Monday, February 27, 2012

The Name of the Star - Review

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, # 1)

By: Maureen Johnson

Published: September 29th 2011 by Putnam Juvenile

372 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal

Source: Personal Kindle Library

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*Note: The above links to Amazon and Book Depository are affiliate links. Affiliate links support giveaways for Somewhere Only We Know readers.

Goodreads description--The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

The Name of the Star gets 4 Stars.

My first Maureen Johnson book experience. I wasn’t sure what to expect. My husband follows her on twitter (and I do as well now) and one day he says, “You should check out some of her books.” So that’s exactly what I did. The Name of the Star was her most recent release so I figured I would start with that. Can’t say I was disappointed.

The Name of the Star merges my favorite aspects of young adult fiction: romance, the supernatural, intrigue and mystery, and being hooked. The Name of the Star wasn’t one of those books that I couldn’t put down, yet at the same time, I was propelled to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. I would have liked a little more action—or a little more detail on the action that did occur—in the romance department. Maybe this will be explored further later in the series. But if it’s not going to be explored further, then I feel like I’m left with many questions concerning the romances in this novel, specifically Jerome and Rory. However, just because that’s my favorite part of a book doesn’t mean that’s what the book is about. So maybe it was never the intent to delve into all the details that I personally crave, but that's okay.

On the supernatural, I guess that’s more of the focus for the book and considering I didn’t read the entire description on Amazon before I made my purchase and started reading, a nice surprise for me. The intrigue and the mystery…who is this copycat Jack the Ripper terrorizing this city, and what are we going to do about it?

Aside from the many questions I have concerning Rory and Jerome and why they like each other and how they actually feel about each other beyond surface emotions, how about I found it odd that once Rory finds out about the supernatural “stuff”—no spoilers—going on in London and what she has to do with them, we don’t hear a peep out of Jazza who has appeared to be pretty much inseparable from Rory up until this point. And why does Jazza never confront Rory about this absence? Or has she even noticed? The both of them seemed very inquisitive when Boo initially moved into their room as the third roommate, yet, this same inquisitiveness goes out the window so it seems when it comes to Rory’s mysterious absences from meals and such. I don’t know. Not a huge deal, but something that struck me as odd and inconsistent.

Other than that, and what’s that to complain about really?, a solid read. I’ll be checking out some more of Maureen Johnson’s existing books and looking forward to any future publications in the Shades of London series. Check it out for yourself. The Name of the Star – 4 Stars definitely worth it.

Have you read The Name of the Star? What did you think? Let me know!

Update: February 1, 2015

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Scorpio Races - Review

The Scorpio Races

By: Maggie Stiefvater

Published: October 18th 2011 by Scholastic Press

409 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Mythology

Source: Personal Library

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*Note: The above links to Amazon and Book Depository are affiliate links. Affiliate links support giveaways for Somewhere Only We Know readers.

Goodreads description--It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

4 Stars for The Scorpio Races.

I think I initially assumed that The Scorpio Races would be part of a series because series just seem to be the way of the writing world these days--or at least the majority of the books I read. It’s rare that I seek out a stand-alone book, though there’s absolutely no reason not to. And it’s even more rare for the authors I’m familiar with to produce stand-alone books. And I guess I’m still not 100% sure that The Scorpio Races is a stand-alone book. But I haven’t seen anything to suggest it is a series and it ends in such a way that making it into a series feels like trying too hard.

It needs to be said that I’m about half way through this book called The Shack by WM Paul Young, and that has been slow going for sure. When I feel like it’s taking too long for me to get through a book, I tend to stress out just a little. I feel the need to be productive and to have something to show for it. So every now and then I find myself having to take a break from a book that’s not a fast read for me in order to blow through something else quickly. Having said that, I started The Scorpio Races on Saturday and finished it today (Monday) on my lunch break.

Even though I read this book quickly, I can see where some might find it slowly paced and not a fast read at all. I was completely intrigued by the idea of water horses and the idea propelled me forward even when the love story was barely even a thought. (Usually, it’s the love story that propels me through a fiction book, because that’s my favorite part.) I think Maggie Stiefvater struck to the heart of my own childhood fantasies—and possibly every other little girls’—of owning my own horse one day. The passion and knowledge with which she writes about these beautiful and magnificent creatures is that of someone who grew up around them and carries a tremendous love and passion for them as well. Well written indeed if she did not actually grow up around horses. I thought the story was well thought out, multi-layered, and enthralling. As I said above, some might think the story is slow to get started, but personally, I think it was perfectly timed. Everything happened exactly when it needed to. And something that I've come to associate with Maggie Stiefvater's writing that I really enjoy is the way the story is told through multiple narrators, but always the one who has the most interesting story or perspective to tell--not just swapping narrators just to swap or just to keep the story moving and the reader frustrated.

I like when the location of a tale has its own traditions and festivals and celebrations. And Thisby definitely offered that. And even more than that, I like when a story is new and this idea of water horses is something that I’ve never heard of before. Granted, I haven’t spent much time researching ancient folklore, myths, etc. But I have read many books with a supernatural aspect and have yet to run across anything remotely similar to this idea of water horses. Kudos for originality.

The character of Puck reminds me somewhat of Katniss from The Hunger Games in this desperate need that she has to hold her family together and to provide for them in any way possible, even if it means entering this dangerous and potentially life threatening situation. Puck isn’t necessarily as survival savvy as Katniss, but she’s not quite having to hunt for food for her family either—though I suppose if she doesn’t win the Scorpio Race this year she’ll have to resort to that (not saying whether she does or doesn’t win—keeping it spoiler free). But both characters (Puck and Sean) have their talents and are well-versed in anything related to their talents. Sean Kendrick is perhaps one my favorite heroes in a book that I’ve read recently. He’s silent and brooding--which I love in a fictional hero--but extremely open at the same time. He’s not afraid of being vulnerable when it comes to his love for Corr, as well as the other horses, and is fairly open with Puck the entire time. Even Corr and Dove--the two main horses--have great personalities and are characters that you come to love. They are strong characters in a strong book.

*Side note: I like how their full names are used. I think it’s a unique little tid-bit that makes the characters more real and alive. How Puck uses "Sean Kendrick" the majority of the time. And how Sean says "Kate Connolly" or "Puck Connolly" a large portion of the time too. Really stinking cute in my opinion—but not cheesy cute.

Both Puck and Sean have immensely noble reasons for trying to win the Scorpio Race, but there can only be one winner. Who will it be? You’ll have to check it out to see for yourself.

Have you read The Scoprio Races? What did you think? Let me know!

*Updated: February 1, 2015

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Push - Review

Push: 30 Days to Turbocharged Habits, a Bangin' Body, and the Life You Deserve!

By: Chalene Johnson

Published: December 20th 2011 by Rodale Books

304 pages

Genre: Nonfiction, Self Help, Health

Source: Personal Library

( Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository )

*Note: The above links to Amazon and Book Depository are affiliate links. Affiliate links support giveaways for Somewhere Only We Know readers.

Goodreads description--Fitness superstar Chalene Johnson creates a revolutionary 30-day system that will allow readers to transform their bodies, their diets, and their lives!

Chalene Johnson built a fitness empire from the ground up, selling over 6 million DVDs and helping legions of loyal fans shed pounds and transform their lives with her trademark enthusiasm and energy.

PUSH, Chalene’s first book ever, distills the wisdom that has made her a fitness queen into a totally unique 30-day system that will help readers reset their priorities, get their lives together, and lose weight for good.

Chalene gives readers the life-changing tools they need to change their habits with 30 days of practical steps that include pinpointing goals, reverse engineering a course of action to achieve them, and kicking the clutter—whether that means junk food, draining exercise regimens, or toxic relationships. In one month, readers will learn how to create layers of accountability and support so that success is their only option.

Additionally, Chalene shares 30 ridiculously easy and delicious Throw-and-Go recipes that she (a self confessed mess in the kitchen) created herself. And, of course, no book from Chalene would be complete without a workout! Chalene guides readers to find their soul mate workouts—the exercises they’ll love for life and that will never feel like work. Finally, she gives readers the Bangin’ Body Workout: the 30 moves they need for total body fitness—for life!

First things first. This book is not for everyone. This book is only for those people who are willing to PUSH themselves to the next level in their lives, in their fitness journeys, in any aspect they set their minds to. For me this book is worth 5 Stars. But to others, it’s not worth their time.

Before I actually review the book, let me briefly (I hope) give you a breakdown of my fitness journey. My husband (before we got married) owned several Beachbody workout videos. Of those were Tony Horton’s Power Half Hour, Power 90, Debbie Sieber’s Slim in 6, and Chalene Johnson’s Turbo Jam. I started out my weight loss journey with Slim in 6. Not severely overweight, but never “skinny,” I decided while my husband and I were dating that I was going to do just that—get skinny. I wanted to be with my husband at all times during those first few months of dating because he made me feel so good, but that just wasn’t possible (or healthy). I needed something to replace or recreate the feelings of joy and happiness I had when I was away from him. So I started working out. I went from a size 12 to a size 6 in less than a year and only using Slim in 6.

Throughout our relationship my husband kept talking about how his favorite workout program was Turbo Jam by Chalene Johnson. I gave it a try once and told myself that I couldn’t pick up on the moves so I wasn’t going to bother…I’d just get frustrated. When we got married, I, like so many others, put on about 40 pounds, and something had to give. I tried Slim in 6 again, but either I wasn’t into it, or it just wasn’t working. I’m not sure which. Anyway, for the next two years, I was up and down with motivation for weight loss and working out—though never really down in weight. Finally, (I’d seen the program on Beachbody’s website, but just hadn’t taken the step to purchase it) a friend that I work with started talking about this new workout program called Turbo Fire. A friend of hers had lost a good bit of weight and looked great and that’s how her friend said she did it. Because I’d seen it on already I knew exactly what she was talking about and excitedly joined in the conversation with my friends. The four of us girls that work together all decided to purchase copies of Turbo Fire and help each other stay committed. My husband joined in because of his love of Turbo Jam, and off we set to achieve all our weight loss goals.

While doing Turbo Fire, the 20 week program, I lost 25 pounds. *Note: I also counted my calories using the turbo tracker from Beachbody specifically designed to go with the Turbo Fire program. The turbo tracker had a daily quote from Chalene and that helped keep me inspired and motivated. I created a group on Facebook dedicated to my friends who also have health and fitness goals and made it my purpose to be the encouragement and motivation for the group (though the others encourage and motivate me just as much). I took a brief hiatus from Turbo Fire during the holidays and due to some personal struggles that came up during that time period and committed myself to maintaining my weight loss through the holidays. After the holidays were over, I recommitted to my weight loss—getting healthy—journey and am now in week 5 of my 2nd round of Turbo Fire and am looking forward to completing the program and moving into a hybrid version of Turbo Fire and ChaLEAN Extreme. I love the way that Turbo Fire and Chalene pushes me to do more than I thought was possible and have developed a love for working out that will last me through the rest of my life. I have created a lifestyle change. And I’ve done that with the help and information included in this book.

Push does include health and fitness information, but it doesn’t stop there. Push is about developing the strong, successful habits of highly fit successful people. Yes, it’s about adopting the habits of people that are already fit and successful, but it’s about turning yourself into one of those fit and successful people. It’s about balancing your lives, goals, hopes, dreams, families, friends, eating, exercise, work/careers. It’s about getting a better, healthier, happier life and doing it on purpose. Push is about taking the steps to get your life into balance and be able to fit in all these wonderful ideas you have for yourself and for your life. It gives you the information to be a better you.

If you’re not one of those people who are constantly looking to improve yourself, then this really isn’t the book for you. But if you’re tired of mediocre, and you want to take charge of your life, then this book is just one of the ways you’re going to get there. The first section is a 30 day challenge (most people don’t make it that far—Chalene’s words, not mine though I agree). The second section is on circuit training (strength training—because muscle burns fat—also check out ChaLEAN Extreme). And the third section is a grab and go recipe/food guide. All of this information is beneficial to you if you’re willing to give it a shot. But you have to make the decision to change your life…to create lasting change. You can be a success story.

Go for it, I think you’ll be surprised at what this book can help inspire you to do with your life. But deep down, it’s all up to you. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Have you read Push? What did you think? Let me know!

Updated: January 31, 2015