Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Review: The Kill Order by James Dashner

The Kill Order
by James Dashner
327 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 14th 2012
Source: Library
Add it on Goodreads

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, the sun flares hit the earth and destroyed the world mankind took for granted.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next.

Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there's something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, It's mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there's a way to save those left from descending into madness. And they're determined to find it - if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you're worth more dead than alive.

I'm a big fan of James Dashner's the Maze Runner trilogy so I was super excited when he announced that he was writing a prequel to the series! Of course, in classic Julia fashion, I didn't actually get around to reading the prequel till 8 months after it was published. Hehe. But the good news is, I finally did read it and I definitely think that if you're a fan of TMRT you should read it too!

The Kill Order is set several months after solar flares have hit earth and destroyed most of society and the world as we know it. Mark and Trina are two of the lucky few survivors left on earth. Unfortunately, the solar flares were just the beginning of their problems. Now they have to face a deadly disease, one that turns people insane and is mutating at an alarming rate. Together, with a band of other rag tag survivors, Mark and Trina have to discover the source of the virus before it takes them down.

The Kill Order was a fast-paced thrill ride. If you've read James Dashner's other books then you're already familiar with his style of writing; short chapters, cliff hangers, and lots of action. An added bonus of The Kill Order was that it had a lot of flashbacks which, though unexpected, ended up becoming my favorite part of the novel. These flashbacks told all about how Mark and Trina survived the original solar flare incident and personally I feel like the Kill Order could have been an even better novel if it was simply based around the characters living through and surviving directly after the solar flares instead of focusing on the Flare virus. The Kill Order was great, but I found myself pushing through the present tense chapters just to get to Mark's flashbacks. In my opinion those chapters were packed with twice as much suspense and intrigue as the rest of the novel. I just love a good heart pounding survival story! However, I can definitely see why James Dashner had this prequel center around the Flare virus since that was more of a focal point for the Maze Runner trilogy as a whole.

The characters of The Kill Order were pretty standard. However, I don't read James Dashner stories for the characters, I read them to get swept up in an adventure. That being said, I really did love Alec, a super badass military veteran with a heart of gold. No one does badass characters quite like James Dashner! None of the other characters really stood out to me, but that didn't matter because the story and plot were engrossing enough to keep me hooked.

For a prequel I felt like The Kill Order was an enjoyable read. It wasn't super fantastic, but it definitely answered some of the questions I had about the Maze Runner trilogy and that's what prequels are all about. If you're a fan of James Dashner and this series then I would give it a read!

Julia :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Five Flavors of Dumb
by Antony John
338 pages
Publisher: Dial
Publication Date: November 11th 2010
Source: Purchased
Add it on Goodreads
Eighteen-year-old Piper has gotten herself into a mess. Because of her big mouth, she has one month to get a paying gig for her high school's hottest new rock band, called Dumb. In Piper's mind, the band couldn't have a more perfect name. Just look at the members: one egomaniacal pretty boy one silent rocker one talentless piece of eye candy, one angry girl, and one nerd-boy drummer - five discordant personalities who, when put together, seem ready to self-destruct at any moment. Getting them an actual gig seems impossible. Add to that the fact that Piper doesn't know if their music is good or not, because, well, she's deaf.

But Piper is determined to get the band a gig to show her classmates that being deaf doesn't mean she's invisible. And as she gets to know the five flavors of dumb, some hidden talents, secret crushes, and crazy rock music emerge. She doesn't need to hear the music to sell it, but Piper wants the chance to feel the music too. Does she have what it takes to manage Dumb and discover her own inner rock star?
I heard a lot of good things about The Five Flavors of Dumb so ended up purchasing a copy from Half Price Books on a whim. Normally I don't buy books before reading them, but in this case it turned out to be serendipity because I loved Five Flavors of Dumb and am happy to add it to my collection!

Five Flavors of Dumb tells the story of Piper, a Deaf girl who ends up becoming the manager of her high school's up and coming rock band Dumb. The five members of Dumb couldn't be more different from each other, but with a little work and a whole lot of luck, Piper may just turn this discordant group of people into a success.

First off, Piper was such a fantastic protagonist. Antony John really hit it out of the ballpark when he crafted her voice and who she was as a person. I could totally see Piper's complete transformation from a shy girl who wanted so desperately to be seen as more than just the "deaf girl" to someone who was willing to own who she was, deafness and all. Piper just blossomed and came into her own and I love when a novel is able to craft that kind of character story. The supporting characters were all stellar as well. My personal favorites were Piper's awesome little bro Finn, and the nerdorable Ed Chen. ASIAN LOVE INTERESTS FOR THE WIN!

Aside from the great characters Five Flavors of Dumb was also hilarious and just plain fun. There were so many times when I was holding in my laughter or rolling my eyes at the shenanigans that the characters got themselves into. Talk show smackdowns, crappy recording sessions, and crazy hair dying escapades are just some of the things that occur. Believe me, you'll want to read it for yourself.

Five Flavors of Dumb is one of the best contemporaries I've read all year. It's fun, hilarious, and surprised me with its depth and insight. I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves music, contemporary novels, or is just looking for an awesome book to read.

Before I end this review I just have to mention the fact that I didn't realize that Five Flavors of Dumb was written by a guy at first. However, once I got to a certain point in the story it became glaringly obvious. You see, no girl would use the term "she popped out a boob and pulled the baby toward it" to describe breast feeding. I just about died at that description. So funny.

I am so mature you guys. NOT.

Julia :)

Kawaii Monday: Laptop Keyboard Decals

A chance for me to highlight something super cute that I find on the interwebs! This week I ran across some tech accessorizing goodness. I subscribe to a really fun email newsletter called I Heart Daily. It's co-run by Melissa Walker, author of such books as Small Town Sinners and Violet on the Runway, and it's a daily newsletter that sends out a potpourri of fun things such as links to awesome quizzes, articles about girls who are world changers, and of course random shopping finds. If that sounds like something you'd enjoy I really encourage you to subscribe to them! I love getting their emails in my inbox. And no, I Heart Daily isn't sponsoring me to say this. They really are just that awesome. :P

Anyway, this past week one of the emails they sent out was all about cute tech accessories and one of them I just HAD to share with you guys. Maybe I'm living in the dark ages of technology here, but they have exposed me to the wonderful world of keyboard decals. This sounds a little lame until you see the decals. JUST LOOK AT THEM.

Ummmm awesome am I right?

These are specifically for Macbooks so sorry all you PC people out there! I'm sure you can find cool keyboard decals for your computers as well.

So I'm currently debating which set I might want to get. The top picture is sort of the classic original decal set they have, the middle is a monster set, and the bottom one is superheros. I am definitely leaning towards super heroes right now. I mean, who doesn't want Batman, Spiderman, and Ironman inspired stuff on their keyboard? HECK YES.

Which set is your favorite? Do you like the idea of keyboard decals? Think they're silly? What kind of design would you love to see made into a keyboard decal set?

You can find all of these decals for sale here on Etsy. I just love Etsy. SO. FREAKING. MUCH.

Julia :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Join the book swapping revolution!

As you guys know I love books. A lot. However, there are times when I clean out my bookshelf and rid it of all the old books that I no longer want or need. In the past I've taken these books to Half Price Books or other local used bookstores, but it always feels like I never get a lot of trade-in money, and there are always those books they NEVER want and then those just end up sitting and languishing on my shelf like an unwanted guest, sad but true.

Well, the good news is I have discovered the perfect website for trading in my old books. It's called Paperback Swap and it is awesome.

Basically you make an account on the website, input the ISBN numbers of the books you have available to trade in, and then you're set! The books you have available will then pop up in the book database where people can request them from you. When a person requests the book all you have to do is print out a shipping label, package up the book, and send it to its new home! You do have to pay to ship the book, but media mail is quite cheap, and once you the recipient of the book marks that they received it, you get a credit to pick out a book you want from the database.

So far I've posted 15 books and already 5 of them have been requested and sent out. Also, when you sign up and post your first 10 books, you get 2 free book credits! Awesome right?

Of course, the database of books isn't super stellar, especially if you're hoping for a lot of YA novels. However, it is good for getting classics and those well known novels that you want to read but just haven't gotten around to yet like Life of Pi or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. There is also a pretty good selection of picture books if you like those!

The good news is even if a book you want is not available, you can put it on your wish list which means that as soon as the book is listed you will be notified and have first dibs on it. For newer books the wait list is quite long (I'm number 139 for a Requiem by Lauren Oliver) and the likelihood of getting the book is pretty small, but I still love the concept.

Overall, I really like Paperback Swap and I would definitely recommend it to people looking for ways to trade in their old books. All books, regardless of their size or binding, are one credit so the trade off value can be really good. Yes, you do have to wait for someone to actually request your book and if it's a lesser known novel people may never request it, but you'd be surprised what people want. I know one of my random books I purchased for a college class ended up being on someones wish list and was immediately snatched up. Who knew?!

If you join Paperback Swap or already use it be sure to add me as a friend! Also, if you end up joining because of this post could you list my email as your referral? It would be awesome if you did! You can find my what email address to list on my contact page.

Do you already using Paperback Swap? If not, do you think you'll join? Do you like the concept of being able to swap around your old books? What do you normally do with the books you decide to get rid of?

Oh and there is also a SwapADVD program and a SwapACD one as well so if you're looking to trade and swap your old CD's and DVD's those are great resources!

Julia :)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Book Review: Parallel by Lauren Miller

by Lauren Miller
432 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 14th 2013
Source: ARC (thanks Anna and Books Inc!)
Add it on Goodreads

Abby Barnes had a plan. She'd go to college, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice - deciding to take a drama class her senior year of high school - changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she's in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there.Overnight, it's as if her life has been rewritten.

With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers that this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes,. When she finds herself falling in love with a boy she knows only from her Parallel's memories, Abby is in a race against time to take control of her fate and set things right without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that's finally within reach.

Out of all the alternate reality themed ARC's I have acquired within the last few months, Parallel was probably the one I was most skeptical about. To me it just seemed like a contemporary novel vaguely disguised as if it were something more. Boy was I wrong. Parallel turned out to be so much more than just a contemporary novel.

Abby Barnes was a girl with a plan, and it seemed to all be going perfectly until she had to change her senior year elective. Suddenly her carefully thought-out career path is careening off course and leading to a life of Hollywood glamour that she never even wanted. But just as that world begins to make sense, Abby wakes up in a completely different world; a world where she isn't an actress in Hollywood, but instead a student at Yale. How did it happen? And what can Abby do to protect the life and love she thinks she really needs?

Who hasn't wondered what it might be like to wake up in a different world, in a different life? I know I have. Parallel gives us a taste of that kind of situation and it shows us that even the smallest choices can make the biggest differences. I loved following along with Abby's story and seeing how the choices of her parallel would affect the outcome of her life. One of my favorite aspects of the story was that we as the reader knew exactly what was going on in both Abby's past, and her future, but Abby of the future didn't know what was going on with Abby of the past. Sound confusing? It definitely was at first, and it's nearly impossible for me to explain. In fact I think Doctor Who can say it best:

That's basically what was going on in this story. Personally, I didn't understand one lick of what was occurring science wise (though Lauren Miller did do her best to try to explain it in the story) but that didn't subtract from my enjoyment of Parallel.

Other than the cool wibbly wobbly timey wimey bits, Parallel also had a sort of mystery element to it (why was Abby experiencing a parallel world? How did it occur? AND WHAT DO THE DREAMS MEAN?!) and I loved it! I also loved the intrigue of alternating between past Abby and future Abby and trying to figure out exactly where the story was going to end up. It was all so much fun and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

That being said there were some drawbacks to this Parallel. For starters the characters just weren't that great. Abby was really quite self-centered and there were multiple instances when she did things causing me to react with this:

And this:

Secondly, the romance really toed the line between creepy and cute. Lets just say it involved two brothers, an accidental break up, and a whole lot of misunderstandings that led to awkward moments.... Ultimately Lauren Miller tried to patch things up by making a broad statement about how "your path will change, but your destiny doesn't " but it still felt kinda weird. :P

Despite the character flaws and romance drawback, I really did enjoy Parallel. I flew through it, and I loved the sciencey/parallel universes aspect of the story. I've read a few books with this kind of past/future, actions/consequences set up (like The Future of Us) and Parallel is definitely my favorite of the bunch. If you think you'd enjoy a contemporary with that kind of twist I definitely think you should give it a read!

I'm giving away my ARC copy of this book so be sure to enter if this review piqued your interest! The giveaway is here.

Julia :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

ARC Giveaway: Parallel by Lauren Miller

Time for another ARC giveaway! This time it's for Parallel by Lauren Miller, a new release from HarperTeen. I really enjoyed this fun alternate reality twist on a contemporary novel and I think you guys will like it too! You can check out my review of Parallel here, and then enter to win the ARC below!

Abby Barnes had a plan. She'd go to college, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice - deciding to take a drama class her senior year of high school - changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth-birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she's in a dorm room at Yale with no memory of how she got there. Overnight, it's as if her life has been rewritten.

With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers taht this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes. When she finds herself falling in love with a boy she knows only from her Parallel's memories, Abby is in a race against time to take control of her fate and set things right without lsoing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her sould mate, and the destiny that's finally within reach.

 To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Julia :)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cover Comparisons: The Forest of Hands and Teeth Series

A little over a week ago, Carrie Ryan debuted the new paperback cover for her novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Seeing this prompted me to immediately head to Google to see if there were any other alternate covers for this series, and guess what, there are. I HAVE STRUCK COVER COMPARISON GOLD HERE GUYS. Just check out the two awesome sets of covers for this series from both the US and UK!

US Covers

 UK Covers

US Covers: While I am not really a big fan of the Forest of Hands and Teeth series, I have always loved their covers. I feel like the definitely invoke a sort of otherworldly horror just like the stories themselves and there's something both beautiful and unsettling about them. In fact, a good part of the reason I actually read this entire series was because I liked the covers so much. 

UK Covers: Oh my. These UK covers are absolutely freaking gorgeous. I love their symbolism and simplicity and there aren't any cover models which is always a plus! To quote my mother "Why are those foreign covers so much cooler than ours?" Good question mom. GOOD QUESTION.

So who wins? Honestly, I'm pretty torn about this one. I love the original covers because I feel like they capture the essence of the stories so well, but I also love the UK covers because of how beautiful and aesthetically pleasing they are. I guess if I had to choose which set I'd want on my shelf, I'd probably pick the UK set.

Which set of covers for The Forest of Hands and Teeth Trilogy do YOU like best? Be sure to vote in the poll below and sound off in the comments about why you made your decision!

Oh and remember how I said at the beginning of this post that there's a new paperback cover just for The Forest of Hands and Teeth? Here it is:

I definitely think it's interesting that the designers went the "gritty post-apocalyptic" route for the new cover, especially since the book isn't terribly edgy to begin with. It's certainly on the more benign side when it comes to zombie novels, and I always felt like it was really just a romance with post-apocalyptic elements, but whatevs. Maybe it will bring in a new crowd of readers who can enjoy the story.

Have any suggestions for future cover comparisons? Leave them in this form.

Julia :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Does Size Matter?

This past week when I went to the library I checked out a TON of books. This isn't unusual, but this week I ended up getting a lot of big books. You know the ones: tons of pages, weigh close to 5 pounds, and they seem to stare at you from the shelf with their intimidating size and demeanor as if to say "Come on, read me, I dare you."

In fact, when I was checking out all my books all I could think was "Dang it, what have I gotten myself into? THESE ARE SOME REALLY THICK BOOKS." I then proceeded to find a nice and non-intimidating contemporary novel that had less than 300 pages. You know, just to even everything out. :P

So this brings me to the topic of this post.

Does size matter?

When you're at the bookstore, or at the library, or even just picking the next book to read of your shelf, does the size of the book matter to you?

I know that normally when people think of big daunting books they think of classics. Books like:


But long and somewhat intimidating novels can also be found in the YA genre. Some examples are:


All three of these books are really quite hefty for YA clocking in at 550, 578, and 870 pages (according to Goodreads). That's no light reading!

Personally, when I see a really huge book on the shelf, I do get intimidated. I know I can finish it, but I also know that it will take me more time and effort to read than the average novel. Furthermore, I don't know whether or not my investment in the novel will actually pay off in the end. What if I hate it? What if it's just so so? Then all the time I spent will not have even been worth it! And what about my yearly book goal progress? It's gonna take me nearly twice as long to finish a long novel as compared to a shorter novel. If I read this book, I'll fall behind on my goal! And yes, these are actual thoughts that run through my brain when picking out the books I want to read. Embarrassing I know. :P

So for me the answer is yes, size does matter. Of course this doesn't mean I blacklist all of the imposingly thick novels I run across. I do read big books, I just have to spread them out because if I don't and read too many in a row I tend to get burnt out.

That being said I do have a book confession to make: I CAN BE DISCRIMINATORY AGAINST BIG BOOKS. *sigh* I feel so guilty! There have definitely been a few books that I decided not to read partly because of their long length. What books were these? Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, and Going Bovine by Libba Bray immediately come to mind. Sorry Jennifer Donnelly and Libba Bray! Maybe I'll get around to reading them eventually.... :P

So how about you guys? Do you tend to avoid reading bigger books? Why or why not? Do you find yourself constantly reaching for the thinner looking novel on your shelf simply because it's less intimidating and will help you reach your reading goals faster? Have you ever consciously avoided reading a book simply because of its length? I'm so curious to hear your responses! I hope I am not alone in my big book intimidation. >.<

Now I'm off to go read The Diviners by Libba Bray. It's a biggie guys, but I will conquer it. I WILL.

Julia :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: Prophecy

by Ellen Oh
312 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: January 2nd 2013
Source: Library
Add this book to your shelf on Goodreads
Kira's the only female in the king's army, and she's also the prince's bodyguard. She's a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she's their only hope...

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King's prophecy, but the legendary lost ruby treasure just might be the true key to victory. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

I have a weird relationship with the fantasy book genre. On one hand, The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book series of all time and I read it every year, but on the other hand I seem to always have trouble connecting with other fantasy novels. That being said, I definitely had some issues connecting with Prophecy.

Kira is famous, but not in a way that anyone would want. Everyone in the kingdom despises her and looks upon her with fear and dread. This is partly due to her unnatural golden eyes, and partly because people view her as a killer. But when the kingdom gets taken over by a tyrant, Kira must follow an ancient prophecy, and save the world.

Prophecy wasn't a bad book, so much as I felt that it was seriously underdeveloped. The whole story from the plot to the world building and characters felt extremely one dimensional. Characters were given one or two defining features and that was it. The setting was equally nondescript and I just couldn't seem to conjure up a picture of it in my mind. I wanted more depth! I think most of the reason for the lack of development is because Prophecy is the first in a trilogy, so of course the story, setting, and characters will be expounded upon in future installments, but unfortunately that hindered the quality of the story. On top of that, I feel like the foundation of the series should be set in the first novel. I need to be able to understand and sympathize with the world and the characters from the get go in order to really care about what happens to them as the story progresses.

Kira was your basic misunderstood "tough chick." She kills demons, which unfortunately means that she's also killing the vessel of a demon. So if the neighborhood fish salesman gets possessed, both he and the demon have got to go. Yep, the fish salesmen (and any other citizens who happen to get possessed) is a necessary casualty. This aspect of the story really bugged me. You see, Kira's uncle happened to be the King of the kingdom and he had a rule that the demon possessions could never be made known to the public. This meant that every time Kira killed a demon and its vessel, the populous was left to either think that the citizen randomly "disappeared" or they could believe the rumors that Kira was a murderer. Talk about annoying and ridiculous. NO WONDER PEOPLE FEARED KIRA! And talk about throwing your niece under the bus. What a great king/ruler you are! #Sarcasm *shakes head*

Those were the two main problems I had with Prophecy. Other than that it was pretty much your average fantasy fare. Characters fighting against evil, ancient prophecies coming true, traveling to the land of the gods, all that stuff. Honestly, it reminded me a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but without the awesome bending skills and cute hybrid animals. It almost made me wish that Prophecy was a cartoon TV show because that might have helped me to become more engrossed in the story and the world.

One thing that I will say I really appreciated was the fact that Prophecy was set in ancient Korea so all of the characters were Asian which is always awesome. Then again, I would have liked it to be more obvious that the setting was ancient Korea. I only knew because I had done prior research about this book series, but I feel like other people who read it for the first time and know nothing about the author may not pick up on it, especially since the only real clues are a few inclusions of Korean terms and phrases that I didn't even realize were Korean until I got to the end and saw the Korean Glossary section. Whoops. >.<

Overall, Prophecy was an okay fantasy read. Everything from the world to the characters could have had much more development in my opinion, and I was really annoyed by how Kira's character was treated, but it was entertaining enough. If you're a fan of the fantasy genre, and want to support Asian authors I'd give it a read!

Julia :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cover Comparisons: Stephanie Perkins Edition

I'm in the minority, but I'm not a huge Stephanie Perkins fan. I've read one of her books (Lola and the Boy Next Door) and it just didn't click with me. That being said, I've always liked the covers for Stephanie's books. Well, surprise, surprise, the peeps down at Dutton books disagreed and decided to give all of Stephanie Perkin's books cover makeovers. When I heard this I feared the worst: KISSING COVERS. Well, good news for everyone, that is not the case! Let's go ahead and take a new look at both the new and old cover designs.

Old Covers

 New Covers

Old Covers: There's nothing particularly great about these covers, but there's certainly nothing wrong with them either. I always thought they were all right in that fluffy rom com type of way. I know a lot of people tend to take issue with the character's faces being directly on the covers because then they can't imagine them for themselves as easily, but I've never really minded all that much. I guess the one complaint I would have is that these covers do look rather juvenile.

New Covers: Okay so I didn't really like them at first, but now that I'm really looking at the new covers I have totally fallen in love with them. The monochromatic color schemes are GORGEOUS and I love that they're so simple and sophisticated yet symbolic. Minimalism at it's finest. Well done Dutton designers! Oh and while we're looking at the new redesigns, let's check out the cover for Stephanie's upcoming novel:

Yep, I am definitely on board with this new cover scheme. 

So who wins? For me the clear winners are the new covers. They're absolutely gorgeous, eye-catching and are not nearly as juvenile as the original covers. I'm almost tempted to buy these books now simply because the new covers are so flippin' beautiful. I hope more YA book cover designers take a lesson from these and go the simple and sophisticated route with future covers. 

Which set of covers do YOU like best? Be sure to vote in the poll below and sound off in the comments about why you made your decision!

Have a suggestion for future cover comparisons? Leave it in this form!

 Julia :)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...