September 30, 2011

Retro Friday (25) - The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Retro Friday
Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! 

For this week I felt the urge to go WAY back to the first Princess Diaries Book by Meg Cabot

Princess Diaries
At First Sight: Mia is a regular New York City girl. She's not popular but she has good friends. She shares a nice appartment with her artist mother and spends the Summers with her diplomat father and her grandmother in France. Even if she's on the brink of flunking algebra and - to her own mind - she's the biggest freak of Albert Einstein's freshman class; she's doing all right.

But her regular life is disrupted when her dad shows up with HUGE news. It turns out he's not just any rich diplomat, he's in fact the ruling Prince of Genovia and since he recently discovered he can't have any more children, Mia is his only heir.

Mia doesn't know anything about being a princess, being one has never been her dream, all she wants is to pass the ninth grade. But now she's stuck at Princess Lessons with her tyranical grandmother and unable to tell anyone... until all hell breaks loose.


Second Glance: The Princess Diaries is the first of the series - that eventually included 10 books and a few novelas. Personally, I think this is one of those books that helped put YA in the map.

It's funny and chatty, and fast paced. Mia was such a teenager: a little whinny, self-depricant, funny, obsessive, but I liked her all the way through. I liked her 10 years ago and I liked her last week when I re-read this book.

Even if the pop culture references are getting a little dated, the spirit behind it remians so I don't mind it. Also, I don't always agree with Mia -in the things she does and believes in - but it was fun to visit her again.

I still hate Lily, love Michael and think Tina is the awesomest friend ever. Grandemere is her own brand of evil and she's always fun to read about - she's one of those people you love to hate.

This was my first time reading the book in English but it was awesomely fun.


Bottom Line: If your looking for a quick read that will make you laugh and have a great time, look no further - this is it!
starstarstarstarPersonal Favorite
Alex

September 29, 2011

List Maniac 24 - DNF

Listmaniac

DNF! The books we just couldn't bring ourselves to finish! It kind of has been happening a lot to me lately and I've been looking back on it and sort of wanted to share.

This list is, of course, very personal. It's just my experience.

Here we go!

Tris and Izzie
Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison
Gorgeous cover and a misleading title. This was supposed to be something of a retelling of Tristan and Isolde (at least I assumed since those are the protagonists names), but it just wasn't so. And I think Tristan and Isolde - in combination -are two names you should just throw out there if you're not going to deliver a tragic, awesome love story. This was more The Worst Witch and classic T & I, and it lost me pretty early on.

Twilight by that woman I forget her name.
I confess that I tried. I had/have friends who are big fans of Ed and Bella but I could never make it pass the first few chapters. I tried it in Spanish, I tried it in English, I tried listening to it - all because my friends said I would like it. I didn't. I'm a hardcore romance reader and Edward just came off mopey and Bella the pinnacle of TSTL.

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
Witches of East End
I generally like Melissa de la Cruz' series. Her Blue Bloods series is one of the few paranormal series I actively follow. And I sort of was hoping for some awesome in this story geared toward older readers rather than teens. But I got tired of hearing about one of the Beauchamp's sisters boobs within the first chapter, and I just didn't care about the rest.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
I know this is a classic in the romance universe but it never grabbed me. I tried to read it a few times and I just wasn't engaged. I also tried reading other books by Loretta Chase but it didn't work either. So I guess her style isn't really for me. Sad but true.

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Uncommon
Though I wasn't a huge fan of Heist Society, I wanted to like Uncommon Criminals. I made it about a third of the way in, but Kat was such a douche baggy brat that I didn't care to see if she turned around. Not even Hale and Gabrielle could save the day. Also, why does everyone acts like Kat is so awesome when she's constantly bitching about and negating her own family? If I were Gabrielle I would have snapped a long while ago!

September 28, 2011

Book Review: Reel Life Starring Us by Lisa Greenwald

Reel Life
At First Sight: Two very different girls are getting a late start at Rockwood Middle School' 8th grade class.

Dina just moved from Massachusetts to Long Island and is having a hard time fitting in - no one really talks to her, people keep dumping potato chips in her backpack and everyone looks at her funny because she likes to film random stuff. 

Chelsea is one of the most popular girls at school, but she spent the first month of eight grade sick at home. But she's back and ready to take her spot as ruling queen of her class. And things are going according to plan, except for the fact that her best friends didn't tell her about the special projects everyone is doing for the 50th Anniversary of their school and now she has no team to work with.

And, since Dina is the only other student without a team, their teacher decides to pair them up, and even tells them they should make a video, since Dina clearly likes making them.

At first, Dina thinks that working with Chelsea might be her ticket to popularity but she quickly realizes it won't be that way. Chelsea couldn't care less about the video, she has her hands full with trying to stay on top of the social later and not letting anyone find out just how complicated things are at home now that her father has lost his job.

But they are stuck together and it's make it work time!

Second Glance: Reel Life Starring Us was a bit of a surprise to me as I had just finished reading My Life in Pink and Green and I guess I was expecting something very similar to that but it wasn't. However, it was a very nice book.

Told in alternating chapters by Chelsea and Dina, this book deals with popularity and how our perception of people changes as we get to know them. Chelsea was, at times, hard to like though I felt for her because I know what's like when you dad looses his job and you kind of aren't sure what's going to happen, and I thought that part of her - those feelings - was very honest; but she was a wimp when it came to a lot of stuff regarding her circle of friends.

Dina I liked more for she was quirky and liked doing her own thing yet she knew she wanted to be popular again and was very honest about it. She could be a bit sulky at times but she was fearless when it counted and resourceful.

I found the ending a little too-neat, and I felt certain parts of the story weren't as developed as  much as I would have liked, but I'm willing to overlook that, for the most part.

Bottom Line: Reel Life Starring Us is a nice, quick read about girls and popularity, and very honest too. I had some issues with somethings but I enjoyed the story a lot, none the less.
starstarstar2/3
Alex

September 27, 2011

Tune ine Tuesdays #8 - Foreign Edition


 This meme is hosted by Ginger at GReads and showcases music. Each week you can post an old or new song so that it gains more interest! So head on over and link up.

Today we get to go international with a song not in  English. I picked this song called Mi Buena Suerte (My Good Luck) by Los Tigres del Norte because it's probably one of the band's more approachable, less politically charged songs;  and I've been listening to it a lot lately because everyone in my family is currently obsessed with this record. Plus, the band was one of my Grandpa's (my dad's dad) favorite.

The song is basically a guy telling a girl that she's his good luck charm, his star and to always be by his side. The young guy was a special guest in this concert, btw.



So, what song plays for you?

September 26, 2011

Book Review: My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald

At First Sight: Things aren't going well for Lucy and her family as the debts pile up and the pharmacy they have owned since forever isn't bringing in much money anymore. 

Since she loves being in the pharmacy, Lucy constantly worries about the future of the place she considers her second home, much as her mom and grandma tell her not to worry, she can't help it. 

When the local homecoming queen comes into the pharmacy with a hair emergency, Lucy's obsession with beauty products - and the many hours she has put reading all the labels - come in handy and she saves the day. 

From then on, not only she becomes Old Mill's go-to make-up artist/beauty consultant, but she also starts to hatch a plan that might very well salve the pharmacy, particularly after she combines it with all the things she's been learning at Earth club. If only people would listen to her!!

Second Glance: My Life in Green and Pink is a completely adorable book! I loved Lucy, she was a great narrator and while she loved all things "save the Earth" she was also very girly and practical and didn't let her idealism blind her to reality - unlike her Mom who was exactly the 'save the Earth' type that I hate. 

The pharmacy drama takes a big chunk of the story, but I also loved reading about other aspects of Lucy's life, like her best friend Sunny - who was dealing with her first crush ever! - and the whole beauty tips aspect of it, plus it was cute to see Lucy discover her own first crush. 

Each chapter opens with either a beauty tip or a 'green'** tip, and I loved how practical both of them were. Lucy has a lovely attitude about make up: that it's there to enhance the beauty you already have, not to make you look like someone else; and she also has a very good attitude about ecology: that you don't have to do big, complicated, expensive things to make a difference. And it still manages not to be a preachy book which I appreciated.

Bottom Line: This is a very sweet book with MG/YA crossover potential (Lucy is 12), and you don't have to be a make up fan or a ecology fan to enjoy it. It's sweet, funny and completely age appropriate - and so, so cute!

Favorite Quote: "I've always been... interested in making women look as beautiful as possible while making them look like themselves." - Lauren Mercier (Lucy's make up artist role model).
starstarstarstar

**Edited later : Sorry, I put green tips but it's really business tips. The green ones are more woven into the story. Sorry!
Alex

September 22, 2011

Cover Love #26 - Raindshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Rainshadow Road

Hello my lovies!

So, I'm a huge Lisa Kleypas fan and last winter she launched her Friday Harbor series with Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. I rather liked it though it was short. I'm intrigued by these brothers.

And just the other day I saw the cover for the second book in the series, Rainshadow Road. I hope it's good. I usually like Lisa's Contemporaries. I kind of like the cover but it also looks a bit 'woman's fiction".

Here is the summary:
Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her fiancĂ© Kevin has left her. His new lover is Lucy’s own sister. Lucy's bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life.

Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy's parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to "romance" Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger. Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life—even after being broken—can be made into something new and beautiful.

Love, Alex

Ps - thanks to Small of Small Review for the tutorial on colored boxes!

September 21, 2011

Book Review: Yours To Keep by Shannon Stacey

Yours to Keep
At First Sight: Sean Kowalski just wanted to spend some time relaxing with his cousins after leaving the army, but no sooner had he settled his bag down than Emma Shaw was knocking at his door with an insane proposition: that Sean pretends to be her fiance for a month while her grandmother visits.

Emma is best friends with the wife of one of Sean's cousins, so she knows about him but they had never really met, except that Emma has been pretending they have been living together for the last year, so her Grandmother - who lives in Florida - doesn't worry about her. 

But Grandma is coming to visit for a month, and Emma needs to produce Sean, fast. 

Sean thinks the idea is insane, but without anything else to do with his life a the time being, and understanding that Emma's heart was in the right place, he agrees to the charade.

Second Glance: Yours to Keep is the third installment of The Kowalski Family series but it stands perfectly well on it's own -at least, I haven't read the first two books but I understood this one just fine -and it's a lovely contemporary novel. 

 Emma and Sean are perfectly normal, everyday people who are just trying to do the right thing. Emma didn't really want to deceive her grandmother but sort of found herself in over her head. Sean plays along in part because he just wants to help out and in part because he doesn't have anything better to do. 

So they embark in a pretend relationship that quickly starts feeling everything but fake as they move in together and become awere not only of the mutual attraction between them, but of the fact that they simply like each other. 

Emma's grandmother and the rest of Sean's family are a nice background for the story, often pushing them and putting them in awkward positions, just to see them squirm. But you also see that the ties between all of these people are of friendship and love.

There is a secondary story about Cath's grandmother, but it's fairly small and sweet, so it doesn't distract from the main story.

Bottom Line: Yours to Keep is a straight-up contemporary romance about regular people falling in love. It's funny and sweet and definitely one of the better contemporaries I've read this year. A very comforting read that I do recommend. 

starstarstarstar
Alex

September 20, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays #7 - Hands Clean

Tune In Tuesdays

 This meme is hosted by Ginger at GReads and showcases music. Each week you can post an old or new song so that it gains more interest! So head on over and link up.

This week is Hands Clean by Alanis Morrissette because of my Grandma Sofi. She died 10 years ago this year, and well her birthday would have been on the 18th of this month. So I've been thinking a lot of her, feeling very nostalgic for her too.

Originally I had chosen Emotion by Destiny's Child, because that's a song that reminded me of her after she died, but I decided to change it to Alanis, because my grandma actually liked Alanis Morrissette. I know it wasn't this song exactly, the one she liked the most, but I can't for the life of me remember which song it was.




So, what song plays for you?

September 19, 2011

Book Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Graffiti Moon Aussie
Original Australian Cover

At First Sight: It's the last night of Year 12, and to celebrate Lucy and her friends Jazz and Daisy are staying out all night, looking for adventure.

It's the last night of year 12, and Ed and his friends Leo and Dylan are killing time before they go rob the media block of the local high school - even if Ed doesn't know why he's doing it if that's the only place he liked of school before he dropped out.

When the two groups collide at Barry's - an "open all night" eatery- the night they planned goes out the window as they embark on an all night adventure to find Shadow - and his sidekick Poet - a graffiti artist Lucy likes; even if she and Ed haven't really gotten along since a fateful date two years before when he ended up with a broken nose.

Little does she know that Shadow might be closer than she thinks. Being an artist herself, Lucy should realize that not everything is as it seems...

Second Glance: Told by both Lucy and Ed - with a few poems by Leo thrown in - Graffiti Moon was a surprising read. The book itself is rather short but I thought it was the right length to tell this story.

The writing is absolutely beautiful, pulling you into this one night in October in the middle of Melbourne (I think it's Melbourne), with this people looking for the things that are in front of them all along.

I liked Leo and Jazz, who were dancing around each other all night, deciding if they were worth it. I loved Dylan and Daisy, arguing like and old married couple trying to decide if they were over or not - they were great for comic relief.

Ed and Lucy were more complicated as they had to make their way through the preconceived notions they had about each other, to finally see who they really are.

Grafitti Moon
US cover
I loved the story itself, and the writing kept me pulled in tight, but I had a small problem with the pace of the book. Maybe because it's so short -about 260 pages - or because it happens in one night, but I was expecting a quicker, maybe even more frantic pace. Instead everything is a bit mellow.

Bottom Line:All in all, I thought Graffiti Moon was a great read. It has a lovely urban, contemporary feel to it. It's not exactly a happy story but it ends in a very hopeful note, which I loved. Graffiti Moon with be released on February 14th, 2012 in the US. It's already out in Australia.

Favorite Quote "Your idea of romance requires a corset and a time machine. Loosen up for once." - Jazz

"... but I guess love's kind of like a marshmallow in a microwave, on high. After it explodes it's still a marshmallow. But, you know, it's a complicated marshmallow." -Lucy-
starstarstarstar
Alex

September 16, 2011

Retro Friday (23) - It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas

Retro Friday
Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! 

I've slowly been making my way through re-reading The Wallflowers series, and this week I'm going tot talk about book two, It Happened One Autumn

It happened one Autumn
At First Sight: Ever since they met, Lillian Bowman and Marcus, Lord Westcliff have been at odds with each other. Lillian sees Marcus as an stuff aristocrat who doesn't like her; and Marcus sees Lillian as an abrasive girl with no sense of propriety.

But, one of his best friends just married one of her best friends and he really wants to get his hands on her father's company, so they have to spend nearly a month together in Hampshire in the house party Marcus is hosting. And, as every romance reader knows, something always happens at house parties!

When a chance encounter makes Lillian and Marcus realize something about each other  - that they are overwhelmingly attracted to each other - things get complicated because that's the last thing they want to admit.

But with the help of a little magic perfume and the prodding of family and friends, these two are in way over their heads.

Second Glance:  I think this is a lovely addition to the wallflower series but it's also kind of my least favorite book of the series. While I adore Marcus as a hero, Lillian is my least favorite Wallflower. She's very stubborn and there is this scene near the beginning of the book that always pisses me off because it shows that Lillian sometimes is stubborn for the sake of being stubborn, which is kind of dumb to me.

She does grow on me as the book goes on, and I do see that she is what Marcus needs in his life. And, like I said, I like the book, it just isn't a favorite.

The wallflowers continue to be awesome - I seriously love the friendship aspect of these books - and Lord St. Vincent is also introduced (for a while there there is a tiny little love triangle, but not really).

Bottom Line: It Happened One Autumn is a very nice historical romance, I just have some issues with Lillian but its a story full of romance and friendship and humor.

Favorite Quote: "...what’s the harm in allowing for the possibility? I refuse to believe that we’re going to go through life without something magical happening" - Daisy
starstarstar1/2
Alex

September 15, 2011

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Day 3 and 4

BBAA

Hi, Guys!! 
So, I couldn't post yesterday (Day Three of BBAW) so I'm adding a little bit here, and then tackling Day 4's topic.

Day 3 - Community Part II
In BBAW's words: The world of book blogging has grown enormously and sometimes it can be hard to find a place. Share your tips for finding and keeping community in book blogging despite the hectic demands made on your time and the overwhelming number of blogs out there. If you’re struggling with finding a community, share your concerns and explain what you’re looking for–this is the week to connect!
I've made it a policy of mine to only follow the blogs I can see reading on the long run, and I've sort of have this core-group of blogs I read every day and comment on three or four times a week because I'm genuinely interested in what they got to say - because they are funny, because we got similar taste in books, because I love a feature of their blogs etc - and that makes it easier to keep up.

That's my advice: follow the blogs you like. Don't do it nilly willy. You might not develop relationships with everyone you follow, but at least will help you keep on top of your blog roll.


Day 4 - Reading and Blogging

Today, is basically about the books we read and how blogging has changed the way we approach books. I'm going to answer the questions BBAW asked.

Has book blogging changed the way you read? 
Yes and No. I am more ruthless these days. I used to be one of those people who ALWAYS finished whatever book I started, now I don't do it so much. If a book doesn't grab me quickly, I'll cut it and be done with it. I need to do so because I have an insane TBR pile and because well, life is too short to make reading a chore. 

On the other hand, my rating and grading process still pretty much goes as far as how much I enjoyed the book and how likely I am to re-read. That's still the standard I hold my books up to, rather than more technical stuff.


Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? 
Absolutely! There are certain bloggers I've come to trust, like Small of Small Reviews,  because though we might not always go after the same books, there are some basic elements that we both love in a story. Maybe she likes fantasy more than I do, and maybe I avoid dystopian, but I know when it comes to the enjoyment value, we have similar likes and pet peeves so I feel reasonably confident in follwing her recs, even if it's a little out of my comfort zone. 

She totally recommend The Ghost and the Goth, a series I was convinced was not for me, but it turned out I loved.


How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? 
I don't think so. I do buy more books now but that's has more to do with a slight lowering of exchange rates, The Book Depository starting to deliver to my country, and the fact I got a job. Blogging hasn't affected the amount of books I buy exactly, but it has had an effect on the actual books I buy.


Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? 
Yes. For me book blogging is a labor of love, we all love books we all want to share our thoughts on the books we read, that's why we got into this in the first place. I used to drive my RL-friends nuts with my incessant book chatter. Through blogging I found people who actually love talking about books, which is just awesome. 

It has made reading less lonely.


And that's it for today!!!

Love, Alex.

September 13, 2011

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Day 2 - Interview Swap!

Day 2 of BBAW means... Interview Swap!

I'm happy to welcome Kristin of Beneath the Shinning Stars, I Read. She was sweet to answer all of my questions and has a really lovely blog.

So, without further ado, I give you... The Interview!

---000---

image1Why don't you tell us a little about yourself?
Where do I even begin? I've been a bookworm for as long as I can remember and if I'm not reading a book, I'm probably writing down plot ideas for potential stories. I'm a native Californian, definitely not an outdoor sports sort of person, and I'm a Doctor Who fan. I'm known for my ability to be exceedingly random and my penchant for wearing headbands while reading, writing, or eating (because I value my ability to see).


And a little about your blog?

Beneath Shining Stars, I Read is definitely a handful to say. However, it got its name due to the fact that I'm mildly obsessed with stars and because I'm always reading at night. The main focus of my blog is on YA literature although there are also (on occasion) adult level literature reviews on my blog as well.

Would you mind doing a lighting round of Bookish questions? All right...
Tell me...
...what's your favorite genre?

It's a tie! I really adore books that are paranormal or dystopian.

...Your favorite book of 2011, so far?

Hourglass by Myra McEntire! (But The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens was pretty awesome too--and it's a middle grade book!)

... the book you're looking forward the most?
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins! I absolutely adored Anna and the French Kiss, so I can't wait to see what Stephanie Perkins has done with Lola and the Boy Next Door. Also, I can't wait to get my hands on a hardcover of Shatter Me by Tehereh Mafi!

... a book that really surprised you?

Across the Universe by Beth Revis. By surprised, I mean that there were several plot twists that I did not see coming and as a reader, I love that authors can still surprise me. There's also Divergent by Veronica Roth which surprised me simply because I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did! If you haven't read it yet but enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy, definitely do so!
Books.. a book you think it's unappreciated?
Michelle Zink's Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy. I adore this series and Michelle Zink's writing style is just wonderful. If you enjoy historical fantasy, you might want to check it out.

... your ultimate book rec?
I read so many genres that it's ridiculously tough to give an ultimate recommendation! If you enjoy historical mysteries then perhaps you'd enjoy Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series or if you enjoy contemporary YA (and haven't read it yet) then you definitely need to get your hands on Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski.

... what's your favorite book quote?
"You don't forget the face of the person who was your last hope." (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)

Now, tell me something you have learned about yourself while blogging?
I've learned that I'm terrible at writing reviews at the last moment--unless the book was absolutely amazing. It's such a bad thing to say, but it's completely true! To counter this, I've begun writing my reviews immediately after I finish reading and schedule my reviews well in advance. Also, I'm actually pretty good at social media! I know it doesn't sound like much, but I really didn't expect to be good at it (I'm really shy in person).

Do you have any advice for new bloggers or people who are thinking of staring a blog?
Be yourself, don't feel obligated to post every day of the week, and have fun with it! Honestly, that's the best advice that I can give you. Also, know that blogging takes work. Yes, work. After all, you can't expect people to find your blog on their own! It's up to you to get your name out there!

Any parting words?
Keep reading and party on! :D

..000..


That's it!

Thanks again to Kristin for the interview! And Keep enjoying BBAW!!!

Love, Alex.

PS - You can check out my interview over at Beneath the Shinning Stars, I Read.

Tune In Tuesdays #6 - Bent by Matchbox 20

Tune In Tuesdays

 This meme is hosted by Ginger at GReads and showcases music. Each week you can post an old or new song so that it gains more interest! So head on over and link up.


I kind of love this song and my sister -as she just pointed out (and she's probably reading this over my shoulder as I type) - introduced me to this song and this band. I think I love this whole CD, I need to dig it out from where it currently is! :)

So, what song plays for you?