Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: TOP TEN BOOKS DEALING WITH TOUGH SUBJECTS

I am participating in Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week was a rewind in which we could pick a Top Ten topic from previous posts and I chose Top Ten Books Dealing with Tough Subjects.

So here are my Top Ten Books with Tough Subjects:

10. Shine by Lauren Myracle
I think I have talked about Shine by Lauren Myracle before on this blog but I am going to give my love for this book still. I think it is a hugely underrated book. Shine is a book about a hate crime that occurs to a boy who is openly gay living in a small town in the south. His friend sets on a journey to find the truth to what happened while her friend lays unconscious in the hospital.
9. Looking for Alaska by John Green
I absolutely loved Looking for Alaska by John Green. I remember reading it when I was in grade twelve and I just loved reading it. I found the characters to be very deep and I found the information on religion to be very interesting without being preachy.
8. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Reading The Glass Castle was very hard because of the main character's living conditions. The story is a non-fiction memoir of a girl's life with parents who have a hard time taking care of themselves let alone their children.
7. Night by Eli Wiesel
I have always taken an interest in The Holocaust because I just could never believe something so horrible could happen (to then realize that there have been just as worse if not, even more worse genocides in this world). This book is a memoir written by a man who faced life in the concentration camps.
6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
While The Fault in Our Stars has many laugh out loud moments, the novel also has you weeping when you least expect it. Cancer seems to be that one thing that hits home too close to home and I am still so affected by this book.
5. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Who didn't love reading Anne Frank in school? I read both her diary and the play and I was just so touched at how thoughtful this young girl was and her absolute love for humanity. She is one of those people who made an impact on society without ever knowing it as she died way too young for her age.
4. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
I didn't think I could read a sadder life situation after reading both The Glass Castle and Night but then I read Angela's Ashes and the complete poverty that Frank had to live in was just astonishing and appalling.
3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys 
The most recent book I have read on this list and still affects me so much. I could not believe the complete lack of care for other humans that the Soviets faced when they took people from their homes and moved them to Siberia.
2. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
I adore the Harry Potter series and I think that the tough subjects that I read in those books growing up was what led me to being interested in the darker parts of history. Death had never occurred to me until I had read the Harry Potter series and it opened my eyes to the reality of death.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I think To Kill a Mockingbird is a fantastic book that high school students across North America have read. The novel showed me just how much racism can affect a community and how it just takes one person to stand up and show people how wrong it really is.

Have you read any of these books? Would you add any books to this list of tough subjects? Let me know your thoughts on the subject in the comments below!

Happy Reading,
Tara

Friday, February 21, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: FROSTBITE (VAMPIRE ACADEMY #2) BY RICHELLE MEAD

Book: Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2) 
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill, 2008
Pages: 327
Rating: ***/5 stars
Goodreads

Favourite Quote:

“You can't force love, I realized. It's there or it isn't. If it's not there, you've got to be able to admit it. If it is there, you've got to do whatever it takes to protect the ones you love.” 
― Richelle MeadFrostbite

Synopsis:

Rose continues on at St. Vladimirs as a student and a future guardian for her best friend Lissa (Rose can also read into Lissa's thoughts). Rose is a Dhampir (part Moroi, a mortal vampire, and part human) and Lissa is a Moroi. Rose continues to have a crush on her instructor Dimitri who is older than she is and will also be Lissa's guardian once they graduate the academy. Dimitri has a new love interest and Rose tries to find love with her friend Mason all the while, one of the royal Dhampirs, Adrian, flirts with her. With new threats from the Strigoi (immortal vampires), ideas are put into question about how to better protect the Moroi and Mason wants to go out and fight the Strigoi. Will Rose end up with who she truly loves and will the threats from the Strigoi be solved?

Review:

Rose's character continues to surprise me and the more and more I read of her, the more I like her. She has a fierce loyalty to her best friend Lissa and has a lot of respect for Dimitri, her instructor. I also like how she is unafraid to said what she feels and is honest most of the time.

I also really liked how Mason was when Rose was drunk. He never took advantage of her and when they were finally together and Rose wanted to put a stop to it, he didn't push further, he respected her.

What I did not like about this book (and the first book in the series as well) is the underage romance between Rose and Dimitri. I love Rose and Dimitri but I don't like that she is underage and he is her instructor. As a teacher myself, I could never condone such a relationship. When relationships between instructors and their students (Pretty Little Liars as well) are portrayed in books and television it blurs the lines between what is right and what is wrong. To this day I have friends who argue with me that there was nothing wrong with Ezra and Aria's relationship (Pretty Little Liars) and I just want to shake them. I know Rose will be of age soon and that they don't have much time before they will both be guardians for Lissa but at the same time, a relationship like that could ruin careers and lives in the real world.

Besides my rant on student-instructor relationships, I loved this book. I find Dimitri to be so interesting and I want to know more about him. I would also like to know more about Adrian (who is also much older than Rose) and I can't wait to see what more can happen with the magic that Christian, Lissa, Mia, and Tasha have been practicing.

Overall, I give this book 3/5 stars mainly because of the underage relationships. I loved the story and how strong of a character Rose is and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Have you read Frostbite by Richelle Mead? What are your thoughts on student-instructor relationships?

Happy Reading,
Tara

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Discussion Post: Life of a Blogger: Introvert or Extrovert?

I haven't written a discussion post yet and I thought I would give it a try. Jessi from Novel Heartbeat has a weekly feature on her blog titled Life of a Blogger What We Do When We're Not Blogging. Each week there is a new topic up for discussion and this week is whether you (the blogger) are an introvert or an extrovert.

As a book blogger, I find this question very difficult because on one hand, I love to be alone and read, on the other, I like to have fun experiences just like the characters in the books I read. Like many things in life, I don't think everyone has to be one or other when it comes to being an introvert or an extrovert. People can be extremely bookish and yet go to nightclubs every night. Others can be really loud and be the class clown but spend their Fridays practicing the piano by themselves. No one has to be one or the other.



I like to think of the Introvert-and-Extrovert system to be on a continuous line with each extreme on either side. That way, many people can place themselves wherever they see fit. I would fit mine right in the middle of that line with a little bit of introversion and extroversion within me. If you were to ask me to jump up and be in an improvised play, I would totally be game for it. If you were however, to ask me to get up and sing karaoke, I would totally shy away (you haven't heart my singing voice).

What I find frustrating about being in the middle is that sometimes you will find yourself sitting at home on a Friday night wishing you hadn't said no to going out with your friends to the bar so the next Friday night you will go out with your friends and be wishing you were at home. This seems to be my biggest dilemma.

Anyways, those are just my thoughts on where I am on the spectrum of introvert/extrovert. Let me know where you would place yourself down in the comments below.

DFTBA,
Tara

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: THIS STAR WON'T GO OUT: THE LIFE AND WORDS OF ESTHER GRACE EARL BY: ESTHER EARL, LORI EARL, WAYNE EARL, AND JOHN GREEN

Book: This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl
Authors: Esther Earl, Lori Earl, Wayne Earl, and John Green

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile, 2014

Pages: 431 pages

Rating: *****/5 stars!




Favourite Quote:

“The measure of a friendship is not its physicality but its significance. Good friendships, online or off, urge us toward empathy; they give us comfort and also pull us out of the prisons of our selves.” Esther Earl.

Synopsis:

For those of you who do not know about Esther Earl, she was a nerdfighter (people who decrease world suck) and Harry Potter fan who was a friend of John Green's. John Green had made a couple of videos about Esther and that is how I got to know her or her internet persona, crazycrayon. I watched her YouTube Videos and followed her on Twitter all the while, she was battling cancer. Esther helped campaign for the Harry Potter Alliance to win money and brought two communities together. Unfortunately, Esther lost her battle to cancer in 2010 and her death impacted the nerdfighter community in such a way that people who had never even talked to her or interacted with her were so impacted by her passing. This Star Won't Go Out is a book with writings from her journals, blogs, video transcripts, writings from John Green, her parents, and her friends.

Review:

The books begins by an introduction from John Green about how his friendship with Esther began and just how much she impacted him. Reading about John Green a huge author and YouTuber caring about one of his teenage fans in such an open and honest way just made me feel that much more respect for John Green. As much as John Green inspired Esther, the reader begins to realize how much Esther inspired John Green. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was a story that John Green had been wanting to write  but it wasn't until he met Esther that he was actually inspired to write it. While the book is not about Esther, it was inspired by her and that is huge, a sixteen year-old girl inspired one of the bestselling books in the last few years. Amazing.

After the introduction there are excerpts from Esther's parents, Esther's journal's, and updates from her parent's blog while Esther battled cancer. Esther had thyroid cancer which, like cancer tends to do, spreads to other areas of the body, in Esther's case, her lungs. She required oxygen and the BiPap machine to breathe properly. Despite her medical condition, she still managed to write inspirational words, love passionately, care abundantly, and geek out over the best things like Harry Potter. I found it so cool how she was able to create meaningful friendship with her online group called Cattitude and how honest they were with each other.

I cried a lot during this book mainly because the people around Esther loved her unconditionally and she loved them right back. Like with most books about people battling cancer, I often think about what it would be like if I had cancer (not that I wish to have it but when reading, it is hard to not think about) and I just can't see my sister caring at all or anyone writing blog posts updating people about my condition. I think that what Esther had, the kind of love that surrounded her, was beautiful in every aspect. 

One of my dearest friends has a best friend who is battling cancer. I grew up knowing her family (I was in the same grade as her younger cousins) and knowing the strength of this girl and what she has gone through is truly remarkable. Reading about Esther only gave me a small insight into the medical aspect of chemotherapy but it showed me the emotional aspects of battling cancer. I think that cancer is one of the worst things in the world but in the midst of battling the fight against it, true beauty is found in the love that people have for each other.

Have you read This Star Won't Go out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, if so, what did you think? 

DFTBA,
Tara 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

FEBRUARY BOOK HAUL!



































February Book Haul!
Middle Grade Books:
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo and illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
I chose to purchase this book because I had heard about the movie which one of the characters is voiced by Emma Watson (one of my favourite celebrities). I looked the book up and thought it sounded magical and interesting. I think I will review this book along with the movie (which is on Netflix).
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild and illustrated by Diane Goode
I shall tell you a secret...I have always admired ballet. I have always had two left feet and was never in dance as a kid but I loved ballet. Ballet Slippers are so cute (I am always known to wear ballet flats as shoes) and I love the buns that ballerinas wear for their hairdos. I love the way the dancers glide effortlessly around the stage, twisting their bodies anyway they wish. So when I watched the BBC adaptation of Ballet Shoes (which coincidentally has Emma Watson starring in it) I always wanted to read the book. Now is my chance.

Vampire Academy:
I have already reviewed the first novel in the Vampire Academy series but I have not ready any of the other books. I ordered Frostbite, Shadow Kiss, and Blood Promise. Expect to see reviews of each of those books in the future.

Young Adult:
This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl, Lori Earl, Wayne Earl, and John Green.
I remember watching Esther's YouTube videos the summer before Esther passed away and thinking how smart and funny she was. I was impacted by Esther that summer by how her only wish was that people would tell others how much they loved them. I have just started reading This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl recently and I have cried a couple times already.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Having just finished Between Shades of Gray I knew I had to read her second book, Out of the Easy. I feel like both books will have taught me about a culture and region I know very little about: Lithuania and New Orleans. I cannot wait to delve into this book.

Let me know if you have read any books on this haul and what you thought of them. Are there any books you have purchased/borrowed lately that you are excited to read?
Also, if you want to see my future book reviews, you can follow me on bloglovin' by clicking here. 

Happy Reading,
Tara



Friday, February 14, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY BY RUTA SEPETYS

Book Title: Between Shades of Gay 
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books, 2011
Pages: 344
Goodreads
Rating: *****/5 stars!

Favourite Quote:
“Good men are often more practical than pretty " said Mother. "Andrius just happens to be both.” 
Ruta Sepetys

Synopsis:  

Most people know the terrors of the holocaust and the perils of World War II but what is left unheard is an equally as tragic story of people in the Baltic region being ripped from their lives and sent to Siberia. Between Shades of Gray is a story about a teenage girl named Lina from Lithuania whose family (including herself) are forced from their home. They are sent on a journey to Siberia to a work camp facing horrible conditions all while being torn away from their father who they think was sent to prison. This story is one of how corrupt and awful the Soviet Union was to innocent people. Lina's story of her will to survive, keep her family together and go back home is one of admiration.

Review:

I love history but I must admit, I know very little of the Soviet Union, Stalin's reign, or even much about Eastern/Northern Europe. Between Shades of Gray changed that for me (along with the Olympics) I was constantly searching about Russia and the Soviet Union. I wanted to know more about this time in history because the story about Lina was just so tragic. I cried at different parts of the book and at time, I had to put the book down and walk away. The heaviness that was set within me was just too much.

Lina's and Andrius' love and friendship was so admirable at a time when trusting no one was probably the best solution. The picture I have of Jonas is one of a happy go-lucky kid in a terrible situation but nothing gets him down.

I learned so much about Lithuania and Russia from reading this book. I realized there was a time when people couldn't talk freely in case the Soviets overheard. You couldn't help family members who were taken away because the Soviet Union would find you and most likely do the same thing. People of all ages were targets and were treated as slaves despite their innocence. The fact that this tragedy lasted so long and was kept quiet until 1990 is remarkable and yet so sad. It seemed like after WWII stories of the Holocaust were available because people never wanted it to happen again. However, the Soviet Union reigned over the people in the Baltic Region (as well as many other countries) and they were not allowed to talk about what was happening out of fear. I can't imagine it.

Ruta Sepetys did a wonderful job at telling a story that has been hidden and kept secret for decades. I belive the story of the people who were taken away as slaves by the Soviet Union should be told across history classrooms across the world.

I give Between Shades of Gray 5/5 stars because it was written beautifully and I could feel the pain that Lina felt as she faced such tragic circumstances.

Have you read Between Shades of Gray? If so, what did you think? Did you know much about the Soviet Union before reading the story?

DFTBA,
Tara

Saturday, February 8, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: FANGIRL BY RAINBOW ROWELL

Book: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2013
Pages: 445
Rating: *****/5 stars

Favourite Quote:
I'm going to keep making fucked-up decisions and doing weird things that I don't even realize are weird. People are going to feel sorry for me, and I won't ever have any normal relationships- and it's always going to be because I didn't have a mother. Always. That's the ultimate kind of broken. The kind of damage you never recover from"(Rowell 234-235).
Synopsis:
Cath is a first year college student who is a fanfiction writer of the popular Simon Snow book series. She used to be very close with her twin sister Wren but when they both embark upon college, Wren decides to choose her own Path leaving Cath feeling left behind. After suffering silently, Cath begins to make friends with her roommate and her believed-to-be boyfriend and finds a writing partner for her fiction writing class. As the semester moves on though, Cath is faced with challenges that her family, friends, and Professor give her. 

Review:

There are few times where I can really, truly relate to characters in a book I am reading. Having read Eleanor & Park (another of Rowell's books) I can honestly say that Rowell knows her audience. She knows she is writing for young adult readers who have most likely read Harry Potter. She understands the importance of the internet and  what it is like to really like something that some people might find lame. This book described a lot of what I was like as a university student. There were a lot of similarities between Cath and myself (an absent parent, a too-cool sister, and an obssession with a book series) and I found myself relating to her a lot. One thing that I didn't have in common with Cath was that she went away to college whereas I stayed at home and while I am not in a lot of debt and I have a huge connection to my community, I regret staying in most weekends and not meeting enough people.

Fangirl brought out the complications that come along with growing up and leaving high school. University is very different from high school and I was made aware of it in the same way that Cath was. A friend of mine from high school cheated on our history quiz by looking at my sheet while I was writing the quiz and she was caught. I had very similar experiences as Cath and reading this book seemed liked reading a year book from my first year of university.

What I found when reading Rowell's writing is that she has the ability to make the reader empathize with the main character to the point where you are crying Cath brings up memories of her mom or feelings of rejection from her sister. You feel her emotions so readily and it can be truly heartbreaking.

I loved reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and I would recommend this book to any book lover. I give this book 5/5 stars for being fantastic. 

Let me know if you have read Fangirl and what you thought of it. If you have read any books similar to Fangirl, I would love some recommendations! 

Happy Reading,
Tara

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

BOOK REVIEW; DASH & LILY'S BOOK OF DARES BY RACHEL COHN AND DAVID LEVITHAN

Book: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
Authors: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Publisher:Knopf Books, 2010
Pages: 260
Rating: ****/5 stars
Goodreads

Review: 

As Christmas loomed upon the internet in the month of December, I saw many book bloggers reading Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Having read many of David Levithan's book before and loved the movie adaptation of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, I knew this book needed to be on my Christmas list. I asked my sister and future brother-in-law if they could get me this book for  Christmas and sure enough, they did. Unfortunately, it meant they had ordered the book because it was not in stock and it would come in early January. So by the end of January it was in my very interested hands and I devoured this book.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is a love story featuring two teenagers, Dash and Lily. Dash, the cynical bah humbug was in a bookstore when he came across a red book with instructions. Upon following those instructions, Dash goes on an adventure with a girl named Lily who he doesn't even know. Lily's older brother was supposed to keep an eye on her over the Christmas holidays while their parents were in Fiji. Instead of doing what they ask, he sets up a fun adventure for Lily to carry through.

I adored the characters in this book. Dash is the description I would have advertised for someone I was looking to date and Lily reminds me of myself in many ways. I found the adventure to be so enticing and something you could see happening to characters in the movies. While the plot was a bit far-fetched at times, I think that was the magic of it. The magical idea of letting yourself go on an adventure with instructions from a book can be so interesting to me.

I remember in 2009/2010 it was really popular to write nerdfighter notes in books in bookstores and this concept of leaving a book with instructions to a total stranger remind me of that. I also really enjoyed Dash and Boomer's friendship especially towards the end when Dash realizes that when he needs someone, Boomer is always there.

The reason I am giving Dash & Lily's Book of Dares 4/5 stars is because by the end of the book I wasn't entirely interested. The NYE festivities left me feeling a little nonplussed when reading them and I wasn't begging to find out what happens because I felt I already did know what happens. Overall, I loved the book but I would have enjoyed a more enjoyable ending.

Have you read Dash & Lily's Book of Dares? If so, what did you like about the book? Did you not like it?

Happy Reading,
Tara

P.S.
Currently reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and um, how did Rowell know me so well? I was Cath at 18-years-old right down to the slash fanfiction.