Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release date: April 17, 2012
Source: Purchased

It’s been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA’s unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space–and change their lives forever.


Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band’s ticket to fame and fortune.


Midori believes it’s her way out of her restrained life in Japan.


Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.


It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space… no one is coming to save them.


In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true.

I was bored for the first half of this book. I didn’t think I’d end up liking it at all, which was sad since I had really been looking forward to this. By the end though it was okay, but only because it did manage to creep me out. Seriously, the second half was so creepy.

For the most part, the book seemed choppy. Back and forth between different characters every single chapter and it was sometimes hard to tell who’s POV you were reading at first. And even though we’re given information about the characters, I still didn’t connect for some reason. I didn’t feel for them.

Another thing that bothered me was the lack of tension building. The cover hints at something ominous, as does a chapter here or there throughout the first half of the book, and yet tension still wasn’t building for me. Not until they actually got to the moon and then it was like BAM everything happening all at once. First slow pacing and then super fast pacing. The last third of the book was extremely creepy, but still left me a little confused. One critical question I had was never answered as far as I can tell so I don’t even know how the end came about really.

Overall, I think for me at least something may have just gotten lost in the translation of this book. I think it would have maybe been better as a movie instead of a book. I would suggest borrowing this if you’re interested in reading it.

Review: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: January 2012
Source: Purchased
Series: Standalone

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances… a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life… and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last…

This is another book I’ve read while on a contemporary kick and I adored it. I have to say I think I like the contemporaries with sports themes, even though I’m not actually a fan of most sports. I like playing in a few, but I never watch any. Anyways, I’ve have always had a little bit of interest in figure skating, judging by the different movies I’ve watched over the years. That sport is actually fun to watch because of how graceful the skaters are, and the routines they do paired with music, etc.

One thing I absolutely loved about this book were the cupcake descriptions that went along with every chapter title. Like this one for chapter fourteen: Cupcakes with Benefits – Vanilla cupcakes topped with whipped peanut butter cream cheese icing, milk chocolate chips, crushed pretzels, and a drizzle of warm caramel. Some of my favorite parts of this book were when she was just in the kitchen at Hurley’s baking away the day.

Some of the interactions between all the different characters were frustrating, but then again the drama is what moves the story along, so I didn’t let it bother me too much. There’s definitely romance in this book, and for a while Hudson was going in one direction and I was absolutely cheering for that direction but after she heard something at a party she decided to go in another direction, without even getting confirmation about what she heard. Then I have to admit I was banging my head some. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more of the father, but his lack of presence also helped shape things.

I can understand Hudson’s obsession with wanting to get out of Watonka. I live in a smallish town, but not super small since we do have a university. I believe there are around 27,700+ people here. But it’s small enough that there really isn’t a whole lot for the younger crowd to do even with the university here. It’s one of those places that you kind of chafe in while growing up and you move away for a while. But then when you have kids of your own you come back to this place. I too have felt the desire to leave and never look back, but it’s not always the place that makes it home, it’s the people you know too. And I think at one point Hudson does come to realize that.

Bittersweet was my introduction to Sarah Ockler, and I have to say I’m definitely interested in reading her other books after this one. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves YA contemporary romances, especially ones with sports themes in them. 

May 2012 TBR Pile

 It’s already the fifth month of this year! Where has time gone? It’s just flying by at the speed of light. Anyways, this month is going to be an awesome month. So many great books are coming out, a couple of which I plan to read immediately, and others of which will probably wait a while. I don’t have money to buy all of them unfortunately. 🙁 But here is what I plan on reading this month!

My last book of April is 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad, and I’ve decided to read Grave Mercy next because I’m hearing awesome things about it, and Bekka at Pretty Deadly Reviews suggested reading it as soon as possible. That may change though because both Insurgent and Wentworth Hall come out on May 1st and I have them pre-ordered at my local bookstore. I may resort to a coin toss or Random.org to tell me which to read first.

I’m also really excited for Revived, and would you look at that cover?! It’s a beautiful book. These last three books are ones I’ve had on my shelf for a while, and I’m trying to do a mix of both brand new and somewhat older books each month. Not that they’re really old, they were all only released last year. I’d like to finally get around to them though because they were all ones I’d been eagerly anticipating before they released.

So that’s the official list of what I plan to read for next month. I have, however, signed up for Bout of Books 4.0, which is happening between May 14th and 20th. So I may finish all 8 books ahead of time and have time for an extra book or two. I won’t decide now which ones those will be though, I’ll just pick randomly when that time comes!

Books That I Bought This Week!

Four of these I actually just bought tonight, and one last week. I went to the bookstore tonight to see if they had Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris, because I absolutely loved it so much when I read the ARC that I needed a finished copy on my shelf too. Well, I found Unraveling, as well as two other books that had just been released as well! Usually half the time I go to this particular bookstore looking for something specific I end up disappointed. But not this time!

So excited for all of these, wish I could dig into all of them at once! It’ll be tough figuring out which I want to read first after I finish Sweet Venom. If you have any suggestions or have a particular book you’d like to see a review of soon from this pile just let me know!

Brand new look for Starry Sky Books!

I’ve been changing around my look every now and then, never really happy with what I have. And at this time I can’t afford to pay for a custom design, so when I stumbled upon Delicious Design Studio and noticed they had a couple of free designs I immediately pounced! I love the simplicity of it, and the colors. While I still eventually would like to save up for a custom design, I think I’ll be very happy with this design in the mean time.

What do you guys think? Do you like it? Hate it? Let me know!

Review: Partials by Dan Wells

Partials by Dan Wells
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: February 28, 2012
Source: Purchased
Series: Partials #1

Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out.

When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.

Combining the fast-paced action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Battlestar Galactica, Partials is a pulse-pounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question—one where our sense of humanity is both our greatest liability, and our only hope for survival.
I almost gave up on Partials. I started it in early March, and it just wasn’t grabbing me, even 150 pages in. Too much worldbuilding and setup and not enough story movement. So I put it down for nearly a month. Then I picked it back up again, because I don’t like to not finish a book if I can help it. I know a lot of people have a 50 page rule, or even up to 100 page rule, but I don’t. I have more of a time rule. If it takes me too long to get even halfway through, like the year it took me to get have way through the first Shannara book, then I give up. Partials is divided into three parts, and the first part is the slowest and hardest part to read. That may be off-putting to some of you, but it is worth it to get through that first part. I’m very glad I did.
The second two parts have tons of action and story movement. I liked most of the characters well enough, though they didn’t really feel their ages to me. Kira was supposed to be 16, but she felt older than that. But that could also work since in a world like theirs, especially with something they have called The Hope Act, you would have to grow up hard and fast. I didn’t like Marcus, who was Kira’s love interest. First we don’t really see him all that much, and second even when we did see him I have to admit he kind of acted oppressive. Definitely not attractive. I liked the Partial Samm even more, and definitely want to see the interaction between him and Kira in the second book. For the most part though, the story is definitely lacking in the romance department.
Partials was one of my most looked forward to books in 2012 so far, and I have to say it didn’t quite meet up with my expectations, but in the end it didn’t fall too short either. I will definitely be reading the sequel, especially since more questions were asked than answered, and I have to know what happens with all the different things going on.

YA Contemporary – I’ve been converted.

I’m going to come straight out and say it: Until I started blogging, I wasn’t a fan of contemporary books. I love fantasy. I love visiting other worlds, and meeting people that aren’t always actually human. Those kinds of books are always great for escaping every day life when you’re having a rough day. But lately I seem to be reading more and more contemporary stories. I decided to high light some of my favorites in this post, as a shout out to a genre that I’m coming to love as much as I love fantasy.

BEFORE BLOGGING

Before blogging I didn’t read contemporary very often. I didn’t enjoy this genre when I was the age of most of the characters in these books mostly because at the time, my life was no where near any of the stories in these books. I seemed to read on extreme opposite ends though with this genre. Half seemed to be books that were light and fluffy, that dealt a little tiny bit with issues everyone faces every day. Like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad, or the Gossip Girl series, and similar series to that.
On the other end were books like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Teach Me by R.A. Nelson, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. These dealt with heavier issues. Death, suicide, relations between adults and young not-quite adults. My main reason for reading books like If I Stay and Before I Fall was because I wanted to see how these characters would act when faced with the possibility of their death earlier than expected. I thought in some small way they might help me overcome my own fear and accept what is reality. I still have trouble with that most of the time, but those books were well written and definitely invite you to think about what is going on with those characters, and how they relate to your life.

AFTER BLOGGING

In the last year and a half of blogging, out of 140ish books I’ve read about 23 young adult contemporary. I like this genre more now because of the romantic element that can be found in many of the books, and because my own high school life is thankfully blurry in my memory. The ones pictured are my favorites of all the contemporaries I’ve read, pre-blogging up through now.
All of those authors have well written books, characters that pop off the page and feel like real friends and family. Some still cover serious issues, like Don’t Breathe a Word, and others are just light romantic fluff. And many manage to even write humor well. It’s not often a book can actually make me laugh out loud at work on my lunch break. But Anna and the French Kiss succeeded. Catching Jordan would have too had I not stayed up all night to read that one.
All in all, I’m glad that I’ve been reading more young adult contemporaries. They’re a nice break from what I usually read, and are very enjoyable. And to think I almost missed out on a book like Catching Jordan just because I don’t actually like football. If you guys haven’t read any of these, I seriously recommend doing so at the first opportunity.
What about you guys? Do you have any favorites you think I should read that I maybe haven’t yet? Or are you fellow converts taking your time delving into this genre? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Review: Belles by Jen Calonita

Belles by Jen Calonita
Publisher: Poppy
Release date: April 10, 2012
Source: Purchased
Series: Belles #1

Fifteen-year-old Isabelle Scott loves her life by the boardwalk on the supposed wrong side of the tracks in North Carolina. But when tragedy strikes, a social worker sends her to live with a long-lost uncle and his preppy privileged family. Isabelle is taken away from everything she’s ever known, and, unfortunately, inserting her into the glamorous lifestyle of Emerald Cove doesn’t go so well. Her cousin Mirabelle Monroe isn’t thrilled to share her life with an outsider, and, in addition to dealing with all the rumors and backstabbing that lurk beneath their classmates’ Southern charm, a secret is unfolding that will change both girls’ lives forever.
Warning: If you have the finished copy of this, DO NOT LOOK IN THE BACK UNTIL YOU ARE FINISHED WITH BELLES! There is a summary for the second book that could totally spoil you. I know because it spoiled me somewhat. Though that did only make me want to read it even more to see how stuff was revealed.
Anyways, THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. As I know I’ve mentioned I do most of my reading at work on breaks, but this one I dug into and spent one evening doing nothing but reading Belles because it was that good. I love the southern atmosphere it conveyed. And the people. I don’t read contemporary too often, maybe once every other month on average. But these characters felt so real. And I felt like I was actually there while reading.
Izzie is amazing. She grew up faster than she should have had to to take care of her grandmother. She’s strong. Mira pissed me off most of the time, just because she’s so selfish. She does redeem herself a little bit at the end, just a little bit. I’ll be interested in seeing her character grow more in the second book after learning something shocking. My favorite character though was Mira’s brother Hayden. He’s just got everything together, and was one of the most welcoming when Izzie joined the Monroe family.
There was romance for both Izzie and Mira, and it was sweet. But it didn’t overshadow the overall story, which was nice. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who loves contemporary young adult books, especially if you love southern settings! I’m seriously stoked for Winter White, which will actually get into the cotillion season, and I love those kinds of things.

Review: The Fame Game by Lauren Conrad

Book title and author name
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: April 3, 2012
Source: Finished copy for review from publisher
Series: The Fame Game #1


In Hollywood, fame can be found on every corner and behind any door. You just have to know where to look for it. Nineteen-year-old Madison Parker made a name for herself as best frenemy of nice-girl-next-door Jane Roberts on the hot reality show L.A. Candy. Now Madison’s ready for her turn in the spotlight and she’ll stop at nothing to get it. Sure, she’s the star of a new show, but with backstabbing friends and suspicious family members trying to bring her down, Madison has her work cut out for her. Plus, there’s a new nice girl in “reality” town—aspiring actress Carmen Price, the daughter of Hollywood royalty—and she’s a lot more experienced at playing the fame game… When the camera’s start rolling, whose star will shine brighter?

Filled with characters both familiar and new, Lauren Conrad’s series about the highs and lows of being famous delivers Hollywood gossip and drama at every turn.

I read L.A. Candy a few years ago, when I had an idea of who Lauren Conrad was. I remember enjoying it, but for some reason or other never got around to reading the two sequels that followed. Then I was sent an arc of The Fame Game, the spin off series. It sat on my shelf for the last month though, until another copy arrived in the mail. I’d been in a bit of a reading slump, so I thought why not try this book.
Now first of all, let me just say that as much as I love reading, I don’t actually read at home all that often anymore. I mostly read on my breaks and lunch at work now. But I enjoyed this book so much that I stayed up late a few nights ago to finish it. There’s so much drama and I have to admit I am a drama whore. I can’t get enough of it. My favorite characters were Kate & Carmen. Kate is this “nobody” from the midwest who moves to L.A. to try and make it as a musician. Carmen was born from Hollywood royalty but is still human. Gaby wasn’t given much development since she’s just supposed to be the stupid/ditzy sidekick. I actually hope to see more development for her in the next book. Madison is that character you love to hate and hate to love. But there is a huge twist for her that will you shocked.
Overall, I’m definitely looking forward to the next in this new series by Lauren Conrad. I can’t wait to see what happens to The Fame Game after the shocking ending.

In My Mailbox {46}

 In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, showcasing what you received in the mail, bought, or borrowed from friends or the library for that week. So here’s what I got this week! All links lead you to Goodreads.

traded
I traded for these back in February, before my extended “break.”
bought
over the last month