Friday, January 25, 2013

Book review: The Summoning

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don't even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost - and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won't leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a "special home" for troubled teens. Yet the home isn't what it seems. Don't tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? it's up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House...before its skeletons come back to haunt me.

The Summoning is a quick and easy read targeted at the younger end of the YA fan base.

The main character Chloe is 15 and starts the book with typical teenage concerns: boys, friends, parents, etc. Then she sees a ghost in her school, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and is sent to a group home for "troubled teens."

The Summoning is entertaining. I never wanted to put it down, and it went in a few different directions that surprised me -- I don't think the author ever did what I was expecting.


I think the author was laying a lot of ground work for the future of the series, which left it with a bit of an unsatisfying end.

Not a whole lot really happens in The Summoning, but a lot is alluded to, and I think it'll get to that eventually. And obviously the author wouldn't give everything away in the first book of the series. But the book should be able to stand on its own, and I don't think it completely does. Also, there's a ton that's brought up early in the book that the author never gets back to. So I think there's a LOT that can happen in the next books.

There are great twists and turns and it definitely kept me interested. I gave it three stars on Goodreads.

Have any of you read The Summoning? What did you think?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book review: Reached

Reached by Ally Condie

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday. Because this book is the third in a series, it will automatically contain spoilers for the first two books, which can be found here and here.

After leaving Society and desperately searching for the Rising—and each other—Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again: Cassia has been assigned to work for the Rising from within Society, while Ky has been stationed outside its borders. But nothing is as predicted, and all too soon the veil lifts and things shift once again.

In this gripping conclusion to the #1 New York Times-bestselling Matched trilogy, Cassia will reconcile the difficulties of challenging a life too confining, seeking a freedom she never dreamed possible, and honoring a love she cannot live without.

I gave all three books in this series a three-star rating. Whoops? It's hard to review the third book in a series, especially when I haven't reviewed the other two books on my blog. 

The Matched trilogy is about Cassia, a girl who lives in a future society that controls citizens lives very much, from their jobs to whom they marry to how many children they can have. Typical dystopian. The first book, Matched, kicks off when Cassia is matched to be married to her lifelong bff Xander. But through a technological glitch, Cassia gets a glimpse at a different future the Society never had planned for her. And she starts to wonder, what if she pursues that alternate future?

All in all, I was pretty satisfied with Reached as a conclusion to the series. While the first book is told only from Cassia's perspective, the second adds in Ky's perspective, and the third has Cassia's, Ky's and Xander's perspectives. I usually don't like alternating perspectives because they don't allow you to get to know any of the characters really well -- but, since we had the whole series to get to know these characters, I felt like it really worked.

A common problem, I think, with series-ending books is that the author tries to wrap everything up, give everyone a happy ending, and tie a nice bow around it all. On the one hand, I want some of that. I don't want to see characters I have grown to love unhappy or, worse, dead. 

But on the other hand, I sometimes hate it. It's not realistic and feels false. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Reached strikes a really great balance of happy endings and leaving some things undecided. The end feels realistic, but there are still some loose ends, some less-than-perfect futures that are still possible. And I like that.

I liked the series a lot and definitely recommend it to readers who like a bit of romance and adventure. :)

Have any of you read all or part of this series? What did you think? (Please be wary of spoilers but feel free to email me! :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book review: Sweethearts

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another's only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she's lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she's popular, happy, and dating, everything "Jennifer" couldn't be---but she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend.

When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this book.

I loved Jenna's voice. I thought it was realistic and easy to relate to. All the characters were really well written and believable -- I didn't ever look up, didn't doubt any of the characters' actions.

I liked the depiction of her high school relationship, too. The way sometimes we were in relationships and didn't really know why except that the other person was reasonably good looking and wanted to kiss you.

I also really enjoyed Jenna's journey of self-discovery. She really grows as a character through the book, which is something I think a lot of the books I've read have been missing lately, so yay!

The author does that thing where there's a mysterious event in the past that they keep referring to and is revealed over several chapters. I usually don't love that tactic. I'd rather learn it all at once and create tension and interest in other ways. But it's a tool authors use often, so I try not to judge it too harshly.

Overall, I thought Sweethearts was really well-written and believable. I gave it three stars, because it's good, but it just didn't speak to me in particular... ya know? But I definitely recommend it as an easy, quick read. It delves into a few deeper/darker subjects and handles them really well (specifically, eating issues, abuse, and learning to be yourself).

Have any of you read Sweethearts? What did you think?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A (modified) Couch to 5k plan -- How I started to run

Hey friends!

Today I thought I'd quickly share the training plan I used when I first started running.

One thing I really loved about this plan was that it's based on times, not distances. Many running training plans are distance based. As in, run 1.5 miles Monday, 2 miles Wednesday, etc. I thought that was so intimidating! When I started, running two minutes straight was a challenge. There was no way I was going out and running half a mile on my first try.

Also, at the time, I didn't have a smart phone with apps to easily measure distance, but I did have a phone with a stop watch. So a time-based training plan was perfect for me.

Week One
Run two minutes, then walk one. Do four cycles.

Week Two
Run four minutes, walk two. Do four cycles.

Week Three
Run eight minutes, walk two. Do four cycles.

Week Four
Run ten minutes, walk one. Do three cycles.

Week Five
Run fourteen minutes, walk two. Run sixteen minutes, walk two. Run fourteen minutes.
*This was the scariest week for me, but I did it! If you can only do 14 on the middle run, that's ok too.

Week Six
Run seventeen minutes, walk two, run seventeen.
*This week they also asked that we start practicing a finish-line push: for the last 30 seconds of each run, see if you can up your pace!

Week Seven
Run seventeen minutes, walk one only if you have to, run seventeen minutes

Week Eight
Run 34 minutes or a 5k!!

I also made this picture version that should be pinnable/printable/shareable!

A couple more things about this plan:

Every week was scary. Each week I was terrified of the new number I had to run -- whether it was four minutes or 17. But I was able to complete each week's challenge. It wasn't always easy, but I did it. I bet you can too.

If you can't, though -- if you find that you're super struggling with a week, figure out what you can do. Can't do ten minutes yet? Repeat the week before. Or, try nine minutes.

Finally, we were advised to do a five-minute warm-up "brisk walk" and to run three or four times a week on this plan. I think I mostly did three times a week. See what you can do, check out your energy levels, and go for it!

If you're trying this plan, please let me know! I'd love to hear about if/how it works for you!

Have any of you made running- or fitness-based goals for 2013? I'd love to hear about them!


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Friday, January 4, 2013

Book review: Legend

Legend by Marie Lu

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Unfortunately I didn't love this book. It does have a 4.08 on Goodreads, so if you'd like to read other reviews, go there. But here's my thoughts, for any who care.

ONE. The plot of this story seems like it would be great. I love a good dystopian novel. But for me, it didn't measure up. A lot of the world-building needed to be more specific. I didn't understand why I should hate the Republic for most of the book. I didn't know that it was only the western US until re-reading the description just now. I just needed more information so I could be invested in Day, who fights against the Republic.

TWO. The characters were not good. Many parts that needed to have emotion didn't. At all. I didn't care what happened to anyone except Tess, a not-major-but-not-minor character. Which made me really apathetic about the entire book.

That's a lot of it, really. There were other things I didn't like as I was reading it, but if these two problems --my confusion and my lack of connection to the characters -- were solved, I might have enjoyed the book.

I gave it two stars on Goodreads. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever read -- I made it through -- but I certainly don't recommend it.

Have any of you read this book? It's well liked on Goodreads. What did you think?


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