Friday, January 10, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Roomies



Buy Roomies here. 

Synopsis:

The countdown to college has begun.

When Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment at the beginning of summer, she shoots off an email to coordinate the basics: TV, microwave, mini-fridge. She can't wait to escape her New Jersey beach town, and her mom, and start life over in California.

The first note to Lauren in San Francisco comes as a surprise; she had requested a single. But if Lauren's learned anything from being the oldest of six, it's that you can't always get what you want, especially when what you want is privacy.

Soon the girls are emailing back and forth, sharing secrets even though they've never met. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives...and each other.

With humor and heart, Sara Zarr, National Book Award finalist for Story of a Girl, and Tara Altebrando, acclaimed author of The Pursuit of Happiness, join forces for a novel about that time after high school, when everything feels like it's ending just as it's beginning.
- See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/sara-zarr/roomies/9780316217491/#sthash.qIL9j9Or.dpuf

My Roomies story:

I was beyond lucky during my freshman year of college to be paired with Sathvy. We had never met before, hadn't requested each other, just filled out the general survey and got paired about three weeks before move-in day. Throughout the year, we began to tell each other everything, providing support and cheering each other up. Sathvy had pretty atrocious luck with men that year, and I remember sitting on our beds talking until 5 AM, briefly getting up to hug in the middle of the room. 

We didn't always act like a Lifetime movie, and we frequently goofed off like only two girls in their first year away from overly protective parents can. From being woken up at midnight on my birthday with a piece of cake to the face to Sathvy's welcome attempts to dress me for dates to me demonstrating the - er - toothpaste scene from Looking for Alaska, it was a great first year. Similarly to how I react now to Erich's serial snooze button-pressing, I spent a good deal of that year working on my throw by pitching all my pillows across the room at her in the morning. 

I love that Roomies portrays all the trials and tribulations and love-hate fun of a roommate, and I think you will, too. 

The Contest Deets:

So here's the ├╝ber awesome bit. I'm giving away a copy of this book for you to read and maybe even share with your roommate! All you have to do is tell me your Roomies story and share this post. You have four chances to win. 
-First, you can comment directly on this post with your story. 
-Second, you can tweet a link to this post and tag me in it (@amandasternklar). 
-Third, you can share a link to this review on Facebook and e-mail me a screenshot as proof (amanda(dot)sternklar(at)gmail(dot)com). 
-Fourth, you can go to this blog's tumblr (http://childofalibrarian.tumblr.com) and reblog the post to your blog (no giveaway blogs). You get two entries for the price of one if you add your own Roomies story to the post. 

Each of these actions count as one entry. On January 20, I'll pick a winner with a random number generator to receive the book! Check back here on January 20th to find out the winner. 

Contest Rules:

-Must be a US resident to win (though you're more than welcome to share the review if you aren't, you just can't win)
-Must be willing/able to provide me with your address
-Contest runs until January 20th, 1 PM EST. I will announce the winner at 5 PM EST. The winner has 48 hours to contact me before I pick a new winner. 

Best of luck!

Additional Fun - The Book Tour:

Isn't it cool when you can meet the authors and bring them chocolate and juiceboxes? Check out these Roomies book tour dates!
Get out to the tour and get posting! 

Until next time, happy reading! 
-Amanda

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: Ask the Passengers


Purchase Ask the Passengers here.

Synopsis:

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can't share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don't even know she's there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers' lives--and her own--for the better.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society's definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything--and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

Review:

My mother (who is the reason for the title of this blog) tried to tell me how awesome this book was weeks ago.  It took me a while to finally get around to it, but I'm so glad I took the time to read Ask the Passengers.  I tore through it in a single afternoon, all while texting her excitedly.

I am absolutely in love with this book.  It's adorable, funny, and thought-provoking.  Astrid is a well-rounded and complex character whose challenges are relatable whether or not you've ever dealt with questioning your sexuality.  On that note, I love that Ask the Passengers forces us to question the rigidly binary "gay or straight" idea of sexuality we've internalized, and I love the way that happens.  Rather than having some academic (or, more likely, Tumblr social justice blogger) lecture at the reader about how sexuality is fluid, the reader is inside the mind of a teenager struggling with the implications of that way of thinking.  Honestly, I think this should be required reading for every parent with a queer child who wants to better understand them.

There is a bit of magical realism in this book.  That's often not my thing, but the book is written in such a way that it actually makes sense and really enhances the story.

All in all, a really beautiful book that is well-worth the read.  Thanks, Mom.

Until next time, happy reading!
-Amanda

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Review: Feed (The Newsflesh Trilogy)



Synopsis:

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.

Now, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.


FEED is the electrifying and critically acclaimed novel of a world a half-step from our own---a novel of geeks, zombies, politics and social media.

Review:

After finishing Feed, I sat in stunned silence for two minutes, spent five minutes crying like a child, and then rushed to my computer.  If you've been reading for a while, you'll remember that Divergent kicked me off on a YA dystopian kick that lasted for months; I firmly believe Feed will do the same for zombie apocalypse novels for me (seriously, I just purchased the rest of the trilogy as well as two more books that were recommended as similar).

It's been a while since I've fallen so completely into the world of a book.  I found myself squinting at lights (despite my lack of retinal Kellis-Amberlee), reaching for my non-existent gun, and forgetting that my awesome new hat wasn't also recording everything around me.  It's probably because the world is so beautifully thought out; for starters, Mira Grant doesn't just position bloggers as credible with a vague "it's the future" response.  She cites a reasonable cause for the rise of bloggers as news sources (failure of mainstream media) that is both believable and relevant to current events, with entire revolutions only having Twitter to get their message out of the country.  Grant constructs an entire world and culture around the outbreak that makes it feel as though she's gone through the situations herself.

Aside from the intricate set up, the story in itself is amazing.  It's wonderfully written, full of suspense and political intrigue, along with a healthy amount of the humanity of her characters shining through.  Grant builds tension expertly, causing me to tear through the nearly 600-page novel in around 4 days (and that's during midterms).

A warning: the novel is fairly graphic.  If that's not your thing, I have a review of some less gory zombie novels here.  But if you can handle your blood and guts, I cannot recommend this book enough.

Until next time, happy reading!
-Amanda

Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: The Maze Runner


Purchase The Maze Runner here.

Synopsis:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. 

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.


Review:

Okay, so I know I am waaaay behind on reading the Maze Runner series.  To be fair, the books had sounded a bit young for me (and also a bit too Lord of the Flies).  The descriptions I'd gotten had been along the lines of "the dude runs through the maze and tries to figure out the thing."  Not exactly a stunning review.

My expectations were completely exceeded.  As frustrating as it can be, I loved the way readers were kept in the dark for most of the book.  I usually feel that particular mechanic is taken further than it needs to be and is used only to drag readers along to the bitter end, despite a fair to poor storyline.  In this case, however, it allows us as readers to sympathize with the Gladers.  The reader knows as much as they do, and we race along with the Gladers to find a way out of the Maze.

I haven't read the rest of the series, but in my mind, the next few books will make or break my feelings on The Maze Runner.  If the no-information mechanic is run into the ground and we still get absolutely no explanation, I probably won't be as kind in future.  However, for now, I am pleasantly surprised by the opening of the series.

Until next time, happy reading!
-Amanda

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: The Registry


Purchase The Registry here.

Synopsis:

Welcome to a safe and secure new world, where beauty is bought and sold, and freedom is the ultimate crime.

The Registry saved the country from collapse, but stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained to fight and never question orders.

Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous questions. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.

All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.

Review:

I found the holy grail of dystopians: a stand-alone novel.  And I wanted to like it, I really did.  I made it all the way through, trying my very best to focus on the book's redeeming qualities.  After all, the set-up is intensely interesting and particularly appealing to feminist critique.  Women, literally priced by their beauty?  Told to take tests to make sure they are not smart enough to pass?  A patriarchal society where daughters literally belong to their fathers until marriage, and then belong to their husbands (enforced by a rather large number of agents)?  I am all over deconstructing that.

Unfortunately, The Registry was just too poorly written to overlook.  There was no build-up and release of tension.  Instead, the book started off tense and never stopped (aside from breaks to describe what colour polos the characters were wearing).  Everything felt incredibly rushed and unplanned; I felt physically and mentally exhausted while reading.  I would love to see this novel better-executed.

Oh, and we all know how I feel about love triangles.

Until next time, happy reading!
-Amanda

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Wither


Purchase Wither (Chemical Garden Trilogy) here.

Synopsis:

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. 

When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. 

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

Review:

The Handmaid's Tale is one of those books that makes you want to scour the library to find something else like it to read.  Lucky for me, one of my best friends had just recommended this series.  Also lucky for me, this is one of very few YA dystopian series I've read where ALL OF THE BOOKS were out before I began reading.  

Imagine a world where modern medecine has gone too far.  Where generations live and die in under a century.   How far would the rich go to continue on their genetic line?  This is much less political than the last dystopian novel I reviewed, but it's still weighty - portraying an America that is fast approaching a world without "grown ups".  Add to that themes of lost innocence masked by false glamour that echo throughout the novel and its characters, and you have an intriguing, layered novel that will draw you in and allow you to get lost.  

This book is not an intense political statement, nor is it high literature.  It's not an inspiring romance, but it is a good story and a fun read.

Until next time, happy reading!
-Amanda

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: The Handmaid's Tale


Purchase The Handmaid's Tale here.

Synopsis:

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

Review:

Another day, another dystopian novel for me to fall in love with.  The Handmaid's Tale, though, is in an entirely different experience than any possible future I have heretofore delved into.  Perhaps it is how immediate the novel is, how swift and plausible the overthrow of the state by the church is.  With the ongoing discussion of the control over women's bodies, The Handmaid's Tale becomes more and more relevant with each passing day.  Margaret Atwood seamlessly blends a horrifying dystopia with a religious critique and a resonating political statement.  If you haven't read Atwood before, now would be the time to start.

Until next time, happy reading!
-Amanda