Pray Tell

Just an enthusiastic reader with too many regrets and not enough turtles. I also dabble in writing.

 

I post reading plans for the week on Sunday, reviews Monday through Thursday, and Friday Reads on Friday. Saturdays I may post something random or nothing at all. ;)

SPOILER ALERT!

[Book Review]: Between Shades of Gray

 

 

 

 

Between Shades of Gray

Ruta Sepetys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Between Shades of Gray is about Lina, a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl, and her family who are forced out of their home one night by Stalin's men. Forced to leave and work in a camp in Siberia, Lina finds solace in documenting her experiences through drawings in hopes that they will find their way to the camp her father is at. Lina struggles to survive through the ordeal with the help of strength, love, and courage.

 

Review: Wow. This has got to be one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's a very heavy book emotionally, but told so beautifully. Lina, one of the main characters and the narrator, tells this story in a way in which emotion can be derived from the simplest of words. I absolutely adore the flashbacks throughout the novel; they provide greater detail about the narrator and her life before being taken by Stalin's men. It's almost like a puzzle; each memory fits together and gives us a clear portrayal of Lina and her family.

This book is raw and poignant. It explores what happened during the time of Stalin's rule during WWII. Even though Stalin had similar motives to Hitler and did carry them out, we don't really hear as much about him as we do Hitler. And believe me, Stalin was almost as bad, if not worse, than Hitler.

Lina, and many others who were forceably taken from their houses, endured starvation, sickness, the harsh winters of Siberia, and even death. There was a new person dying everyday right in front their eyes. It's almost unbelievable how harsh the conditions were. Sadly, though, they're all too real.

Sepetys explored a very rough time in history and produced a beautiful novel as a result. Lina's simple conclusions and short thoughts really make her seem like a simple character, but she is far from it. She kept up her courage and fought for over twelve years, even when it seemed like survival was impossible. Her tale was inspiring and incredible.

Final Verdict: They say there's one book that really opens your eyes and changes your view on things. I believe this was the book for me. Five stars.

 

 

[Friday Reads!] May 30th, 2013

  It's time for my second Friday Reads! Friday Reads is a hashtag that began on twitter. Every Friday, people from all over the world announce what they'll be reading for the weekend and include #fridayreadsBunny Cates also brought it over to the booktubing community, so there are thousands of tweets and videos to give you some idea of what could possibly be your next read! It's a great way to see which books are trending and what everyone is reading over the weekend.

 

 

 

 This weekend I'll be reading Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. I started it the other day, but I was only able to get a couple pages in because I was busy. It's a story about two young slave girls during the Revolutionary War. Can't say much about it because I don't really know much about it. ;D

 

 

 

 

 And the last book book I plan on reading this weekend is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This will be my first reread of the series. I will be joining ryanohrama and many other people in an event known as A Very Potter Summer (AVPS). We will be rereading the whole series and discussing each book, so feel free to join us all!

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, I'll be "reading" the 4th volume of the Attack on Titanmanga. I put reading in quotation marks because I can devour manga in about an hour, so I don't count the books toward my reading goals. This series is about giant, human-like creatures called titans who have forced man-kind onto the brink of extinction. In the meantime, the last people remaining must come up with ways to defeat the titans before humans go extinct. It's a great series!

 

 

 

What will you be reading this weekend? Leave me a comment down below, I'd love to know! :)

 

Bis morgen!

[Book Review]: Hate List

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hate List

Jennifer Brown

 

 

 

 

 

     Hate List is about a girl named Valerie Leftman who's life was turned upside on May 2nd. On that day, her boyfriend opened fire on their school cafeteria, aiming for the people on the "Hate List" they had created together. Confused and scared about the situation herself, Valerie ends up getting shot and is put out of school until the following school year.

     Upon returning, she finds herself to be an outsider to all of her old friends. They, along with many other students, are conflicted: they're not sure whether to believe that she's guilty for creating the list or innocent for not knowing about what Nick was going to do. Throughout the school year, Valerie learns that she must make amends, and let go of part of her past in order to secure her own future.

 

Review: Normally when I read a book like this with a school setting in which a tragedy occurs (e.g. shooting, bombing, etc.), I find it dull. My mind is fully aware the whole time that everything is fictional, and, therefore, I can't feel any emotions because I feel as though they're just going to end up being a lesson about bullying guised by a novel with a plot barely able to be called a plot in the first place.

That being said, I liked this book. I geniunely liked this book.

I was able to empathize with Valerie. I felt like all the times society and her own family seemed to shut her out, I was sitting right there with her. 

I saw Nick the way she saw him: by the end of novel, even though he had killed the kids, I still saw him as a victim. Valerie too. I think that's the whole underlying message Brown way trying to convey: that you don't have to be shot or targeted to be a victim. Kids left Garvin High School with not only physical scars, but mental scars as well. They were all victims. 

 

I also enjoyed the format of this book. I liked the beginning where it switched between the newpaper articles, before the shooting, and then after the shooting.  

Final Verdict: Four stars. Didn't give this five stars because of that annoying Mary Sue quality of Valerie (i.e. a fantastic artist) and just... I don't know. Something felt missing to me. Like the ending needed to tie up just a few more loose ends. Otherwise, good book.

 

                                       

[Book Review]: Siddhartha

 

 

 

Siddhartha

Herman Hesse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Siddhartha is a book about a young man who decides leaves his family and travel with his friend, Govinda, as a Samana. The two travel together and eventualy become true Samanas. However, Siddhartha becomes bored of the Samana life. He strives to seek something more fulfilling in order to reach enlightenment -- the ultimate goal of every religious people.

     Eventually, Siddhartha finds himself in the company of a ferryman named Vasudeva. Vasudeva soon teaches Siddhartha that perhaps nature is man's greatest teacher.

 

Before we proceed:

I was forced to read the book for English class.

 

Review: Another book that my English teacher has given the class, along with promises of inspiration and just a thought-provoking read.

I'm not sure whether I liked this book or not. At the very beginning, I found Siddhartha to be rather patronizing and quite annoying. A little further down the road,[when Govinda decided to stay at Gotama's camp, when Govinda decided to stay at Gotama's camp, I was pulled out of my reading slump, curious to see where Siddhartha would go, what he would do. The rest of my reading experience just continued to be this roller coaster ride of interest and disinterest.

This book is perhaps another one I may enjoy more a few years down the road from now.

 

[Sorry for the pitiful review: I don't have much to say about this book.]


Final Verdict: Two and a half stars. Simply didn't think it was great, didn't think it was terrible.

 

                                   

SPOILER ALERT!

[Book Review]: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

 

 

 

The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2)

Michelle Hodkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     The Evolution of Mara Dyer is the second book of the Mara Dyer trilogy. The book begins a few days after the first book ended. Mara is now in a psychiatric hospital, her family convinced that she needs serious help after the Jude fiasco. What they don't know is that Jude is alive -- and he wants Mara.

     It's a cat and mouse game as Mara and Noah try to unravel the mysteries surrounding the "accident", their powers, and their pasts. Aware of Jude's constant presence, there is one thing Mara knows for sure: her fear is not misplaced.

 

Review: Mara Dyer, Mara Dyer...
If I were to say that I loved this series, I'd be a liar. Yet if I were to say I hated this series, I'd be lying even worse.

The sequel was undeniably better than the first book, as we were given what we so craved for:answers. Though Hodkin certainly did not fail to deliver even more questions into our brains, she at least graced us with a few answers (and a cliffhanger that wasn't of the Devil's creation, thank the Lord).

After allowing my thoughts to culminate for a bit instead of rushing to the computer straight away to type up a review, I decided I liked this book. It kept that dark aura I came expect from the trilogy after the first book's "foreboding theme", which I like very much. If there was one thing I didn't like about this book, it was the heavy heavy reliance on Mara's "insane state of mind". I understand that her "insanity" was the reason the story had some of its drama, but come on, some of the parts were so obviously not caused by Mara that I was shaking my head at the stupidity of the common people in that book.

And Noah. What's the book without our favorite partner-in-crime? Some light was shed on his past, which I'm grateful for, but I still have some questions. I feel like the third book will just be one big A part of a Q&A session. I'm glad for that.

Now I just have to wait until October...

 

 

Final Verdict: Overall I gave this book, like it's predecessor, three and a half stars. I felt as though some questions were answered, but for every answer two more questions sprung up. I'm also not too fond of the fact that the first book relied so heavily upon the second book and, inevitably, the second book relies so heavily upon the third.

 

  

[Book Review]: The Great Gatsby

 

 

 

 

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     The Great Gatsby is a novel set in the 1920s admist the hustle and bustle of the Jazz Age and Prohibition. Gatsby is told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, a man who recently moved to New York in order to begin his career. By chance, Nick moves into the house next door to Jay Gatsby, one of New York's richest, most elegant yet elusive individuals.

     Soon, Nick finds himself caught in the middle of a love story between his neighbor, Gatsby, and his cousin, Daisy Buchanan. And with Gatsby's famous saying, “Can’t repeat the past? … Why of course you can!” Nick discovers just how ephemeral life can be when hopelessly entangled in the past.

 

Review: Let me start off by saying that I can empathize with the people who were forced to read this in school. All too often in high school we are given books that have the potential to be great but live lives too short when dissected this way and that in English classes who find more value in knowing every little piece separately rather than looking at the book as a completed puzzle. 

For that reason, I read The Great Gatsby on my own. The premise sounded interesting and I had heard nothing but positive reviews on it. Because of this, I decided to kick it in gear and pick up this book before an English teacher decided to hand it to me.

I think what I enjoyed most about Gatsby was the symbolism and diction. This being the first novel I've read by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I've come to think of him (perhaps prematurely) as a master of symbolism and a connoisseur of the English language. Some may argue that his writing is borderline lofty, pretentious prose, but I thought that his writing made the book for me; though I wouldn't call the plot boring, it wasn't exactly worthy of five stars. Add eloquent writing? Easy five stars. I also think that Fitzgerald's representation of the American dream and how ephemeral life is when entangled in the past was brilliant. 

As for the characters, can't say I hated them, can't say I loved them. Though Gatsby held a special place in my heart: the elegant appearance juxtaposed against his true personality that was such a huge contrast from the man we all picture made him my favorite character throughout the novel.

Final Verdict: Five stars. This novel definitely deserves five stars and all of the recognition it is given. It has become one of my favorite classics and one of my favorite books of all time.

 

                                       

[Weekly Reading Plans] May 26th, 2013

This week I have quite a few books I need to devour. I borrowed a total of five books from my English teacher during spring recess (which was...almost two months ago...) and have not finished a single one yet! I'd like to get 4/5 or 5/5 books read and returned to her by the end of the school year. I decided I may drop one of them, but the other 4 are game. So this week I plan on reading 1 of the 5 books I've borrowed.

 

 

But let's not jump ahead of ourselves! First, I would like to finish up Hate List by Jennifer Brown. This is our May book club pick, so I need to get going with this one. I wrote a summary of this one in my Friday Reads post, so if you're curious, click here to check it out! Here's a once sentence summary if you don't feel like clicking: a girl's boyfriend shoot up their high school based on the list both of them made and she's left to deal with the consequences.

 

 

 

 

Next, I also plan on finishing up a book I have been neglecting. I'm only thirty pages in to The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway. This book, as you may be able to tell from the title, is about a man named Adam who tries, unsuccessfully, to commit s  uicide -- 39 times. He wakes up after each attempt confused as to how he's alive and frustrated that he can't seem to stay dead. I had previously put this book down, not because it was awful or anything, but because it wasn't exactly holding my interest. I shall try to change that this week. :)

 

 

 

 Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is a Revolutionary-War-era fictional book. It has to do with a girl named Isabel and her sister, Ruth, who are slaves and struggling to survive. There isn't much I can say about this book because I don't know much about it, but I thought it looked pretty good. (Plus it's one of the books I borrowed from my English teacher so I figured I'd finish it ASAP. ;D

 

 

 

 

 And the last book I plan on reading (rather, starting) this week is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This will be my first reread of the series. I will be joining ryanohrama and many other people in an event known as A Very Potter Summer (AVPS). We will be rereading the whole series and discussing each book, so feel free to join us all!

 

 

 

 

 

What will you be reading this week? Leave me a comment down below, I'd love to know! :)

 

Bis morgen!

 

[Saturday Posts] #1

Pandora Hearts

 

    The air of celebration surrounding fifteen-year-old Oz Vessalius's coming-of-age ceremony quickly turns to horror when he is condemned for a sin about which he knows nothing. He is thrown into an eternal, inescapable prison known as the Abyss. There, he meets a young girl named Alice, who is not what she seems. Now that the relentless cogs of fate have begun to turn, do they lead only to crushing despair for Oz, or is there some shred of hope for him to grasp on to?

 

 

 

Why I Recommend It:

Stunning artwork, engaging storyline, and overall enjoyable characters.

 

I mean, come on, just look at this cover:

 

 

 


And while I could just make a whole text post fawning over Jun Mochizuki's drawing skills (future idea? *wink*), I need to discuss the equally amazing plot and characters. Though, admittedly, the plot can be a little hard to follow at times (what with so many characters and twists and turns and side-stories), it is one of the most original ideas I've come across in years in any type of printed book (literary or otherwise).

Not to mention that the characters Mochizuki has created are just amazing (Oz has to be one of the most enjoyable main characters). You've got you cheerful ones, manipulative ones, manipulated ones, dark ones, mysterious ones, innocent ones... I don't think she's left out any characterizations.

 

If you're looking for a new manga series, I'd highly recommend this one. It's a bit of investment if you're intending to buy the series, but it's worth every bit because it's highly re-readable.

 

 

 

 

Book #15 was the most recently

released issue. Book #16 is scheduled

to be released on June25th.

 

Bis morgen!

[Friday Reads!] May 24th, 2013

  Friday reads is a hashtag that began on twitter. Every Friday, people from all over the world announce what they'll be reading for the weekend and include #fridayreads. Bunny Cates also brought it over to the booktubing community, so there are thousands of tweets and videos to give you some idea of what could possibly be your next read! It's a great way to see which books are trending and what everyone is reading over the weekend.

 

 

This weekend I'll be finishing The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. This is the second book in the Mara Dyer trilogy. I can't summarize too much without spoiling the first book, but if you're curious about the trilogy, try it out! It's a pretty good series! :)

 

[Okay, confession time! I only picked up the first book in this trilogy because I loved the title. I mean, come on! The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer?!?! It sounds so mysteriously good! Plus the cover is quite neat! ;D]

 

 

 

  After I finish that up, I'll be starting Hate List by Jennifer Brown. This was our book club pick for the month of May so I need to hustle with this one.  ;D

 

This book is about a girl who's ex-boyfriend shot up their high school five months prior to the start of the novel. The girl, Valerie, also gets in trouble for the shooting because her ex-boyfriend, Nick's, targets were part of the "hate list" they had both created. Basically, this is the aftermath of all of that and her returning to school after the occurrence.

 

So, what are you reading this weekend? Leave a comment below and let me know! :D

 

Bis morgen!

[Book Review]: Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

Wonder

R.J. Palacio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Wonder is a standalone YA contemporary novel. The book centers around a main character named August ("Auggie") Pullman and his life in living with a facial deformity. Auggie has been homeschooled his whole life because of his facial deformity, and, therefore, hasn't been in contact with large groups of children his age. Now about to start 5th grade, his parents want him to go to mainstream school

     So begins the story of an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. Auggie must come face-to-face with some of his peers and convince him that he's just like them, despite his appearance.

 

 

Review: I'll be completely honest: when my teacher gestured to the new books she received that lined the window sills, Wonder being one of them, I took one look at the summary, tsked, and put it down. I didn't think a story that centered around a fifth-grader could appeal to my 17-year-old taste at all. It wasn't until my friend decided to borrow it and came in the next day (having finished it in one night) imploring that I read this and handing me the copy that she borrowed that I actually gave this book a second thought. I sat down and read it.

I wasn't able to read the book in one night (which isn't saying much considering I've only read one book in less than a day before), but I certainly finished it in less than a week which has somewhat pulled me out of my reading slump. Here are a couple of things that I liked:

1.) It's such an emotional book. August knows that people look at him strangely, he knows that there's that "split second" when people first see him in which they break their composure out of surprise.
a.) Even his sister, Vivian, I couldn't help feeling sorry for: she knows she isn't supposed to be bitter about August being the center of attention, but she can't help but think of the "favorite child" comment their Aunt made.
3.) The writing wasn't overly-pretentious. It was candid.

 

 

Final Verdict: Four stars. All in all, great book. It's such an easy and quick read, yet it retains heavy emotional appeal.

Also, I learned my lesson: don't judge a book by its cover (or in this cause, its simple summary).

 

                                          

SPOILER ALERT!

[Book Review]: Tears of a Tiger


 

 

Tears of a Tiger (Hazelwood High, #1)

Sharon M. Draper

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Tears of a Tiger is the first book of the Hazelwood High trilogy. The books center around a main character named Andy Jackson and his life after a car accident which claimed the life of his bestfriend and teammate Robert Washington. Andy becomes consumed by the guilt of driving the car that killed his best friend and he contemplates suicide and other methods of harm.

     Though the book mainly focuses on Andy and how he copes, there are focuses on his friends and how they coped as well.

 

 

Review: Looking at this book as a whole, it was good. If I were to nitpick and point out every little flaw like I tend to do in my reviews, this book might be knocked down a star. Despite this, there definitely were things I enjoyed about this book. The format was very creative and made this an interesting, face-paced read overall. There is absolutely no description in the book (which I thought would be detrimental to the reading experience, but actually turned out quite fine), the characters have terrible grammar (which, admittedly, became annoying at parts), and the emotions were actually quite pervasive despite the overall setting. The ending where Andy committed suicide really got to me. Especially because all of his friends, in their letters to him, seemed angry with him and did not seem to be mourning his death (with the exception of Keisha).

 

Final Verdict: Three stars. Overall, the book was good. I wasn't really a fan of the stereotyping and the language used [i.e. syntax and diction, not necessary because of the swearing (if there even was any)]. If you need a quick read to toy with your emotions a little, pick this up. 

 

  

[Book Review]: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

 

 

 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1)

Michelle Hodkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is the first book of the Mara Dyer trilogy. The books center around the main protagonist, Mara Dyer, and her life after "the accident". Just a few months prior to the start of this book, Mara, her friends Rachel and Claire, and her boyfriend Jude had taken a night trip to an abandoned mental hospital in order to stay the night. While in the mental hospital, it collapsed, killing Rachel, Claire, and Jude, but leaving Mara unharmed.

     Shortly after the traumatic experience, Mara and her family move from their old Rhode Island home to a house in Florida. There, Mara must continue to cope with the losses and learn how to adjust in a new town, all while trying to avoid the advances of Croydian's school player and deal with hallucinations (which may not all be just figments of her imagination).

 

Review: The one thing I know for certain is that this book had a lot of hype surrounding it. And while it didn't exactly live up to all the hype it was given, I still liked this book. Appropriately, it had this dark, mysterious aura surrounding it the whole time, I wanted to know all about Mara's powers, all about Mara's past. I wanted to know all about Noah's powers, all about Noah's past.

     I'll admit, at times I was scratching my head because I couldn't distinguish between Mara's nightmares, hallucinations, and what was supposed to be reality for her. I'm still unsure as to whether or not I found that aspect enjoyable or just plain annoying. Sure, it did mean I was able to understand Mara's confusion just like I was in her position. On the other hand, I believe the reader shouldn't be on the same level as a character in the book: I believe we should be a little more omniscient than that.

 

 

Final Verdict: Overall, I gave this book three and a half stars because of my confusion at Mara's reality, Hodkin's excessive diction at times, and the slight disappointment over the fact that the book wasn't all that it was hyped up to be.