Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Minor Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Minor Characters:

10. Jackie Rodowsky from Logan Likes Mary Anne! by Ann M. Martin - This is one of the babysitting charges in The Baby-sitters Club series of books.  He could usually be counted on for some sort of interesting event, due to his clumsy nature that earned him the nickname "the walking disaster".
9. Margaret Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - Elinor and Marianne are the real stars of the story, but I kind of wish I knew more about little Meg.  She was sort of tacked onto the story, orbiting the periphery of her sisters' lives.  I'd like to know more about her in her own right!
8. Jane from New Moon by Stephenie Meyer - She's probably the only redeeming character in the entire series, simply because she wasn't afraid to torture Edward.  (Can you tell I'm not a Twihard?)
7. Willa Jean from Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary - She was so obnoxious and I remember really disliking her when I was younger (and around Ramona's age).  But she's actually kind of a fun character, a typical high-spirited kid who does things like destroy her teddy bear, Woger, and empty an entire box of Kleenex during a party just for fun.
6. Falkor from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende - Come on!  Who wouldn't like Falkor?  He's a flying dragon, for goodness sake!
5. Heloise from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - Yes, Heloise is a dog.  But she was Cassandra's close friend through all the ups and downs in the course of the story.  Sometimes a loyal dog is all the friendship you need.
4. Alba from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - Sometimes child characters work, and sometimes they go horribly, horribly wrong (*cough*Renesmee*cough*).  But I quite liked Alba, the daughter of Henry and Clare.  What's cooler than a time-travelling kid who's resourceful enough to make the best of her unusual (and potentially dangerous) situation?
3. the baby from Murmel, Murmel, Murmel by Robert Munsch - I guess you could argue that this is more of a major character... but let's face it: the only thing it ever does is say "murmel, murmel, murmel".  While funny, that's not quite enough for me to consider it a major character; the story is really Robin's.
2. Vollys from The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine - I think I liked this dragon more than many of the other characters in this book... even though she was arguably the villain.  There was just something about her personality that really drew me in, and I almost found myself rooting for the other side!
1. Dorin from Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey - I couldn't help but love this quirky Romanian vampire with his penchant for specialty coffees and striped mittens.  I wish there were more minor characters like him; some books would be a lot more interesting!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In My Mailbox (45)

For review from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab:
The Day Before
by Lisa Schroeder

Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.

Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.

The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him. And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Biggest Jerks in Literature

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Biggest Jerks in Literature:

10. Gale from Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - Don't get me wrong: I really liked Gale in the first two books, and I really wanted to see him get together with Katniss.  Not only did he not do that, he went off and did stuff that seemed totally out of character.  I was disappointed, to say the least.
9. Draco from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling - Everybody loves a good racist.  Well, in literature, anyway.  I'm torn between Draco and his father... but since Draco was the one who made life really miserable for Harry, he gets to make the list.
8. Patch from Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick - He's a big jerk, which makes for a fun character to read about... but really bad boyfriend material.
7. Edward from Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer - He was creepy in all the other books, but he was quite appalling in this one.  He came across as a controlling, emotionally abusive boyfriend.  It's not enough to just warn his girlfriend away from her friends... he has to physically tamper with her truck's engine to ensure she doesn't go anywhere!
6. Jacob from Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer - I thought Jacob was sort of a sweet kid up until this book.  Then he sexually assaults Bella and has a laugh about it with her father.  (Seriously... his daughter's just been kissed against her will -- and nearly broken her hand fighting the guy off -- and all Charlie can do is laugh?  And he's the police chief?!  Maybe I should've put Charlie on the list instead...)
5. Damon from The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L. J. Smith - Okay, granted, I've only read the first book in the series.  But from the first time we encounter Damon, he seems to be aiming to win the title of World's Biggest Jerk.  I have to wonder what, exactly, is wrong with this guy.
4. Daniel from Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding - This guy makes enemies because he can't keep it in his pants.  Cheating bastard.  Enough said.
3. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë - I don't know...  Isn't everybody in this book a jerk?
2. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I can't stand this guy.  Not because he's particularly mean or nasty, but because he's such an utter bore.  Seriously... who cares how many chimneys a house has?
1. God from the Old Testament by some guys in the desert - Love Him or hate Him, you've got to admit, the way this guy is written about in the Old Testament doesn't exactly do much to recommend Him.  Even by conservative estimates, He's killed millions.  It's kind of hard to top that in terms of jerkiness... so I'm afraid He has to take the top spot.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What should I read next?

I really need to get going on the Off The Shelf Challenge.  I haven't managed to read any books for it yet, and it's already May!  I need some advice on what to read next.  So please vote!

What should I read next?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review - Wrapped

Wrapped (Wrapped #1)
by Jennifer Bradbury
Date: 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reading level: YA
Pages: 324
Source: Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

Seventeen-year-old Agnes Wilkins is on the cusp of her debut season in London society. Beautiful, refined, and wealthy, she is viewed as a prize by her suitors and as competition by the other debutantes. But Agnes is not interested in debuts and balls; she would rather be studying foreign languages, reading Jane Austen novels, or eavesdropping through her father's chimney flue!

When Agnes finds a mysterious Egyptian relic at Lord Showalter's mummy unwrapping party, it sets in motion a series of events that could have dire consequences... not just for Agnes herself, but for all of England.

I didn't really know what to expect from this book.  Was it historical fiction?  Romance?  A paranormal mystery?  Actually, it was a little bit of everything.

This was the first book I've read in a long time that actually got my heart racing and kept me wanting to turn the pages.  The story was well plotted and moved at a good pace.  And I really liked the characters.  In so many of the young adult titles I've read recently, the love interest has been handsome but bland.  It's almost as if we're supposed to like him just because the author said so.  But Wrapped offers a love interest that readers can fall in love with along with the heroine.  And -- wonder of wonders -- he's neither vampire nor werewolf, angel nor wizard.  Sometimes it's refreshing to see regular old humans cast as the heroes.

Agnes herself is an intriguing character.  She's quite modern in her thinking and bristles at the unfairness of women's roles during the time period in question (the book takes place in 1815).  I could understand her frustration and her situation certainly did elicit sympathy.  However, this modernity is probably the book's biggest weakness (though it's not a major one).  The narrative is related through the first person, and at times I would have to remind myself that I was reading a period piece.  Agnes's tone seemed just a bit too modern at times (especially contrasted against the actual dialogue of all the characters, which seemed just about right).

All in all, this was an immensely enjoyable book.  The ending was satisfying, yet open enough to allow for sequels -- and I hope there is at least one!  I'd love to immerse myself in Agnes's world once more, especially after the events in this book's final act.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.43 out of 5

In My Mailbox (44)

Bought from Kobo:
Songs for a Teenage Nomad
by Kim Culbertson

What is the soundtrack of your life?

After living in twelve places in eight years, Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Another new home, another new school... Calle knows better than to put down roots. Her song journal keeps her moving to her own soundtrack, bouncing through a world best kept at a distance.

Yet before she knows it, friends creep in -- as does an unlikely boy with a secret. Calle is torn over what may be her first chance at love. With all that she's hiding and all that she wants, can she find something lasting beyond music? And will she ever discover why she and her mother have been running in the first place?

God Went to Beauty School
by Cynthia Rylant

A deeply compelling collection of poems about God and our everyday world from a Newbery medalist.

Cynthia Rylant takes teens on an invigorating spiritual journey as she explores what God's life on Earth might be like. Rylant's reflective and often humorous verse follows God as he tries out human activities such as getting a dog, writing a fan letter, and making spaghetti.

God Went to Beauty School combines the awesome with the everyday in an accessible, thought–provoking, and intelligent manner.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Review - God Went to Beauty School

God Went to Beauty School
by Cynthia Rylant
Date: 2003
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: YA
Pages: 64
Source: Kobo

What would God do if he was just a normal guy? Get a dog? Sit around and watch TV? Cook up a storm in the kitchen?

This novel, written in free verse, explores what God's life might be like. It's by turns humorous, profound, and thought provoking.

Ever since reading (and really enjoying) Inside Out & Back Again, I've been wanting to read some more novels written in verse (if you have any recommendations for me, please leave them in the comments of this post... 'cause I'm still looking for more!).  I came across this book and thought it sounded like it might be interesting... although, to be honest, I had some reservations because I'm not a fan of Christian fiction.

This book turned out to be nothing like what I expected, though.  It's rather non-denominational (well, it's told from a mostly Christian perspective, but not an exclusively Christian one.  Yeah, that's kind of confusing... but you'll see what I mean if you read it).  Really, this is a book that just about anyone might enjoy.  There's no real plot to speak of; rather, the book is a series of short vignettes that offer a glimpse into the everyday life of God.

I giggled out loud at some of the early poems.  There's something amusing about the creator of the universe trying to make spaghetti or getting addicted to his cable TV.  But each poem makes you think as well, about some of the deeper questions that we all have.  The last poem, especially, is a doozy, but it manages to stay consistent with the flavour of the rest of the book without getting too preachy or dogmatic.

God Went to Beauty School is a very quick read, but a worthwhile one.  I really enjoyed it.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.43 out of 5

Looking for some well-written YA verse novels...

I'm looking for some recommendations for some good young adult novels told in verse.  Genre doesn't really matter (historical, fantasy, contemporary... whatever), but I'm looking for ones that are well written and not too long.

Please leave your recommendations in the comments.  Thanks!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In My Mailbox (43)

For review from NetGalley:
A Tale of Two Castles
by Gail Carson Levine

Newbery Honor author of Ella Enchanted Gail Carson Levine weaves a spellbinding tale about a clever heroine, a dragon detective, and a shape-shifting ogre.

Newly arrived in the town of Two Castles, Elodie unexpectedly becomes the assistant to a brilliant dragon named Meenore, and together they solve mysteries. Their most important case concerns the town’s shape-shifting ogre, Count Jonty Um: Someone is plotting against him. Elodie must disguise herself to discover the source of the threat amid a cast of characters that includes a greedy king, a giddy princess, and a handsome cat trainer.

Readers who loved Ella Enchanted and Fairest will delight in this tale of a spirited heroine who finds friendship where she least expects it and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.

Bought from Dymocks:
The Golden Day
by Ursula Dubosarsky

There were only eleven of them, like eleven sisters all the same age in a large family. Because it was such a very small class, they had a very small classroom, which was perched at the very top of the school - up four flights of stairs, up in the high sky, like a colony of little birds nesting on a cliff. 'Today, girls,' said Miss Renshaw, 'we shall go out into the beautiful Gardens and think about death.'

In the Gardens they meet a poet. What follows is inexplicable, shocking, a scandal. What really happened that day? Is 'the truth' as elusive as it seems? And do the little girls know more than they are letting on?

A haunting and unforgettable novel from a multi-award-winning author.

For review from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab:
The Lost Crown
by Sarah Miller

Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Like the fingers on a hand -- first headstrong Olga; then Tatiana, the tallest; Maria the most hopeful for a ring; and Anastasia, the smallest. These are the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, grand dutchesses living a life steeped in tradition and privilege. They are each on the brink of starting their own lives, at the mercy of royal matchmakers. The summer of 1914 is that precious last wink of time when they can still be sisters together -- sisters that link arms and laugh, sisters that share their dreams and worries, and flirt with the officers of their imperial yacht. But in a gunshot the future changes -- for these sisters and for Russia.

As World War I ignites across Europe, political unrest sweeps Russia. First dissent, then disorder, mutiny -- and revolution. For Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, the end of their girlhood together is colliding with the end of more than they ever imagined.

At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naïve and wise, the voices of these sisters become a chorus singing the final song of Imperial Russia. Impeccably researched and utterly fascinating, this novel by acclaimed author Sarah Miller recounts the final days of Imperial Russia with lyricism, criticism and true compassion.

I requested A Tale of Two Castles a while ago but only just got around to downloading it.  I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed by my TBR pile lately (and I'm not exactly doing anything to help the situation)!

As for The Golden Day... well, I read the description and it just sounded so intriguing.  It doesn't seem to be readily available in North America, so perhaps that's why I'd never heard of it before.  It's not very long, so it'll probably get read fairly soon.

And I've been wanting to read The Lost Crown since I first heard about it.  I hope I have time to finish it!  If not, I was going to buy it anyway.  I love books about the Romanovs.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.