Sunday, July 31, 2011

On Being in a Slump

Every so often I find myself in a slump of the reading variety; however, this time isn't exactly a reading slump, but more of a blogging one.

It probably doesn't help that today I'm super tired, having stayed up to register for Pottermore. (Which, sidenote, was a successful mission. I am now moonstonecentuar33. Gosh, those username options were terrible.) But still, I have just not felt up to blogging lately. It's not like I've been busy-- quite the opposite. All I've been doing is watching movies and Doctor Who and reading. All of which have been full of lovely stories; for example, I'm reading The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson right now and it's stunningly good, if a bit difficult to get through because of how dense it is.

But, I think the slump comes from me blogging for so long that it feels like there's fewer things left to say. I even feel my reviews becoming repetitive lately, with the same complaints over and over. I think it's just much harder to impress me now that I've read hundreds of books; it's harder to stand out, and because not much stands out, I'm not very compelled to discuss all the eh things. There are a few things I'm excited to discuss later this week, though, which may help on my quest to get out of this slump.

Or, if you have any tips, please do share. On to the next episode of Doctor Who I go.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie.

I bought a couple things this week, which is always fun. However, they are both sequels, so I shall not post the summaries, as they are spoiler-y.

But they are both very pretty, so we can admire the covers:


I went to a book signing that featured Andrea Cremer (Nightshade), Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss !!!), and Kiersten White this week, so I bought Supernaturally to get signed by Kiersten while I was there. (I already had copies of the other books.) Its predecessor, Paranormalcy, is so much fun and I assume this book will be too. 
 
Circle of Fire is the last in the Prophecy of the Sisters series, a series that I adore. I can't wait to find out the ending! I'm thinking this one will not wait to be read much longer. Also, I must say that seeing this series end is so, so odd, because the first book came out in 2009, when I was just becoming more devoted to blogging. I remember it coming out and seeing the series grow and it's just so strange to see it end.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell by Crickett Rumley

[description from goodreads]

Expelled from thirteen boarding schools in the past five years, seventeen-year-old Jane Fontaine Ventouras is returning to her Southern roots, and the small town of Bienville, Alabama, where ladies always wear pearls, nothing says hospitality like sweet tea and pimento cheese sandwiches, and competing in the annual Magnolia Maid Pageant is every girl’s dream.

But Jane is what you might call an anti-belle—more fishnets and tattoos than sugar and spice. The last thing on her mind is joining the Magnolia Maid brigade and parading around town in a dress so big she can’t even fi t through doors. So when she finds herself up to her ears in ruffl es and etiquette lessons, she’s got one mission: Escape.

What’s a hipster to do? Will Jane survive Bienville boot camp intact or will they—gasp!—make a Southern belle out of her yet?

Review:

Being from Southern California, I find the entire idea of pageants and Southern belles and the like unbelievably strange but simultaneously fascinating. I don't understand the point of this whole belle thing, or the appeal, or why anyone would subject herself to it, but I do understand the appeal of books about the whole bizarre situation. This book in particular is a delight-- funny but not annoyingly so, sweet but not cheesy, and oh so much more.

This whole Southern belle thing is just so ridiculous that it would amuse me even in the worst books. However, this book is luckily nowhere near being a "worst book" and makes the whole belle situation a constantly amusing aspect of the story. Jane and I are full of so much similar disdain for the pageant that I couldn't help but laugh as she snarked on it and its many issues. However, the best parts of the book came when she was forced to take it seriously. Because most of the other Magnolia Maids, particularly the "leaders" Ashley and Mallory, are so into it, it's wonderful to see the two groups face off once they realize how important it is. They get into so many shenanigans that I couldn't help but love them all, especially as they bonded during their many battles.

However, this book isn't all fun and games. There are plenty of deeper issues included, however small their role may appear in comparison to other story lines. For example, the issue of racism within the pageant system is heavily acknowledged because this is the first year that one of the Maids is not white. There are also plenty of subplots involved Jane directly-- her feelings about her mother's death, which the townspeople constantly bring up; her absent father; her feelings for her childhood best friend Luke. I actually wish these story lines more involving Jane were talked about in depth more, because they were often glazed over and yet seemed to be huge deals. Most of the people they involved were rather flat and unbelievable as well because they appeared so little; I vastly preferred the Maids, whose individual story lines were handled much better. 

It could have used more development in many of the smaller story lines, but I still found Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell to be wonderfully humorous and smart in dealing with big issues.


Book details: EgmontUSA/Paperback/$8.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

[description from goodreads]

Jane has traveled the world with her father and brother, but it's not until her fractured family-still silently suffering from the loss of Jane's mother many years before-inherits a house and a history in Coney Island that she finally begins to find a home. With the help of a new community of friends, a mermaid's secrets, and a tattooed love interest with traffic-stopping good looks, the once plain Jane begins to blossom and gains the courage to explore the secrets of her mother's past.

Colorful characters, beautiful writing, and a vibrant, embattled beachfront backdrop make this the perfect summer read for anyone who has ever tried to find true love or a place to call home.


Review:

Have I ever told you about my strange fascination with circuses and carnivals? Because, despite the fact that I find clowns to be a bit terrifying, I find carnivals rather interesting, especially the shady ones. Which is why I was so very excited to find out this book takes place on Coney Island, home of many shady carnivals past. I was even more excited to see how important the setting is to this book, because it makes it just that much more magical.

Dreamland Social Club is more about the setting and characters than anything else; the plot is a bit muddled. In fact, there really isn't a very concrete plot; it's mostly just Jane assimilating into her new, much more exciting life on Coney Island and dealing with the changes that come with it. However, that isn't to say it's completely without a story. This book feels like a mystery, but one that can't really be solved since it's unknown what's being searched for. Because not even Jane knows exactly what she's looking for, she allows herself to be pulled into all sorts of directions in her quest for information. She ends up in some delightful situations, whether they involve her new friends, some of the closed rides on the island, or anything in between. I loved seeing what each new place gave her, because even though sometimes it took a long while, they revealed all sorts of secrets that in turn led to more questions. 

The quiet, mysterious story line is also made more enjoyable by the utterly fantastic characters and setting. The setting is by far my favorite; there's so much history on Coney Island, and so much of it is included in this book. I loved reading Jane's discoveries about the island's past and present, because no matter what the information is about, it helps to bring the place alive. Although I loved the history of Coney Island past, because, like Jane, it made me nostalgic for a place I've never been to, discovering the crazy and magic in the present was just as fun. Jane is (as she would admit) a rather dull protagonist, at least in the beginning. However, as she meets new friends at school, many of whom would be considered for placement in the "freak shows" of the early twentieth century, she opens up. Each of her friends, and even her enemies, is so alive. They embrace their oddities and are all determined to get what they want, whether that's to be accepted or to save parts of the island. They're so bright that it would be impossible for Jane to be the drifter she was in the beginning; their sparkling personalities help make her come to life too, which was a joy to see.

Dreamland Social Club is a quiet sort of book, at least in terms of plot, but that doesn't stop the setting and characters from being so vibrant.


Book details: Dutton/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: ALA

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Today I'm waiting on:

 The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

 It's 1996, and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet.

Emma just got her first computer and an America Online CD-ROM.

Josh is her best friend. They power up and log on--and discover themselves on Facebook, fifteen years in the future.

Everybody wonders what their Destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.


---

I have a love-hate (but mostly hate) relationship with Facebook, so I can't wait to see what kind of shenanigans it gets these characters into. I also can only hope that some descriptions of bad 90s clothing will be included, because that's always a laugh.

Released November 21.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender

From Bad to Cursed is the sequel to Bad Girls Don't Die; I thought I'd warn you in case you are super paranoid regarding spoilers.  Read ahead at your own risk!

[description from goodreads]

Alexis is the last girl you'd expect to sell her soul for beauty and popularity. After all, she already has everything she needs--an adorable boyfriend, the perfect best friend, and a family that finally seems to be healing after her sister Kasey's unfortunate possession by an evil spirit. 

But then Kasey tells Alexis about the mysterious new club she has joined, and the oath she has taken to someone named Aralt. Worried that Kasey's gotten in over her head again, Alexis and her best friend Megan decide to investigate by joining the Sunshine Club, too. At first, their connection with Aralt seems harmless. Alexis tries a new -- normal-- look, and finds herself reveling in her elegance and success.

Still, despite the Sunshine Club's outward perfection, the group is crumbling from within, and soon Alexis finds herself battling her own personal demons. She can hardly even remember why she joined in the first place. Surely it wasn't to destroy Aralt...why would she hurt someone who has given her so much, and asked for so little in return?


Review:

Scary YA is a severely lacking sub-genre, which is why I was so excited to read this book. And while I didn't find it necessarily scary*, it's still a delightfully spooky read.

There's a whole new villain in this book, which was both refreshing and a bit disappointing. I liked having a new problem after Bad Girls Don't Die, as I feel it helped keep this book from being similar to its predecessor. I also enjoyed seeing Alexis, Kasey, and Megan in their quest to find out the truth about the Aralt, because it often seemed that always found new questions along with any answers they came up with, keeping the mystery an always exciting aspect of the story. However, it also seemed like it took them a while to figure out what was up with Aralt in the first place. They spend so long in their Sunshine Club personas and occasionally succumbing to its will that it seems to take forever to get to the exciting ghost-y stuff. It's an awfully slow start, but luckily, the ending is rather exciting and well worth the wait; it also leads off in not quite a cliffhanger, but a tense starting place for the next book in the series.

I was excited to see some of the characters from Bad Girls Don't Die in new roles in this installment. It's difficult to discuss their new positions without giving anything away, but suffice it to say that some old friends and enemies get into this Sunshine Club business and reveal more about themselves through doing so. I also liked seeing Kasey in a relatively normal state; it was much easier to get to know her since she was no longer possessed and could interact with her sister in a mostly normal manner. Speaking of her sister, seeing Alexis in this Sunshine Club situation was fun too since it was so unlike her. Some of her humor and snark was absent in this book, but by pretending to be in the club, she got into some funny situations and also managed to reveal a lot about herself through her inner struggle of deciding to stick with Aralt or remain true to herself.

Of the two, I probably prefer Bad Girls Don't Die, but From Bad to Cursed is still a more than worthwhile sequel.

*Which is more a testament to the fact that I never find books (or movies, for that matter) scary, rather than the spookiness of this book.


Book details: Hyperion/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Monday, July 25, 2011

Contest Winner + News That Makes Me Happy

The winner of Dark Parties is Jackie. Congrats! I will email you shortly.

And as for the news that makes me happy, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is going to be a movie (apparently maybe)! And some of the people behind The Social Network will be working on it! Uglies fans are some of the most passionate, I find. Even I'm all "omgz Uglies!!1!", and it's not even my favorite Westerfeld series. So, I'm rather excited for more news to emerge so I can rage and smile and cheer (but mostly probably rage, because book-to-movie adaptations don't often go well) with everyone.

Another thing I can't wait for news regarding is Tyra Banks's upcoming novel Modelland, because she recently did this to promote it: 

(Photo from Alex Bracken)

I really don't know why all celebrity authors don't do something like this to promote their book. If they did, I might be more supportive of their endeavors.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

For review:

My Brother's Shadow by Monika Schroder

As World War I draws to a close in 1918, German citizens are starving and suffering under a repressive regime. Sixteen-year-old Moritz is torn. His father died in the war and his older brother still risks his life in the trenches, but his mother does not support the patriotic cause and attends subversive socialist meetings. While his mother participates in the revolution to sweep away the monarchy, Moritz falls in love with a Jewish girl who also is a socialist. When Moritz's brother returns home a bitter, maimed war veteran, ready to blame Germany's defeat on everything but the old order, Moritz must choose between his allegiance to his dangerously radicalized brother and those who usher in the new democracy. 

Yay historical fiction!

Borrowed from a friend: 

The Dark Angel by Meredith Ann Pierce

The servant girl Aeriel must choose between destroying her vampire master for his evil deeds or saving him for the sake of his beauty and the spark of goodness she has seen in him.
 I find it hard to turn down paranormal recommendations from friends, even though I am nearly done with the genre as whole. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

5 Underappreciated Non-Contemporary Novels

A couple weeks ago I posted about some of my favorite underappreciated contemporary YA novels. And then I posted about some more because there are so many that I like. And now I realize that there are also plenty of non-contemporary novels that need love too. (I could probably make these posts for forever.) Thus, this post exists.

1. The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell - I do not get enough chances to talk about how great this book is, which makes me sad. It's a delightfully hilarious and amusing take on superheroes, but even better because it has plenty of supervillains as well.

2. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken - Unlike the above book, I feel like I talk about this one all the time because of my not-so-secret desire for a sequel or companion or anything that gives me more North. I definitely need more of Sydelle's magical adventures because of how fun and strong a heroine she is.

3. Mistwood by Leah Cypess - This is such a beautifully written and atmospheric fantasy. I don't understand how I have not read the companion novel yet, because if it is even half as mysterious as this one, I shall enjoy it immensely.

4. Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien - This book is so intense, with its fighting and mystery and codes and sneaking and pretty much everything else. You have no idea how excited I am to know that the sequel will finally be released later this year. 

5. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon - I often say that I don't really like fantasy, but clearly I have been lying to myself since this is the third fantasy novel on this list. This one has a more epic quest feel than Brightly Woven or Mistwood, but it's just as awesome, with its adventure and strange creatures and FOOD.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

[description from goodreads]

Amber Appleton lives in a bus. Ever since her mom's boyfriend kicked them out, Amber, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka Thrice B) have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (the school bus her mom drives). Still, Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope and girl of unyielding optimism, refuses to sweat the bad stuff. But when a fatal tragedy threatens Amber's optimism--and her way of life, can Amber continue to be the rock star of hope? With an oddball cast of characters, and a heartwarming, inspiring story, this novel unveils a beautifully beaten-up world of laughs, loyalty, and hard-earned hope.

Review:

Sorta Like a Rock Star has been sitting unread on my bookshelf for well over a year, but I wish it didn't have to sit for that long.

From page one, Amber Appleton's unbelievably positive and quirky personality is more than apparent. I'm sure her unflinching honesty and optimism will alienate plenty of people, because even I must admit that her quirky! writing and lifestyle were occasionally a bit much. However, for the most part, I really do love her. She isn't the  annoying type of quirky, the type that is insanely fake; she really is a bit offbeat and doesn't care what everyone else thinks. She unabashedly goes into situations everyone else thinks are weird and hangs out with people no one else wants to, because she truly does love the places she goes and people she spends time with. Whether she's with her friends from school, at the retirement home, at church, or with her mysterious haiku-obsessed veteran friend, she manages to make things fun with her humor and real-ness.* However, what makes Amber even better is that, despite how positive she always seems, she really isn't. There are plenty of moments throughout the story where she acknowledges that she feels lonely, that she isn't exactly happy. It's these moments that make her so easy to sympathize with, because of how they prove that she isn't always all smiles.

It's hard to get to know the real Amber, in all her sometimes-happy sometimes-sad glory, though, because I must admit that the beginning is not the most attention-grabbing. The first 110, maybe 130, pages don't really have a concrete plot. They're mainly composed of Amber's day-to-day adventures, so that all of her many friends and hobbies can be introduced. This opening is insanely fun, but I did wish that it felt more like it was going somewhere. However, almost as soon as I thought that when reading, it went somewhere. Suddenly the book does a complete 180 in terms of tone and content and style, and even though it is rather depressing, I loved every minute of it. Despite the change, there were still plenty of moments worthy of a smile or a pause to think about something Amber mused. This change also allows for the perfect, if a bit too happy and idealistic, end, one that Amber totally deserves.**

The beginning might put off some people, but it is so worth it to stick it through to the end, because Sorta Like a Rock Star is truly a fun, heartwarming, sad, hopeful, and ultimately happy book. Amber Appleton and I would totally be friends.

*Words are hard.
**Seriously, the end could have been written by David Levithan, so happy it is. However, if you know how much I love David Levithan, you know that this isn't really a complaint.

Book details: Little, Brown/Paperback/$8.99


Source: bought

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

[description from goodreads]

One hour to rewrite the past . . .
 
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

Review:

Hourglass sounded like it was right up my alley. It's more sci-fi than paranormal, which I've been dying to see more of, and I had heard nothing but the highest praise for it. I went in with such excitement, but by the end, that excitement had fizzled out. I am so, so bummed that I don't love this book like everyone else does, because I really did want to. 



Don't get me wrong, though-- I do like this book. I just don't love it. It's got a fantastic premise; I always love time travel stories, and this one is even better because it also has a secret society, mysterious apparitions, and all sorts of other strange abilities that make the unraveling of secrets even more amusing.  However, the secrets issue was also what frustrated me about this book. Emerson does not know about all the secret's of the Hourglass and how her ability works; Michael, being a member of the Hourglass, clearly knows loads. However, he won't tell her what's going on. Information that could propel the story forward is always delayed because Michael says he cannot reveal anything. After a while, I was just tired of him waiting and waiting to tell Emerson things, because the longer he waited, the slower the book became. It also prevented the Hourglass from being a terribly believable organization; I don't feel like I know much of anything about how it works, and I know there has to be way more that wasn't included in this book. 


However, I must say that the slow pace did become more bearable because of how delightful a narrator Emerson is. (That is, when she isn't commenting on how hot Michael is, because I don't really buy him as a very appealing love interest. There's nothing to really go against him except for how much he slowed the book down, but eh, he doesn't really stand out to me either.) It's not only her ability that makes her stand out, but also her humor and strength. Even in the most intense scenes, mostly near the end, she manages to interject a funny thought or comment to liven things up. I also admired her determination to find out the truth about her ability in spite of all the negative and shady things in her past and present, even though it did take a while for her to discover the truth. 


 Hourglass was not quite the book for me. It has a lovely narrator, great premise, and some fantastically mysterious elements, but it was much too slow and underdeveloped for my liking. I will probably read the sequel because I know there is still much more to be revealed, but I won't go into it with the same enthusiasm I did for this one. 


Book details: EgmontUSA/Hardcover/$17.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Today I'm waiting on:

 Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

From the fantastic author of The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom & Prejudice comes a story of all the drama and comedy of four friends who grow into themselves at a performing arts high school.

Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts school, getting ready for their Senior Showcase recital, where the pressure is on to appeal to colleges, dance academies, and professionals in show business. For Sophie, a singer, it's been great to be friends with Emme, who composes songs for her, and to date Carter, soap opera heartthrob who gets plenty of press coverage. Emme and Ethan have been in a band together through all four years of school, but wonder if they could be more than just friends and bandmates. Carter has been acting since he was a baby, and isn't sure how to admit that he'd rather paint than perform. The Senior Showcase is going to make or break each of the four, in a funny, touching, spectacular finale that only Elizabeth Eulberg could perform.


--- 


Have I told you about my not-that-secret love for books with performing arts schools? This probably is a surprise to no one, as I am not so quiet about my love for aspects of those schools, such as musicals. When I first read the summary for this book, I did a little happy dance because I know it shall be awesome and something I will totally like. 


Released April 2012.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spinning Out by David Stahler Jr.

[description from goodreads]

High school senior Frenchy has little ambition beyond hanging out at the smoking rock until his best friend, the ever-witty and conniving Stewart, gets him to try out for Man of la Mancha. To everyone's surprise, the guys are a hit. But when Stewart's antics begin to grow more obsessive he wears his costume 24/7, freaks out about little details, and displays an incessant hatred of the high-tech windmills outside of town Frenchy worries that there's something deeper going on. Is Stewart spiraling into madness, just like Don Quixote? And can Frenchy battle through his own demons in time to save his friend from self-destruction before it's too late?

Review:


Ah, finally a book about the often overlooked bromance. Well, actually, I'm sure there are more books about guy-guy friendships, but I surely cannot remember any I've read, hence the "finally." However, I definitely need to read more, especially if they as are lovely as this one, though I'm sure no others will compare since this one also has a musical. 


Having been entirely unfamiliar with Don Quixote and Man of La Mancha before reading, I wasn't sure if I was getting a retelling or what. And while the story was nicely summarized in this book, I'm still not sure it is a retelling or quasi-retelling or not a retelling at all. But no matter! I don't think it's necessary to know, as my reading experience was not inhibited by this unfamiliarity in the slightest. In fact, I think it helped, because as Stewart finally starts to succumb to the insanity of working on the musical and parallel the show's plot, I was never really sure what to expect next. I knew I would be in for a treat (well, as much of a "treat" as any creepy/crazy thing can be) and most likely a laugh, but I would never know the exact nature of these things. This kept the book fresh and fun, as it can often seem a bit repetitive because the boys spend so much time working on the show. 

Granted, there are other story lines to distract from the constant show-dom, involving Frenchy's counseling, Frenchy's family issues, and a Potential Girl, among others, but many of those story lines fall flat because they're subjects do too. The characters all show up so little that it's hard for me to remember what exactly each of their stories entailed, who they really are, and in some cases, what their names are. Luckily, the main story, the relationship between Frenchy and Stewart as they work on Man of La Mancha, is far more memorable. Although neither may admit it early on, it was clear to me from the beginning how close they were and how much they relied on each other to get survive the monotony of their hometown. Their bond and love for each other is surely evident, not only because Frenchy sticks with him throughout the whole musical thing, but also because of what happens near the end, when the whole thing boils over.


It may take a while to start and may have a few disappointingly meager story lines, but Spinning Out is a delightfully humorous and strong look at friendship. Plus, it has a musical, so there's no going wrong there.




Book details: Chronicle Books/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Monday, July 18, 2011

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

[description from goodreads]

Abby accepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible.

Until the accident.

Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it's nothing compared to living without her.

She's got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen.

Abby is about to find out that truth isn't always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could...


Review:

Elizabeth Scott is one of my favorite authors; whenever a new book by her is available (which, happily, is often), I always jump at the chance to read it. I even jumped at Between Here and Forever, even though it sounds like loads of other books with sibling relationships. And although Elizabeth Scott surely wrote this familiar storyline better than many could, I still am not in love with this book. I didn't even really like this book-- just plain old "liked" it. 


The thing that is difficult about this whole "living in the shadow of a sibling" story line is that it is so hard to make me believe that the older sibling is all they're cracked up to be. This was my main problem with Between Here and Forever: I just didn't believe that Tess was spectacular enough to warrant the constant whining Abby does. I totally understand Abby's desperation and desire for her sister to return from her coma, and that Tess being in that position would alter Abby's perception of her sister, but there were absolutely no stories or moments that made me believe Tess was as great as Abby was saying. I was unbelievably frustrated with Abby's inability to believe everyone else who talked about changing things because Tess was in that position or who said she wasn't as amazing as Abby thought; I also was baffled by her belief that Eli would help bring Tess back just because he's hot. 


However, when Abby wasn't whining, which admittedly wasn't often, I did enjoy the book. Although I figured out the ~mystery regarding Tess well before Abby did, I enjoyed seeing her on her quest to find the truth, though it took a while for that quest to actually begin. The quest revealed a lot about both sisters and their relationship, and while much of it made me frustrated with either girl, it also revealed just how much Abby cared for her sister and how secretive Tess was. I also enjoyed this quest because it allowed other people to join in and discuss their own views of Tess, which helped to humanize her somewhat and bring her down from the idealistic view Abby has. It also allowed for less repetition; reading about nothing but hospital visits can get old fast, so I was glad when other characters, like Potential Boy Eli, stepped in to liven things up. 


Between Here and Forever left me a bit conflicted; I never understood Abby's logic and beliefs about her sister, which made me frustrated, but didn't exactly make me dislike the book. I still enjoyed reading it and the relationships Abby is able to develop once she begins to step out of her sister's shadow, but it is far from my favorite Elizabeth Scott book. If you're going to read an Elizabeth Scott book, I'd recommend Living Dead Girl (for something dark) or Stealing Heaven (for something lighter).


Book details: Simon Pulse/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

A few lovely things this week, including one I am particularly excited about!

From the Harlequin Teen Panel:

Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen
Let me set the record straight. My name is Charlotte Silver and I'm not one of those paranormal-obsessed freaks you see on TV…no, those would be my parents, who have their own ghost-hunting reality show. And while I'm usually roped into the behind-the-scenes work, it turns out that I haven't gone unnoticed. Something happened on my parents' research trip in Charleston—and now I'm being stalked by some truly frightening other beings. Trying to fit into a new school and keeping my parents' creepy occupation a secret from my friends—and potential boyfriends—is hard enough without having angry spirits whispering in my ear.

All I ever wanted was to be normal, but with ghosts of my past and present colliding, now I just want to make it out of high school alive….
 I don't really read paranormal books anymore, but this one sounds grounded-in-reality enough to be something I would probably enjoy.

For review:

Shelter by Harlan Coben

Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools.

A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey's train-wreck of a life is finally improving - until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that this seemingly sweet, shy girl isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon, Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it makes high school drama seem like a luxury - and leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.
 Apparently this author has written a ton of adult books, but I've never heard of them. However, this one sounds like it will be quite exciting.

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine - a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it's undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe - in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

A debut novel from an immensely talented new writer, The Probability of Miracles crackles with wit, romance and humor and will leave readers laughing and crying with each turn of the page.
 I was just talking about wanting to read this one, and now it is here! Fancy that. It sounds like it will be delightfully bittersweet. 

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

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.
 YAYAYAY! I absolutely love Maureen Johnson and Jack the Ripper (but in entirely different ways) so I think I shall love this one. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter Film Wizardry

AKA "another excuse for a Harry Potter post."

[description from goodreads]

This large-scale, fully-endorsed book is the first to delve into this singularly successful film festival. Harry Potter Film Wizardry contains illuminating interviews with key cast members, producers, and directors; and high-quality behind-the-scenes illustrations of the settings and devices that make the movies come alive. Designed to resemble an antique spell book, this deluxe coffee-table hardcover casts its own magic.

Review:

Clearly this review will be rather short since the book is not especially review-able, in that it has no plot, characters, or any of the other components that I normally discuss in reviews of other books. However, I finally read it and must say that I enjoyed it immensely. 

At times the onslaught of colors and pictures is a bit much, but most of the time, the book's vivid colors and varied photos are insanely fun to look at. There are dozens upon dozens of photos, ranging from concept art to stills from the films, and even though I've seen many before, I loved to peruse them all again. It was even better because most all the pictures came with captions of behind-the-scenes information or were a part of a set on one subject, whether that subject be a character or scene from one of the movies. 


I also enjoyed that the book was split into different sections about each film, giving plenty of time for each film to get a relatively equal amount of attention (besides Deathly Hallows, of course, as the book came out well before Part 2 did and contains little of Part 1). It also gives the opportunity to showcase certain scenes from the films, whether it be about the Ford Anglia from Chamber of Secrets, the Triwizard Tournament tasks from Goblet of Fire, or Grimmauld Place from Order of the Phoenix However, despite the different section, each part contains notes from producer David Heyman interviews from all sorts of actors and set designers from the films, among other features, that maintain a more cohesive feel for the book, which was much appreciated amidst all the stuff on each page.


A lovely addition to any die-hard Harry Potter fan's collection, as looking at its hundreds of photos and facts will surely never get old.


Book details: Harper Design/Hardcover/$39.99


Source: bought

Friday, July 15, 2011

It all ends.

Also known as "the crazy jumbled rambly Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 post."

No movie specific spoilers, but book spoilers abound! You've been warned.

OK SO. It was amazing. I can't even form paragraphs about it, so a list will have to suffice because I MUST discuss this movie somewhere.

  • Professor McGonagall = FIERCEST PROFESSOR ON THE PLANET. Every time she was on screen I wanted to cheer either because I knew she was about to do something awesome or she already did. 
  • Neville Longbottom = ALSO FIERCE. I'm so, so happy Neville finally got his time to shine in the movies because I adore him. He was absolutely marvelous and hardcore and ugh, so great.
  • I really liked the Grey Lady scene! Like, a surprising amount. I wish there was more of the search for the diadem because it seemed way easier for them to find it in the movie, but alas. 
  • NEEDS MORE OF MY GIRL LUNA LOVEGOOD. Luna is my favorite and I feel like although she was key in finding the diadem and was in the opening scenes, she wasn't there very often. Perhaps I am biased because of my Luna love, but still. 
  • Every time one of these movies come out, it always feel like the cast and movie company say it's the funniest one yet, but I never agree. However, I thought this one actually was funny, even though no one has mentioned it. Even amidst all the battle scenes and fighting, there were so many fabulous one liners and awkward interactions that made me laugh.
  • SEVERUS SNAPE I LOVE YOU. His role in this movie was perfect. It doesn't hurt that I find Alan Rickman to be insanely awesome, but Snape in this film truly was great. The Prince's Tale was beautiful and I definitely teared up.
  • I was so mad that pretty much all of Dumbledore's history was cut out. I know it probably wasn't included because it would detract from the battle going on, but man, I love the Dumbledore history. 
  • There were so many moments in this movie where the characters stopped moving or moved slowly, and every time it happened, I was very upset. There's a battle going on, so why the heck are you stopping to stare into space? 
  • The Ron and Hermione kiss? So perfectly, and hilariously, timed. 
  • The hipster snatcher Death Eater guy from Part 1 was back! I love him.
  • My least favorite thing was definitely the deaths of the Order members. I know that Harry still needed to finish the battle but the deaths of Fred, Tonks, and Lupin were just so...short. There was no real time for any emotional impact.
  • I also hated that they didn't even re-introduce Percy. He's just there in the background, and I feel like most people who are going to see this movie will not remember who he is. 
  • Hagrid got so gypped in this movie. His first appearance was so awkward; he just showed up all of a sudden and didn't even do much. Sad times.
  • The Resurrection Stone scene? SHAKING AND CRYING. 
Even with the things I wasn't crazy about, I loved this movie. It made me laugh and cheer and almost cry and I am sure that fans of the series will love it too.

Also, I would love to know what you all thought because I am dying to discuss further.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

[description from goodreads]

16-year-old Molly Dix loves her ordinary life in suburban Indiana, so when her single mother passes away, she is shocked to discover that her biological father is Brick Berlin, world famous movie star and red carpet regular.

Equally intrigued and terrified by her Hollywood lineage, Molly moves to Southern California and plunges head-first into the deep end of Beverly Hills celebrity life. Just as Molly thinks her new life and family couldn't get any stranger, she meets Brooke Berlin, her gorgeous and spoiled half-sister whom welcomes Molly to la-la land with a healthy dose of passive-aggressive "sisterly love."

Set against the backdrop of a sparkling and fashion-filled Los Angeles, this deliciously dysfunctional family soap opera will satisfy every reader looking for their next lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous beach read.

Review:

Despite the fact that this book's authors are fairly well known on the Lands of the Internet, being the writers of the Go Fug Yourself fashion blog, I had not heard anything about this book before reading. So, going in I was not really sure what to expect, but I was at least anticipating a light and fun read. And that's pretty much all I got.

There is no denying that Spoiled is loads of fun to read-- that is, if you can stand the constant celebrity and tabloid namedropping, which I must admit I couldn't always do. However, if you can get past that, this book really is an amusing read. The namedropping aside, I quite liked the Hollywood setting, as it set up for a whole new type of sibling tension; some hilariously mean pranking by Molly, Brooke, and their friends; and the ever-exciting paparazzi and party scenes. It takes a while for all these exciting and dramatic events to kind of merge into a cohesive storyline though; for a while, there was so much exposition that I felt this book read more like the first in a series, which I'm not entirely sure it isn't, but I read it thinking of it as a standalone, so.

However, even when things become a bit more cohesive, there are certain story lines that still lack because of the characterization. For example, Molly meets a boy, Teddy, at her new school that is a Potential Boy through and through, but he's so boring that I had to search through the book to even make sure I had his name correct. The other minor characters kind of blur together as well; the only details I can remember is that a few had the names of food. I also remember them being amusing, because they were either silly or witty or stupid, but as far as distinct personalities go? I got nothing. Luckily, Molly and Brooke were a much more believable and amusing pair. Their family issues were both portrayed well, with plenty of emotional scenes that proved just how deeply influenced they were by everything that has gone wrong in the past. The effects their pasts have on them, and how deeply their histories are delved into, also help prevent them from being the stereotypes of angsty-daughter-of-a-dead-woman and unreasonably-obnoxious-and-mean-sister.

Spoiled is not the most spectacular read, but it's fun and full of plenty of drama that will satisfy those who enjoy reading about celebrity or Los Angeles living.

Book details: Poppy/Hardcover/$17.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Today I'm waiting on:

  Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there. 

Cara’s parents’ unrealistic expectations have already sent her twin brother Conner spiraling toward suicide. For her, perfect means rejecting their ideals to take a chance on a new kind of love. Kendra covets the perfect face and body—no matter what surgeries and drugs she needs to get there. To score his perfect home run—on the field and off—Sean will sacrifice more than he can ever win back. And Andre realizes to follow his heart and achieve his perfect performance, he’ll be living a life his ancestors would never understand.

Everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go? What would you give up to be perfect?

A riveting and startling companion to the bestselling Impulse, Ellen Hopkins's Perfect exposes the harsh truths about what it takes to grow up and grow into our own skins, our own selves.

---

I haven't read Impulse, the companion to this book, but I always like Ellen Hopkins's books for the lovely writing and intense story lines, which I have no doubt this book will have.

However, I do have another reason I'm waiting for this book, and that is because Aaron Tveit is narrating part of the audiobook. I've never listened to an audiobook before, but for Aaron Tveit, I am willing to make an exception.

And if you have no idea who I am talking about, please allow me to introduce you:








  He's also the star of Catch Me If You Can on Broadway, played Gabe in Next to Normal (my favorite musical ever), and is an all around stunning individual.


Released September 13.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dark Parties by Sara Grant

[description from goodreads]

Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...

Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.


Review:

I've read my fair share of dystopian novels since the craze began, so I wasn't exactly expecting much out of Dark Parties. I mean, I thought it sounded good, but all the dystopian novels kind of blur together for me at this point. However, I still enjoyed this one and found it to have a more realistic end-of-the-world scenario than some of the others I've read.


This book seems to be less involved with government issues than I'm used to. Yes, there is definitely some shady stuff going on led by whatever people are heading the Protectosphere, but those people are never really seen. No one especially high-ranking makes an appearance; only officers and certain department leaders do. It's this absence of powerful leaders that both hurts and helps this book. On one hand, I liked seeing everyone deal with the reproduction and distribution of materials, among other issues, without as much of a direct leading hand. Everyone also had more sneaking around to do and things to find out, and it seemed like because they didn't know the government well, it was that much more dangerous. On the other hand, it often felt like I didn't exactly know why anyone was rebelling. It's clear there were plenty of issues, but especially in the beginning I didn't really know what they were going up against. However, as Neva and her peers become more involved in discovering the Protectosphere's secrets, more information emerges that reveals this society is nine kinds of messed-up and desperate, so it all ends up making sense in the end.

It took a while for me to fully get behind not only the rebellion, but also Neva. The beginning is a bit slow, as she is just beginning to take more action against the Protectosphere, and she really isn't the most lively narrator. It doesn't help that some of her peers make me want to punch things. A lot of the relationships in this book felt off to me, since they happen so quickly and there's really no introduction to them. For example, Neva's boyfriend Ethan seemed a little creepy in his devotion, but even though he creeped me out I didn't really believe their relationship was strong because the pair are already "so in love" at the book's beginning. Similarly, her interest in Braydon, her best friend's boyfriend, seemed to be based on almost nothing and never developed beyond that. However, despite certain lapses in characterization, the roles each person plays were enough to keep my interest. Most people are not what they seem, and I loved seeing the different twists about pop up and completely change where the book was going. Seeing Neva adapt to each change was even better, because even though she felt betrayed or fooled, she managed to keep going and defy all expectations. 

A few lapses in characterization and slow beginning aside, I found Dark Parties to be a wonderfully frightful, action-packed tale that I'm sure dystopian fans will at the very least enjoy. As long as there will be a sequel to pick up where this one left off, that is, because I'd be baffled to find out that an ending as intense as that can just stop there.

Dark Parties comes out August 3, but check out yesterday's post for a chance to win a copy.

Book details: Little, Brown/Hardcover/$17.99


Source: sent by publicity company for review



Monday, July 11, 2011

Dark Parties Giveaway

Thanks to the lovely people at Big Honcho Media, I'm giving away a copy of Dark Parties by Sara Grant, along with a book light.

My review of the book will be up tomorrow, but here's a bit about the book that will perhaps pique your interest:

In a world shrouded in fear and lies, how can you shed light on the truth?

Sixteen-year-old Neva lives in Homeland, an isolated country separated from the rest of the world by the Protectosphere. The government insists there’s nothing beyond its borders, but as Homeland’s resources dwindle, people, girls mainly, have started to go missing. If there’s no way out of the Protectosphere, where are they going? Suspecting the government is lying about everything, Neva and her friends stage a Dark Party in the hope of uncovering the truth and finding the freedom they dream about.

You can also check out the facebook page, the awesome series of videos the publisher has on their youtube page, or an excerpt of the book itself for more sweet teasers. 



Fill out the form to enter!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Two things  for review this week, both middle grade, which is always fun.

Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee

Every tween girl knows what it's like to have a mom who can be a little embarrasing at times. But for Marigold, it goes way beyond embarrassing. Marigold's single mom is a performance artist, meaning she stages dramatic, wacky performances to express her personal beliefs. Things like wrapping herself in saran wrap for a piece on plastic surgery, or inviting people over in the middle of the night to videotape her sleeping. In fact, Marigold's mom's performances caused such a ruckus in their last town that the two of them, along with Marigold's little sister, have just had to move. Now Marigold's starting a new school, missing her best friend like crazy, and trying to fit in all over again in the shadow of a mom who's famous for all the wrong reasons. As if that's not bad enough, Marigold's mom takes on a new job--teaching drama at Marigold's school! Now all the kids know instantly just how weird her mom is, and Marigold's worried she'll never be able to have a friendship that can survive her mother.
Crazy family stories are my favorite types of stories, so I'm sure this book will be a blast to read.

 
Blowout by Taylor Morris
Now that she's had her thirteenth birthday, Mickey's finally old enough to work at her mother's super glam hair salon-Hello, Gorgeous! And true to the old cliche about people confiding in their hair stylists, Mickey starts getting an earful right off the bat. Customers love talking to her because she's so empathetic, but what happens when she starts getting overly involved in their dramas? 
 I have a probably unhealthy love for books that involve tons of drama, which makes me think I will very much enjoy this one.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Quote Post: Harry Potter Edition

Every time I clean my room, I always end up thinking, "there may be too much stuff in drawers, but there is definitely not enough on my walls." Subsequently, I end up searching for more quotes and pictures to hang up.

And, because I've been in a total Harry Potter mood this week since Deathly Hallows is out soon (*sob*), I've been searching for more Potter things to hang up. Here are some lovely things I cannot resist sharing, even though not all of them will end up on my walls.


"Death's got an Invisibility Cloak?" Harry interrupted again.
"So he can sneak up on people," said Ron. "Sometimes he gets bored of running at them, flapping his arms and shrieking..." 
 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 

RON WEASLEY I LOVE YOU AND YOUR HUMOR.

"It is our choices, Harry, that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities."
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 
Whenever I think of Dumbledore, this is always one of the first quotes I remember. I do find Dumbledore and his constant withholding of information annoying on occasion, but he does speak wisely, and for that I will always love him.
 
"As Harry Potter was the only other thing I was passionate about, the doctors gave consent for me to leave the hospital and collect the fifth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, from the local book shop. I was so ecstatic to have the book and excited to begin reading it, but there was never any hint of your imminent arrival and the way you would change my life so drastically. Luna, you instantly captivated me. I didn’t know why but there was something about you with your upside-down magazine, straggly blonde hair, and the honest, abashed way you stared at people without blinking that fascinated and perplexed me at once. You laughed hysterically at one of Ron’s quips and didn’t stop to excuse yourself and feel ashamed when it became clear that everyone found you strange. Throughout the book, I found myself waiting for your brief appearances and wanting to know more about you and why you were the way you were. You baffled me, not because you were odd (though indeed you were), but because you were… perfect. But it was a different kind of perfect to the perfectly thin, smiling magazine girls I simultaneously idolised and reviled. It was the way you carried your oddness like it was the most natural thing in the world. You didn’t market your oddness as your defining feature the way some insecure teenagers do, in guise of confidence and security. And nor were you oblivious to the awkward and uncomfortable feelings your oddness provoked in others. When, unable to comprehend how you wore your oddness so honestly and unashamedly, your peers reverted to mockery and bullying, you recognised this as a reflection of their own deep-seated insecurity and calmly let them carry on, quite above your head. You weren’t trying hard to present a certain aspect of yourself that would boldly identify you in the world. And that’s when it occurred to me how bizarre and positively ridiculous it was to apply the word “weird” to describe you, when you represented the most natural and unpretentious state possible to be; you were yourself."

- Evanna Lynch, who plays Luna Lovegood in the films, in Dear Mr. Potter

This quote has been making its way around tumblr rather rapidly, and I stop to reread it almost every time it shows up on my dashboard. I absolutely love Evanna Lynch and Luna is my favorite, so I am especially fond of this essay excerpt. I think the closing sentence is absolutely perfect. 

And I don't know where this picture is from originally, but I can't help but post it: 


Excuse me while I sob.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

5 (More) Underappreciated Contemporary Novels

A few weeks ago I posted five of my favorite under appreciated contemporary YA novels, but as I was cleaning my room this week, I found more that I thought needed more love. Thus, this post exists.

1. TMI by Sarah Quigley - The main character, Becca, in this book may be a bit of a loon, but that's what makes this book so fun! That, the references to blogging, and the fact that there is a MUSICAL in it. I firmly believe more books should have musicals.

2. In Your Room by Jordanna Fraiberg - This book is so cute, I can't even handle it. Well, technically I can, but just thinking of this book makes me go "aw!", so strong is its adorable nature. And right after I think that, I think, "why don't I have a second book by this author yet?"

3. Pink by Lili Wilkinson - I just read this one recently and am baffled by the lack of love I have seen it receive. It's so smart! And funny! And touching! And there's a musical! What else do you want?

4. Fat Cat by Robin Brande  - I may hate science like it's my job, but I adore this book. It's so smart and thought-provoking without being all up in your face.

5. Beautiful by Amy Reed - Reading this book is like getting punched in the face, and I loved every minute of it. It's definitely an intense and "O_O"-inducing read, but fantastic nonetheless.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dead Rules by Randy Russell

[description from goodreads]

Till death

Jana Webster and Michael Haynes were in love. They were destined to be together forever.

Do

But Jana's destiny was fatally flawed. And now she's in Dead School, where Mars Dreamcote lurks in the back of the classroom, with his beguiling blue eyes, mysterious smile, and irresistibly warm touch.

Us

Michael and Jana were incomplete without each other. There was no room for Mars in Jana's life—or death—story. Jana was sure Michael would rush to her side soon.

Part

But things aren't going according to Jana's plan. So Jana decides to do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true—no matter what rules she has to break.

Review:

All the early descriptions of this book I read had compared it to Heathers, which is one of my absolute favorite movies, so of course I had to read this. While it's not quite as dark as Heathers, it has the same wicked humor and an even higher amount of weird.

It's mostly the setting that makes this book so strange. It's set in Dead School, which appears to be where all the dead high schoolers end up, but I am not exactly sure. In fact, I'm not exactly sure as to how any of Dead School works. Jana is just kind of thrown in to the world and focuses so intensely on figuring out how to get Michael there as well that I never really got a full back story as to how the school and rules worked. That didn't necessarily make the book confusing, but I am nosy and want to know how everything works so I can better believe what is going on. However, despite my lack of knowledge of the inner workings of the school, I still found the setting to be insanely amusing. The school is populated with all sorts of different students, and Jana has the chance to meet many of them and found out how they died. There are a few stories about other students' deaths interspersed throughout the main narrative, and I wish there were more because of how humorous some of them are. Her peers die in all sorts of strange ways, many gruesome and tragic, but nearly all of them maintained an awkwardly funny tone, like I knew I shouldn't laugh but did anyway. Or maybe I'm just sadistic.

The characters in this book are a bit bizarre not only because they're just a bit odd, but also because none of them are particularly likable. Which isn't really a bad thing, but it's a bit different than I'm used to. For example, Jana is not tolerable until almost the end. Her fanatic devotion to Michael is definitely creepy, especially considering Michael is not interesting at all. There are sections every so often devoted to him and his two friends on earth regarding the aftermath of Jana's death, but those sections were so few and short that I never really got to know the real Michael. I didn't even get to know the idealized Michael Jana believed in, as she showered nothing but praise on him and yet didn't really give any solid evidence or stories about why he's so great. However, it was her love for him that made this book so fun. She's crazy, yes, but her insanity leads to some absolutely hilarious situations, especially when they involve Mars, the ~bad boy she meets at school. They get into so much trouble, and each situation they get in is funnier, more awkward, and more emotional than the last because of how close they become and because of how deeper into the mystery surrounding Jana's death they delve. Perhaps mystery is not the right word, but her death was definitely sketchy. I loved seeing them on their quest to discover the truth, as their quest brings about some fantastic creepy scenes and an even better ending.

While I could have done with a bit more back story, I still found Dead Rules to be delightfully dark and humorous.

Book details: HarperTeen/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: sent by publicist for review

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

Today I'm waiting on:

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine - a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it's undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe - in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

A debut novel from an immensely talented new writer, The Probability of Miracles crackles with wit, romance and humor and will leave readers laughing and crying with each turn of the page.


---

My pal Zoe of Zoe's Book Reviews texted me the other day about how lovely this book is, and I've wanted to read it since. It does sound like it will be sad, but hopeful as well, and those are my favorite types of books.

Released December 8.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pink by Lili Wilkinson

[description from goodreads]


Ava has a secret. She is tired of her ultracool attitude, ultra-radical politics, and ultrablack clothing. She's ready to try something new—she's even ready to be someone new. Someone who fits in, someone with a gorgeous boyfriend, someone who wears pink.

Transferring to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence is the perfect chance to try on a new identity. But just in case things don't work out, Ava is hiding her new interests from her parents, and especially from her old girlfriend.

Secrets have a way of being hard to keep, though, and Ava finds that changing herself is more complicated than changing her wardrobe. Even getting involved in the school musical raises issues she never imagined. As she faces surprising choices and unforeseen consequences, Ava wonders if she will ever figure out who she really wants to be.

Humor, heart, and the joys of drama—on- and offstage—combine in Ava's delight-fully colorful journey of self-discovery.

Review:

I've been waiting to read Pink since it before its US publication seemed to be even announced, so I was more than delighted to finally get the chance to read it without having to catch a flight to Australia. I was even more delighted to find that this book lived up to my expectations and more; it's insanely smart and fun to read from beginning to end.

Pink definitely focuses on the relationships between Ava and everyone else rather than any one plot, which is good, because that's where the strength of the book lies. Ava is simultaneously easy to love and easy to hate, and, really, that's kind of how I prefer my heroines to be. There are two things that make me hate her: her relationship with her girlfriend, Chloe, and her desire to fit in with all the boring normal people. Chloe seems to have instilled some pretentious, quasi-hipster attitude in her, and my gosh it's annoying, even though it does put her in some hilariously awkward situations. Chloe herself is no walk in the park either, which makes their whole situation even more bothersome. However, despite how obnoxious she is, Chloe, and Chloe and Ava together, make sense. They initially don't seem to work together, but they do. Even when they're hurting each other or lying, there are moments where their true care for each other shine through. And then there's the people she tries to hang out with. I'm glad that some of "popular" girls were really not stereotypical in that they were trying to help Ava out and were even intelligent, but some of her other peers? Er. Namely Ethan, the boy her new friends want to set her up with and the boy she seems to like. I got the feeling I was supposed to find him attractive as well, but he was more bizarre than anything, mostly because he totally dropped a (figurative) bomb halfway through the book and was pretty much never brought up again. It was just strange.

However, the things that make Ava likable are far stronger than the things that made me want to punch her in the face, mostly because I didn't want to punch her for long. The first thing that makes her so lovely is her true friends-- the Screws, who do stage work for the musical the school is putting on. While I literally cannot differentiate between a few of them, let alone remember their names, the ones that get more than a few mentions are wonderful. I delight in their nerdy adventures and discussions; they struck me as one of the most genuine group of friends I've read about, and I loved seeing their awesomeness affect Ava as well, because even though she may not want to at first, they do become fantastic friends and help her in her quest to find herself. The second thing that makes Ava so lovely is just...her. Even the things that make me hate her helped her be so likable because, with all the crazy going on in her life, she still manages to be so easy to relate to. It's so easy to see why she wanted to change her style, why she wanted to keep it a secret, why she wanted to hang out with the popular people instead of the Screws, and why she is so confused. I wanted to just give her a hug and try to help her through everything because she so deserved more than what was handed to her.


Pink is practically perfect in every way; despite the fact that some of the minor characters left little to no impression other than "huh?", everything else was fantastic. The characters, the voice, the intelligence, the humor, the musical, are all so lovely. 

Book details: HarperTeen/Hardcover/$16.99

Source: ALA 

Monday, July 4, 2011

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain

[description from goodreads]

David Gershwin's summer is about to take a turn for the weird. When his dad's new patient Zelda tells him she's from outer space and on a quest to take Johnny Depp back to her planet, he knows he should run away screaming. But with one look from her mean, green eyes, David's hooked, and soon he's leaping across rooftops, running from police, and stealing cars just to stay by her side. He might not be a typical hero, but David's going to get the girl even if it takes him to the ends of the earth or beyond.

Review:

As you may be able to tell from the title and summary, this book is completely  ridiculous. There's no way it would ever happen in real life, in any shape or form (and not just because of certain events that happen near the end), but that doesn't make it any less fun. If you can manage to suspend enough disbelief, this book is a wonderfully bizarre one to read.

It's hard to discuss this book because, really, most of what I have to say about it is that it's totally wild and funny. Even when Zelda and David are at David father's home, where they're both restricted in the activities they can do, the book is amusing. However, the beginning pales in comparison to when they leave for the city and things go absolutely mad. Zelda manages to get into so much trouble even thought she's unable to get anywhere on her own; her steadfast belief that Johnny Depp is meant to be hers is a bit frightening but ultimately just plain hysterical because of the things it leads her to do. I'm sure she'd beat me up for saying that, but, hey, it's true.

With such a zany plot, it's easy for characterization to be lost. Even the characters that make the briefest appearances provide plenty of amusement, but it takes a while for the major characters to develop beyond their role in relation to Zelda. It isn't really until Zelda begins to get along better with her peers that everyone else begins to develop; once their interaction is more human, it was easy to see how fond they were of each other, especially Zelda and David. The human interaction even allowed for some touching moments, even if those moments quickly spiraled into something more humorous.

Despite being a bit slow to start, How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend is expectantly weird and hilarious, but also unexpectedly touching.

Book details: Chronicle Books/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Sunday, July 3, 2011

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie. Descriptions and such from goodreads.

All things for review this week!

Dark Parties by Sara Grant
Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...

Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.
  First of all, let's not talk about how long it took me to realize it was a face with hands on the cover. Second of all, this book sounds like it will be delightfully creepy. I'm excited to read it.

Words of the Dust by Trent Reedy

In the tradition of SHABANU, DAUGHTER OF THE WIND and THE BREADWINNER, a beautiful debut about a daughter of Afghanistan discovering new friends and opportunities after the defeat of the Taliban.

Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven from Afghanistan; a good relationship with her hard stepmother; and one day even to go to school, or to have her cleft palate fixed. Zulaikha knows all will be provided for her--"Inshallah," God willing.

Then she meets Meena, who offers to teach her the Afghan poetry she taught her late mother. And the Americans come to the village, promising not just new opportunities and dangers, but surgery to fix her face. These changes could mean a whole new life for Zulaikha--but can she dare to hope they'll come true? 

I  got this one from Teen Voices, and it seems like it will be quite bittersweet.

I also got:


Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers

I haven't read the first in this series, Personal Demons, but this book randomly showed up. I'll have to read them both when I am in a "I can handle paranormal, I think" mood.