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War and Watermelon: Review

Title: War and Watermelon
Author: Rich Wallace
Release Date: June 2011
Published By: Viking
Pages: 192
Goodreads Rating: 3.93 stars

Review: It's the summer of 1969, and twelve-year-old Brody lives in sheltered New Jersey, worrying only about the top ten hits on the radio and how much play time he'll get on his football team. But when his older brother brings him to Woodstock, for the first time, his eyes are opened to the changing surrounding around him, and what he sees scares him. Because this world just might steal his eighteen-year-old brother away from him.

WAR AND WATERMELON is a fast-paced, easy read that sucks in your attention from the first page and doesn't let go. Brody has an honest and engaging voice that at once has the immaturity of a twelve-year-old and the maturity of a boy starting to grow up. Although topics like his football team and his attempts at getting girls are covered, a large part of the story deals with serious themes of hippies, war, and family, making this both an entertaining and meaningful novel.

If I had to make one complaint, it would be about the ending. Perhaps it's just me because in other reviews I've come across no one mentioned this, but I felt that the ending was a little abrupt and didn't satisfy me as much as it could have. I was actually rather surprised when I read it and then turned the page and saw it was, in fact, the end.

Other than that, WAR AND WATERMELON was an enjoyable read. It's a deceptively small book with simple, clipped prose but a wealth of themes and a unique story taking place in a time of upheaval and change. Brody feels like a real person, with a developed character and innocence that translates well across the page. Though I wasn't the biggest fan of the ending, this is a coming-of-age story that I would recommend to anyone.

Check out the rest of the tour here.

June Books

1. THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF SECRETS by Eden Unger Bowditch.
2. FORGOTTEN by Cat Patrick.
3. CLAIM TO FAME by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
4. PAST PERFECT by Leila Sales.
8. UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand.
9. LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW by David Levithan.
10. STUPID FAST by Geoff Herbach.
11. WAR AND WATERMELON by Rich Wallace.
12. YOU by Charles Benoit.
13. SONGS FOR A TEENAGE NOMAD by Kim Culbertson.
14. NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL by Siobhan Vivian.
15. FAT CAT by Robin Brande.
16. WANT TO GO PRIVATE? by Sarah Darer Littman.
17. IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY by Ned Vizzini.
18. FATEFUL by Claudia Gray.

One Year Blogoversary

I can't believe it actually happened, but yesterday was my one year blogoversary. One year since I started a book blog on impulse so I'd have somewhere to express all the thoughts about books and writing and reading bottled up inside me. A year and a day ago, I had one follower, and today I have 225 today. It's certainly nothing compared to the amount some of my blogger friends have had after a year or even just a few months, but it's a big number to me.

225 of you have each helped me and listened to my thoughts. Whether you've been there since Day 1 or you started following me this morning, you're another person who's interested in what I have to say and has supported me. I appreciate every single one of you, especially those of you who take the time in your busy lives to write a thoughtful comment.

I know some people like to celebrate these anniversaries by giving away books, but I prefer not to because not everyone will win something and I don't have 225 books lying around to give away. So instead, I'd just like to say thank you.

Queen of the Dead: Review

Title: Queen of the Dead
Author: Stacey Kade
Release Date: May 2011
Published By: Hyperion
Pages: 266
Goodreads Rating: 3.96 stars

Review: Alona and Will's adventures continue as they work to help other spirits. However, not everything is going great for Alona - her parents are already starting to throw away her things even though she's only been dead for two months, and even Will has things on his mind that he can't help her with. He met another seer, Mina, and she just might hold all the clues to his troubled past. Alona has her doubts about her, but instead of listening to her, Will leaves her to her own devices - and that's never a good idea.

I really enjoyed THE GHOST AND THE GOTH, so I fully expected to love QUEEN OF THE DEAD, and I wasn't disappointed in the least. In fact, this next installment was even better and was packed with the combination of humor, action, and emotions that made the first so good. The story was divided fairly evenly between Alona and Will, and both had their own separate worries to keep them occupied. Although by the end of THE GHOST AND THE GOTH, Alona was much more mature, she still had a lot of growing to do and much was seen of that in this, much to my delight.

Though Will's side of the story was interesting to read about, it was Alona's that captured my attention the most. The plot is full of suspense and has sharp turns, but the best plot twist happened with her and ended with a crazy cliffhanger, but of course, only in the good way. If I had to make one complaint, however, I did wish to read more of the Alona-Will relationship. There was a little in the beginning, but it fell apart quickly and their dynamic wasn't as great as it could have been.

All in all, QUEEN OF THE DEAD doesn't disappoint as a sequel and even, in my opinion, exceeds the first book, which will delight fans of the trilogy. Both Alona and Will face a great deal of growth, and though I wished for more about the both of them together, the plot was satisfyingly suspenseful and engaging. The cliffhanger at the end will inspire love-hate relationships for readers all over, but ultimately serves to leave a longing for the next and final book in the series.

I received a free copy of this book for review. This is no way affected my review, which is 100% honest.

Cover Love (9)

I decided to do something different this week and compare foreign covers of books. First up is Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater! Here they are.

On the left is the US cover, which I'm sure most of you are familiar with. I like this cover, with its varying blue tones and especially the softness of the title and author name. Looking at this book cover makes you feel a bit like you're melting into it and it goes along so nicely with the gorgeous prose.

The amazing gem in the middle is the German version. It's different from the other foreign variations, but you must admit that it is so beautiful. The simple silhouettes of the girl and the wolf tell so much, and I adore the curling branches and dreamy pinkness.

By contrast, the UK cover all the way on the right is considerably darker. It's very similar to the US one, but features stark black and white contrast, with a bleeding heart and ominous title. I like this cover as a piece of art, but I feel like it's too dark for the story itself.

Here on the left we have the French cover. The font they chose for the text is very beautiful and matches the story well, but I'm not really liking how the pink goes with the black-and-white photography. I also feel like this would be a better cover for a contemporary novel.

The Italian cover is in the center, and you can tell right away that it's different from all the other winter-themed ones. I actually quite like it, with that silver heart, red moon, and bright red claw marks. It's simple but elegant.

Next up is the Chinese cover, which is definitely one of my favorites. The image is a beautiful, simple, and haunting scene that describes the story as elegantly as the text within. I'm also a big fan of the white space beneath, and the way the Chinese characters frame it.

They start to get a bit funky here. On the left, we have the Russian cover, which is very cool and very different, although not my favorite. It feels like a straight-out fantasy, complete with the glowing, swirly green text at the bottom, and the model they chose.

The Bulgarian cover is rather creepy. I love how they wrote the title, but the rest of the cover feels like it belongs on a thriller. The wolf's eyes are scary, and the sad-looking girl crouching in the middle of the road doesn't really help matters.

Finally, we have the Brazilian cover. It's very elegant and easy on the eyes, but it doesn't really scream "romance" to me. I adore simple text, though, and this title definitely has that.

So, that ends my analysis of Shiver's covers! The rest seem to be variations of the US or UK cover. What do you guys think? Which are your favorites and least favorites?

Hereafter: Review

Title: Hereafter
Author: Tara Hudson
Release Date: June 2011
Published By: HarperCollins
Pages: 416
Goodreads Rating: 3.93 stars

Review: Amelia has no memory of her past life - all she knows is that she's dead. She drifts through the world with no sense of time or reality, until she sees Joshua drowning in the same river she died in. When she rescues him, they discover a bond between them that neither ever thought possible. But even as they fall hopelessly in love, a frightening spirit is emerging. He wants to drag Amelia back into the dark world of the dead, and he will do whatever it takes.

A lot of people are saying that HEREAFTER is different from all the other paranormal romances out there, but one aspect of that genre that's always bothered me is present here: insta-love. For those of you who don't know, this is when two characters meet and all of a sudden are deeply in love, whether it's for a mythological reason or it's just more convenient to the plot. This is a major pet peeve of mine, and I really disliked the way Amelia and Joshua were declaring their profound love and adoration for each other about three days after meeting.

However, besides the insta-love part, their romance was well-written. It had the right balance of steamy and sweet that had me falling in love with Joshua along with Amelia (although at a bit of a slower rate). I felt like both of them were fleshed-out characters with rounded and honest personalities, which made the romance that much more fun to read about. There was major chemistry between them, but I appreciated how that didn't completely shadow the rest of the plot even though it was a big part of the story.

Speaking of the plot, though, I did wish certain things were explored more deeply. In particular, I wanted to know more about how Joshua being a seer would affect their relationship. Aside from his ghost-hating grandmother, it didn't really do anything, at least not in this book. However, I did find out that this is the first book in a series, so I won't let that bring down my opinion of this book without reading the rest to see if anything more is explained.

I'm not normally the hugest fan of ghost stories, but I did like reading this. My enjoyment of the book was a bit reduced because of the insta-love, which always bothers me a lot, but aside from that, I concede that the romance was perhaps the best part of the novel. The characters were well-developed, and there was actually a plot, although I did wish for a bit more of it. If you're a fan of paranormals but want something a little different, or if you just like ghosts, I recommend giving HEREAFTER a try!

I received a free copy of this book for review. This is no way affected my review, which is 100% honest.

Book Blogger Hop (27) and Follow Friday (15)

This week's question is...

When did you realize that reading is your passion and a truly important part of your life?

There never really was a moment when I realized that I love to read. For as long as I can remember, every Saturday my mom would take me to the library and I would get a stack of books. When I was very young, it started as seven picture books, one for each night, and slowly evolved into a pile of regular books. Now I get my books by ordering them online through the library, but the point remains that reading has always been a part of my life, thanks to my parents.

This week's Follow Friday question is...

What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

I can't really pick just one fairy tale I love, but the entire volume of Grimms' Fairy Tales (as in, the real ones, not the happy Disney-fied version) completely scared the crap out of me as a little kid, and so I adored it. Each one was terrifying, violent, and brutal to my young self and served as such a contrast to the generally upbeat books that stocked my shelves that I couldn't help but read them over and over again.

If you're stopping by, please leave a comment so I can return the favor!

Between Shades of Gray: Review

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Release Date: March 2011
Published By: Puffin Books
Pages: 344
Goodreads Rating: 4.42 stars

Review: In 1941, Lina is a normal Lithuanian girl, painting, drawing, and crushing on boys. Until one day, she and her family are stolen from their homes and separated from her father. She, her mother, and little brother are forced on a dirty, crowded train car to a desolate work camp in Siberia under Stalin's orders. Almost completely devoid of hope, she leaves behind drawings on whatever she can find, praying that they will somehow get to her father so she'll know he's safe. But in a place with almost no life, how will they survive?

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY was both an ugly and beautiful story. It was ugly because of the horrific events it dealt with, describing the trials and tribulations Lina, her family, and others had to suffer through and the degradation forced upon them by fellow human beings. However, it was beautiful because of how the subject was handled, with both grace and honesty. Ruta Sepetys spun gorgeous prose that was so lovely and stark all at the same time. This book was full of phrases that made you read them over and over again because of how simply amazing they were.

As powerful as this book was, I did feel like there were parts that could have had more of an impact. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I won't go into great detail, but there were certain scenes that while very, very sad, they didn't produce as much of a visceral reaction as they could have. Of course, this is not to say that no emotion at all was provoked from me - my stomach was frequently in knots of horror for Lina, but I was never moved to tears, although this is hard to get from me.

Dealing with a part of World War II not often covered in young adult fiction, Ruta Sepetys creates a brutally honest and gritty world that holds nothing back. Yet even in the very ugly scenes she paints, she finds the beauty and hope and brings it out to show how truly moving and amazing the survival of the people was. Some may find the ending too convenient and certain scenes holding less of an impact than possible, but overall, BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is a hauntingly heart-breaking novel.

Waiting on Wednesday (10)

This week, I chose...

Winter Town by Stephen Emond. Goodreads says:  

Evan: Every winter, Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent's divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The "girl next door" has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But even though Lucy's changed, Evan and Lucy connect again. And this time, Evan falls in love.

Lucy: Lucy has secrets. She doesn't tell Evan about her mother's new abusive boyfriend, her own violent boyfriend, and the fights that got her kicked out of her house. She feels guilty and starts to resent Evan's picture perfect (boring) life. She knows Evan won't change, and Lucy knows she must break his heart and move on.

Evan: The next winter, after transferring to an art college against his father's wishes, Evan sees Lucy again. And this time, they know the timing is right.

This unique story features gorgeous black-and-white illustrations throughout (comic strips, spot art, chapter heads, etc.)

Um, illustrations? Broken and healing hearts? Winter? Yes, please!  What do you think of this book? Have you heard of it? Do you want to read it?

Blogging Question

I have a question for all you reviewers out there. When you receive a book for review and you post up your review, are you supposed to notify the publicist at all? I've been wondering for a while what the protocol is.

Nothing But the Truth: Review

Title: Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies)
Author: Justina Chen Headley
Release Date: April 2007
Published By: Little, Brown
Pages: 256
Goodreads Rating: 3.65 stars

Review: Patty Ho is a snarky hapa (half-Asian, half-white) teenager who struggles with her mixed heritage. Her domineering mother wants her to be a perfect Taiwanese girl, while she wants to be white like the father she's never known. When she goes off to California for math camp, what seems to be torture at first soon turns into an opportunity for freedom to find herself. The only problem? Nothing goes the way it should.

I'll just come out and say it: I loved this book. Probably one of the aspects I enjoyed the most was how much I could relate to it. Like Patty, I'm also hapa so I understand a lot of the issues she dealt with because of being biracial. I've often found myself wanting to lean towards one side or the other (when I was little, I wanted to be full white, and now I frequently wish I was full Asian), and that's something Patty struggled with as well. Reading NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH was such a deeper experience since I had such a strong connection to it.

But even apart from that, I adored it anyway. Although it clearly deals with a variety of difficult issues, the book is packed to the sides with humor. Patty is sarcastic and amusing, making observations on her life with such hilarious honesty that I often ended up grinning while reading this. I didn't get the opportunity to read it all in one sitting, but if I had the time, I certainly would've devoured this in a handful of hours.

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH was an endlessly entertaining read with a variety of tough issues explored. I loved being able to relate to Patty so much, but also appreciated that Justina Chen Headley went beyond the multicultural problems and explored universal struggles of self-discovery. This is a book that absolutely anyone can read and enjoy. I would recommend this to everyone, and consider it one of my favorite books. This will definitely appear on my Best of 2011 list!

In My Mailbox (26)

I had a small but happy round of books this week!


War and Watermelon by Rich Wallace. I got this one through TLC Tours, and it looks fantastic! The summary on Amazon says, It's the summer of 1969. We've just landed on the moon, the Vietnam War is heating up, the Mets are beginning their famous World Series run, and Woodstock is rocking upstate New York. Down in New Jersey, twelve-year-old Brody is mostly concerned with the top ten hits on the radio and how much playing time he'll get on the football team. But when he goes along for the ride to Woodstock with his older brother and sees the mass of humanity there, he starts to wake up to the world around him-a world that could take away the brother he loves. I've read very few books that take place in this time period, so I'm looking forward to reading it!

Legacy by Cayla Kluver. This is the first in a series, and the summary says,
In her seventeenth year, Princess Alera of Hytanica faces one duty: to marry the man who will be king. But her father’s choice of suitor fills her with despair. When the palace guard captures an intruder—a boy her age with steel-blue eyes, hailing from her kingdom’s greatest enemy—Alera is alarmed…and intrigued. But she could not have guessed that their clandestine meetings would unveil the dark legacy shadowing both their lands. In this mystical world of court conspiracies and blood magic, loyalties will be tested. Courage won’t be enough. And as the battle begins for everything Alera holds dear, love may be the downfall of a kingdom. I read very little fantasy, but the cover is so gorgeous, I couldn't resist!

Black, White, Other by Joan Lester. As a biracial teen, Nina is accustomed to a life of varied hues-mocha-colored skin, ringed brown hair streaked with red, a darker brother, a black father, a white mother. When her parents decide to divorce, the rainbow of Nina's existence is reduced to a much starker reality. Shifting definitions and relationships are playing out all around her, and new boxes and lines seem to be getting drawn every day. Between the fractures within her family and the racial tensions splintering her hometown, Nina feels caught in perpetual battle. Feeling stranded in the nowhere land between racial boundaries, and struggling for personal independence and identity, Nina turns to the story of her great-great-grandmother's escape from slavery. Is there direction in the tale of her ancestor? Can Nina build her own compass when landmarks from her childhood stop guiding the way? I'm also biracial (half-Asian, half-white), so I'm eager to read this.

Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet. Can love survive a lifetime? When working-class Clem Ackroyd falls for Frankie Mortimer, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy local landowner, he has no hope that it can. After all, the world teeters on the brink of war, and bombs could rain down any minute over the bleak English countryside--just as they did seventeen years ago as his mother, pregnant with him, tended her garden. This time, Clem may not survive. Told in cinematic style by acclaimed writer Mal Peet, this brilliant coming-of-age novel is a gripping family portrait that interweaves the stories of three generations and the terrifying crises that de? ne them. With its urgent sense of history, sweeping emotion, and winning young narrator, Mal Peet’s latest is an unforgettable, timely exploration of life during wartime. This one sounds amazing and unique! I love the title.

Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson. Calli has almost everything she could want in life—two loving moms, a good-looking boyfriend, and a best friend who has always been there for support. An only child, Calli is excited when her parents announce that they want to foster a girl her own age. But Cherish is not at all what Calli expected. Cherish lies, steals, kisses Calli’s boyfriend, and seems to get away with just about everything. Tired of being pushed around and determined to get even, Calli decides to take matters into her own hands. But her plan for revenge goes horribly awry. Calli ends up on the wrong side of her moms, her boyfriend, and even her best friend, while she wrestles with her guilt. She is desperate for a chance to make amends, but what if Calli doesn’t get another chance to say she’s sorry? I'm not a fan of the cover, but the summary seems pretty interesting.

What did you guys get? Have you read any of the books I got?

OyMG: Review

Title: OyMG
Author: Amy Fellner Dominy
Release Date: May 2011
Published By: Walker & Company
Pages: 256
Goodreads Rating: 4.48 stars

Review: Jewish girl Ellie Taylor loves speeches and debating, so more than anything, she wants to win the final tournament at the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer program in order to get into the best speech school in the nation. Except the competition is hot - literally. Her opponent, Devon, is not only attractive but a serious rival, and as if that's not enough, the scholarship benefactor dislikes Jewish people. Ellie must make a choice about what she wants, but that's hard when she doesn't even know what that is anymore.

OyMG was a super cute, super fun book that I had a great time reading. Although it dealt with serious themes of religious identity and discrimination, Amy Fellner Dominy packed a lot of humor in this relatively short novel. There were parts that had me laughing out loud because of all the messes Ellie kept getting herself into, and this worked with the fast pace to create a compelling read.

This hilarity was interspersed with real struggles that the protagonist had to face, and I genuinely sympathized with Ellie. She wanted to go to that amazing school with Devon, who liked her back, but on the other hand, she didn't want to pretend to be someone she wasn't and disappoint her grandfather. I appreciated that she wasn't a whiny, self-pitying main character and instead had a lot of fire and spunk that I admired.

If there was one aspect of this book that I didn't like as much, it was probably the discrimination on the benefactor's part. I'm not saying that this isn't a very real problem in society today, but the reasons she gave for disliking Jewish people just felt very contrived. They just didn't feel like something someone who was actually biased would say. Maybe it was just me, but that just struck me as a bit odd.

Overall, this book is exactly like its cover: cute, fun, and a blast to read. I was hooked from beginning to end by Ellie's strong and spunky voice, as well as the hilarious scenes she wound up in. I did feel that the discrimination aspect was a bit forced and overdone, but other than that, OyMG was the perfect read to relax with while still dealing with serious issues that many teenagers struggle with. I would recommend this to anyone.

I received a free copy of this book for review. This is no way affected my review, which is 100% honest.

Book Blogger Hop (26) and Follow Friday (14)

This week's Book Blogger Hop question is...

How many books are currently in your to-be-read pile?

Well, the physical pile I have is currently fourteen books high, but my to-be-read list is approximately 500 books long. It'll take me a long time to get through that list, but I should be through with that pile in a little over half a month, especially with school ending in a week.

This week's Follow Friday question is...

What genre is your favorite and what book made it your favorite?

It's hard for me to choose between contemporary and dystopian, so I'll choose both. I don't remember what book got me into contemporary because I've always liked it for as long as I can remember, but I do remember what got me into dystopian. When I was in middle school, my best friend's dad recommended 1984 to me, so I gave it a try and loved it. Since then, I've adored dystopian novels.

If you're new to my blog, welcome! Please drop your link in the comments so I can return the favor :)

Wherever You Go: Review

Title: Wherever You Go
Author: Heather Davis
Release Date: November 2011
Published By: Harcourt
Pages: 320
Goodreads Rating: 3.70 stars

Review: Holly has felt lost ever since her boyfriend Rob died in a horrible accident, and facing the responsibility of caring for her little sister and Alzheimer's-stricken grandfather doesn't help. But then she becomes closer to her boyfriend's best friend, Jason, and the two of them begin to fall for each other. Except there's one thing complicating the matter: Rob. He's back as a ghost, and it's up to them to figure out how to help him cross to where he should be.

I feel like I didn't enjoy WHEREVER YOU GO as much as others did in reviews I've read. It was just hard for me to get sucked into the story. For the beginning and most of the middle, I found myself forcing myself to read this, and there were a few rough patches where I really just wanted to put it down. However, I will say that by the end, I did get wrapped up in the story and I wanted to know how it would conclude.

One aspect of the book that I didn't like that much was the fact that it was written in multiple point-of-views. Normally I don't mind and even enjoy this style, but I felt like it could have been done better here. It wasn't really announced which POV you were going into at the start of a new chapter, so you had to figure it out yourself, which sometimes got a little confusing. I also never really got to know one character well, so it made it harder for me to connect with the characters.

Of course, I didn't think this book was all bad. Although I had complaints with the multiple POVs and the fact that I had trouble getting into the book until the end, I did enjoy it overall. Ghost stories aren't usually my thing, but I loved reading about the conflict between Rob, Jason, and Holly, so I'm sure fans of ghosts will enjoy this even more. This is a very emotional read, and while it didn't strike me as much as it could have, I'm sure WHEREVER YOU GO will leave many reaching for the tissues.

I received a free copy of this book for review. This is no way affected my review, which is 100% honest.