Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: Grave's End

Title: Grave's End
Author: Elaine Mercado
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Release Date: May 2001
Source: Own
My Rating: **

From Goodreads: When Elaine Mercado and her first husband bought their home in Brooklin, New York, in 1982, they had no idea that they and their youg daughters were embarking on a thirteen year nightmare.

Within a few days of moving in, Elaine and her older daughter began to experience the sensation of being watched. Then came scratching moises and weird smells, followed by voices whispering, maniacal laughter, shadowy figures scurrying along baseboards, and small balls of light bouncing along the ceilings. From the beginning of the haunting, "suffocating dreams" were experienced by everyone except the younger daughter These eventually accelerated to physical aggression directed at Elaine and both the girls.

This book is the true story of how one family tried to cope with living in a haunted house. It also describes how, with the help of a parapsychologist Dr. Hans Holtzer and the medium Marisa Anderson, the family discovered the tragic and heartbreaking secrets buried in the house at Grave's End.

My Thoughts: This book was okay. It was a quick read. The author did a good job describing how she and her family were affected by the haunting. There were times when I wanted to grab her, shake her, and tell her to get real. If you think something weird is going on in your house, do something about it. If I experienced some of the things she did, I probably would've high-tailed it out of there a lot sooner than the author did. This book was okay, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: Bumped (Bumped #1)

Title: Bumped (Bumped #1)
Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 2011
Source: NetGalley
My Rating: ***

From Goodreads: When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

My Thoughts: I'll be honest. I had heard from some other people that they didn't like Bumped much. They were quite disappointed by all the hype created for this book. I still found the premise for the book really interesting and wanted to read it. There were definitely some parts to the book that didn't sit well with me, but I don't think I was as disappointed by others.

What didn't sit well with me at all was how babies were basically seen as property. Maybe it's because I have an almost 4 months old daughter, and the experience of pregnancy is fresh in my mind. When I would read about how the girls were given drugs to prevent the mother/baby bond during pregnancy and they referred to babies as "deliveries" or "preggs," I found myself feeling upset. That bond is so precious.

Another part of the story that bothered me was how the teens were encouraged and paid to have sex and get pregnant. I can't imagine a time when it would be okay for teens to have these masSEX parties trying to get pregnant. Or when it would be acceptable to use Tocin to facilitate sex when one of the partners wasn't quite ready.

Even though these parts of the story bothered me, they still made me think. That's the only reason I liked this book. The whole concept of teens being the only fertile part of the population really got me thinking. Could society really end up like that someday? The virus that led to the infertility, could it be caused by something we do now? Is there much difference between surrogates of present day and the surrogates in the book other than age?

Something that really stood out for me was how teen pregnancy was glorified in the book, primarily because of the need. It made me think of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom that so many people watch. While those shows might be meant to show the struggles of teen pregnancy, in some ways they glorify it. Here are these teen girls who have unprotected sex, get pregnant, and then find themselves with their own TV shows that millions of people watch. Could we eventually be a society that encourages teenage pregnancy rather than discouraging it? Could we eventually be providing teens with drugs to loosen them up for sex when they're apprehensive rather than teaching them about abstinence and safe sex?

This book raised a lot of questions for me and really made me think. I'll read the next book to find out what happens with Melody and Harmony.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: New Girl

Title: New Girl
Author: Paige Harbison
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Source: NetGalley
My Rating: ****

From Goodreads: Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.

My Thoughts: I read Paige Harbison's Here Lies Bridget last year and enjoyed it. When I saw New Girl on NetGalley, I recognized the author and decided to check it out. The summary intrigued me, and I decided to give it a try. It's supposed to be a re-telling of DuMaurier's Rebecca. I've never read Rebecca, so I can't really attest to the accuracy of that claim. What I can attest to is how much I enjoyed New Girl.

I really liked the character of the new girl. While the drama of Becca's disappearance affects her, the new girl still manages to make a few friends and do really well in her classes. I really enjoyed how she stayed true to herself throughout the story despite the opportunity to re-create herself with this new beginning.

There were times while I was reading that I had to remind myself that this is a YA book, and the characters were only in high school. Now, I'm definitely no prude, but there were some pretty steamy scenes. At the same time, these scenes were steamy without being raunchy and crude.

I couldn't wait to finish this book for a few reasons. 1) I was eager to find out how some of the romantic relationships would turn out. 2) I wanted to find out what had happened to Becca. I had my theories and was eager to find out if I was right or not. For the record, I was wrong.

New Girl was written well, and the story moved right along. I don't think there were any parts to the book that dragged for me. I really enjoyed reading New Girl and would definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012 Reading Goals

I love to read. I always have. Last year, I had high hopes for my reading goals. I was aiming to read 111 books in 2011, but that didn't happen. Enduring the fatigue and discomfort of pregnancy, a few illnesses, and taking care of a newborn derailed my reading goal. I ended up finishing the year with 46 books read. I know. That's not too bad considering how busy I was. This year, I'm hoping to challenge myself and embrace my love of books again. Here are some of my reading goals for 2012:

My Goodreads Reading Challenge goal is to read 100 books in 2012. I'm really going to have to push myself, but I think it'll be worth it. I'd love to cut back on time spent watching mindless TV or goofing around on the internet. Replacing that time with reading sounds fantastic. I've decided to try to squeeze in some reading first thing in the mornings before Baby Girl wakes up. I can read during my lunch at work. I'll also try to spend my evenings reading instead of watching TV. I know it's going to be difficult for me to read 100 books this year, but I'm going to try my best.

Another reading goal I've set for myself is to finish one of the seasonal challenges held by my online book club. During each season, tasks are assigned and given points. The idea is to read a book for each task. I've participated several times now, but I've never finished. I would love to finish. The challenge is a great way to challenge yourself to read outside your comfort zone. It's also a great way to help figure out what to read next.

A few general reading goals that I've decided to set are to read more books from the library and tackle the books that I already own. When picking books for the Winter Book Challenge on my online book club, I tried to use as many books that I already own as possible. If I didn't have a book to fit a task, I checked with my library. My last resort is to buy a book.

A reading-related book that I've set for myself is to post more reviews and posts here on my blog. I really fell off the blogging wagon when I got pregnant. I've tried to pick it up again, but I find it difficult to sit down and write up posts. I'm hoping to spend some time scheduling posts for the week, so that I can have consistent posts without spending time every day writing them up.

I'm super excited about my goals for 2012, especially reading 100 books. I should probably get off the computer now and work on that goal. :-)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: Red Heart Tattoo

Title: Red Heart Tattoo
Author: Lurlene McDaniel
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: NetGalley
My Rating: ****

From Goodreads: At 7:45 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving break, a bomb goes off at Edison High. Nine people die instantly. Fifteen are critically injured. Twenty-two suffer less severe injuries. And one is blinded. Those who survive, struggle to cope with the loss and destruction. All must find new meaning for their lives as a result of something they may never understand.

My Thoughts: I really liked this book. In fact, I read it in about a day. It was one of those books that sucks you in. The story is told from the perspectives of different students, including victims and the bombers.

One thing I appreciate about the book was that the author didn't focus too much on the bombers or the actual bombing itself. Most of the story centered around the victims and their journey after the bombing. There was a bit of a love story within the story, but I was pleased to see that it was more realistic than many of the other books I've read lately.

In general, Red Heart Tattoo was different than most of the YA books I've read lately. It was a nice change in pace to not read something paranormal or mushy. This book tackled real things like death, loss, grief, fear, recovery, and hope. I would definitely recommend this book to others.

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It's a great way to share what you've read, what you're reading, and what you're planning on reading.

What I've Read:

Yesterday, I started and finished Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel. It's been quite awhile since I've read a whole book in a day. This was a quick read, but it was also an excellent story. I have a review coming soon.

What I'm Reading:

I'm currently reading New Girl by Paige Harbison. I read her other book, Here Lies Bridget, and enjoyed it. New Girl had an interesting premise. I'm not too far into it yet, but I'm enjoying it so far.

What's Up Next:

The next book I'm planning on reading is Grave's End by Elaine Mercado. It's for the seasonal challenge on my online book club.