Twitter Feed

Follow cchsreads on Twitter

Total Pageviews

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Long Long Sleep

By Anna Sheehan

In this book, the main and well-to-do character Rosealinda Fitzroy goes into a suspended animation for sixty years. After being woken, the book follows her journey of living in the radically transformed future and its perils, discovering things that shaped her past and present. Unfortunately, the discovering part only happens at the end of the book. I mostly read about Rose dimly stuttering through a difficult curriculum at school and other situations. Some parts made me think that she may have been a ditz. On the other hand, it was equaled by signs of intelligence like her proficiency in art and a relationship with a special character, so I don't really know what to think of her.

Her actions seems shallow and poorly based, which reflected on a story arc that seems a little flimsy and without real cause; it could have been greatly changed with just a few tiny (and seemingly completely unthought of) actions... but there wouldn't be much of a story left if it went the way I would like it, would there? However, there were other interesting things that helped the story along a bit. But not much. It was boring to read on and on with no changes in Rose's situation or emotional status; she and the story arc just drifted along chapter after chapter. It was interesting in the very beginning yet dragged soon afterwards. Thankfully, it picked up towards the end and tied everything together into a solid finish and overall a good story. I just wish this solidness existed throughout the entire book.

So, this book had its ups and downs. It's story overall has complexity and is something to think about once you know the whole of it, yet the process of getting to that point isn't as fascinating as it should be. Save this one for a rainy day to kill some time. It was like a vegetable soup, under salted. Its tomatoes and onions are tasty, however they are few and far between with its watery broth. It's filling, but not hearty. Rated as a 3.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss

Another assigned reading project by my dear friend. By now, I knew the drill. Get it pushed at me, try to start reading it, procrastinate for several weeks (sorry!), then get into the book and start reading under the desk in class and give it a high rating. However, I got caught by my teacher. But, it didn't disappoint. This was a wonderful tapestry of a world, with a nicely developed magic system. It tells the tale of a boy who's parents were killed by a fairy tale gone nightmare in life. It follows him in his life in the city as a street urchin to a university goer who is brilliant, to a Talented musician.
The character of Kvothe is an interesting one, though one thoroughly concerned with image. However, this being only the first book in a promising series, I shall wait until the next one comes out (had better be soon!) to draw conclusions about him. Then maybe I can decide whether or not Kvothe and Ambrose's relationship is exactly like Harry and Malfoy's from Harry Potter, or more malicious. I'm going for the latter.
Since I can't think of anything else to say about this book other than it's really SUPERBLY good, (read it!) I'm going to give my food analogy and number score, then blink out. I would describe this book much like I described The Way of the Kings. It is a delectable apple pie, crisp and fresh out of the oven on a cool autumn day, you breathe in the scent, wanting to savor it and then just break the crust with your fork, releasing the built up steam and even more of the warm, cinnamony aroma and then your mother, seeing that you're eating pie before your dinner, goes, "WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING???" swipes the plate of pie away, leaving you staring after it, knife and fork in hand, thinking, "What the heck are you doing? I was gonna eat that!" Then, to top it all of, your mum lectures you for a good 5 minutes about how pie isn't dinner, and you have to wait until after and she spent so long making the dinner of macaroni & cheese (which can be made in 12 minutes). Then you're like, whatever. To condense one long wind into a couple of characters, this book is a solid 4.3. Good to the point of great, but then it ended too abruptly.

Friday, December 23, 2011

'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern, Spoilers labeled

This book is already published, and is pretty popular, but I read it as a galley. So it counts as a galley.

'The Night Circus' came off to a fantastic first impression. Kudos to you, Ms. Morgenstern! It's an enchanting book, dark and beautiful. It plays with words as an illusionist does: It's a dream-like book, full of metaphors and magic.

It begins with a scene, describing the arrival of Le Cirque des RĂªves - the Circus of Dreams. It is mysterious, and it is only open at night. The crowd builds over the day, and when it finally opens, the circus turns out to be a world of its own. There is the tattooed contortionist, the acrobats that fly without a net underneath, a Garden of Ice, and, the female protagonist, an illusionist that works without props. I quote, “You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Reves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus. You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”

The plot of the book is centered around a battle between two illusionists - people who work with real magic and make it look like illusions. Their battle is arranged by their teachers, and through the contract, they must fight, not knowing why they're fighting, what their goal is, and, in the beginning, who their opponent is. They fall in love, though, and their love is tangled and difficult, as love tends to be. There's madness, beauty, emotional instability, blood, twins, and tigers. It's basically the best circus in the world.

As I said, it came off to a wonderful start for me. After I read it the second time, though, it was more disappointing. The characters, other than the two illusionists, are too flat - they fit the stereotypes they are built into. The Japanese contortionist covered in tattoos is hiding an important secret, and **SPOILER** she has magic as well - surprise surprise! **/SPOILER** She... doesn't really have a personality, other than mysterious. The fortune-teller is also no more than mysterious, other than **SPOILER** tragically sad and angry when the male protagonist breaks up with her. **/SPOILER** To be honest, a lot of the characters seem to be no more than mysterious. There aren't enough... flaws, characteristics to build off of.

Then, there's the system of magic. I feel there isn't enough of the magic, which is pretty much one of the center points of the book. There are barely any processes, dangerous side effects, sacrifices - what makes a lot of magic books fun. No, there's just staring, and the blood seeps back into the cut, and it heals. The competitors never hurt each other, and there isn't any real magical fighting. Blah.

There are enchanting scenes, though, built through simple sentences and strangely described details.

Overall - 4, and a cheap dark chocolate bar. Delicious, because chocolate is just delicious, but a flavor that could definitely be better. Made too sweet, and less flavorful, through a bit of cliche, and hiding the flavors that really shine.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'House of Leaves' by Mark Z. Danielewski

I'll say it upfront - do not read this book if you don't have a good threshold for the creepy. Not the scary or bloody, just... creepy. My very first impression of the book, reading the inside cover, was: "Is this real?" It's written in a non-fiction style, which makes everything creepier.

It begins first with a man collecting the story, which itself begins with no context - sort of in the future. It discusses the arguments and controversy over a certain video, "The Five and a Half Minute Hallway". It isn't until later that you find out the video is of a closet that shouldn't be in the house. It loops around the house, thoroughly proving that there is no space for that closet in the house, and yet it is there. The creator of the video and owner of the house, Navidson, and his family, upon moving into the house, find that the inside of the house is slightly larger that the outside - by a few solid inches.

The inches are caused by the closet, which later in the book extends into an entire maze of passageways, hallways, and stairs in pure pitch-darkness and freezing cold, with ominous growls that cause physical c
hanges in the passageways. Navidson and a few other people explore the hallways, leading to insanity, murder, and death. By all means, an thrilling book. While Navidson is descending deep into the maze alone, the pages seem to break down and crumble. There are many footnotes, and footnotes within footnotes - it's a hard to read book, both physically and content-ly.

The other character, Truant, who collects the story of Navidson Record, has his own side story, describes what is progressing in his life while he collects information. He finds, firstly, that there is no evidence of the house existing, that many interviews he found written were claimed false, and that many references are indeed true. We
learn about his childhood, his delusions and paranoia, and his multiple sex encounters. Not nearly as fun as the main story, and definitely cut-out-able.

This book, although with many components of horror and pure fear, is sometimes curiously classified as a love story. Pure hogwash, if you ask me, but I have to mention it - as a result of the maze within their house, Navidson and his wife go through hard times, but make up in the end. There.

I would give this book a 4.3 - it's a wonderful thriller, and fantastically scary, good content for nightmares-that-are-not-quite-nightmares, but it's very hard to read (it's like a dense nonfiction story sometimes), and the side story isn't very fun. It's like freezing cold ice cream - shocking, and painful for the brain at points, but nonetheless a delicious read.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Between Shades of Gray, Shut Out, and Bunheads

Well, I read these books a little while ago (over a month), so I've forgotten some of the finer details that I may have wanted to mention in this triple review. The books aren't necessarily galleys anymore, and there might be a few spoilers, but here goes:
Between Shades of Gray; author Ruta Sepetys:
A Holocaust story that's not about the Holocaust, Between Shades of Gray describes how fifteen-year-old Lina and her family are put on a train to Siberia by the Soviet secret police. Lina's father is separated from them, and she spends a long time wishing that they will find him alive. This was a powerful book. Sepetys's writing is simple but beautiful, and she's not afraid to make the book dark. However, I had a few problems with the book. To start, although Lina is an artist and sketches messages to her father throughout the story, none of these pictures appeared in the book. I was sorely disappointed to only have to imagine what her messages looked like. Then, the ending left me dissatisfied. It stops, then the epilogue says that Lina escapes the labor camp! I wanted to know what happened inbetween. The book had enough of a flow that another hundred pages to have her escape wouldn't have hindered it. Overall, I give the book a 3.8. It was like one of those shortbread cookies that have hard sugary icing on them, but without the icing. Tasty enough, elegant, but it could have used that little bit more. I've included a picture of these cookies in case you don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

Shut OutKody Keplinger:
In the school of Kody Keplinger's Shut Out, the football team and the soccer team have a vicious rivalry. This rivalry involves throwing eggs at each other and physically harming each other. Lissa, girlfriend of a football player, is tired of the rivalry and calls on all the girlfriends to band together and go on a "sex strike" until the boys quit their rivalry. Inevitably, though, she finds herself falling for Cash Sterling (who in their right name would name their kid that?), a soccer boy. I had a number of thoughts about this book, most of them not too favorable. First off, why doesn't the school administration EVER step in on this rivalry?? It's been going on for years, yet no one seems to do anything about it. Next after that was how NO ONE EVER DOES ANY SCHOOLWORK. Really. They're all in high school, yet they have hours and hours to fool around and/or have sleepovers, yet never seem to be in school. Okay, it's possible there were some homework scenes and some school scenes, but I can't remember them right now (I read the book a little while ago). Then there's a scene where Lissa and the girls are having a sleepover, and the boys pull off their shirts outside in the backyard to tempt the girls. Lissa notes that "these were some of the most athletic boys in school, which meant they had some of the best bodies. It was like a museum of muscled arms and six-pack abs on Kelsey's lawn." THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. Just because a guy is an athlete does not mean he has amazing muscles. There is no "museum" at our school. Next point: while it's nice that the girls are able to talk so honestly about sex and they bring up interesting points, their conversations felt rather forced. Girls don't just sit around and have sleepovers where they talk about sex. At least, not in my experience. Perhaps the author has had a different experience.

Okay, deep breath now. This book did have some positives. There was definitely a girl-power element to it that I liked, and Lissa felt like a realistic and relatable character. She struggles with some control issues, has a job at the library, and has some boy problems. Some of the scenes between her and Cash were sweet, although a little overly sweet at times. I just didn't relate to this book as much as I imagine other girls might, which doesn't make the book bad. It just wasn't really my cup of tea in addition to not being a stellar book, hence the negative points above.
Overall, I'm not entirely sure how to rate something like this. On the number scale, it gets a 1.5, maybe a smidgen higher. Food-wise, it was a day-old Dunkin Donuts donut: it was pretty tasty at one point, but now it's fairly inedible (at least to me). If you like your donuts slightly stale, then hey, it's a snack.

BunheadsSophie Flack:
Hannah is a dancer; dancing is her entire life. She left her family at a fairly young age (the exact number is escaping me) to dance with the Manhattan Ballet, and her burning ambition is to be a soloist. She is starting to realize, though, that she may want something more than the high pressure world of ballet. Bunheads was something like the movie Black Swan in that it has a protagonist with a desire to rise to the top, except Bunheads was significantly less disturbing and had no mental breakdown and death at the end (sorry to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it. Don't worry. It will still be disturbing.)

I really liked how Sophie Flack built the world of ballet in her book; as an outsider looking in, it was fascinating and a little sad, given how anyone who doesn't have the typical "ballerina body" has extremely low self-esteem, and even those that DO have the body worry about their weight constantly. Hannah's joy whenever she performs is vivid, and something that readers can relate to even if they are not a dancer. I liked Hannah's progression as she wakes up to the outside world, but her final decision bothered me a bit. It felt somewhat like an all-or-nothing decision that left her staring at what she could have had, when she could have made a decision that was more in the middle. In addition, especially at the beginning of the book, Flack's inexperience as a writer shows; the writing isn't as good as it could be, though it improves as the story continues. Given her background as a dancer, this isn't exactly surprising (after all, dancing is a different experience from writing), but given this fact the book is still wonderful. There is one scene that I keep thinking about, in which Hannah is ruminating on a little girl who wants to be a ballerina and loves to dance, but so clearly doesn't have the body for it. Hannah's sadness, both for this little girl and that child she once was, is beautiful portrayed. This book was so sweet, and I look forward to other books Flack might write.

When all is said and done, Bunheads gets 4 stars. It was like chocolate ice cream, delicious and sweet. It's a flavor that you may have eaten as a little kid when you were really picky about funny things in your ice cream, and you look back on it fondly after eating it.
Here's an article that The Boston Globe printed about Sophie Flack and her emergence into the writing world:


I absolutely love Steampunk - a contemporary culture genre based off the Victorian Era, had technology taken a different term - see Steampunk.

This book is - if you can see on the title - An Anthology Of Fantastically Rich And Strange Stories. It's actually, I think, a newer version of an older Steampunk anthology - I got to read this as a galley! The stories are collected by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant. Some of the contributing authors are Garth Nix, Holly Black, Libby Bray, Cassandra Clare, and Ysabeau S. Wilce - all authors that make me extremely joyful. So, this book got off to a good start with me even before I started reading.

There are about 14 stories - 2 are in graphic novel form. Normally, I dislike anthologies, as they are too choppy to read - this one was no different. Although the stories were beautifully written, and the comics were fantastic, it was hard to keep my attention from straying or confusing the stories.

Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend this to any Steampunk fan, or to any lovers of the authors that contributed to this book. 3.8/5

This book is like a mystery fruity cake - there are too many conflicting flavors, but overall, the taste is nice. Not for people who don't like fruit.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Article 5

by Kristen Simmons

     I read this book a few months ago, so the finer details are fuzzy in my head. Fuzzier still was the feeling I got from reading it back then. Don't get me wrong- it wasn't a warm fuzzy feeling, or even a particularly nice fuzzy feeling. It was a taught-with-danger, electricity-running-through-veins fuzzy, the kind of fuzzy where secret agents are about to come bursting through your bunker door to mow you down with railguns. A bloody brilliant kind of fuzzy. I think I just used the word fuzzy more often than I have in my life.

     This book is a dystopian future; the genre is exploding right now, from what I'm seeing in our ARCs, but I've only read a few dystopian books better than Article 5. Yes, Divergent comes to mind, but that's a happy fairy tale compared to the dark depths of this one.
     The government's post-apocalyptic-war takeover of the United States, a totalitarian coup of all of our ideals, was intensely believable; the history was never directly told, instead being hinted at throughout. It kept me curious and hooked throughout.
     I should say, on that note, that this book isn't really for the faint of heart or those looking for a light read. At points the romance was inappropriate and a bit irritating, but, then again-- you know my taste in books. Maybe others will see the romance as a fitting counterpoint to the pervasive griminess and evil of Simmons' America.
     This book definitely merits the 4.5 I'll give it; I was slightly put off by the sharpness of the narrative some times, and, as I said, I wasn't a big fan of the romance. The rest was way, way, way worth it, though. Food-wise, it's the perfectly tart cranberry juice, chilled and poured at the height of thirst.
     Plus points for a great cover!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Crazy Things Girls Do for Love

By: Dyan Sheldon

Genre: YA fiction,  School Lit

Cody is perhaps the coolest, most gorgeous, charismatic and dynamic teen ever to walk through the pages of YA fiction. When he transfers into Clifton Springs High School hearts are set afire, and the Environmental Club will never be the same. Which girl will win his heart? There are three who are about to start an epic quest for love.

This is one of the most delightful YA novels I have read in years. The clash of cliques is genuine and the pursuit of love single-minded and realistic. Even better was the deft weave of environmental education.

Dyan Sheldon should be commended for not only telling a great story, but for effectively embedding the environmental message of "reduce, reuse, recycle." The gradual evolution of environmental awareness among the main characters, as well as the school and community, was authentic.

Best of all was the highly satisfactory ending. The Crazy Things Girls do for Love should be part of every high school collection and a featured title in book talks for years to come.

The food experience is like a fantastic Caprese salad. Fresh, sparkling, crunchy lettuce with creamy mozzarella, fragrant leaves of basil, plump tomatoes brusting with flavor, all drizzled with a light, spicy dressing. All organic vegetables, grown locally, of course!
5 stars

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings


I don't really know how to start this review. I have so many things to say, but when I go to write them down my head empties. This book was so rich with emotion and reality that it is hard to describe.
In Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings, each chapter could stand alone, with a specific message, a different issue touched on. My favorite was probably either the first chapter "The World Around Us" or the second to last chapter "The Scratchboard Project". I like these best because the relationship with the main character and others is more of a positive one. While the chapters do go together, they are not as cohesive as I might have normally liked. However, in this book, I like the feeling of having just snap shot memories and moments. It reminded me of a photograph album that would never actually be able to be made. While the experience is there, the photos taken, these are moments which would never have been caught on film, and the people in them would have never wanted them to be. Each character, even though the reader only met most of them for a chapter, had personality and a face. Each one was specific and different and heartbreakingly real.
The chapters were vastly different and so were the issues mentioned with in them. Cummings hit on sexuality, racism, alcoholics, adultery, and others. There were things that shocked me and left me horrified, while other times I was smiling even just for a moment. I feel that this book really hit home with what it means to be a teenager in the 1970's, to be in this environment of constant social issues and arguments while trying to make something out of yourself, even if no one else believes or cares if you succeed.
This book reminds me a little bit of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros because of how each chapter can hold there own, and is a different story per chapter. However the main character of Ugly to Start With reminds me more of Holden Caufield, in the way that they are both teenagers who are sort of sulky, despairing and depressed.
I give this book a 3.25 because I think the book hits on a lot of hard issues and that is what made me a little bit more uncomfortable and dislike it a little.

Favorite Quotation: "There was this huge, filled up world all around us that I couldn't see." (p. 7)


Miss Liz

Sunday, December 4, 2011

See You at Harry's

By Jo Knowles

This book is the first book I have read outside of school in four months, and I think it was the perfect one to start with. It may just be that I was in desperate need of a character with more problems than me, I enjoyed it immensely. Fern fit the bill perfectly. She is just starting middle school, may or may not have a crush on her best friend, and watches her brother get harassed at school for being gay.  While this is enough for many whiny YA characters Fern's little brother dies suddenly after an accident that she feels is her fault. I sobbed. The writing may not have been great, but I honestly don't know because I was too caught up in the story to notice.
I'm trying to think of the right food to describe this book, and I think its water. I don't mean bland, thirsty-and-theres-nothing-else-in-the-house water. This book was running a marathon in the desert with no end in sight and you just want to die and then you get a large glass of ice cold water, and it tastes SO good. It isn't really about the water, it's the circumstances. I think that I would recommend this to some people, because the story was nice and Fern was a good main character if you need a sad book to put your life in perspective.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Diabolical is the fourth in the series, though I didn't find that out until partway through. Given that, I didn't feel as though I missed too much, and it was only a little confusing, and I'm not sure how much of that was from missing the first books.
It was probably one of the funniest love story I've ever read, and I doubt it would be as funny if I'd been more invested in the characters, the way one is after they've read three books. Miranda is a dead vampire, and she's in Penultimate, the place that comes just before Heaven. She's stuck there, helpless to do anything except watch the love of her life, the half-fallen angel Zachary, and his friend, Kieren the werewolf, get stuck in a school of Satan trying to rescue Miranda's friend Lucy. Though the plot was interesting enough, the writing fell a bit short. The characters didn't seem to have emotions, and when someone dies, they all kind of think, "Oh, look, that person's dead, maybe we should try to do something." No one really gets sad, though it mentions a couple times that maybe someone is being a little sad, but I would not have guessed based on their actions. And I was really disappointed in Satan; he ended up being really lame.
It is a 2.6. Cool ideas and a cool cover, but not very well written. It was like those breads that are shaped like fish. It looks really cool and its a cool idea, but it doesn't taste like the best thing in the world.

Twitter Feed

Follow cchsreads on Twitter