Sunday, March 28, 2010

Far From You by Lisa Schroeder

Alice finds her escape in writing songs and her love for her boyfriend and then distancing herself from her father and pregnant stepmother. If only her mother hadn’t died, maybe she would be happier, but who knows, she just wishes she was still with her. As time passes Alice becomes more and more distant from her family she becomes more and more unhappy.

After a family Christmas trip though, things in Alice’s life change dramatically. On the way home Alice and her step-mother Victoria along with her new baby sister get stuck in the worst snow storm of the century. The three girls are forced to survive through brutal weather, with little food and little warmth. Along their adventure of survival though Alice has to confront many issues she hasn’t faced for years and discovers more about herself then she ever thought possible.

Alice isn’t sure if she will make it out of the storm alive, but she has discovered one thing: it sucks being alone, but she’s not sure if she really is after all.

Lisa Schroeder is definitely a talented author. She caputres my attention right away with her lyrical prose and transports me into her story. What is really special about her is that she tackles really difficult subjects, such as cancer and death, and takes them to a personal level that everyone can relate to, even if they haven’t experienced it before.

The plot itself wasn’t all that exceptional. It was predictable and didn’t really spark my attention. It was emotional and heartfelt though. The characters were really special though. Alice was very well developed and I felt like I really got into her mind and felt the same emotions she was feeling. Alice also made the mother come alive in her own way to. The few images we got of her were fantastic and even though she wasn’t present all that much, she felt so important. The other characters though were more flat, although as the end approached the step-mother became much more real.

Overall I liked this book. The writing was lyrical and the emotion was deep. It was a fast read and it wasn’t as great as her debut, but it was still solid. I look forward to reading more from Mrs. Schroeder! 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Girl with the Mermaid Hair by Delia Ephron

Sukie Jamieson is obsessed with her looks and herself. At every opportunity she gets she looks at herself in a spoon, or takes a “selfie” with her cell phone, all to make sure she looks the best. When her mother gives her a gorgeous antique mirror that used to belong to her grandmother, Sukie is ecstatic. She is so ecstatic that she forgets to adhere to her mother’s warning: “the mirror will be your best friend, but also your worst enemy.”

As Sukie’s year progresses she learns that the mirror shows not only who you are up close, but also who you are on the inside. With these revelations she sets off into the best and worst moments of her life, dealing with everything from family problems, to friendship problems, but most of all, who she really is as a person.  

To be honest I was not a fan of this book for the first half. I felt Sukie was really whiny and fake, caring to much about herself and not enough about those around her. Everything was really disconnected and confusing, but as soon as I hit the halfway mark the story got so much better. Sukie started to become aware of her surroundings and really turned into a real person. She even got my sympathy as she dealt with situations that anyone would find tough.

While the second half was definitely the better half, the ending really sealed the deal for me that this was actually a good book. There was tons of emotion and it was great to see things fall into place. The crazy characters became a little less crazy and you really got to see the amount Sukie had grown throughout the story. Throughout the book the writing was choppy, but you quickly got used to it. One thing I definitely have to give kudos to the author for his for her characterization of Sukie’s mom. Her mom was such a mean person that by the end of the book I really had an extreme dislike for her. For me, the fact that the author was able to make me feel this infuriated with a character is really neat as it means she made her real. In the end, this was a good story of friendship, loneliness and finding the true beauty in yourself that is sometimes very hard to find. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Just One Wish by Janette Rallison

Annika Truman is always being reminded of the power of positive thinking. After all her little brother, Jeremy has cancer and her parents are sure that if they all think the best will happen, than it will. The thing is though, Jeremy is starting to give up on the positive thinking when he heads in to his next big surgery and Annika will go as far as Hollywood (without her parents permission) to bring him the hope that he needs.

When Annika convinces Jeremy to make a wish with a magic genie, he wishes for something completely unexpected – for his favorite televesion star to come and visit him in person. With this new curveball, Annika’s plan is momentarily discombobbled, but she is determined as ever to see it through.

With her best friend in tow, Annika sets off to Hollywood to track down said start and will not stop at anything until she at least gets the chance to talk to him. She knows it won’t be easy and she only has a couple days, but nothing will stand in her way.

This was a cute and fluffy read all the way. While it held my attention, I wasn’t all that immersed in the book and easily finished it in a couple of hours. One thing though that really caught my attention was the humor. There were many times where I found myself laughing out loud and the incredible actions of Annika in order to get the attention of the hunky star, Steve and her failed attempts at stalking him!

The plot itself was heartwarming, with Annika’s strong love for her brother and the little bit of romance that evolved was cute albeit predictable. I thought that the Robin Hood theme was something quite original and I enjoyed seeing in a modern light. One thing that really made the book special though was the ending. The author jam-packed all of this emotion within the last pages that was absolutely breath taking and I just wished she had incorporated this more throughout the book, as it would have made the book a lot better. The characters were average, nothing special, but like I said before Annika’s love for her brother was really sweet.

Overall I liked this book and am interested to read more of Ms. Rallison’s work. This book is a great book to curl up with on a rainy day. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Triple Shot Bettys in Love by Jody Gehrman

Geena is starting to completely flip out. Her boyfriend of five months, Ben, wants to get a lot more physical then she’s ready for. Then there is Amber, dear, dear, Amber, who happens to have a crush on Geena’s delectably steamy and hot English teacher, Mr. Sands who also happens to speak to Geena’s soul. Amber knows that she has any chance of stealing the heart of Mr. Sands she is going to need help, a lot of help from Geena that is. Soon Geena finds herself writing MySpace messages to Mr. Sands and making Amber appear as an intellectual, what she doesn’t bet on though is him writing back, but he does. Geena knows that she is doing it for Amber, so it’s not technically cheating on Ben…right?

With all of this drama going on in Geena’s life it’s no wonder she’s about to have a complete melt down. Will she make it through these tough couple of months or will she completely fall apart? And more importantly, will her and Amber find true love?

This was a great sequel to TRIPLE SHOT BETTYS.  Jody Gehrman’s writing was fun and light and just kept you reading all throughout the story.  The whole subject that is dealt with is quite interesting and serious, but the author handled it with a grace that I found very remarkable and fascinating. She also seemed to have a great handle on the teenage mind and how it works with relationships and such, making very relatable characters. I also wish that Hero was a little more present, but hey it’s okay.

On the note of characters I thought that they were very real and felt like old friends. Amber was a little to whiny and I was disappointed with how Geena handled the relationship with her boyfriend, but other than that the characters were so charming and unique I just couldn’t get enough.

Overall I really liked this story and am hoping there will be more about the Bettys in the future. If you haven’t had a chance to read this super funny and great books I highly suggest you pick up a copy. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Leftovers by Heather Waldorf

In most cases when a father dies, their daughters would be distraught, but in Sarah Greene’s case relief floods over her. With his death it means that there will be no more chances for her father to abuse her and take pictures. Along with the relief though comes a nagging feeling due to a still hidden shoebox in her father’s old restaurant filled with kiddy porn that she is determined to destroy. When her desperation to find the box hits an all-time high she takes her mother’s car and crashes it – landing her in a whole heap of trouble with the law. Her punishment: doing summer-long community service at Camp Dog Gone, where shelter dogs go for a vacation.

While at “camp,” Sarah befriends a big romping dog named Judy – who is just as troubled as Sarah, - another troubled soul, Sullivan, and several other people who help her turn her life around slowly but surely. As she comes to realize what is important in her life, she breaks out of her shell that the past created and starts to heal – looking towards a brighter future.

This book is unlike many that I have read before. It takes a dark subject – sexual abuse – and turns it into a journey of healing. Using a fun background the author explores the hurt that accompanies abuse and how other people (or animals in this case) help to heal. The plot turned out to be really cute and I loved the setting with all the dogs running around.

The characters were also quite interesting. Sarah was so guarded that at times it was hard to see who she really was, but as the end of the book approached it was neat to see her personality really unfold. I also really like Sullivan. He seemed like such a happy go lucky kind of guy until you found out about his secrets – which made him very realistic. Another aspect that really stood out to me was the characterization of the dogs. Each had their own unique personality that made the reader feel as if they were curled up at their own feet.

Leftovers really has it all – humor, reality, family drama and a little bit of romance to satisfy all readers interests. It was a great book that I really enjoyed and urge you all to go and pick up a copy for yourself. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Navel of the World by P.J. Hoover

At the end of summer school last year Benjamin Holt had one outstanding homework assignment – to find his two missing brothers. The thing is, Benjamin has no idea how he is ever going to accomplish this, especially since he won’t be in Lemuria for a long while. What perplexes him even more is the fact that he and his brothers are the three people that keeps the worlds in balance. This news is almost too much for him to bear, especially since he is so young, but it also pushes him farther to find the whereabouts of his brothers.

Over spring break Benjamin gets the opportunity to intern at his father’s law office where he finds a mysterious file with his name on it. The only problem with the file is that he can’t read it as it is in ancient Lemurian, but at least he has some sort of clue. When he finally arrives back in Lumeria he is greeted by his telegen pals, continuing on with their studies, along with learning the art of time travel. With this new power in stow the Emerald Tablet Alliance sets off across the earth in search of the missing brothers.

Goodness these books are good! They are so jam packed with adventure that it is hard not to love them. With the combination of the great plot and characters, along with the flawless writing it was quite difficult to put the book down. The world that was created – Lemuria – was so cool – as in I was it was real. What was even better about Lemuria was it felt real. You could hear the footsteps on the path and bell jingling when the characters walked into a shop.

The characters were also very interesting. Benjamin was so determined to find his brothers that I felt myself cheering for him along his journey – which sounded like a lot of fun! Also the characters just clicked together. It was interesting to see their relationships unfold and again it was very real. The ending was probably the best part of the book. It made my heart race with anticipation, which I never wanted to end. Sadly it did though, leaving lots of room for the next book.

This book is definitely one suitable for anyone looking for adventure and fun. I compared the first book, The Emerald Tablet, to the Percy Jackson series, but after reading this book I dare say that they are better! I cannot wait to read more from PJ Hoover as she is absolutely fantastic, and I urge everyone, young or old, to pick up a copy and see for themselves how cool Lemuria is!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Would Emma Do by Eileen Cook

The golden rule of friendship: “Thou Shalt Not Kiss Thy Best Friend’s Boyfriend.” Well Emma seems to have forgotten this one simple rule and the thing is she’s forgotten it before. It doesn’t take time for her best friend to find out and soon the whole small town knows about it too. Now her best friend is furious with her, her relationship with her best guy friend has gotten kind of weird, and in her ultra religious town she is having a hard time figuring out quite what to do (can anyone say WWJD?) and where she can fit in. With this entire ordeal going on, Emma isn’t sure how she’s going to have a good senior year, especially trying to please everyone and hopefully getting the idea of kissing unmentionable people out of her mind. Not to mention that she’s on the verge of a huge social disaster. Maybe its finally time for her to think more “What Would Emma Do?” then “What does everyone want Emma to do?”

Ahh this book had me in fits of laughter. Every little bit of it was great and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Emma’s character was great and her whole story just clicked for me and as I said before, I found myself liking it a lot. One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was the letters Emma wrote to God. They were funny and thoughtful and really helped the reader understand Emma in a whole new way. Much of the plot was unexpected and I enjoyed how it was a religious comedy, without being in your face. The characters were well developed, especially Emma. I just could not get enough of her and the situations she got herself in were fantastically funny. I also really enjoyed the author’s style. Her writing was quick and to the point, with enough detail to satisfy the reader, but not too much. Overall I really enjoyed this book and absolutely cannot wait to read more of Eileen Cook!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Just east of the seven kingdoms we all came to love in Graceling, is a land called the Dells. In the Dells, beautiful creatures named monsters inhibit the valleys, mountains, and everywhere in between. While these creatures resemble normal animals, such as cats, dragonflies, fish, etc. they have brilliantly colored and they have the power to manipulate human’s minds’.  

Some of these monsters even come in human form, but now seventeen-year-old Fire is the last one left. Like all monsters she is unfairly gorgeous and attracts all the men, but she also shares the ability to control people’s minds, which can get her in some serious trouble. While many people are drawn towards Fire, many others detest her and frown upon all she does. Thankfully a family takes in her, becoming the only family she really knows.  

When political issues begin to rise and powers from the north and south start to conspire against King Nash, him and his brother Brigan have no choice but to call in the help of Fire. Together they learn to put aside their vast differences and try their hardest to dispel the ideas of King Nash being overthrown. Through it all they encounter war, several conspiracies, and worst of all – a small boy with strange two-colored eyes and an unusual ability that Graceling readers will find eerily familiar.

Wow, just wow! This book was just plain phenomenal and honestly it is quite difficult to put in to words how wonderful I thought this was. The characters were so real and I could literally feel the wind in my face and hear the birds overhead. The plot was also extremely interesting and I loved the connections it made to Graceling – although it is not necessary to have read Graceling before hand.  

I very much enjoyed Fire’s spitfire attitude and independence – as I believe it is essential for a strong female character to posses these traits. Her attitude quickly grew on me and I found myself cheering for her along her journey and tearing up along side her sorrows. I also loved the few connections that it made to Graceling. They were subtle, yet obvious at the same time and just made me smile. They also made me go “so that’s why this happened.”  

With a fast paced, action packed plot, fantastic characters, and seamless writing there is no way you could go wrong picking up Fire. It will take you to the mystical world of the Dells and leave you there even after the last page despite the fact that you'll never want to leave. This has definitely become one of my favorite books and dare I say that it is better than Graceling!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sleepaway Girls by Jen Calonita

Sam is not crazy about spending the summer as a third wheel, with her best friend Mal and her new boyfriend listening to the sounds of “pookie” and “sweetie.” Looking for a way to get out, Sam finds a job as a counselor-in-training at Whispering Pines camp in the New York Catskills. Never having been to camp before she expects a somewhat idyllic experience, but what she gets is something she would never have guessed in a million years. When Sam gets to camp things start to go downhill fast and she’s not sure if the summer will turn out as great as she was expecting it to. First there is Ashley, the resident queen bee of Whispering Pines, and then there is the absolutely hot and flirtatious counselor Hunter, who is not as innocent as he seems, and then there is Cole, who is just too funny and always teasing Sam, but he’s just a friend, or at least that’s what she wants to think. There are some highlights to her days though, such as: her new cabin friends who brighten her day and then the cute campers that she helps out with. How will Sam’s summer camp experience turn out? No one, not even her, knows. This book was a really fun look at summer camp. By the time I was finished with SLEEPAWAY GIRLS I was ready to pack my bags and head off to camp too! It’s a great book for a car ride or the beach or any other fun summery activity. The plot was fun and real and made you feel those mosquito bites, just like Sam. At times though it was a bit repetitive and dragged on. The characters were interesting. I felt that Sam really needed to stand up for herself, as it got boring when she kept getting stepped on and didn’t do anything. Cole was always there to make the reader laugh and Ashley was your perfect, pure evil villain. Overall I liked this book. The ending was a bit predictable, but the setting of the book was impeccable. This is a great book for all aged young adult readers as they will get lost in the fun of summer camp and all the drama that it brings!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott

Amy’s best friend Julia is gone. She has been now for seventy-five days and Amy is still not sure how to survive. Everyday she wakes up thinking about how it is her fault that Julia is gone and there is nothing she can do to bring her back. When Amy’s shrink suggests that she keep a diary, she guffaws at the idea, but she soon finds herself writing letters to Julia. She writes about the past and the present and discusses all of her feelings throughout her letters. What she realizes though is that the past wasn’t all that perfect nor was Julia, like Amy thought she was. She also finds that there might be some great opportunities in the present as well and who knows what the future will hold? As Amy writes her letters she also starts a healing process and discovers a lot about herself that she never knew about. She also learns how to make friends again and to become her own person, which just happens to be the most important journey of all. Elizabeth Scott is a phenomenal author. I have loved each book she has written, but for me this one just wasn’t as good. Yes, it was an emotional powerhouse, but well that’s about it to be honest. The characters got on my nerves a bit and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was just something lacking. The plot really went into the mind of someone dealing with death, grief and finding new friends, which I found interesting. I do have to commend the author though on creating very real characters. The teens didn’t feel to old or young and I could actually picture them being real, which added to the authenticity of the story. As for the characters, I really think they were the downfall. I understand that Amy was griefstricken, but she honestly got really whiny and on my nerves. About halfway through the book I was ready for her to get over her problems and just be thankful she was alive. The parents were also annoying as they were so distant and uninvolved in their daughter’s life that it was hard to believe they couldn’t see the pain she was in. Overall I liked this book. Ms. Scott’s writing was impeccable, even though the magic it usually has wasn’t present. I did appreciate though the very thorough and realistic look at grief that was portrayed. I definitely cannot wait for more from Elizabeth Scott.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker

Quinn Parker is about to have the summer of her life. She’s flying out to Austin, Texas to live with her cousin Penny and has a job working for the label of her favorite indie rock band. The only thing that could make this music filled summer any better would be a boy, the perfect boy in fact. The thing is though, there is no such thing as perfect. Her summer fling becomes a huge question and then there’s the cute cowboy next door who just seems to bring the heat to Quinn’s summer. Then there’s the fact that Penny turns out to be a sorority bimbette who is completely opposite of Quinn. Then there’s her job, which is more like a half-job and leaves Quinn with a bit too much free time. Well it might not turn out as the all time best summer, Quinn definitely is in for an eye-opening summer vacation.

Melissa Walker is one of the best authors for teen girls. She gets them and understands how to pique their interest. Lovestruck Summer was no exception to her awesome books streak and I really, really liked it!

The plot was fun and cute. There were a couple twists and turns that really added to the positive vibe the book cast. I loved the focus on music and the setting was a lot of fun. While it was fluffy, it was one of the best chick-lit books I have read in a long time. It satisfied my romantic heart and completely transported me to the sweltering heat of Austin with every page turn. Melissa Walker definitely knows her way around a romance as she made me lust for a summer as supreme as Quinn’s.

For a fluffy romance book I was pleasantly surprised with the characters. I felt all the characters really came to life, all with their own quirks. Even Penny, your classic sorority girl, was 3-D with her spunky dialogue and of course her cross-dressing dog. Quinn was funny and relatable. I loved how the reader got to see her develop friendships. I often found myself wanting to screat at her from being so blind when it came to guys, but hey it was worth it!

On a side note, there were many tiny refrences to the Violet books which made me giggle, a lot. It was just another element that added to the cuteness factor of this book.

Overall this was such a fun read and I encourage you all to pick it up and give it a go.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why Young Adults should read YA

So a couple of weeks ago I got approached by one of my school's newspaper editors to write an article about why teens should read young adult - as they felt many at our school shied away from the genre. I thought I would share it with you all and see what your opinions were on the matter!

At some point in time we have all walked into a bookstore and seen the section completely devoted to teens. Most of us though do not think to take a second glance and keep on walking, as they seem to think they are to young for them, or are too much like their everyday lives. The thing is though, there is a plethora of books in this section to choose from that are enjoyed by all age groups and have so much to offer.  Their topics range from high school highs, high-strung adventures, cliquey romances to the many emotional issues that so many teens face. They also act as portals to unknown worlds, just as books have promised to do for years. The characters are so commonplace – they almost feel as if they could be your best friend, or arch nemesis – it is easy to relate to them and find some semblance to your own life.

As someone who is quite familiar with this genre – I have had the pleasure of professionally reviewing over 300 different titles – I feel that I can say that you should all try at least one good YA book. You will see that the authors try extraordinarily hard to make sure that everything from the clothes that the characters wear to their facial expressions, fits in line with our everyday lives. I have also found that YA authors try so hard, that their books come out so much better. It’s like applying to college - you know you will write a better essay for Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, then one of those easy to get into schools. The same thing happens with YA authors – they bust their butts to write a good book for teens, as they know we are a tough bunch to impress, rather than a mediocre book for adults where the audience is much less selective. Because of this fact, YA books end up just being better in regards to writing and storyline.  

Now many people have reservations about reading YA books as they are too focused on teens, or you do not want to read about a life you already know about, but here’s the thing – you get to see a new person’s life in a different light. Also, a lot of the time the only reason why YA books are classified as such is because their main character is a teenager. Take Megan McCafferty’s “Jessica Darling” series, which starts out being about a senior in high school and all her calamities and then proceeds to follow her throughout her college years. Within the books there is gossip, juicy scandals, and oh so much more and all of it has been enjoyed by countless teens and adults alike – and the only reason that you would find it in the teen section is because the main character happens to be 17.  Look at the Twilight series. I think every person, whether young or old, has probably enjoyed these books and they are classified as YA. As you can see, YA books are not young, they do not represent a genre that we have outgrown – they are simply books about teens, meant to be enjoyed by all, but in particular teens themselves. Just think, you have years and years to enjoy the thousands of adult books that are out there, but only a few to cherish those that have to do with you, right now.


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