Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard : B+

Title: The Secret Year
Author: Jennifer Hubbard
Genre: Realistic Fiction (YA)
Publication: 2010 by Viking Juvenile
Pages: 363
Ages: 14-15+
Grade: B+

Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend. 

When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal she left behind. But he is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept.

General: This was another book I decided to read for the August 2010 Debut Author Challenge. The unique premise really sounded fabulous to me and gave me plenty of hope for the book. The writing pulled me in at the beginning and kept me reading through to the very end. The author did a fabulous job of writing in the male POV. The whole story is very realistic and believable. All the romance and emotions in the book are uniquely true and raw; nothing tied up in a pretty bow or coated in sugar. It's one of my favorite things about the book--it's down-to-earth.

Plot: The story revolves around a teenager named Colt who has been secretly meeting with the wealthy Julia, a girl from the rich part of town. The first pages of the book begin almost immediately after Julia's tragic death in a car accident. Though Julia was never Colt's to begin with, because Julia had a boyfriend, he is forced to cope with and heal from her untimely death. Julia's brother, Michael, puts together the pieces and is able to present Colt with the journal Julia kept of their secret romance that lasted for a year. Through the journal, we are able to learn about their romance through both Colt's and Julia's voices. One of the things I loved about the novel is that we get all the details from the very beginning of the story; then, as we move deeper into the story, we are able to learn how each detail fits together like the pieces of a puzzle.

The plot of the book is fast-paced and interesting. It's a quick read--just under 200 pages--but tons happens in those not-quite-200 pages. The writing was wonderful, and seemed to effortlessly keep us moving right through the story of Colt's getting over Julia's tragic death.

Characters: I mentioned that the whole plot is very believable and down-to-earth, and that doesn't change with the characters. Every character has a unique personality and a detailed back-story. Every one of them is fine-tuned and thought-out, even with all the finishing touches and a cherry on top.

The Secret Year is a deep and compelling novel of love, loss, healing, and self-discovery. It kept me pulled in throughout the whole book, and it was a pleasant reading experience. Though the ending did seem to come rather abruptly and left me a little hungry for more, Jennifer Hubbard has presented us with a spectacular debut novel and I can't wait to see what else she has in store for us.


Plot: 18/20
Characters: 18/20
Ending: 14/20
Style: 17/20
Title: 20/20
Overall: 87/100

Grade: B+
Cover Grade: B

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Book Blogger Hop and Weekend Wrap-up August 6th

Friday finally came! And we ALL know that Friday brings us the lovely...

Book Blogger Hop

The Hop is a great way to gain some followers for all you book bloggers out there. Just head on over to Crazy For Books and put your name up on the list of links. It runs every Friday until Monday.

Each week, if you sign up for the Hop, there's a question to be answered. And this weeks question is...

Do you listen to music when you read? If so, what are your favorite reading tunes?

Ok, generally, I hate to listen to music while I read. It distracts me from being totally focused and in order to totally immerse myself in the story, which is my favorite part of reading, I need to be focused. But, if I had to choose, I'd say any pretty song that has no words! Honestly, though, I enjoy silence so the rare times I do get it, I like to take advantage of it :)

If you're visiting from the Hop, comment below to let me know where you're comin' from, and then follow!

Well, it's been another relaxed week here at FMNS. But here's what I DID do. 

I reviewed the book The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone. This one was the opposite of what often happens. I had low expectations for the book, and it totally blew me away. Michele Young-Stone is an author who defies the word "talented", and the novel left me wishing it didn't have to be over yet. The book left me breathless.

You can read that review by clicking here.

Also reviewed this week (actually just today) was the book The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez. It was an easy read, but it touched me deeply and left an imprint on my heart. I personally fell in love with everything about the book. The title has such a powerful connection to the plot that it left me with tears in my eyes.

You can read that review by following this link.

Currently I'm reading the book The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard. I'm reading it for the August 2010 Debut Author Challenge (as were the last two books mentioned--that thing is taking over my life! More accurately, my TBR list). I'm practically finished it, actually, and it's been very good. Not beyond spectacular, but I have a feeling we'll get into that when I write the review for it! But it IS a very good, very compelling novel and I highly recommend it. It's a fabulous debut novel for Jennifer Hubbard.

And that's the week! Unfortunately, I was unable to find anyone to feature this week! If you are a new book blogger (about 2 months or less), please email me at frommynightstand(at)gmail(dot)com. Also, PLEASE email me if you KNOW of someone who could be featured; I'm always on the lookout for promising new blogs. Thanks for reading this week! Au revoir!

The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez : A

Title: The Red Umbrella
Author: Christina Gonzalez
Genre: Historical Fiction (MG/YA)
Publication: 2010 by Alfred A. Knopf
Pages: 275
Ages: 10-12+
Grade: A

The Red Umbrella is the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl's journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro's revolution.

In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own.

Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?

The Red Umbrella is a moving story of country, culture, family, and the true meaning of home.

General: I was absolutely thrilled to be reading this book for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge. It looked (and the reviews showed) to be a moving tale of a Cuban girl and life's changes. When I got the book and started reading it, I was afraid it was going to be just terrible. Because there's none of the thrilling action of the Cuban revolution the summary seems to promise. Of course, the book totally picked up and I enjoyed every second of it. It's a quick and easy read; the print is rather large and it doesn't have an enormous amount of pages. But in the short amount of time it took to read, the story had a huge impact on me and left me teary-eyed more than once.

Plot: The story revolves mainly around a 14-year-old girl named Lucia. She's living a carefree life in Cuba, all the while totally uninterested in the horrors of the Cuban revolution going on around her. She is more interested by the new American fashion magazines and cute guys from school. Suddenly, she is jerked into reality when her own family is directly put in danger because of the revolution. No longer does it seem a far-off problem left to the adults to mull over in hushed whispers after the children are in bed. As the plot unfolds, it reveals a beautiful and fascinatingly thought-provoking storyline one is not sure to ever forget.

Characters: The characters are extremely likable, and very skillfully written and developed. Every character seems to just be calling for you to fall in love with them and get involved in their fictional lives. It's a beautiful reading experience each and every American unaware of the privileges we have in living in the United States. Historical Fiction isn't really my forte, and it's not necessarily my favorite; I find it hard to relate to, and thus difficult to get INTO the book. But for this book, not so. The writing and the characters just invite you in, to immerse yourself in all its beauty.

This book defied my every expectation, when I was THIS close to putting it down because I felt it wouldn't rise to them. It's a heartwarming storyline free of sugar-coating; an emotionally charged plot filled with deep feeling. It's not a glorified war novel or a dramatic story of survival. It's a story of hope and never letting go of what you hold inside your heart.The title, The Red Umbrella has powerful significance, and when that significance was revealed, it left tears in my eyes and a tug on my heartstrings. Christina Gonzalez's novel is a story of living a life of love despite the suffering in the world. It's the treasure of family, the value of freedom, and the true meaning of home.


Plot: 19/20
Characters: 19/20
Ending: 20/20
Style: 16/20
Title: 20/20
Overall: 94/100

Grade: A
Cover Grade: A

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday (4)

We're already at my fourth WoW post! These are so much fun to do :) Plus they help me find some pretty awesome books! This little post is a fun weekly meme started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Anyone can participate. Basically, all you have to do is choose a book that's coming out in the next few months or so that you're excited to read! So here's what I came across this week. I found it on Goodreads. I love that website. I shouldn't have made an account. I waste all my free time browsing the books on there now! But it did help me find this 2011 book...

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Release Date: February 1st, 2011

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that one love--the deliria--blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Um, ok, that sounds majorly good!! I'm discovering something about myself, based on the books I like, the books that look good to me, and the new books coming out that I'm waiting for.

I love dystopia books.

Dystopia is the opposite of utopia. Apparently it can be characterized by a totalitarian government...but that form of literature includes books such as: The Hunger Games, The Uglies series, Matched, and other books like that. Like, sci-fi, futuristic novels and stuff.

So this book definitely fits into that "dystopia" category. I mean seriously. A "cure" for love? And... I'm really excited about it. This one isn't coming out til February of next year!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone : A

Title: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
Author: Michele Young-Stone
Genre: Realistic Fiction (YA)
Publication: April 13th, 2010 by Shaye Areheart Books
Pages: 384
Ages: 14+
Grade: A

Damaged people inhabit this debut novel: people who have been struck by lightning as well as those who have lost loved ones from death, divorce, drinking, or duplicity. Young-Stone tells parallel stories that hurdle storm after storm headlong into one another.

One follows the bullied Buckley R. Pitank, who watches as his beloved mother's life is buffeted by her mean-spirited mother and a fraud of an evangelical preacher. Just when she escapes and finds love, and Buckley sees the possibility of happiness, she is fatally struck by lightning.

The other is the story of Becca Burke, a lightning strike survivor whose drunk mother and philandering father have a hard time believing that she has been repeatedly hit by lightning. As Buckley and Becca grow up, Buckley writes The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, excerpts of which begin each chapter, and Becca becomes a painter. What happens when they do finally meet is inevitable.

Young-Stone is a very fine writer who has created a host of endearing losers—young, old, literate, and simple, all full of longing. What she does best is portray the incredulousness of the unlucky.

General: Let me begin by saying, this book turned out to be not at all what I expected, but I still loved it. I was amazed to learn that Michele Young-Stone herself, the author, was struck by lightning. It's an interesting novel for a long list of reasons, but this makes it all the more interesting.

No summary can even come close to capturing the great depth of this novel. The book has so many layers of pain and joy and energy and emotion that no piece of writing can even begin to describe it; I guess you just have to read it for yourself. There is also such an enormous cast of characters and an extensive plot, it too is impossible to summarize in a mere few sentences.

I immediately fell in love with Michele Young-Stone's style of writing. The plot was extraordinarily well-thought-out, and the characters, every single one of them, were thoroughly developed and honest. As you read her book, Young-Stone not only tells you the story, she introduces you into a whole new world. I felt like I just floated right through this book as I read, just drifting into the storyline peacefully and dreamily. Once I started, I felt no need to stop. There was no repetition, no "being bored with it". It's a refreshing experience to read a debut author who has true talent; and it's an even more refreshing experience to read an author like Michele Young-Stone who seems to be too good for the word "talented".

Characters:  The book includes a crazy amount of characters, but it mostly revolves around two young people, Becca and Buckley. In the beginning of the story, the two don't know each other, but both have had their lives turned around by the trauma of the natural phenomenon of a lightning strike. In addition to this trauma, they each have their own traumas at home. Becca has a sad, alcoholic mother and a cheating father. Buckley lives with his loving but broken mother. It's truly an experience to read about these characters and to learn about them and get to know them. There's so much pain in the novel and it becomes easy to sympathize with and feel sorry for the characters. Becca feels as though she's forced to "walk on eggshells" in her own home, and Buckley is afraid to be happy because he fears bad things will happen if he does because of the pain he's experienced in his early life.

Plot: I'll be truthful. After all this gushing about the novel, I do have a few small complaints. The beginning of the book moves very slowly. It takes a LONG TIME for the plot to fully develop. Because of this, many readers might lose interest before the plot even fully develops. There's such an enormous cast of characters, it can get a little confusing; and though very skillfully written, there are so many twists and turns in the plot to remember and think about that, as the reader, you can get to feeling like the book's skipping around. But if you give it time, the book evolves into a deep, enthralling, fascinating, FABULOUS book.


Plot: 18/20
Characters: 19/20
Ending: 18/20
Cover: 16/20
Style: 20/20
Overall: 91/100

Grade: A

Teaser Tuesday (4)

Time for Teaser Tuesday!! This meme was started by MizB over at Should Be Reading. The basic idea is this. You take out the book you're currently reading and flip to a random page. Choose two (2) sentences from the page and post them here. AVOID SPOILERS! Anyone can participate at any time, so feel free to join in!

Here's mine. Currently, I'm reading a book called The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone. So far I'm like ADDICTED to this book. I'm kind of nervous about doing a review of it because I know exactly how it's going to play out. And pretty soon, if I keep reading all these amazing books, I'm gonna start to sound like a broken record! Well, here's my teaser...

"She thought about the summer's end, another boring school year about to begin, aboutthe dried blood caked on her knee--and her world exploded. It cracked open and Becca fell inside a whiteness that erased everything: the driveway, the tree, the long summer's day, the blood, the ice cream."

I don't know. I just liked it. The book is about a girl, Becca, who was struck by lightning, and a boy, Buckley, whose life was also changed by a lightning strike. These two sentences begin the description of Becca's experience being struck by lightning. The author, Michele Young-Stone was also struck by lightning at one point in her life, so I guess she should know :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award

Today is a new experience! I just received an award from Ava over at Book Infinity! Thanks so much to her...that was very kind :)

So here's how it works. If you received this award, you have to write seven things about yourself, and then pass on the award to 15 other blogs for any reason of your choice.

Here are my seven things!

1. My dream is to be an author someday. How great would that be?! So far my luck hasn't been so great... I start what I'm SURE is gonna be the next big novel. And then it flops and I give up. Or, you know, forget about it. Whichever happens first :)

2. I'm really shy, believe it or not. I hate talking to people and being in large groups. My family makes fun of me for it, but I get extremely embarrassed with people. I guess blogging is my way of being outgoing without actualy being...you know...outgoing.

3. I love to BAKE. Cookies, brownies cakes, pies, anything. I love baking. I guess it started when I was determined to make up the greatest dessert ever made. I didn't get very far. I still have that recipe. It turned out disgusting. So now I just follow the recipe.

4. Kid's movies are my weakness. I absolutely love movies like Finding Nemo and Ratatouille. Movies that teens today are supposed to love? Forget it. I'm a Toy Story girl :)

5. My favorite food is (are?) sesame noodles. They're chinese noodles with this peanut-buttery, spicy-ish sauce. They're absolutely delicious and I'm in love with them. I finally found a recipe for them so I can make them myself and not spend a fortune on buying them all the time.

6. Having a blog has made me read slower. Seriously. I used to read ALL THE TIME. But now I have to put attention into working on my blog and I no longer read like three books in two days.

7. I was the girl in elementary school carrying a big fat book under her arm all through the school building and walking into poles while I was walking home because I was reading while I walked. Yep, that was me.

Well those are my seven things! So now I'm going to pass on the award to 15 other blogs (which, hopefully I can do all 15. But 15 is kind of a lot. So...I'll do my best).

1. Along For The Ride - Sara was one of the very first people to read and follow my blog, so it's only fair she should be first on the list. Thanks for helping me get on my feet, Sara :) (oh, and she has a really cute orange blog background which I personally love. and she does this cool meme of Monday with these amazing pictures.)

2. Kaitlyn In Bookland - Kaitlyn was also one of my earlier followers. I like her flowery blog, and her reviews are awesome. She uses fascinating words! :)

3. Pages - Kirthi is one of the nicest, most helpful bloggers out there. I was having trouble with my layout and she gave me a hand. She rocks :)  (oh, and currently she's holding a 400 followers giveaway)

4. The Cupcake Prose - Gabriella has like the cutest blog name I've ever seen in my entire life. I just love it. I also really enjoy following her blog because not only do I get awesome reviews, I also get to see recipes for some delicious cupcakes!

5. Book Fare Delights - Speaking of cupcakes!! This blog is beyond adorable. She rates the books she reviews in chocolate covered strawberries! I just love this blog overall. Plus, she's joining me in the 2010 Debut Author Challenge. Good luck!

6. The Book Fairy's Haven - Tammy is a blog I found on Twitter. The two of us became Twitter buddies before I even found her blog. But now we both read each other's. I love her Tinkerbell theme. I like Tink :)

7. The Mountains of Instead - I love Sya's blog, everything about it! I LOVE her design, the name is super creative, and her reviews are great.

8. I Just Wanna Sit Here And Read - Kate has a cool blog. It's like this sweet star-themed kinda thing. I like it. And her blog's name, I mean duh! Don't we all? It's an accurate title :)

9. Emilie's Book World - I found Emilie's blog through the Book Blogger Hop and I immediately liked it. I featured her blog in my Friday post as a favorite new blogger. So congrats on her moving forward. Emilie, I know you just won this award so you don't have to do it again, but it was worth mentioning.

10. Elena's Book Cafe - Elena was also featured in another Friday post as a new blogger. The whole theme of her blog is a cafe coffee type of theme, which I like. Her reviews are awesome, and she's definitely off to a good start!

11. Every Last Page - I found Danielle's blog and I obviously automatically liked it. I especially like her purple design. I love purple! However, Danielle's now gotten this award twice so I'm not gonna make her do it. She just deserved a spot on this list. I especially liked her new list of baby names from literature. Check that out.

12. A Girl Reads a Book - I think MY favorite thing about Bella's blog is her little meme that she started where she features a new series she likes. I'm always up for a good new series so now I know where to look! :) Also, Bella was extremely helpful messing with the blockquote setting on my blog and some weird HTML codes. I'm just a little HTML illiterate. So thanks to her :)

Well I think I'll stop there. 12 is a good number, and 15 is a lot. Congrats to everyone who received the award! And thanks again to Ava who gave me this award originally!


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