Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review of Virals by Kathy Reichs

People that know me well know that I absolutely LOVE mystery and crime novels... and TV shows and movies and pretty much everything else to do with detectives and mystery solving. When I was little, I really wanted to be a detective just like Nancy Drew. Seriously, you can ask my best friend, she'll tell you. Needless to say, I love the TV show, Bones, which is based off of Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan novels. She even produces the show! So when I found out she had written a YA series, I had to check it out. Here's what I found:
Another note: Netflix put up the newest season of Bones this last week!! I might die of happiness. 

AuthorKathy Reichs
Pages: 454
Publication Date: Nov. 2, 2010
Source: Classroom Library

Quick Summary
Tory has moved to live with her marine biologist father in South Carolina who she's never known. She makes friends with some of the locals who show her the ropes of the island and the Loggerhead Research Institute where their parents work. But something seems off about the Institute to Tory. After rescuing a wolf-dog puppy from a secret lab at the institute and discovering the body of a murder victim on the island, everything begins to change for Tory and her friends. They need to stay alive long enough to catch the murderer, but they are no longer quite human... they have evolved into Virals. 

Opening Lines
"The whole thing started with a dog tag. Well, a monkey with a dog tag. Take your pick. I should have known it would be trouble. Should have sensed it. But I wasn't as perceptive then. I hadn't evolved. Yet." 

My Thoughts
Honestly, I was a little disappointed. Admittedly, I had very high expectations because Bones is such a well-written show with fantastic characters! But I guess that's what I get for comparing two different mediums. Virals was entertaining and I can tell that Reichs' main characters have a lot of spunk, but they weren't as well developed as I would have liked. Especially for a book that is almost 500 pages. A lot of their conversations are stiff and stilted... they just don't feel real. And the high school scene she creates is so cliché it's almost painful. Even to the level of having her main character, Tory Brennan, get stuck attending debutante events that she finds petty and boring. It was just a bit too predictable to be a viable mystery for me. 

Now, that being said, I did like the setting of the tale. It takes place in Charleston, SC. Specifically, on Loggerhead and Morris Island where the main characters' parents live and do scientific research. Loggerhead is an entire island devoted to biology research, including free range monkeys that live on the island and make visiting it challenging at times. I also liked Reichs' idea of a human "wolf pack." The four main characters rescue a wolf-dog pup that is really sick with parvovirus. Normally, this contagion cannot be passed from dogs to humans directly, but this strain was under experimental research on Loggerhead... secret experimental research. The four characters come down with the virus and begin developing wolf-like powers that come on when they are extremely agitated or are very emotional. I liked the powers and the pack mindset. And I thought the virus was a unique way of having the powers manifest. 

Admittedly, it took me a little while to figure out who the villain in the story was, but I did eventually figure it out before it was truly revealed. I always feel a little bit accomplished when this happens, but it also makes me sad that the author couldn't fool me. I want my mystery authors to dazzle me! Is that too much to ask for? 

My Rating
Overall, I give it a 3 out of 5 hearts. 
A few flaws, but worth reading. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review of Legend by Marie Lu

I would like to start off by saying that electricity is a beautiful thing. And (praise the Lord!) I finally have it back on in my apartment! So just to give you a small idea of what this week looked like, we had a massive storm go through Ann Arbor on Friday night. The power went out. Pretty normal. Usually DTE is pretty good about getting the power back in a relatively decent amount of time. Not so this week, my friends! Chris and I didn't have power until Tuesday afternoon. That's right, all of our food went bad in the fridge and freezer (and smelled up my entire apartment!), the little internet we had from our backup battery charger went to Chris' grad school studies, and none of our kitchen appliances worked (including but not limited to the coffee maker, toaster, microwave, blender, stove, oven, and garbage disposal) so I couldn't even heat up pop tarts or Ramen noodles. #firstworldprobs 
It's been an expensive week. Needless to say, come Tuesday morning, I wanted to kill things! So I packed a backpack, biked to Barnes and Noble for some coffee and a decent wifi connection, and wrote you a post to get my mind off of it. So here's a review! 

UPDATE: Sorry this post hasn't gone up until now. I had already written the post about Between Shades of Gray and wanted to get that out there first. So when the above tidbit says "this week," it actually means "last week." 

AuthorMarie Lu
Pages: 305
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
This book takes place in a dystopian, post-American society, where the wealthily live well and the poor scrounge for food and shelter and try desperately to avoid catching the plague. June is a military prodigy who was born into a very wealthy family. When her brother is killed, she makes it her mission to hunt down his killer and dispense justice. Unfortunately that killer is Day, the Republic's most notorious criminal. He is agile and smart and has outthought the authorities time and time again. But can he outthink a prodigy and keep his family alive and anonymous? As the plot unfolds, both characters discover what is really going on in their society and the lengths to which their country will go to keep the status quo. 

Opening Lines
"My mother thinks I'm dead. Obviously I'm not dead, but it's safer for her to think so." 

My Thoughts 
It seems that ever since The Hunger Games became popular there has been a flood of dystopian young adult lit that has surfaced. It (sadly) reminds me of the not so distant Twilight debacle where everyone and their uncle decided to write vampire and werewolf novels... most of which were subpar at best. That being said, I really enjoyed Legend, but in the sea of recent dystopian fiction it doesn't really stand out. It is very well written, and I like the author's voice and the characters a lot; however, struggling against an oppressive government and trying to keep your family alive in a plague-ridden and poor post-American society has kind of been done. A lot. Now, this is one of the better YA dystopian novels I have  read recently. It definitely ranks high above the Matched series by Ally Condie and even Delirium by Lauren Oliver, but it's got nothing on The Hunger Games

June and Day are compelling characters. They are likable, even when they don't always do what you want them to. And I think their physical descriptions are interesting. It's refreshing to have two main characters that are not just white Americans. Both June and Day have Asian/Mongolian features, but Day has long, white-blonde hair and startling blue eyes. These physical features do make them stand out and (in my head at least) make them quite an interesting pair. They also come from very different economic sectors in their society, June being prominent and rich and Day being homeless and poor. Because the book is written from alternating points of view (between June and Day), we get to see all sides of the society in which they live and both sides of the conflict they have with each other. It allows us to see the characters' motivations for their actions and understand both sides of the problem... thus making it a little difficult to choose who to side with! I do appreciate that dynamic and think that Marie Lu is a very good writer. I like the sense of visual awareness in her book. I myself am a visual learner and can't help but picture what goes on in books. I like details. Having an author who thinks similarly and writes to that type of reader is refreshing. 

There is also a motif of betrayal throughout the entire book. Betrayal of friends, family, country, commanding officers, strongly held beliefs, justice, and humanity. It is a concept that returns again and again, folding and changing and expanding on the previous betrayals. It creates a very strange perception of what is true and what is not. And begs us to ask the questions: How do we know what is true? And how do we know the powers that be are telling us the truth or have the correct intentions? Did they ever? 

One last thing I found to be notable about this book is the author's comment that she thought up the idea while watching Les Miserables. Now, those of you that know me are aware that this is my favorite play/musical of all time. I absolutely love it. And I could probably go on all day about the similarities and connections between these two works that I've drawn since gaining this knowledge (this was an author's comment in the back of the book that I didn't notice until I'd already finished reading!). But looking at this book through the lens of a Les Miserables fan makes me like it all the more. And I feel the strange urge to write an academic paper comparing the two... Scholars, feel free to steal that idea. But I'd love to read your findings once you do!

My Rating
Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 hearts. 
Really good! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Exciting News!!!

So friends, I am finally getting to be a part of a Book Tour and Giveaway next month (Oct. 16)! Yay! I feel like a big girl blogger. :) 
I just wanted to give you a heads up that it's coming and to post a preview of the book in case you thought the concept was as interesting as I did. 
It's called Twinkle by S.J. Parkinson.
 I haven't read it yet, but I love me some sci-fi so I'm optimistic! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

So last week I had to go to the dentist to get a few cavities filled, something I haven't had done since baby teeth were a thing. Let's all agree, cavities = not very fun. And I, being the extremely intelligent human being that I am, decided to run errands after the appointment. I had obviously forgotten that my mouth would be anesthetized and that speaking in general was going to be a difficult task, let alone picking up a library book on hold, filling a prescription at CVS, and trying to navigate JoAnn's for a very specific type of marker. Needless to say, it was quite hilarious. And after I had accomplished my goals without too much drooling, I sat down to blog - a way of speaking and telling stories without actually having to use a mouth that feels like it's been stuffed full of cotton balls. So, just for you: a review!

UPDATE: I would like to note that I wrote this post while still on quite a bit of medication (last week) and then went back and edited (today). In the words of a famous author, "Write drunk (read medicated). Edit sober!"

TitleBetween Shades of Gray
AuthorRuta Sepetys
Pages: 339
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
During World War II, Stalin is having his NKVD soldiers grab prominent figures and their families as possible rebels across Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. Lina is a young girl with very promising artistic abilities from Lithuania. In the middle of the night, she is taken by the NKVD with her mother and younger brother, stuffed into cattle cars on a train with thousands of others, and shipped off to Siberia. Lina tries to get clues to her father and other Lithuanians through her drawings, hoping someone will come and find them. Meanwhile, they work in a labor camp amidst horrific weather conditions, disease, frequent beatings, and near starvation. Lina fights to keep her family alive and together, while documenting the whole experience through art. 

Opening Lines
"They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there - family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work." 

My Thoughts
I loved this book. It was very deep and compelling for a YA novel. We, as Americans, concentrate so much on Hilter and his atrocities during WWII that we often forget how truly horrific the Soviet leaders were at the time. Sure, we needed them to defeat Hitler, but did we even blink as they committed acts just as devastating? I feel like this was a part of history class that I somehow missed. I know some of the basics, but what about the detail we see in our history lessons about WWII and the Nazis? It is estimated that Stalin killed up to twenty million people during his reign! How do we just forget about that??? Needless to say, I feel like Stalin's rule was a bit overlooked in my education, and I'm grateful to Ruta Sepetys for calling attention to that. 

Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee and did some very extensive research before writing this story. It is a novel, and thus fiction, but it is based on real accounts and real experiences, some of which are even a part of her family's story. She is very blunt and even graphic at times in her description of the characters, the torture, and the deaths that occur. She didn't sugar coat it, even with her audience being YA readers, and I think that takes both guts and skill. This is an absolutely fantastic book, and it would be a great counterpart to a history or literature class (*hint hint* all of you teachers out there!). There is so much to be learned about these people that we seem to have forgotten or written off as unimportant. Sepetys weaves her story full of sections that will make you cry and laugh and swoon and curse. It is beautifully written and comes very highly recommended (by me!). 

My Rating
Overall, 5 out of 5 hearts. 
Absolutely loved it! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review of Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

TitleHyperbole and a Half
AuthorAllie Brosh
Publication Date: Oct. 29, 2013
Source: Birthday present (Thanks, Mom!)

Hey book-loving friends! I've got a new review to share about a book recently released by one of my favorite bloggers: Allie Brosh a.k.a. Hyperbole and a Half. As any fan of hers would know, she took a break from blogging to publish a book of her tales of "unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened" as she calls them. She has a very unique style and a beautiful way with words that will leave you laughing hysterically on a public bus all by yourself with nothing but the strange looks from others to keep you company... Yes, I have firsthand knowledge. Her book is made up of short anecdotes from her life coupled with pictures that she creates in Paint on the computer. For using the application Paint, the girl's got talent. Her simplistic characters evoke great emotion and really seem to capture the essence of humanity, while poking fun at it in the process. If you can't tell by the words of praise, I really liked this book. It's a very quick read because there are so many pictures, but Brosh has a singular sense of humor and a way of showing a very realistic side of humanity.

My favorite vignette is actually one of her more serious ones. Yes, it has plenty of comic relief, but the topic itself is more serious than many of her other stories: depression
As someone who has struggled with depression myself, her way of describing the emotions, feelings, thoughts, and motives for her actions were the best I've heard yet. No one I've ever talked to has been able to put depression into words like she has. My husband even said that reading that portion of the book gave him some insight into helping me cope with my own struggles. If this is something you've never experienced, praise the Lord because you're lucky! And then think about reading this section of Brosh's book, even if you read nothing else. People who have never had depression usually don't know how to deal with people who do have it, which Brosh points out. 
I think she puts depression and the thought processes that depressed people experience into words and emotions that are accessible to everyone. Until this book, I had such a hard time verbalizing what it was like to my friends, my husband, my parents, even my counselor. This section of Brosh's book is gold. 
(Check out Depression Part One and Part Two on her blog by clicking the links.) 

My one complaint is that she used a lot of her previous blog posts for sections of the book. Now, I understand that her book is reaching a wider viewership, where many of the people haven't read her blog, and that the stories she repeated were some of her best. However, I was slightly peeved that she took so much time off of blogging when half of the book was already written! I'm sure the publishing process is much more involved than I am giving her credit for, but I know that she lost a lot of her hardcore fans in her time off. I'm hoping that won't hurt her blog and book career overall because I really do love her work! 

My Rating
I loved it! Overall, I give it 5 out of 5 hearts. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Review of GoneReading.Com: Gifts for Readers

Hey everyone! 

Natalie here. Wow. It's really been awhile since I've posted, what with me moving to a new city to pursue my Ph.D! Anyways, I'll save the general life update for later. What I'd like to share with you today are my thoughts on a new site I've been introduced to....GoneReading! 

I was approached by a representative of the site to review a product of my choosing. Normally, I'm not overly fond of reviewing merchandise--even book-related merchandise, on Mindful Musings, but, curiosity being what it is, I clicked through the link anyways to glance at the website. 

Once on the website, I easily spent an hour looking through all of the cool products GoneReading has to offer. If you love books (which you do, or you wouldn't be here), there is probably something on this site that you're going to love. Literature trivia cards, bathtub book caddies, and bookish art prints are only a few of the items you can find on this site. 

I chose the following art print for review (Clicking on the picture will bring you to its page on GoneReading). 

For those of you who don't feel like clicking through to check out this beautiful print yourself, I'll give you a brief overview. The print is 24 x 18 and done in beautiful shades of greens and blues. The scene is from Jane Austen's fan favorite classic Pride and Prejudice--showing the meeting of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. However, as beautiful as this print is, the coolest thing about it is this: 

That's right...the entire print is made up of the words from the book! How COOL is that???

As far as shipping time, the print arrived safely at my apartment in a few days, packed nicely into a poster tube. I wanted to frame it before showing you guys pictures, but with the move, I haven't gotten around to picking one out yet. Here's a picture of what the print looked like when I got it. 

Beautiful, right? I'm thinking I'm going to get a Victorian-style frame and hang it on the wall across from my bookshelves! 

The best part about GoneReading is yet to come. You all have heard me rave about Better World Books before--where you can save money by buying used books and simultaneously help literacy programs all over the world. Well, GoneReading has a similar philanthropic mission. The company donates 100% of their after-tax profits to reading-related charities! You can read more about the GoneReading mission by clicking here. 

Overall, I was very, very impressed with GoneReading. Their products, mission, and communication were excellent. I expect to be making repeat visits to the site, and I encourage you to check them out when you get a chance! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review of The Unwind Dystology, Book Three: UnSouled by Neal Shusterman

Well, my husband and I finally made the move to Ann Arbor for his graduate school. And I have to say, it is beautiful here in the summer! I really like it a lot. Our trailer was packed to the MAX! Seriously, I don't think we could have fit another sock in there if we had wanted to. 

We barely got the door closed. But I was able to keep all of my books! Yay! I think it almost drove my husband crazy trying to get all of the boxes in that trailer, but they look fantastic in our new apartment, if I do say so myself! 

But enough about me. Before we left, I finished the book UnSouled by Neal Shusterman, and below is my review.
Title: UnSouled
AuthorNeal Shusterman
Pages: 404
Publication Date: Oct. 15, 2013
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
Conner, Lev, and Risa live in a futuristic America where unwinding is their entire reality. In their past, there was a war over abortion which left the country torn, broken, and looking for answers. Those answers were provided by Proactive Citizenry, an organization that created the technology that made unwinding possible. Unwinding is taking a person completely apart, piece by piece, and keeping all of their usable tissue "alive" by giving it to other people who need it. The government decided that teens between the age of 13 and 17 were allowed to be unwound as long as their parents consented. This dealt with the country's teenage rebellion problem and was used as a compromise to make abortion illegal. At first, it led to great medical advancements, but then it turned ugly. People began getting unwound parts for vanity's sake or would get neural weaves to learn new skills or information. And teens were hunted and taken to harvest camps to be unwound. 

Connor, Lev, and Risa have been running from the government, parts pirates, and everyone else since their unwind orders were signed. In book three, they begin to look for a way to fight back and take down Proactive Citizenry, who has just created a new technology to "rewind" people. The company created Cam, a person made completely from unwound kids. They gave him life, but he wrestles with his identity. Is he human? Or is he just property, a lab experiment? All of their paths cross as they become unlikely allies in this epic third book in the Unwind Dystology! 

First a few comments...
Okay, the first thing I'd like to say is: Holy crap! That cover is creepy
Now, the cover is not the reason I picked up the book (I generally try to avoid things that might give me nightmares later), but the first two books in this series were SO good that I had to read the third one to find out what happened to the characters. So I mustered up some courage, bought the book, took off the dust jacket, and sunk into the world of the Unwind Dystology. 

You may be asking yourself: What is a dystology? How many books is that? 
Well, the author made it up. It's not a real word. It seems to me to be a play on the words "trilogy" and "dystopia"; however, after having read UnSouled I can definitely tell you a dystology doesn't stop at three books. This was not the end of the story. So maybe Neal Shusterman was leaning on the idea of a disrupted or broken trilogy... meaning not actually a trilogy but a word that sounds more edgy and unique and allows for as many books as he wants. My guess is that he got into writing UnSouled and realized he would need another book to finish the series, hence the made up word. It makes it sound more official and intentional. And has the added bonus of not pissing off all of the fans of the series who were expecting it to be three books in total. Honestly, it's a pretty creative solution to this problem. 

My Thoughts
On to my thoughts about the book itself! I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Admittedly, I haven't read anything by Neal Shusterman outside of this dystology, but based on this series I think the man is a genius. 

My first reason for liking Shusterman is that he brings his characters to life in a way that is often missed in YA lit. They are relatable, but not flat or generic. They are realistic and deal with their problems and backstories in very real and human ways. Connor, Risa, and Lev are the three main characters that we follow throughout the story - each chapter showing pieces from their different points of view. This close third person limited point of view really brings out the personal emotions of the main characters and what they each deal with internally. Knowing their thoughts and the motivations for their actions makes you sympathize with them, even if you don't always agree with what they are doing. This is a hard skill to achieve in literature. 

The second reason that Shusterman stands out in this series is that mixed throughout the novels are chapters and snippets from random side characters' points of view, including the "bad guys", and the media. I love that Shusterman incorporates propaganda and advertising into his story. We forget how much we are taken in by the media and how much of our information and opinions come from what propaganda tells us to think. It adds a whole new dimension to his books and brings the political commentary in the novels to the surface. He questions our society today by looking at one possible, yet fictional, future. He deals with the ideas of abortion, abandonment, abuse, adoption, big businesses in politics, corrupt government, Native American tribes and their roles in society, black market organs, stem cell research, medical advancements and the ethics involved, the public education system, what constitutes human life, leadership, group dynamics, fashion trends, mental disabilities, teenage rebellion and independence, religion, government coverups, and the role that advertising and propaganda play in and amongst all of it. This could be an amazing series to study at a higher level (college, grad school, etc.) because there is so much material to work with. I could go on and on, but I'm trying not to turn this blog post into a dissertation! 

The third reason I am a fan of Shusterman is that this is the third book in the series (with more to come), and I'm still hooked. There are a lot of authors, especially in YA lit, that lose you around book two or three. I love that Unwind, the first book, could have stood alone. I didn't even know it was a series until I randomly found the second one at Barnes and Noble. It is hard to turn a stand alone novel into a series without making it feel forced. But Shusterman pulls it off. This book is intriguing and compelling. It really makes you question and think about what you believe about so many different subjects but doesn't lose you in the political mumbo jumbo. 

Overall, I highly recommend this series and definitely this book, even with its creepy cover! 

Overall, I give this book a 5 out of 5 hearts. 
Absolutely loved it! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blind Date With a Book: A Review of Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Hey friends. Sorry that this post has been a long time coming, but it's been a hectic couple of months without much time for blogging. My grandma passed away, and my husband and I are moving to Ann Arbor at the end of this month for his graduate school. Needless to say, we've been a bit busy! I have, however, had some time to read here and there, and I have completed a few books. I will be posting the reviews of those books over the next few weeks as I have time. 
So, without further ado - a review!

Has your local library ever had a Blind Date With a Book event? I'd seen the idea on Pinterest a few times, but hadn't ever seen it put into practice, until recently. Washington Public Library held a Blind Date With a Book month where they had a shelf of books that were all wrapped in construction paper so you couldn't see what the covers looked like. All they said on the outside was what genre or age group the book fell into and one quote or sentence describing the story. As a book geek and a mystery junkie, I was of course intrigued. I looked at every book on the shelf! I could tell from the description that I had already read a few of them, such as The Hunger Games and Unwind (both of which I highly recommend!). But one line stood out to me above the others, so this was the one I picked up.

Is love a disease? A most intriguing idea. 
So I checked out this book and had my first blind date ever!


AuthorLauren Oliver
Publication Date: Feb. 7, 2012

Quick Summary
Lena lives in a futuristic America where love has been declared a disease, amor deliria nervosa, and the society has discovered a cure - brain surgery that takes away emotions. The government regulates everything: when you get the cure, where you go to school, what your job will be, who you will marry, and if/when you will have children. Each city is surrounded by an electrified fence to keep out people from the Wilds where the deliria runs free. What Lena has yet to realize is that the fence is actually meant to keep cured people in. When Lena meets Alex, a boy that only looks like he's cured, she begins to feel the onset of the deliria and starts to see her very structured life in a different light. The question is: if love is a disease, is it one worth dying for?

My Thoughts
Although I had heard of Lauren Oliver and her book, Before I Fall, I hadn't heard of Delirium or either of the other books that follow it in the series. The blind date description was an accurate one, as the book dealt heavily with the idea of love being classified as a disease, an idea I find most interesting. Overall, I liked the book. I thought that the love story was a bit predictable and the idea of an over-regulated society and bit overdone, but I found the amor deliria nervosa to be quite compelling and unique. An entire society based on the idea that love is deadly and destructive... We honestly can't argue the point. People do crazy things for love. We see it over and over again in literature, movies, music, theatre, television, and our own history. It takes us out of our right minds and can occasionally make us violent and, more often, make us stupid. But love has many more facets than romance. What happens when we take away parental love and nurturing? Or the love of siblings and best friends? What happens when an entire society loses its love and thus its passion and compassion? 

Throughout the novel, Lena is a very relatable character. She has had quite a bit of trauma in her young life. Her mother committed suicide instead of receiving the cure, leaving Lena with only the haunting and forbidden words of "I love you" to guide her. She is ruled by fear and is unsure of herself, as many normal teens are today. But in her world, she can count down the days until she will receive the cure and not have to worry about contracting the deliria like her mother did. She is looking for her place in the world, but also trying to keep her head down and not draw too much attention to herself. She just wants a normal life without any more pain or trouble. I think most of us can relate to having this feeling every once in awhile. 

But then her best friend, Hana, begins acting strangely. Hana is popular and beautiful and rich. Lena doesn't understand why she would be dissatisfied with her life. Isn't that what we all want in some capacity? To be popular and beautiful and rich? But Hana sees her life as short. She wants to have as many "real" experiences as she can before she has the cure. She begins listening to forbidden music and going to secret parties with dancing and alcohol and boys. Lena becomes very confused and fears that the worst has happened to her friend. She even joins Hana on more than one occasion to try to keep her out of trouble. Again, relatable. Many of us have probably had (or been) that rebellious friend who needs to be taken care of while experiencing life. 

But Lena's attitude begins to change when she meets Alex (It's always due to a boy, isn't it?). He has all of the markings of the cure, a scar and a job in the society, but the way he talks and looks at Lena is different. He is mysterious and, of course, quite attractive. And Lena can't help but find herself drawn to him (and don't we all?). She finally realizes that she herself is showing signs of the deliria, but by then she is in too deep. Can she even live without Alex? How did she ever think that the cure was a good idea? And will she go to desperate lengths to keep love in her life? You'll have to read it to find out! I don't want to give too much away now. 

Though the love story is pretty predictable in the way it plays out, the ending of the book is very redeeming in that I didn't see it coming. It is shocking and, quite frankly, makes the entire book a whole lot better. I can't wait to read Pandemonium and see what happens next! 

Is love a disease? 
I think the argument could be made for it, 
but it is definitely a disease I want to live with!!

Overall, I give this book a 3 out of 5 hearts. 
But I give my Blind Date With a Book experience a 5 out of 5!
A few flaws, but worth reading. 

On another note...
I also read Supernaturally by Kiersten White during this time and even started writing a review before I noticed that Natalie had already done so! Oops! So I posted a short version of my review as a comment on hers. You can see it here if you're interested. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review of The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

TitleThe House of Hades
AuthorRick Riordan
Publication Date: Oct. 8, 2013
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
The House of Hades continues to follow the story of Percy Jackson (and friends) as he tries to stop Gaea, the earth goddess, from rising and destroying the world as we know it. The previous book left Percy and Annabeth falling into Tartarus, home of the monsters, giants, Titans, and pretty much any enemy the heroes have ever faced before. Their friends above ground are trying to reach the Doors of Death to help Percy and Annabeth escape from Tartarus alive. This story is full of new friends, unexpected twists, and great character development. 

My Thoughts
Most of you don't know me well yet, but one of the first things people find out about me is that I'm a total nerd. I geek out about a great many things, one of which is mythology. I LOVE MYTHOLOGY! Needless to say, when Rick Riordan started publishing his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, I was ecstatic! I fell in love his characters, his sense of humor, his modern twist on Greek Mythology, his voice, and the way he made his books accessible to younger kids. Up until now, I've pretty much worshiped the ground Riordan walks on. However, I am very sad to say that I don't think The Heroes of Olympus series has stood up to my (admittedly high) expectations. 

For starters, it is very hard to tell who this story belongs to. In previous books, we followed Percy through his adventures, seeing the story through his point of view. Riordan knows Percy's voice very well and uses it effectively. I would literally laugh out loud in public places reading his first series. (And yes, I got some strange looks!) But in The Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan tells the story from seven different points of view! It makes it hard to tell whose story you are actually reading, and I think Riordan's sense of humor and voice greatly suffered from it. He knows Percy well, but the other characters' voices come across flat, and the humor forced. 

I also had a problem with the length of this series. The original series was five books, but they were only a couple hundred pages each. This helped reach a lot of young adults that weren't big readers. It made the books accessible and kid-friendly. This second series is also five books, but they are over 500 pages each! While Riordan might be counting on his fan base to follow him, I think the length factor alone will cut out a lot of new readers and a lot of younger readers. The House of Hades is book four, and (though it kills me to say it about one of Riordan's books) I am kind of bored. It is so long that I've lost interest in the story. Sure, there are exciting moments that help pull me back in, but they are few and far between. It just has a sense of monotony. This story could have been told in the same amount of pages as his last one. 

Now, don't worry! There are some redeeming qualities about the book. One thing that is gained by lengthening the book and making it from multiple points of view is character development. In The House of Hades especially, there is a depth of character that we didn't see (with the exception of Percy) in the first series. Riordan has added some serious plot twists and hard sacrifices to mold and shape his characters, making them more dynamic. I don't want to spoil the big surprises, so I won't go into too much detail, but even some of the characters from the last series are shown in a new light. This, along with adding some unexpected allies and a small social commentary on some major topics of today, does help to pull this book up to an enjoyable level. And I am curious to see how Riordan will end it all in the fifth and final book of the series: The Blood of Olympus. 

Overall, I give this book a 3 out of 5 hearts. 
A few flaws, but worth reading. 

I geek out about mythology… What's your geek out niche? 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hello There!

Hey everyone! 

Once again, it's been forever since you all have last seen a post from me. (I do have a big announcement to make in regards to that though, so stay tuned!) Anyways, for those of you who have been keeping tabs on my personal life, I've been working on finishing up the last semester of my MA in Literature while teaching composition. If you checked in last semester or are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I've spent an inordinate amount of time working on my Ph.D. applications over the last few months. The first part of my big news relates to that: I currently have two offers (at least--still waiting on a few schools) on the table for Ph.D. programs!!! Both programs are fully funded teaching assistantships with stipends, so I am beyond completely excited and stoked to have been selected from such a large pool of hardworking, highly qualified applicants. Getting into a Ph.D. program is hard. Getting into one with funding is even worse. For a long time, I didn't think I even had a shot at it (though from what I hear, most students feel similarly). It's such an honor and an absolute joy to have been given this opportunity. 

The second part of my big news deals with Mindful Musings. Because of graduate school and my teaching responsibilites, I haven't been able to be as active as I would have liked to be over the last few years, and I hate to just let my blog "sit" here with no new content and no new readers. So I'm happy to say that Mindful Musings is adding a new contributor! Amber, the gal joining us, is an old friend from high school, and I think you all are going to love her. With Amber joining me, I'll be able to open up book review requests and blog tours again, and I know she'll provide you all with some awesome content! And, of course, you'll still be seeing posts from me sprinkled in here and there as I find the time. 

I'm really excited about this new turn for the blog, and I hope you guys will give Amber as awesome of an experience as I've had! So, without further ado, here's Amber to briefly introduce herself! 


Just a quick intro: my name is Amber Sumner. I graduated from William Jewell College with BAs in English and Education. For the last year and a half, I have been teaching 8th grade English Language Arts. I just recently got married to the love of my life, and Natalie was one of my bridesmaids. Natalie and I have been good friends since we were in high school, sitting in the back of Mrs. Allen's AP Lit and Comp class discussing the finer points of Smallville - namely crazy plots twists, Lana's insane number of concussions, and Tom Welling's abs. It had been a little while since either of us had had any time to chat, so while catching up on life we got talking about her book blog and how much she had missed posting since being in grad school. And I thought to myself: Gee! That sounds like fun! So I casually mentioned that I would LOVE to help her review books, and sure enough, during Spring Break she trucked a massive box of books over to Panera and taught me how to go about blogging. 

I have always loved reading and writing, and Natalie has been gracious enough to grant me an avenue to explore that love through book blogging (thanks so much, friend!). My favorite genres are fantasy, sci-fi,  and mystery, but I also like a wide array of YA lit. 

I am currently reading The House of Hades by Rick Riordan and wondering what others are thinking of the series thus far, especially compared to his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series… Thoughts?

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