Soundtrack Saturday 1

February 28, 2009

Soundtrack Saturday was started by Persnickety Snark. :)

If you’ve been following my posts, then you know that last week I read Paper Towns. I decided to pick a song that goes with that novel, and I chose Calendar Girl by Stars which is one of my favorite songs.

The song basically explains Margo’s disappearance. She knows that her true self can’t live an ordinary life, so she has to get away. Quentin sings at the chorus. At this point, he believes that Margo may have committed suicide.


Project Sweet Life – Brent Hartinger

February 27, 2009

Fifteen-year-old Dave and his best friends Curtis and Victor are excited to spend their summer relaxing. However, then their dads throw them a curveball–all three of them must get a summer job. Dave, Curtis, and Victor believe a mandatory summer job is outrageous for fifteen-year-olds. A mandatory summer job should be reserved for sixteen-year-olds and up.

However, then the trio thinks of an idea. The three of them will have fake summer jobs. Under Project Sweet Life, they will earn $7,000, which is what they would have made if they have gotten summer jobs. However, earning $7,000 is not quite as easy as it sounds…

Project Sweet Life was an entertaining read. Every time Dave and his friends were close to earning the  $7,000, something unfortunate would happen, and they were back to square one. The first two times this happened, I was frustrated, but after that, reading about their failed attempts became entertaining. In fact, each one was more entertaining than the last! Without spoiling it, the end included a failed attempt that completely fit the rest of the novel too. Another thing I enjoyed was how Hartinger cleverly weaved in the history of Tacoma, Washington, which is where the boys live. I found the history to be fascinating.

I had one problem with Project Sweet Life. I think Hartinger created the idea of fake summer jobs to be over-the-job, just like the rest of the schemes Dave and his friends get into. However, that does not mean that it did not bother me.  Dave, Curtis, and Victor are fifteen. What 15-year-olds go through the trouble of having fake jobs?! I found the fake jobs to  be a stupid and childish idea. I can’t even refer to the trio as ‘teens’ because it just does not feel right. I can only call them boys. The trio’s refusal to get a summer also made the boys seem spoiled. Is a summer job really that bad?

Despite the ridiculous factor of the fake summer jobs, I still thought the book was good. It is fast-paced, interesting, and a great read during summer. =)


Upcoming Books – March

February 25, 2009

It seems like every month there are more and more books I’m interested in.


Book Review Summaries

February 23, 2009

Do you prefer bloggers to write the summary themselves for the books they review?

This is a question that has been on my mind for some time now. I write the summaries from most of my reviews, but occassionally I will copy & paste the summary from a website or use the description on the back cover. Typically, writing the summary helps me write the review, and I also want readers to know that I care enough to write summaries…most of the time at least. The other times, I’m just too busy. However, do readers prefer one over the other or not?

Thank you in advance. :)


In My Mailbox Feb. 16-21

February 22, 2009

For more information on In My Mailbox, go to The Story Siren. The first summary is from Barnes & Noble, and the second summary is from Amazon.

Paper Towns by John Green (borrowed from the library; review here)

When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night-dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge-he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers.

Funny How Things Change by Melissa Wyatt (ARC)

Remy Walker has it all: he found the love of his life at home in crumbling little Dwyer, West Virginia, deep in his beloved Appalachian Mountains where his family settled more than one hundred and sixty years ago. But at seventeen, you’re not supposed to already be where you want to be, right? You’ve got a whole world to make your way through, and you start by leaving your dead-end town. Like his girlfriend, Lisa. Lisa’s going away to college. If Remy goes with her, it would be the start of everything they ever dreamed of. So when a fascinating young artist from out of state shows Remy his home through new eyes, why is he suddenly questioning his future?


Paper Towns – John Green

February 21, 2009

On an unrelated note, I will be extending the deadline for my Guess the Cover contest to March 15. If you are stumped, then don’t worry, I plan on giving hints later.

When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night — dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge — he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q… until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

I absolutely loved Paper Towns. I could not put this book down, and I ended up finishing it in three school days. Usually, with school, it takes me at least a week to finish a book. The book was witty, meaningful, and just plain fun. The deeper meaning was my favorite part of the novel. Because of the similar theme, Paper Towns strongly reminded me of The Great Gatsby. In fact, after I finished reading The Great Gatsby and Winter Dreams (a short story also by F. Scott Fitzgerald with the same theme) for English last semester, I could not stop thinking how people wrongly perceive other people as idols or perfections. Now, I am experiencing the same feeling.

Green also seamlessly wove symbols into the story. One example is the black Santas that Radar’s parents collect. I actually did not catch this one while I was reading. How did I find out about it, then? By looking at a vlog by John Green. I don’t know how many of you have seen it, but if you’re interested, it’s at the end of this post. Another thing I enjoyed about the novel was the inclusion of interesting tidbits. The obvious one is paper towns, specifically where Margo disappeared to. Omnictionary was also a clever name, and I enjoyed Leaves of Grass too.

Paper Towns is now one of my favorite novels. I wish I had read it before I made my page header because now I want Paper Towns included in it. I guess the question would have been, which cover? I’ll probably add it after my contest is over. Now, I need to read An Abundance of Katherines. I’ve already read Looking for Alaska. ;)


Flavor of the Week – Tucker Shaw

February 18, 2009

I was looking back at the Barnes and Noble synopsis of this novel that I posted for In My Mailbox, and I noticed an error. The entire synopsis refers to Cyril’s best friend as Chris, but his name is Nick. Has anyone ever noticed something like this on other synopsises?

Cyril Bartholomew is in love with his lab partner, Rose Mulligan. However, Cyril is a little on the heavy side, and Rose only sees him as a friend. Cyril’s chubbiness also causes him to keep his love of cooking a secret. Then, Cyril’s best friend, Nick, moves back in town after two years. Nick woos Rose with Cyril’s kitchen-sink cookies and claims that he made them. Before long, Cyril is creating gourmet meals for Rose while Nick takes all the credit.

Story-wise, Flavor of the Week is a pretty ordinary novel. Shaw takes a typical loser boy, a typical pretty girl, and a typical best friend to create a love triangle. Nothing special, right? However, the inclusion of food in the novel created for a fun and pleasant read. Before I start, I might be a little biased because I love all things food, but I found it to be a creative add that, frankly, saved the novel from being a complete bore.

My favorite inclusion of food was Cyril’s audition to the American Institute of Culinary Arts, but even that was slightly predictable. Another thing I liked was that a recipe was included at the end of chapter. While most of these recipes were not simple, I think a teen could prepare most of them. Personally, I want to try to the kitchen-sink cookies.

While Flavor of the Week was a predictable read, I still enjoyed it. At 200 pages, with many of these pages consisting of recipes, it is also a quick read, so what have you got to lose? ;)


Return to Sender – Julia Alvarez

February 16, 2009

Because Tyler’s dad has an accident at the farm,  the Paquettes have no choice but to hire illegal Mexican workers if they want to keep farming. At first Tyler does not know what to make of these workers.  Why would his father, a patriotic man, do something so illegal? Soon, however, Tyler befriends the oldest daughter of one of the workers. The daughter, Mari, is in Tyler’s sixth grade class. Mari’s sisters, Luby and Ofie, are American citizens. What will the happen if Mari’s family be caught by la migra?

Return to Sender is fantastic read. In no way does Return to Sender say illegal immigration is okay. What it does is show that illegal immigrants are just human beings and need to be treated like ones. This novel shows the hardships illegal Mexicans must endure and addresses why they come illegally.

Return to Sender also included the story of the Cruz sisters’ struggle between being American and being Mexican. Mari, being born in Mexico, has always been the closest to her Mexican heritage, but at the farm, she realizes that she is perfectly happy to be in America. Luby and Ofie, on the other hand, are forgetting their Spanish. Sometimes, Mari even has to be the translator between her sisters and her father. Because the sisters’ struggle is not the main point of the story, Alvarez barely addresses it. Luckily, the end naturally gives a satisfying conclusion to the story.

What I loved most about Return to Sender was that Alvarez did not sugarcoat anything. By this, I mean she wrote realistically. Many of the things that happen in the story are frightening, and the end is bittersweet. I believe that Return to Sender has the power to change people’s opinions on illegal immigration, and  I would definitely recommend Return to Sender, especially to middle schoolers.


In My Mailbox Feb. 9-14

February 15, 2009

For more information on In My Mailbox, go to The Story Siren. Like always, the summaries are from B&N.

The time is the Russian Revolution. The place is a country burdened with fear – the midnight knock at the door, the bread hidden against famine, the haunted eyes of the fleeing, the grublike fat of the appeasers and oppressors. In a bitter struggle of the individual against the collective, three people stand forth with the mark of the unconquered in their bearing: Kira, who wants to be a builder, and the two men who love her – Leo, an aristocrat, and Andrei, a Communist. In their tensely dramatic story, Ayn Rand shows what the theories of Communism mean in practice. We the Living is not a story of politics but of the men and women who have to struggle for existence behind the Red banners and slogans. It is a picture of what dictatorship – of any kind – does to human beings, what kind of men are able to survive, and which of them remain as the ultimate winners. What happens to the defiant ones? What happens to those who succumb? Who are the winners in this conflict? Against a vivid panorama of political revolution and personal revolt, Ayn Rand offers an answer that challenges the modern conscience.

Ireland 1984.

After Shell’s mother dies, her obsessively religious father descends into alcoholic mourning and Shell is left to care for her younger brother and sister. Her only release from the harshness of everyday life comes from her budding spiritual friendship with a naive young priest, and most importantly, her developing relationship with childhood friend, Declan, who is charming, eloquent, and persuasive. But when Declan suddenly leaves Ireland to seek his fortune in America, Shell finds herself pregnant and the center of a scandal that rocks the small community in which she lives, with repercussions across the whole country. The lives of those immediately around her will never be the same again.

I received We the Living from my sister (who realized she had  two copies), and A Pure Swift Cry from YA Books Central.


Guess the Cover Contest

February 14, 2009

First of all, Valentine’s Day! I’ve been home all day watching Dexter or reading because I have no lover in my life. :-P Anyway, as you can see, I changed my image header! My new image header consists of the covers of twenty of my favorites book. Guess what that means? A contest!

The person who can guess the most covers by March 15 @ 2:00 PM EST will win a $25 Amazon Gift Card. If there is a tie (say 3 people guess all 20), then I will pick one name from a hat to win the $25 Amazon Gift Card, and award the other people another prize. :)

Send in your guesses to towerofbooks(AT)gmail(DOT)com with the subject Guess the Cover.  Number the first row from left to right as 1-10 and the second row 11-20. If you figure out one of the covers after you e-mailed me, then just send me another e-mail with all of your guesses.

Any questions?

HINTS


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