young Adult

Thirteen-year-old Lacey wakes to a beautiful summer morning excited to begin her new job at the library, just as her mother is supposed to start work at the grocery store. Lacey hopes that her mother’s ghosts have finally been laid to rest; after all, she seems so much better these days, and they really do need the money. But as the hours tick by and memories come flooding back, a day full of hope spins terrifyingly out of control…

Now this award-winning YA author brings us an equally gripping story of a girl who loves her mother, but must face the truth of what life with that mother means for both of them.

Infinite Days – Rebecca Maizel
Genre – Young Adult

“Throughout all my histories, I found no one I loved more than you… no one.”

Those were some of Rhode’s last words to me. The last time he would pronounce his love. The last time I would see his face.
It was the first time in 592 years I could take a breath. Lay in the sun. Taste.
Rhode sacrificed himself so I, Lenah Beaudonte, could be human again. So I could stop the blood lust.
I never expected to fall in love with someone else that wasn’t Rhode.
But Justin was… daring. Exciting. More beautiful than I could dream.
I never expected to be sixteen again… then again, I never expected my past to come back and haunt me…

The Knife That Killed Me – Anthony McGowan
Genre – Young Adult

Paul Vanderman could be at any normal high school where bullies, girls, and annoying teachers are just part of life. But “normal” doesn’t apply when it comes to the school’s biggest bully, Roth—a twisted and threatening thug with an evil agenda.

When Paul ends up delivering a message from Roth to the leader of a gang at a nearby school, it fuels a rivalry with immediate consequences. Paul attempts to distance himself from the feud, but somehow Roth keeps finding reasons for him to stick around. Then one day Roth hands him a knife. And even though Paul is scared, he has never felt so powerful.

House of Night: The Beginning – P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Genre – Young Adult

(Marked) The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird’s world, vampyres have always existed.  In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire — that is, if she makes it through the Change.  Not all of those who are chosen do.  It’s tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling.  She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx.  But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers.  When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny–with a little help from her new vampyre friends.

Guardian of the Dead – Karen Healey
Genre – Young Adult

“You’re Ellie Spencer.”
I opened my mouth, just as he added, “And your eyes are opening.” 

Seventeen-year-old Ellie Spencer is just like any other teenager at her boarding school. She hangs out with her best friend Kevin, she obsesses over Mark, a cute and mysterious bad boy, and her biggest worry is her paper deadline.

But then everything changes. The news headlines are all abuzz about a local string of serial killings that all share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Then a beautiful yet eerie woman enters Ellie’s circle of friends and develops an unhealthy fascination with Kevin, and a crazed old man grabs Ellie in a public square and shoves a tattered Bible into her hands, exclaiming, “You need it. It will save your soul.” Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality.

Legend – Marie Lu
Genre – Young Adult

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Prodigy – Marie Lu
Genre – Young Adult

Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic’s most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots – a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring down the Republic. But can they trust them or have they unwittingly become pawns in the most terrifying of political games?

Champion – Marie Lu
Genre – Young Adult

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.

Life Before Legend – Marie Lu
Genre – Young Adult

Find out more about June and Day in this never-before-seen glimpse into their daily lives before they met in Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND series. As twelve-year-olds struggling to survive in two very different worlds within the Republic’s stronghold, June was starting her first day of school at Drake University as the youngest cadet ever admitted, and Day was fighting for food on the streets of the Lake sector. LIFE BEFORE LEGEND contains two original stories written by Marie Lu that give readers a sneak peek into the lives of their favorite characters in a thrilling new context.