Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Genre: Young Adult - Dystopian
Synopsis: No synopsis for this one. This is the final installment in the Hunger Games trilogy.

Rating: 3 stars

Review: This review is going to be short and simple. Did I like it? Yes. It was a good read. Overall, I liked how Suzanne Collins tied up everything. Her writing -- as well as the suspense, excitement, and originality -- that comes with this series, were all there, as expected. I thought it was fast-paced, action packed, and very exciting. So why just 3 stars, and not 5? To me, it was just lacking a bit. Something was definitely missing. In the end, I felt completely underwhelmed. I wanted more. There were things I couldn't understand. Despite this, I still highly recommend this series overall, but I do realize now, it's definitely not for everyone.

SPOILERS BELOW: Please highlight to read it. If you would like to agree, disagree, comment using the #s I used.
1. I expected her to end up with Peeta, but I was sort of hoping she didn't have to end up with either of them. She could just keep both as her best friends. Clearly, they all need each other. Gah.
2. Poor Gale. I'm sorry, but I just didn't like his ending at all.
3. Katniss voting yes to another Hunger Games.. okay, seriously??
4. Snow's death = anticlimatic much?

Please note that the comments section MIGHT have spoilers!!

Reading and Blogging Slump

The month of August was great, but reading-wise, I was only able to like ONE book, when last month, I was able to read 14 good books. Now I just don't feel as if I'm in the mood to read lately, because I feel like any book I pick up just underwhelms me. I don't know why I feel that way; I just do.

Now, blogging-wise; 1) I have so many things to blog about, but can never find a way to type them all out and actually post them, and 2) I wonder, do you ever feel like nobody really reads your posts? I'm really curious, because lately, it's been like that with me. I know we're all supposed to just blog for ourselves, and that is what I usually do. But I can not lie, sometimes I do get a bit discouraged. Do you ever feel this way? If so, what gets you out of a reading and blogging slump? Do you have any book recommendations? Please, suggestions are encouraged, because I'm kind of stuck.

$40 CSN added as a prize to the Charity Giveaway

A month ago, CSN contacted me to host a giveaway for a gift certificate to their online stores. If you haven't seen their website yet, you should go check it out, because they sell pretty much everything! Now, I'm excited because they've contacted me again and offered another wonderful prize! This time, it will be $40 to one lucky winner. You can get your own book case, a new lamp perhaps, a new vanity.. what about a new coffee table?

To win: Enter our Charity giveaway, where you will not only be able to win the CSN gift certificate but also do so for a great cause.

1. Make sure that you fill out this form after you donate. You can give as little as 50 cents, $1, or more! Any amount truly makes a significant difference, and so far, we already have $190 worth of donations. Help us help two charities, and win tons of prizes while you're at it.

2. For those who have already donated before, fill out the form as well.

Note: This particular prize is for US & Canada only. The other prizes in the Charity event are international.

Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Genre: Young Adult
On Sale: September 1, 2010
Synopsis: No synopsis for this one, because I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't read the first book, Leaving Paradise. This is a sequel.

3 stars - Fun read, but something's missing..

Review: I have read three of Simone Elkeles' books so far, and am a huge fan of all of them. I just feel like I'm always grabbed by her ways of story telling and her characters. The way she writes is simply effortless, and the pace is always quick and easy. I enjoyed Leaving Paradise, and thought it was just such a light, fun, cute, and entertaining story. I really liked the main characters, Caleb and Maggie, and thought they were believable, as I have mentioned on my review for it. In Return to Paradise, the sequel, the story continues.

Overall, I have to say I did like it. Unfortunately, something was missing. It was a little bland -- like iced tea lacking a bit of sugar. I was constantly hoping for more, for something exciting to happen, for the "turning point" or the climax in the story. To me, there wasn't any. It got a bit repetitive too. Also, I wasn't entirely sure either if I was actually reading about the Caleb and Maggie I once rooted for and empathized with.

Despite all these negative aspects, I still liked the author's style, and will still continue to read anything from her. I think she has such a unique way of tackling stories in the YA genre. I recommend this to fans of Simone Elkeles' books, and for someone looking for a very light read.

Beach Reads Summer Challenge Wrap-up

Monday, August 30, 2010

With Summer almost over, the Beach Reads Summer Challenge is wrapping up as well. As you already know, there were four reading levels, and I signed up for the Dolphin level, where all I had to do was to read 12 books. These are the ones that I read and reviewed:

As you can see, almost all of them are rated 3-5 stars, meaning I had such great reads for the Summer! I'm happy I picked these books, and I really had a lot of fun reading and reviewing them. Thanks of course to the hosts of the challenge!

Raila @ Books Out of the Bookshelves

Hope you all had great reading months like I did! Happy Reading, and happy almost-end-of-Summer!

Charity Event News: Very important!

1. The event has been successful, and it's still continuing to work out so well. With $190 (so far!!) we're just so ecstatic here to see that so many of you have been supportive with this. Honestly, we didn't realize how fast the month of August was going to go, but now that it's almost September, the three of us agreed and decided, "Why stop now?" So yes, we are officially extending the Charity event until October 31st!

2. If you helped us spread the word, you can now have a chance of winning a prize as well :D We are extremely grateful for those that tweeted, wrote a blog post about this event, and those who put our badges on their sidebars.. so just to thank you, ONE "word-spreader" will be entered into the giveaway. So if you are one of these cool people, and you want to be entered in the giveaway, please, please fill out this form right here!

3. We had 6 possible winners before, but since we added one "word-spreader" winner, we officially have 7 possible winners so far :) We might add some more later on.

4. Updated Prizes: 16 books, 50+ signed swag, $40 CSN gift certificate, and more are still to come!


We are so very excited about the extension, and can't wait for September and October. Oh, and look, First Book on Twitter even tweeted about the event! :D
Some have also been asking how it is to be hosting this, and yes it sure is a LOT of work, but it's also very fun to do and organize. Plus, seeing the book blog community getting together for a great cause, and knowing that we're all helping those in need -- which were the main reasons why we're doing this in the first place -- makes everything so worth it. I hope you continue to support it, and if you'd like to any contact us, you can reach us through our email: Till the next update! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

- Jillian, Raila, Linna

A Month of Reading: August 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Books Read This Month:
Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen
Firelight by Sophie Jordan
You by Charles Benoit
The Awakening by Kelly Armstrong
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - still writing review
Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles - still writing review

Total Books Read: 8

Favorite Read: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Overall: Last month, I was able to read 14 books, and all of them were such awesome ones! This month was okay.

I was sadly disappointed by two books, and two others left me feeling slightly underwhelmed. It's a good thing Firelight was good, and so was The Awakening. Also, I'm just happy I was able to finally pick up The Maze Runner from my bookshelf, which I absolutely loved! A little bit better and more exciting than The Hunger Games series, I realized; but of course that's just me ;)

Book Recommendation of the Week

Friday, August 27, 2010

I decided to do this possible weekly feature here on the blog where I will basically recommend ONE specific book that I have read, and loved. It could be something I recently just read, or a one from five years ago. Doesn't matter when; if I feel as if a lot of people might like it as much as I do, then I'll recommend it! For the very first week, I recommend..

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Genre: Fantasy/Fiction
When I Read It: 2008
Synopsis: High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Recommended if: you like stories about dark and strange things, and creepy fairy tale re-tellings. It's not for everyone for sure, but I think you should try it out and see if this is your kind of book. If it is, you might end up loving it as much as I do.

Ages: It says it's for children, but it has some rather disturbing characters and scenarios, and I can not imagine anyone younger than 13 reading it. So I think this is for 13+, mature YA readers, and adults.

Why I Loved It: It's a unique and original story; twisted and strange, creepy and mysterious. It is wonderfully written, beautifully told, with memorable and likable characters.

The author says: "If like me, you were formed by books, then you may see a little of yourself within its pages for, as the dedication states, just as in every child waits the adult that will be, so too in every adult lies the child that was."

Have you read this before? What did you think of it?

Book Blogger Hop

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Welcome to my blog! If you came here from the Book Blogger Hop over at Crazy-for-Books, thanks for visiting! This is where I talk, rant, rave, and gush about all things, books! This week, Jennifer asks, "Do you use a rating system for your reviews?" For me, it varies, depending on the book and on the genre. Generally, I try to put ratings, because it's more straight-forward that way. But sometimes, I struggle to do so. Some are just more difficult to rate than others, so when they are, I try to let my review -- and hope that is able to -- speak for itself.

Other than that, we have lots of things going on this blog this month, so whenever you get the chance do check them out!
  • Charity Event! Donate, spread the word, and win awesome prizes, all for a great cause.
  • Top Ten Picks - a weekly meme where we list our top 10 choices based on various topics!
I'd love to check your blog out as well, so please leave your link here if you can. Also, visit me on Twitter! Haha. Happy Friday, everyone!

Top Ten Picks: Fictional Places

Here at Top Ten Picks, we've talked about literary characters, literary quotes, our favorite writers, our literary crushes.. why not talk about our favorite settings in literature? So for this week -- and I am extremely excited for this -- the topic is on ten fictional places that stand out to you in the world of literature. These are the wonderful settings that either made your jaw drop in awe or simply terrified you. Either they are good or not-so-pleasant places, they have inspired your imagination to take a journey somewhere you've never been. Here are my picks -- most are places I would love to visit and then some are just places I would HATE to find myself in -- in no particular order whatsoever.


The Ones I Want To Visit

1. Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
- It sure is a creepy place, and I don't know if I would want to spend more than a day in here, but it's a place full of chocolate-everything-goodness! Do I really need to explain more?

2. Rivendell
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien- There are so many distinct places in Middle-Earth, the world J.R.R. Tolkien created. They all sound magical and magnificent, but Rivendell has got to be the place I really want to go to. This place just sounds so peaceful. Everything about it simply exudes relaxation and harmony. And I do like how elves are portrayed in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.. I'd love to be surrounded by them!

3. Hogsmeade
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling- "Hogsmeade looked like a Christmas card; the little thatched cottages and shops were all covered in a layer of crisp snow; there were holly wreaths on the doors and strings of enchanted candles hanging in the trees." I love Hogwarts. Really, I do. But just like Rivendell, I would like this to be the place to visit in the Harry Potter world. I mean, it's basically like having a field trip everyday. It's picturesque, and just a fun place to be. Did I mention this is the place to get butterbeer? I don't know about you, but something about that just intrigues me..

4. The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- I love this place so much I devoted an entire post on its settings. Read more here.

5. Fablehaven
Fablehaven by Brandon MullIt's a place built to preserve mythical creatures. I just love the idea of that! It's a world full of friendly fairies, imps, mermaids.. it's just a magical place! How could you not want to go? Now as long as I don't break the rules, I think I'll be okay.

6. Neverland
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie- Sometimes, we all get that feeling of not wanting to grow up. Well, in Neverland, you don't. You remain a kid forever. Now I don't know if I'd want to stay a kid forever, but it'd be a nice little break every once in a while. J.M. Barrie, the author, of Peter Pan also says that Neverland would resemble a map of a child's mind.. the possibilities of exciting and new adventures would be endless!

7. The Bookshop
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
- To say I love books and bookstores would the biggest understatement of the year. Regardless of how I feel about The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald, I can honestly say the bookshop in the story has got to be one of my favorite fictional places. It's dreamy, as a room filled with shelves and shelves of books should be.

Places I Like But Would Never Want To Find Myself In

8. The Maze
The Maze Runner by James Dashner- Without giving anything away, there's a reason why the Gladers -- the people living there -- have such strict rules. There's also a reason why the Runners run frantically through the Maze during the day, and why there's a huge gate closing to keep them in away from the Maze itself at night. The Maze is a dangerous place to be.. I don't think anyone would want to be stuck in there..

9. The Forest
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly - If you haven't read this book, I think you should. I highly recommend it for all ages. It is so good, in a very creepy, strange, and terrifying way. The forest is the main cause of the terror. I love how the author paints the place to his readers -- so creative and original! There are trolls, vengeful witches, wizards, among many other disturbing things. The forest in this novel is the complete opposite of a beautiful and enchanting land. This is like a fairy tale getting drunk and wasted and hungover in the morning.. a fairy tale hallucinating and going psycho.. you get the point ;)

10. the Arena
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins- Have you read The Hunger Games? Whether or not you're a fan of the series like me, I think you'd still agree with me you would never, ever want to find yourself in the games itself. The number 1 rule of the game is: to survive. Kill others, and you get out the game. If you don't, then you get yourself killed. Yeah.. I don't know if there's a need to explain more.


If you would like to join in and make your own list, feel free to do so. And if you can't come up with 10, any amount is fine, as long as it's a list ;) All you have to do is:
1. Do a post, listing all your answers. Like I already mentioned, you do not have to include pictures, descriptions, or explanations, but if you would like to do so, feel free!
2. Please sign the Mr. Linky box below with the specific URL of your post.

Want more top ten lists? Check out this week's topic over at The Broke and The Bookish! Also, if you want more talk on fictional places and settings, check out Shredded Cheddar's meme, Locus Focus! Looking forward to hearing from you for this week!

Inspiration: the Last Weeks of Summer

In less than a month from now, the seasons will change -- leaves will fall and the breeze will be a lot cooler. It will be Autumn, and Summer would have ended. Time goes by so fast; I don't even know where it went.

My summer was mostly spent cleaning and organizing my room, working, watching movies on DVD, writing, blogging, and reading. Actually, I did a whole lot of writing and reading done, and I am extremely happy about that! I just don't get that much free time usually. Of course, there were also the occasional planned getaways, as well as spontaneous day trips either with my family or with my friends. There were the movie nights, the game nights.. It's been a good one, and I will certainly miss the season! The sun.. sleeping in.. the summer dresses.. the beach.. picnics at the park.. the laziness.. the freedom.. and yes, maybe even the heat. How did you spend yours, and what will be the things you will miss most about it?

This "goodbye-Summer" post is mainly to inspire you to get up and enjoy the last few weeks of it. There's still some left, so enjoy :)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Genre: Young Adult - Dystopian/Post-Apocolyptic
Synopsis: Thomas wakes up in a strange lift, without any recollection whatsoever All her remembers is his first name. But he's not alone. When the lift's doors open, he finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as they could remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the maze after dark. Everything should be running normal, but then a girl arrives in the lift -- the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. With this occasion, the Gladers realize that it’s looking more and more as if the maze is unsolvable. And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers—if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.

Rating: 5 stars

If you haven't read The Maze Runner yet, seriously, you need to get on it and read it! It's so good! If you are a fan of The Hunger Games series, you will most likely love this because it's just as good. It's as unique, original, and exciting. They're really very different from each other though, but one can not help but compare because both are about teenagers stuck somewhere, trying to survive -- either in a disturbing game or a mysterious maze. I absolutely love the HG series, but have to admit, The Maze Runner takes on a whole other level in the YA dystopian genre.

It's scary, exciting, and intriguing all at the same time. It has everything I would want in a book, plus more; a mixture of drama, adventure, action, and mystery, with a bit of romance, comedy, and even horror! This is just my kind of book. It's fast paced, unpredictable, and has a lot of unexpected twists and turns. They're not forced, or cliche. The writing just flows almost with no effort, and I simply could not -- and did not -- want to put it down. Seriously, if you haven't read this yet, go get a copy. Conveniently, the paperback version just came out last week I believe, so you really have no excuse now! 5 stars for this one. Highly recommended.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Genre: Young Adult
On Sale: September 21, 2010
I recommend it to: 15+
Synopsis: Mackie Doyle seems like everyone else in the perfect little town of Gentry, but he is living with a fatal secret - he is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now the creatures under the hill want him back, and Mackie must decide where he really belongs and what he really wants. A month ago, Mackie might have told them to buzz off. But now, with a budding relationship with tough, wounded, beautiful Tate, Mackie has too much to lose. Will love finally make him worthy of the human world?

Rating: 3.5 stars

The Replacement is probably one of the most original books I've read in a while. Seriously, if you've read the synopsis for this one, have you ever heard anything like it? It's just unique and fresh, strange and dark. Maggie Stiefvater even says how she "loved this eerie and beautiful story of ugly things." That might be the perfect way to describe how I felt about it too. There's just none quite like it.

I do think though that the best thing about this novel is the author, Brenna Yovanoff, and her writing. Her words flow without effort, and never seemed contrived in any way whatsoever. The way she is able to write the perfect details about her characters, the settings, and the situations -- they just seem very poetic in nature.

However, I think that all those positive things that I mentioned that I liked about the novel, might also be the very reasons why someone else might not. Like I said, it's incredibly unique, and the strangeness -- or beauty -- of it all might not suit everyone. Personally, I enjoyed it. Is it a favorite of mine? Not really, but I still recommend it. Overall, it's a wonderfully written and original story about a likable and believable main protagonist, set in a very creepy but strangely beautiful town of Gentry.

are you getting a copy of Mockingjay TODAY?

If you are, and would like to participate in a 'Mockingjay special' -- a non spoilery one of course -- that I'll be doing on the blog, please let me know by leaving a comment and I'll be sure to find your email on you blogs and contact you and tell you all about it!

Off to work now! After, I'm going straight to the bookstore. Haven't bought a book in TWO months, but I'm ready to break that ban today! Woohoo :D

Why I don't think there's such a thing as Team Gale

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mockingjay comes out tomorrow, and with all the talk about it, I guess I just kind of wanted to share a bit of how I feel regarding the two opposing teams in the series -- Team Peeta or Team Gale. I have to be honest, I don't even get the whole debate about the two teams in the first place! I don't know about you, but to me, it just seems that it's pretty obvious that there isn't even such a thing as a Team Gale.

I mean, what do we even know about Gale? I have nothing against him and all, and he's a nice and kind boy who's known Katniss for years. But we don't "follow" him and his story, or know enough information about him to even judge on who he really is. For that simple reason, I don't at all see the basis for the Gale-Katniss shipment.

If you think about it, if the author, Suzanne Collins, really intended such a love triangle, she would have probably spent a lot more time introducing, building, and developing Gale's character to her readers. Instead, Suzanne Collins spent a whole lot of time developing Katniss and Peeta's relationship -- and not Gale's with Katniss. And I believe she did it this way for a reason!

Besides, I just don't see how Katniss would oh so suddenly, magically, go for a boy we barely even know. I see no possibility of her ending up going with Gale in the final installment, when the first two were completely focused on her relationship with another. I just don't see it.

Anyway, this is just my opinion and mine alone so feel free to agree or disagree. In the end though, it's obvious I expect her to end up with Peeta. (If she ends up with Gale, watch me eat my words, people! Ha ha) However, to be honest, I'm ultimately Team Katniss! It would be quite unique if she actually didn't choose anyone for now and instead decide to be single and be by herself in the end. I don't think it's necessary for her to end up with anyone.. for now. That would be prreeetttyy awesome. Just sayin' ;)

On Lending My Books

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I take really good care of my books, no matter what. I am very careful about them, making sure that they don't get any folds, stains, any kinds of creases, among many others. I've always been this way ever since I could remember, but this tiny case of obsession (I guess you can call it that) never stopped me from letting others borrow my books. Back then, I was everyone's library. If they didn't have a copy of a title, they'll ask me first before going to another source. It always made me happy when I'd able to lend a copy, as I feel like I'm spreading the "love for books and reading." Then, something happened a few years ago that changed how I view letting others borrow my books, and in fact, even made me scared to do so.

I let a friend of mine from high school borrow my paperback copy of 1984 by George Orwell. It was an old edition so it looked well-loved already, but it was still in pretty good condition. There were no creases on the spine.. no folds.. no anything. I let her borrow the book for a while, telling her she can use it as long as she needs it. About six months later, she decided to return it to me. She gave it back to me looking like this.

Yeah. I know. I wish I could have taken a before picture. I guess I was hoping that the least she could have done was to warn me of this.. err.. predicament. When she handed it to me, I tried really hard to smile and say it was alright, because I didn't want to come off as such a sensitive-book-brat. But I was genuinely beyond hurt and annoyed that she didn't consider what I'd think of what she did.

Her excuse was that she accidentally sat on it, and there was a little wear and tear. Is this what she calls 'wear and tear?'

Anyway, because of that situation, I think it's safe to say I have been traumatized for life. I don't trust my books with just anyone, and it means I trust them a lot if I do.

How about you? I really want to hear your side and your thoughts on this. What are your rules when it comes to lending books? Who do you lend it to? And if you have similar horror stories you'd like to share, PLEASE feel free, because I'd love to know that I am not alone with this. Here's me hoping all your books are in perfect and well-loved conditions!

Inspiration: The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald

I was able to read Penelope Fitzgerald's The Book Shop a couple of months ago. For me, I loved it mainly for two reasons. 1) How wonderfully written it is, and 2) The overall 'ambiance' and feel of the story and its settings. The latter, is what inspired this post. However, I do have to admit, this is not your typical novel at all, and I don't think it's for everyone. Personally, I loved it.

I decided not to write an actual review for this English/Contemporary Fiction novel. Instead, I thought it was more appropriate to create a photo-filled 'Inspiration' post -- full of images of lovely book shops and book stores that made me think of its story. The Book Shop is set in 1959, where Florence Green opens the only bookshop in the seaside town of Hardborough. The townspeople are conservative and reserved and thinks that the business is simply impractical. But Florence is eager to make her business a success, despite the fact that over time, she begins to realize that 'a town that lacks a bookshop isn't always a town that wants one.'