Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 Blogging Resolutions

Even though this is a brand new blog, I still feel like making some blogging resolutions is a pretty good idea. There are some goals I really, really want to accomplish next year. Most, hopefully, within the first few months of the new year. I've had other blogs before - personal ones that all seemed to die off within a couple of months. I really, really don't want that to happen to this one. I'm crossing my fingers some of these will help me stay on track. ;D

  • To start off simply, I would actually like to read 1 classic novel every two months, with my year-end goal being 6. I'm setting my aims low, so that next year, if this was easy, I can increase. I love so many classic novels, and there are tons I've always wanted to read, so I really want to try to squeeze some in.
  • Network, network, network! I'm going to have to face my fears and actually join Twitter. Maybe even make a Facebook page. I also need to not be so nervous to talk to other bloggers and get advice!
  • I want to join at least one challenge for 2011. I've really got my eye on the DAC challenge as of right now. I definitely think having quotas and whatnot keeps me on track.
  • I really need to find my own reviewing voice - I'm still, and actually always have been, a little nervous about it. I need to focus on how I'm going to plot out my reviews, what questions I need to pose to myself, and just the general feeling I want to give.
  • I want to start maybe one or two of my own blog "features". I think they're really, really fun, and it would give me something to talk about besides books - maybe touch on a few of my other passions in life.
  • Participate in memes! But I'm limiting myself to maybe only one or two. I don't want my blog to be nothing but memes every week, but I think they're really fun.
  • Lastly (so far!), I want to kind of broaden my reading horizons. Maybe step out of my normal comfort zone. I'd like to read more contemporary fiction - because I swear, it seems like all I read is fantasy and paranormal sometimes. There's a whole world of genres out there I would absolutely love to explore.

That's my list so far. I may keep adding to it once things start popping in my head. Of course, the most obvious goal is to actually finish the blog and get everything up and running! Hopefully my procrastinator ways won't get in the way too bad. ;D

Review: Mockingjay

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Category: Young Adult
Page Count: 390
Release Date: August 2010
Series: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire
Source: Library
Quick Rating: 5/5

My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans - except Katniss.

The success of the rebellions hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mocking jay - no matter what the personal cost.

What can I say about Mockingjay that hasn’t already been said a hundred times over? Best book of 2010? Probably. One of the best series to ever hit the young adult shelves? Definitely.

This is the series I would hand to someone who would never in a million years give young adult a chance. I would hand this to boys, girls, young or old. I will admit, I finished this over Christmas, and upon receiving a B&N gift card, the box set of this series was one of the first things I bought. I’ve become a total Hunger Games fan girl, and there’s no going back at this point. I foresee t-shirts and key chains in my future.

The pace, as always, was fast, but never felt rushed. The entire time, I felt myself just wanting to reach out to Katniss, wanting to hug her and shake her silly all at the same time. This was probably the most tense of the books for me, understandably. There’s a lot of freaky stuff that goes on in Mockingjay! The reptilian mutts? Totally creepy.

Really, I just want to gush until I’m blue in the face. I loved Katniss, as always, and I lover her many transformations. I loved Peeta. I adored Finnick, Prim, and Buttercup. I laughed, I gasped, I cried. I  never wanted it to end. The ending was, to me, the only way it could have ended. It was perfect, and left me warm and fuzzy inside, hoping that maybe finally, Katniss could be happy. Could I read ten more installments of the Hunger Games? Of course! But I’m glad it ended where it did, and I’m actually glad I waited so long to read the series. I don’t think I would have survived the long wait between Catching Fire and Mockingjay with my sanity intact.

Final Word: Really, if you haven’t read it yet, you’re insane. Pick up this series today! It’s the perfect time, with all three out, and a movie set to start filming in 2011. Even if you don’t like YA, I can almost guarantee you will fall in love with the Hunger Games.


Tea: It only seems appropriate to give this final installment a tea that transforms. I would recommend a blooming tea.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: Catching Fire

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Category: Young Adult
Page Count: 400
Release Date: September 2009
Series: The Hunger Games
Source: Library
Quick Rating: 5/5

Flames are igniting. Flames are spreading. And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

There is something so wonderful and so frustrating about a good cliffhanger ending. Catching Fire has one of those endings that leaves me with my jaw hanging open and going “Huh-what? What just happened?” The whole huge plot twist is within the last couple of pages, and it’s abrupt and amazing and overwhelming all at once.

*Sorta-Spoiler* Like, where’ Peeta? Is he still alive? Where’s Katniss’s family? What happened to Gale’s family? And WTF happened  to District 12?!

Normally, I give myself a little time to absorb a book before jumping into the next, to think about my review. I am so desperate to start Mockingjay I literally hand-wrote this moments after closing the book, so I could get my Catching Fire thoughts out of my head, and stay up all night reading the final book.

I also can’t believe Mockingjay is it! I’m nervous about starting it, actually. Can it all be resolved in only one more book? And I still can’t make up my mind. I think I’m still team Peeta, but I do like Gale quite a bit too. I think I’ll just vote for Katniss to start her own pretty-boy harem. :D

Final Word: Left me even more eager than the ending of The Hunger Games did! The plot twist, not only once, but twice, is mind-boggling, and I can’t wait to dive head-first into Mockingjay.


Tea: Something with a punch! From my own shelf, I’d pick Get Charged energy tea from The Republic of Tea.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Category: Young Adult
Page Count: 374
Release Date: October 2008
Source: Library
Quick Rating: 5/5

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before - and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.
I’ll be the first to admit that I kind of avoided The Hunger Games like the plague when I first started really getting in to YA, and now I’m probably one of the last to read it. I really, really regret only picking it up now.

Katniss is a wonderful girl, with so much thrust upon her at a young age, that you can’t help but empathize with her. Her determination to never appear weak is admirable, and her strength is incomparable. I love super strong female leads, and Katniss does not disappoint at one single point - even when she lets her hard outer shell crack just a bit.  *Mini-spoiler!* The scene with Rue made me extremely teary-eyed.

I’m not going to go on and on about how wonderful this book is, because there are hundreds of reviews already out there saying the exact same thing. Hundreds of thousands of people already know how entirely awesome this series is, and I’m totally jealous I missed out on all the real Mockingjay hype earlier this summer.

Basically, I’m just really glad I have all three checked out from my library, because I just devoured the last half of The Hunger Games in one sitting, and I’m itching for more.

(As of right now, I’m totally Team Peeta, but I just feel like I haven’t seen enough of Gale yet to be absolutely firm. We’ll see how my feelings develop!)

The Final Word: If you’re one of the crazy people out there who still have not given The Hunger Games a shot need to run out right now and get them. You will not be disappointed.


Tea: Something strong and simple to represent Katniss - plain green tea would be my choice.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Under Construction til January!

I just wanted to take a quick moment to mention, in case anyone stumbles over my blog, that I'm technically under construction until January. "The Tealeaf Review" is my New Year's Resolution this year, and I'm hoping to actually be fully up and running by at least the first week of January.

So, there's going to be a few "test" posts, and a lot of things are going to move around. A lot. Because I can never make up my mind. :D

The Tealeaf Reviewer -- Liz Tea

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: The Search for WondLa

Title: The Search for WondLa
Author: Tony DiTerlizzi
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Category: Middle Grade
Page Count: 477
Release Date: September 2010
Source: Library
Quick Rating: 5/5

“Don’t you get it, Muthr?” Eva said, affronted. “Look at the girl and her parent. Look at their robot. See how happy they all are?”

Eva Nine had never seen the actual sun before, or walked outdoors. In fact, she had never even seen another living person in all twelve years of her life. That changes when a marauding huntsman destroys her underground home and sends her fleeing for her life. She is desperate to find someone else who is like her, and a single clue gives her hope: a crumbling picture of a girl, a robot, an adult, and the word WondLa.

The Search for WondLa begins a trilogy whose imaginative text and breathtaking illustrations are sure to inspire dreams.

The Search is just the beginning…

So I’m super excited for my first review on this brand-spankin’ new blog to be such a fantastic book. I’ve never picked up a Tony DiTerlizzi book before, though I watched The Spiderwick Chronicles movie when it came out. I think I’m definitely going to have to pick up that series after reading The Search for Wondla.

WondLa is about Eva Nine, a twelve-year-old girl raised by her robot, Muthr, in an underground facility called a Sanctuary. Eva longs for nothing but seeing the surface, and has her dreams thrust upon her one evening when a dangerous huntsman destroys her home. She finds the world strange and dangerous, and unlike anything she has been trained for.

I really genuinely enjoyed this book, and it surprised me, as I usually don’t read anything from the “juvenile” section. However, I love seeing a good sci-fi novel out there for kids, and I was impressed at how the book didn’t “talk down” to it’s audience, like a lot of juvenile fiction I’ve encountered. It also tackles some very adult themes, such as death, slaughter of innocents, and guilt.

The pull for this book from the beginning for me was, though, the absolutely stunning artwork! I’m a sucked for books with illustrations, and WondLa definitely did not disappoint in that area. The two-tonal art plates pop up at the beginning of every chapter, with a few smaller ones scattered throughout - some of which are important for things outside the book.

The characters were all extremely likable. Eva Nine was a bit of a brat, but a believable one. Mr. DiTerlizzi definitely got the personality of a twelve-year-old girl down to a t. Muthr is a strong presence, though she isn’t in the forefront of the story the entire time. Rovender Kitt is the strong, adult personality needed to keep Eva on her path, and Otto the giant water bear is just too cute for words.

My only cons for the book was a slow start (though that was just me personally), and one “squick”-worthy scene involving the huntsman, but again, that’s just my own personal taste.

The cliffhanger ending was absolutely perfect, and has me hungry for more. Fortunately, this is a trilogy, and I cannot wait for the next one to come out! I’m thinking this may even be one I’ll buy for myself.

I would like to take a moment to mention the book’s absolutely wonderful website. It has character bios, a coming-soon art gallery, author bio, free desktop wallpapers, and a super fun find-the-difference game that had me hooked. However, the best part of the site is the WONDLA-VISION, or Augmented Reality. To use this special feature, you’ll have to have a copy of the book, and a webcam. This interactive feature really sold it for me, especially coming from a sci-fi book. It just worked so perfectly! Check out the site for more information (and listen to the really awesome music) at:

The Final Word: Great sci-fi for a younger audience, fantastic concepts, and beautiful art. A must-read for any age.


Tea: Something spicy and exotic. From my own tea shelf, I’d pick Hot Cinnamon Sunset from Harney & Sons Fine Teas.