Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle

Title: The Firefly Letters
Author: Margarita Engle
# Of Pages: 160
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: March 16, 2010
Level: Middle Grade
Rating: 4 Hearts


(From Amazon.com)

The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika Bremer visits from Sweden in 1851 to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena, the wealthy daughter of the house, sneaks out to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.

My Verdict

This was a beautifully written middle grade novel about life and slavery in Cuba, based on the writings of the real life Fredrika Bremer.

The story is told from four alternating viewpoints; Elana, Cecilia, Fredrika, and Beni.

-Elena is a plantation owners daughter, trapped within the walls of her own home, never allowed to go out and catch fireflies or walk beneath the moonlight.

“I sit alone in my room
at the ornately barred window,
embroidering curlicues
like the fancy ironwork
that separates me
from the rest of the world.”

-Cecilia is a fifteen-year old slave from Africa who was sold by her own father in exchange for a cow. She works on Elena’s family’s sugar plantation as a translator.

“If I had known
that my father would trade me
for a stolen cow,
I would have run away
into the forest
to live in a nest
made of dreams
and green leaves.”

-Fredrika is a rich man’s daughter, who gave up the aristocratic lifestyle to wander the world and be a writer.

“My sketchbook is bursting
with stories
told by dances,
stories about life on two shores…
two distant lands,
Africa and Cuba,
joined and also separated
by the endless flow
of ocean waves
that sound
like music…”

-Beni is Cecilia’s husband, chosen for her by Elena’s father. There are only a couple of pages told from Beni’s perspective, but I found it nice to see his thoughts on Cecilia and their marriage instead of just having her point of view. 

Fredrika believes in a world of equality, not just between men and women, but also between the races. She goes to Cuba to write about slavery on the island in hopes of bringing about change.

Against all odds the three girls form a strong friendship filled with shared hope for a brighter future. 

I found Engle’s writing to be very lyrical and beautiful. My only wish was that it would have lasted longer.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review: Minn & Jake by Janet S. Wong

Title: Minn & Jake
Author: Janet S. Wong
# Of Pages: 160
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: August 12, 2003
Level: Ages 7+
Rating: 1 Heart


(From Amazon.com)

Do you ever feel like you've somehow lost your true best friend? Minn feels this way. So does Jake. But Minn and Jake have no intention of being friends. Minn's a string bean. Jake's a shrimp. Minn's a girl. Jake's a boy. And in fifth grade, who wants a best friend of the opposite sex? But Minn and Jake are forced together by circumstances, which only strengthen their resistance . . . until Minn takes Jake lizard hunting. There are lots of good ways to choose a friend.

My Verdict

This is a young-readers novel told in free verse. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the free verse format to fit with this story at all. There was nothing poetic about it, the lines didn’t flow together, or paint a beautiful picture with words like most verse novels do.

Not only did I not like the format of the story, but I didn’t much care for the story itself. Going into it I thought it was going to be this sweet story of new friendship, but it turned out to be an awkward story about two kids who can’t stand each other at first and then without you really realizing what happened, bam, they’re best friends.

And then there’s the whole lizard thing, Minn is obsessed with catching lizards and she tries to teach Jake even though he hates them. I felt like the whole book was used to talk about lizards; catching lizards, studying lizards, dreaming about lizards, dancing and chanting to the lizard gods, etc…

The best part about this story were the cute sketch-like illustrations that accompanied it, and to go along with the lizard theme there was a lizard shaped cloud, shadow, or something in each picture.

I’m thinking this story was meant more for boys than girls, who would enjoy all the lizard talk and not care so much that the friendship seemed disjointed. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordlover Wednesday: Tintinnabulation

The inspiration for this weeks word came from 10,000 screaming fans of One Direction. 

The word is...

Tintinnabulation (tin-tin-nab-u-la-tion)
Noun- a ringing or tinkling sound

Thanks to all those screaming fans I've had a severe case of tintinnabulation  in my ears for the last 18 hours. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Breathtaking Book Cover: Insanity

Today's Breathtaking Book Cover is...

Lauren Hammond

Click Here to Add This Book on Goodreads =)

I discovered this book thanks to Hilda at Catch the Lune. I was blown away by the beauty of this cover and immediately went to Goodreads to see what it was about. The story sounded so intriguing I downloaded it instantly. It's only $2.99 on Amazon! I hope it lives up to it's cover!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Foreign Cover Friday: I Am Number Four

Foreign Cover Friday is a weekly meme hosted by The Reading Fever, where foreign covers of the books we know and love are spotlighted and discussed. To join, either pick your favorite foreign cover or pick many foreign covers, and start discussing!

This weeks book is...

I Am Number Four

Pittacus Lore

 (US Version)
This is the version I read, as well as my favorite. It relates to the story, the colors are nice and I like the use of multiple type styles.

(US Movie Version)
This is the cover that came out after the movie, that shows us a picture of the main character. 
While it's not the most original designs, I like that they still incorporated the symbol of his mark from the original cover into the background of this one.

I don't really care much for this one. The symbol is kind of muddled up with the brightness of the lights shining through it. It definitely has a more "spacey" theme to it than the others. 

I always find it funny when a foreign cover uses the American dvd front as their design.

Everything about this one falls flat. It looks like they just slapped everything on a black background and called it a day. 

I have the same issue with this one as the one above

What are your thoughts? Love one? Hate one? Let me know below! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
# Of Pages: 336
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: November 29, 2011
Level: Young Adult
Rating: 4 Hearts


(From Amazon.com)

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 countries 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' 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.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

My Verdict

With its eye-catching cover and comparison to the epic Hunger Games series I knew this one was a must read. Although it ended up having nothing in common with the Hunger Games besides the cover design and dystopian setting, it was still an enjoyable and action packed read.

The story was action packed and well paced so that you were always on the edge of your seat. There are some big surprises throughout, some I saw coming others I did not. 

The book is broken into two sections; the first half focuses more on Day and the second half on June.  Within each of those halves the chapters alternate between his and her point of view. One of the ways you can tell this is because in Day’s chapters the text is gold, which I found to be a unique and fun way of marking the switch.

As for the two main characters, Day & June, I absolutely loved Day’s character and thought he was wise beyond his years while June was rather annoying and naive.

Day had one of the biggest hearts ever! Even when he was surrounded by danger he was always thinking and worrying about the safety of his family or friends and not himself. He risked his life for those he loved over and over.

To me the romance was not one to ooh and ahh over. I felt the characters were too young, and honestly I didn’t see their connection at all. How Day could ever love June after everything she did to him, I’ll never understand.

There was one major downfall to this book for me and that was the violence. There was a lot of capturing and torturing of prisoners described in too much detail for my liking. This especially angered me because the characters were so young, and the fact that a fifteen year old is ordering for someone else’s body part to be removed made me sick.

The ending did good to wrap up all impending action while leaving enough unfinished for the next installment. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordlover Wednesday: Plursignification

Todays wordlover word is...

Plursignification (ploo-ri-sig-ni-fi-KAY-shuhn)

Noun- the use of a word to convey multiple meanings at the same time.

Example: "The Norwegian Dahle understood that ambiguity and plursignification were essential to Merina ways of speaking."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review: First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky

Title: First Comes Love
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
# Of Pages: 208
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin 
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
Level: Young Adult
Rating: 2 Hearts

Many thanks to the wonderful Houghton Mifflin for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


(From Amazon.com)

Like his name, Gray is dark and stormy. Dylan, a girl always searching for what's next, seemingly unable to settle down, is the exact opposite: full of light and life. On the outside, they seem like an unlikely couple. But looks can be deceiving and besides, opposites attract.
What starts as friendship, turns into admiration, respect and caring, until finally these two lone souls find they are truly in love with each other.
But staying in love is not as easy as falling in love. If Dylan and Gray want their love to last, they're going to have to work at it. And learn that sometimes love means having to say you're sorry.

My Verdict

This book just wasn’t for me. I absolutely loved Katie’s first book, Awaken, and couldn’t wait to read anything else by her. I knew this book would be different; Awaken was dystopian this was contemporary. The writing was just as wonderful as her first book but I didn’t care for the story at all.

This is a story of firsts. First encounter, first kiss, first love, first obstacle, so many firsts.

The story is told from alternative points of view, which I really enjoyed. Sometimes it switches perspective in the middle of a chapter but it’s clearly marked when it does, so as not to confuse the reader. 

Gray has done nothing but build walls around himself, ever since his twin sister died, in an attempt to block out the rest of the world. That is until Dylan shows up and starts to break down those walls.

Gray & Dylan meet at community college were they are both taking summer courses. During their first conversation Dylan asks Gray to give her a tour of the city, talk about being blunt, but that is just Dylan. She is outgoing, goofy, honest, and completely her own person; she doesn’t care what other people think of her. At first Gray thinks she’s completely weird but slowly he realizes his feelings for her have taken a complete 360.

I honestly didn’t care for Gray or Dylan. Gray was kind of blah, and Dylan was really annoying most of the time.

This book is definitely NOT for young readers. There was a lot of sexual content that even at age twenty-one made me squirm.  There are multiple sex scenes where TOO MUCH INFORMATION! TO MUCH INFORMATION! Was blaring like a siren in my mind. There was also a bit of swearing, including the F word.

Overall, between the swearing and level of sexual content, this just wasn’t the book for me. I like reading about cute & sweet romances not hot and heavy ones. Despite my disappointment in this one, I’m still a big fan of Katie and can’t wait to read Middle Ground (sequel to Awaken!)  when it comes out.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reading Challenge: May Linky List

Read any novels in verse lately? Link em up here!