Friday, July 25, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: THE CHAOS OF STARS by Kiersten White




Title: The Chaos of Stars
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Romance
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

Isadora's family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you're the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she's only worthy of a passing glance—so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there's no such thing as a clean break from family.




REVIEW

A book featuring Egyptian and Greek gods is bound to jump the cue to the top of my reading list and The Chaos of Stars was no exception. The day when Isadora, daughter of two immortal Egyptian gods, realized that she wouldn't inherit her parents' immortality, was a pivotal point in her life. How could she form lasting relationships and commit herself to a romantic interest if she wasn't going to live forever?

The captivating beginning of this book ensnared me so thoroughly that I read through The Chaos of Stars in one day. If the start of the story was excellent, the rest of the book certainly didn't disappoint. There is a highly interesting, well-researched bit of history of the Egyptian gods in the beginning of each chapter.

Isadora’s dreams and visions of past events turning into darkness serves to crank up the suspense. Although Isadora is rebellious where anything to do with her mother, Isis, is concerned, she is by no means vindictive.

She has a deep desire to make friends, form permanent relationships and follow that tantalizing romantic possibility called Ry. Unfortunately, the knowledge that, unlike several of her siblings, she isn't immortal, keeps her from making a commitment. Geeky, stunningly good looking Ry, however, isn't about to let her slip through his fingers.

Although this book is a tale filled with action, suspense and a healthy dose of humor, it also looks deeply at some profound questions about life, living and mortality.

The Chaos of Stars is a thrilling, suspenseful tale of tasteful romance, with a whole lot of wisdom and an ever present touch of humor. If the ancient gods and their confusing, often dysfunctional families, interest you, this book should be a must-read. 






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ABOUT the AUTHOR


I'm the New York Times best-selling author of Paranormalcy and Supernaturally. I also give the most awkward hugs in the world. You should probably opt for one of my books over one of my hugs, but then again, maybe you like awkward hugs.

As for me, I like writing flirting scenes, and fighting scenes, and sometimes I write scenes that fall somewhere in between the two, but only if I can't avoid it.



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Thursday, July 24, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS





Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Starring: Shailene Woodley & Ansel Elgort
Genre: Romantic Drama
Year: 2014
Spoilers: No

My rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.


REVIEW

You guys!!! YOU GUYS!!!! Whether you’ve read the book or not, you HAVE to go watch this movie! Why? Well, mostly because if I got my husband and my teenage son to each shed a tear or two at the end of this movie, then I’m convinced pretty much everyone would enjoy it. They even thanked me for dragging them to the movies and making them watch it with me instead of letting them watch The Rise of the Planet of the Apes like they had intended to. So there, how much more convincing do you need?

Oh Alright, fine, I’ll tell you more. I’ve read the book and absolutely loved it. Like I said in my review – which you can read here – it didn’t make me cry like it did many others who’ve read it. But, heck, the movie made me bawl my eyes out like a little baby. I tried to hold it back, I just couldn’t. I was a nuisance disrupting the other movie-goers with my sniffling. And I laughed with everyone else at all the right moments (and so did my six-year-old) because the humor was done magnificently and came at you when you least expected it, even if you’ve read the book.

I had my doubts about whether they would manage to translate the book to screen in an effective manner which wouldn’t ruin the story. Most of the time the book is better than the movie, right? But I have to give props and a loud hallelujah here to everyone involved in making this movie, because they captured the story, the characters, and every element that made TFIOS such an unforgettable read, magnificently. The actors portraying the characters were chosen accurately, and their performances were nothing less than stellar. I couldn’t take my eyes off Augustus’s smile! (Yeah, I’m just flinging that in there). The only two characters which I wish they had chosen different actors for would be for Hazel’s mom, and Isaac. Isaac was my favorite character in the book, so I think they should’ve brought his character out a little more.

My favorite scenes in the book where Isaac egged his girlfriend’s car, and the eulogy reading for Augustus’s mock funeral were done brilliantly, and I loved how the text messages between Hazel and Augustus were displayed onscreen for the viewer to read. Attention was clearly given to every little detail, and I don’t feel that anything of importance in the book was left out of the movie. Even the ending was absolutely perfect! I couldn’t have done it better myself.

If you’ve had doubts that the movie might disappoint you and that it wouldn’t live up to the novel, I assure you it will be time worth spending giving the movie a chance. Cast aside any negative feelings you might have about the actors, and give them a chance to bring this gorgeous story by the king of YA, John Green, to life. I’m definitely going to add this movie to my collection once it is released on DVD!





Have you read the book and watched the movie? What do you think? In your opinion, did the movie live up to the magnificent book?

You can watch the extended movie trailer here.




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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

NEW BLOG FEATURES A-COMIN’!




This might be a phase for all I know, but let’s see what happens.

You might have noticed that it has been quiet a lot lately on my blog. There are many reasons for this, but what it boils down to is that I have a lot going on in my life.

We’re in the middle of Winter here in South Africa, so it’s the perfect time to snuggle up with a book in bed. But, it is also a great time to cuddle up with my tablet in bed and watch all the tv shows and movies I’ve been meaning to catch up on. Trust me, there are a lot!

You should also be aware of the fact that I’m a gamer. There. I’ve come out and said it. I love playing some of hubby’s Xbox games and I’m somewhat addicted to downloading games on my tablet and spending hours on challenges. I’m only admitting this so you’ll know why it sometimes takes me a week to update my blog (because I’m sure as heck not going to admit that occasionally I just don’t feel like doing it).

Books will always be my first love, and as much as I enjoy sharing with you my thoughts and feelings about the books I read, I’ve decided to also – from time to time – share with you my thoughts and feelings about the movies and tv shows I watch, the games I play, and whatever I had on my sandwich for lunch. I might even share with you a little of my other passion, which is music. Like books, music also forms a huge part of my life.

Because this is my blog and my space, I can pretty much talk about anything I want to (book-related or not), so I’ve also decided to have a few discussion posts every now and then about general things in life which matter to me, or which I have a definite opinion on. Of course, with all of these new features I invite you to comment and share with me your views and opinions, or whether you agree or disagree with my point of view.

So that’s it, folks! I’m going to try my best to be a little more active on this blog. Fingers crossed!

And to kick off this new phase of mine, I share with you this song that has been playing in my head the entire freaking day since hearing it on the radio this morning on my way to the office.




Friday, July 18, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: PREGNANT PAUSE by Han Nolan




Title: Pregnant Pause
Author: Han Nolan
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

A thought-provoking and courageous new novel by National Book Award winner Han Nolan. Nobody gets away with telling Eleanor Crowe what to do. But as a pregnant sixteenyear-old, her options are limited: move to Kenya with her missionary parents or marry the baby’s father and work at his family’s summer camp for overweight kids. Despite her initial reluctance to help out, Elly is surprised that she actually enjoys working with the campers. But a tragedy on the very day her baby is born starts a series of events that overwhelms Elly with unexpected emotions and difficult choices. Somehow, she must turn her usual obstinance in a direction that can ensure a future for herself—and for the new life she has created.





REVIEW

Pregnant Pause is a realistic, touching, and sometimes very sad tale of Eleanor's teen pregnancy and the response of her friends and family to it. However, when the baby is born, a surprise awaits everybody, but for nobody more than Eleanor herself.

Whether the author intended it or not, Eleanor is a thoroughly flawed character. The kind of flawed character who usually irritates me. Although the reader is made to believe that she is a difficult, rebellious girl, in this story Eleanor comes across as a naive, whiny, needy girl who can't do anything without the assistance of either her parents, in-laws, or beer guzzling, dope taking husband. When those individuals seem to fail her, she starts looking for the next romantic interest who would marry her so that she can keep the baby.

Maybe one can't entirely blame Eleanor for her insecurity. Her missionary parents, who see her pregnancy as punishment for her waywardness, would rather go to Kenya to care for AIDS babies and orphans than take care of their own daughter. Her in-laws are simply rude, and Lam, her husband and father of the baby, is never sober, and he cheats on her.

Despite everybody's belief that she won't be able to care for a baby, Eleanor is convinced that her successful work as counselor at her in-laws' weight-loss camp, will prove that she is good with kids. In the end, after suffering betrayal and rejection on several levels, Eleanor realizes that the most unlikely people can be her friends. 

A tale of deep betrayal, a young girl's insecurities, and a mother's unconditional love, Pregnant Pause is a stirring, sensitively written novel suitable for empathetic readers.







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ABOUT the AUTHOR


Han Nolan is widely acclaimed for her evocative language, her gritty subject matter, and her ability to plumb the psyche of her characters. Her books include Dancing on the Edgewhich won the National Book Award, Send Me Down a Miracle, a finalist for the National Book Award, Born BlueA Summer of Kingsand several other acclaimed novels. She and her husband live on the East Coast.  



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Thursday, July 17, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: BITTERSWEET by Sarah Ockler




Title: Bittersweet
Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Genres: YA, Contemporary Romance
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 4/5

SUMMARY

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...





REVIEW

A tale of self-discovery, friendship and shifting relationships, Bittersweet utterly captivated me. When Hudson Avery botches her chance at professional ice skating, and her parents separate, she becomes the cupcake-making queen of the town. However, despite her success with her tasty, inventive cupcakes and her efforts to help her mother in their diner, the ice continues to beckon her.

The main character, Hudson Avery, is the kind of strong yet realistically vulnerable female lead that I like. Throughout this story of self-exploration, this skillfully crafted character shows natural, and often painful, growth. Her inner dialogue is extremely witty and definitely makes for numerous laugh-out-loud moments.  

Although I generally dislike love triangles, the relationship between Hudson, Will, and Josh moves the story along rather than provide the reader with pages full of romantic angst. Both Josh and Will seem to have a hidden agenda throughout the story and it is only close to the end that the truth about these boys are revealed. The relationships between Hudson and her mother as well as that between her and her best friends, are described in an in-depth, but still entertaining, way. Ambition and corruption play a major role in this book and have a profound influence on all the relationships.

The lively, quirky dialogue, enhanced by Hudson's imaginative, dreamy thought patterns, kept me smiling. A wonderful book to relax with, I highly recommend this story of friendship, important choices, exciting moments on the ice and tastefully written romance.







  
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ABOUT the AUTHOR


Sarah Ockler is the bestselling author of novels for teens, including The Book of Broken Hearts, Bittersweet, Fixing Delilah, and the critically acclaimed Twenty Boy Summer, a YALSA Teens' Top Ten nominee and IndieNext List pick. Her latest, #scandal, hits the shelves in June 2014.

Sarah is a champion cupcake eater, coffee drinker, night person, and bookworm. When she's not writing or reading at home in Colorado, she enjoys taking pictures, hugging trees, and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex.



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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

REVIEW: ASPEN by Rebekah Crane




Title: Aspen
Author: Rebekah Crane
Publisher: In This Together Media
Publication Date: June 5, 2014
Genres: YA, Contemporary Fiction
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
My rating: 4/5

SUMMARY

One quiet night in Boulder, Colorado, Aspen Yellow-Sunrise Taylor made a mistake.

In the next instant, her life changed forever.

Aspen doesn't want to remember the car accident that killed Katelyn Ryan, a sleek-haired popular soccer player. But forgetting is hard-- because Katelyn may have died -- but she didn't leave. Her ghost is following Aspen around, and heading into senior year, it's kind of a problem. Especially when Katelyn's former boyfriend Ben appears to be the only person at school with a clue as to how Aspen feels. 

Popularity, Homecoming Court, hot guys - none of these things ever mattered to Aspen. She's been busy trying to keep her stoner mother Ninny in line and out of unemployment. But with Ben sitting next to her in Physics and her therapist begging her to remember all the things she wants to forget, Aspen is thrust into a vivid, challenging world she can't control ... and doesn't want to. 

A darkly funny, emotionally gripping story of opening up, letting go, and moving on, Aspen is about the best-worst accident of your life ... and what comes next.




REVIEW

I requested this book for review from NetGalley because I fell in love with the cover the minute I saw it for the first time. Likewise, I also loved the characters in this book, as well the message that forms the heart of this quirky, yet moving, novel.

Aspen is an unusual character. So is her relationship with her mom, but that is exactly what kept me glued to the pages. I was outright fascinated by the reversed-roles bond Aspen has with her mother, whom she fondly refers to as Ninny. Although this is not the only focus point in the story, their interactions were what I enjoyed most. Both these characters grow exponentially, and each has to come to terms with choices they made in the past and the guilt they feel because of these choices.

Falling in love with Ben, who used to be the boyfriend of the now-deceased Katelyn, was never Aspen’s intention. Neither was it Ben’s. As someone who doesn’t care much for YA romance, I have to admit that the romance between Aspen and Ben was rather heartwarming, and like Aspen, a little unusual. Similarly, Suzy, a popular girl who used to be Katelyn’s best friend, goes out of her way to be friends with Aspen. In the beginning Aspen finds this sudden interest a little bothersome, but eventually she learns that Ben and Suzy shares a secret about the fateful accident that took Katelyn’s life, and, like Aspen, they also have mountains of guilt they’re dealing with.

Two memorable characters for me – apart from Aspen and her mother, Ninny – were Cass and Kim; Aspen’s two best friends. They were absolutely hilarious, bringing a lighter tone to a story with a serious message. Aspen is a quick and easy read, perfect for readers looking for a novel with a slightly surreal feel. If you, like me, think this book cover is simply gorgeous, I can assure you it is hiding a story as beautiful as the cover between its pages.




  


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ABOUT the AUTHOR


Rebekah Crane fell in love with YA literature while studying Secondary English Education at Ohio University. After having two kids, living in six different cities, and finally settling down in the foothills of her beloved Rocky Mountains, her first novel, PLAYING NICE, was published. ASPEN, her second YA novel, set in Boulder, CO, is due to release in summer 2014 from In This Together Media. She now spends her day carpooling kids or tucked behind a laptop at 7,500 ft high in the Rockies, where the altitude only enhances the experience.



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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

REVIEW: CONTAGION by Robin Cook




Title: Contagion
Series: Jack Stapleton & Laurie Montgomery, #2
Author: Robin Cook
Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: June 6, 1997
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

This tale of deadly epidemic spread features Dr John Stapleton, a forensic pathologist hardened by his experiences of personal and professional loss. When a series of lethal illnesses strike seemingly at random in New York City, Stapleton suspects he has stumbled on a diabolical conspiracy.





REVIEW

Have you read any of Robin Cook’s books yet? No? NO??!! Dude!! You have no idea what you’re missing out on! We’re talking epidemic, deadly viruses, panic, conspiracies, drama, confusion, medical negligence, and gangsters! And of course, as with any good medical drama worth its salt, at the center of it all are two competing corporate healthcare giants out to make a quick profit AND an ad company with a near-impossible deadline. If this sounds to you like a heady mix of suspense, intrigue, and holy-crap-hope-this-never-happens-to-us chills, then right you are. Seriously, you have to read this. Contagion is also my first Robin Cook experience, so I won’t judge you for not having read any of his novels yet.

Right, so I mentioned the panic and conspiracy theories, a plague, and other killer diseases. But there are a ton more elements that made this both an exciting and disturbing read. The scariest thing for me was that this could really happen. It might seem unlikely that a break-out with such devastating consequences as described in this story could occur in a real-life large, bustling, modern hospital, but I personally believe it’s possible. Even if you don’t believe such a likelihood exists, Contagion will definitely convince you otherwise. 

Here we have a spectacular cast of characters to keep track of. Most characters have minor roles, and some more important, but each character is crucial in moving the plot along. It is clear that a good amount of time was spent on developing every character no matter how big or small their part in this story. From start to end, there is absolutely no indication of who the guilty party might be. Yet, when the big reveal is done, you’ll probably ask yourself why you hadn’t suspected that person(s) from the start. I love when an author is detail-oriented, but doesn’t weigh the reader down with too much unnecessary information about the setting and characters’ histories. Robin Cook balances all this perfectly and sticks to the storyline without too much explanation (though a lot of the medical- and biological terminology went right over my head).

You know what I liked most about Jack’s character? His go-getter attitude. He asks questions, gather as much information as he can, and then immediately goes out looking for the answers. He doesn’t even care how many toes he steps on along the way. Plus, he does all this while adding his own patented brand of tongue-in-cheek humor, intentionally provoking the tempers of his superiors, the staff at Manhattan General Hospital where the first plague outbreak occurred, and the corporate heads at healthcare giant, AmeriCare. Jack is fearless, yet vulnerable, and I soon realized I’m rapidly developing a soft spot for this character.

One of Jack’s best lines in my opinion (with which I share the same sentiment):

“The problem is that I’ve developed an aversion to mediocrity.”

The only issues I had was that the ending felt a little blunt, and the motivation behind the spread of the deadly diseases wasn’t as impressive as the continued build-up throughout the story led me to believe it would be. Although, I did like how it ended for the antagonist(s), so I’m giving Contagion an easy five stars. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this book. Want to know what lengths some people will go to to get what they want? Yes? Then this book was written for you. If not, read it anyway because it’s kick-ass!  







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ABOUT the AUTHOR


Dr. Robin Cook (born May 4, 1940 in New York City, New York) is an American doctor / novelist who writes about medicine and topics affecting public health.

He is best known for being the author who combined medical writing with the thriller genre of writing. Several of his books have been bestsellers on the "New York Times" Bestseller List. Several of his books have also been featured in Reader's Digest.



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