Thursday, March 29, 2012

Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard

[description from goodreads]

Learning to live is more than just choosing not to die, as sixteen-year-old Ryan discovers in the year following his suicide attempt. Despite his mother’s anxious hovering and the rumors at school, he’s trying to forget the darkness from which he has escaped. But it doesn’t help that he’s still hiding guilty secrets, or that he longs for a girl who may not return his feelings. Then he befriends Nicki, who is using psychics to seek contact with her dead father. This unlikely friendship thaws Ryan to the point where he can face the worst in himself. He and Nicki confide in one another the things they never thought they’d tell anyone—but their confessions are trickier than they seem, and the fallout tests the bounds of friendship and forgiveness.

Review:

Many of my favorite stories are ones that feature small casts, and thus I was immediately drawn to Try Not to Breathe and its primary focus on Ryan and Nicki. Because of the emphasis on the pair, plus the inclusion of a handful of influential other characters, I actually quite like this one.

The beauty of the developing relationship between Ryan and Nicki is that pretty much every level of their friendship is shown in the book, allowing it to be as realistic as possible. Their first encounters are kind of awkward, as expected, but as they spend more time together, it's easy to see why they grow so close. Both are so open to each other in their desire for true friendship and help with their problems that the bond they form is always easily noticeable even when they go through their especially rough patches. These rough patches are what make the book so great-- not only do they enhance the emotional intensity, but they also give the pair something to work through. Because they don't always know what to do, their mistakes and unpredictable success are even more poignant.

What also makes the book emotional are the other characters-- particularly Ryan's friends from the hospital, Val and Jake. The people at home are obviously a bit on edge around Ryan in hopes that they won't hurt him, which makes his interactions with them all the more tense and therefore compelling. However, many of these interactions are limited until nearer the end, which saddened me because there was so much Ryan had to fix with people. Similarly, I was saddened that Val and Jake didn't appear more than they already did. I did enjoy that Ryan was moving on instead of dwelling on the past, but his friendships with those two were so strong because of their history that I wish it was discussed more in detail to see the full effect it had on Ryan.

I personally would have preferred more from the intriguing minor characters, but I'm more than happy with what was given to me in Try Not to Breathe-- it's emotional, realistic, and features many delightfully complex relationships.

Book details: Viking Juvenile/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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: 

Live Through This by Mindi Scott

Sometimes hiding the truth requires more than a lie . . .

From the outside, Coley Sterling’s life seems pretty normal . . . whatever that means. It’s not perfect—her best friend is seriously mad at her and her dance team captains keep giving her a hard time—but Coley’s adorable, sweet crush Reece helps distract her from the annoying drama. Plus, she has a great family to fall back on—with a stepdad and mom who would stop at nothing to keep her and her siblings happy and safe.

But Coley has a lot of secrets. She won’t admit—not even to herself—that her almost-perfect life is her own carefully-crafted fa├žade. That for years she’s been burying the shame and guilt over a relationship that crossed the line. Now, Coley and Reece are getting closer, and as Coley has the chance at her first real boyfriend, a decade’s worth of lies are on the verge of unraveling.

Mindi Scott offers an absorbing, layered glimpse into the life of an everygirl living a nightmare that no one would suspect in this unforgettable powerhouse of a novel.


---

I recently read and very much enjoyed Mindi Scott's debut novel, Freefall, but even if I wasn't already a Scott fan, I'd want to read this one. The promise of a load of secrets gets me every time.


Released October 2.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Spoilers for book one in the series, Wither, ahead! Seriously, don't even read the book description if you haven't read book one.

[description from goodreads]

Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion...by any means necessary.

In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price - now that she has more to lose than ever.


Review:
   
I wasn't enamored by Wither, but I liked it enough to give Fever a try.  My memories of Wither are a bit fuzzy, but I have to say I like it better than Fever even though there are parts of this book I really love.

But, let's start with the positives. Fever doesn't suffer from a slow beginning-- on the contrary, Rhine and Gabriel reach their first huge obstacle almost instantly. This fast start caught my attention, but what was more captivating was the creepy carnival setting. Shady carnivals are some of my favorite things, and Fever has by far one of the most twisted I've read about. The inhabitants are so colorful, so desolate, and in the case of some, so cruel that even when Rhine seems to have found a moment of peace, there is always a sense of danger lurking the background. The danger intensifies as Rhine and Gabriel continue their journey, for they encounter so many new places and people that it's impossible to tell who and where is safe for the pair.

However, despite the action and wonderful settings, I never saw what Fever's role in moving the trilogy along was until the end. There were immediate conflicts that Rhine and Gabriel needed to deal with, but the overarching issue of the series was not something I could even pinpoint. Although there is plenty of action, it often seemed to me like the pair were just killing time until the threat of Vaughn and Rhine's past reemerged. This wandering wouldn't have been quite as annoying had the pair developed at all-- or, rather, if Gabriel did. Rhine grows in strength because of all her hardships, but even in times of trouble Gabriel seemed more robotic and lazy than anything, and thus I couldn't see why Rhine was still in love with him.

A lot of the action seems superfluous because it doesn't always relate to the series' overarching conflicts, but Fever is still an exciting, well-written read with an ending that will definitely make me pick up the sequel.

Book details: Simon & Schuster/Hardcover/$17.99

Source: sent by publisher for review

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie



Although I'm not a huge fan of The Hunger Games series as a whole (I rather like The Hunger Games, but I thought Catching Fire was only okay didn't really like Mockingjay), I still saw the movie on opening day. My thoughts on the film, organized in bullet points, because I've yet to master the art of movie reviews:

(No movie specific spoilers, but book spoilers indeed.)

- Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the series I am steadfast in my belief that Gale sucks, but I must say that Gale was a whole lot better in the movie, especially compared to Peeta. Happily, they didn't give Gale any superfluous subplot, but so much of Peeta's adorable-ness was absent in the movie. There was such a lack of emphasis on the faux-mance between Katniss and Peeta that it was difficult for Peeta to seem like Peeta. Perhaps I feel this way since I have not read the book since, like, 2009 and am super fuzzy on the details, but I did feel like something was absent.

- Speaking of the faux-mance: for as much as the game preparation part of the movie focused on the need for the kids to put on a show to be successful, the whole "they want a show" thing was pretty absent while they were in the arena. This did allow the action to be pretty continuous and thus more exciting, but with the future books in mind I think there needed to be more of the Capitol and its unhappiness with Katniss. There were a few scenes near the end that showed President Snow's dissatisfaction (Seneca's last scene? Awesome.) which weren't in the book (I think), but in context of the movie I think they needed to expand upon the Capitol's bad side.

- Aaanad speaking of the the prep scenes versus the arena, I totally felt like this movie was as long as it is. It runs almost two and a half hours and the preparations take so long that it definitely felt that way to me. I would have preferred more time in the arena because the fact that there were tributes dying of hunger and dehydration never really appeared-- they all seemed perfectly fine outside of their physical injuries.

- Now that I believe all my negative opinions are over, I can get to the important business: Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman? Flawless. He totally reminded me of Floop from Spy Kids and that may be why he so amused me, but he's still so goofy and campy that I was near giggles in most of his scenes.

- Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss? Also great. She's obviously super tough but can play vulnerable at the same time, which makes her portrayal pretty freaking awesome.

- I quite liked that there were extra scenes with the Gamemakers, for they helped introduce the shady business going down in the Capitol. Plus, the room they were in was super blue and shiny and therefore always an attention grabber for me.

- The tributes from Districts 1 and 2? Hilarious but still menacing, and thus they are my favorites.

- Overall: I really liked it! I'm curious to see how they will work some things into the next few movies, but this one is full of enough action, nice scenery, and lovely acting that I'm a fan.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

[description from goodreads]

All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….


Review:

Leila Sales' first book, Mostly Good Girls, is pretty much a funnier version of my own junior year, and Past Perfect is pretty much the summer I wish I could have. 

Except I wouldn't actually want to work as a historical reenactor. I love history but the prospect of walking around in the heat in those clothes and having to deal with stupid people? Yeah, no thanks. And, the best part of my feelings on this matter is that Chelsea often feels similarly. Even though she's worked at Essex for many years, she's still not quite used to some of the nonsense people ask and the actions of some of her more enthusiastic coworkers (like the adorably nerdy and woefully underutilized Bryan) and thus her commentary often treads into delightfully sarcastic territory. However, despite how hilarious she is, Chelsea has her serious moments too. She knows when things go too far or when something is not quite right with her friends, and even though she often screws up in trying to fix things, her efforts make the story much more balanced and have an emotional edge. 

Even with the serious parts in mind, I must say that this book is more made up of fun and games, and that's just another reason why I like it so much. Essex's war with the nearby Civil War historical village is often insane because of how seriously both sides take it, but its ridiculous nature is part of the charm. I'm not sure how they pulled some of their pranks off without getting into serious trouble, but they were all so different and amusing that I still enjoyed every one of them. I'm less crazy about some of the other things the rivalry caused, though. For example, Chelsea's new love interest is technically "the enemy" but I don't see why anyone would really care if the two started going out-- I half expected everyone to start snapping their fingers and having dance-offs because of how militant they were. Plus, I never really saw why Chelsea was so hung up on Ezra, which just made the new guy all the more appealing. I just wish her friends agreed with me, especially Fiona, because Chelsea has so many great friendships at Essex that I couldn't see why they would want to prevent her happiness.

It's sometimes alarmingly far-fetched, but Past Perfect is also funny, smart, and ultimately very sweet.

Book details: Simon Pulse/Hardcover/$16.99

Source: bought 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Welcome!

Today, the lovely Judith Rosen's interview with me went up in Publisher's Weekly. You should check it out-- I share a piece from my college application essay, talk about reviewing, and discuss the future of my blog, among other things. All great fun (I hope).

And, if you read the article and are visiting my blog for the first time: thanks for stopping by! I hope you like it around here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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: Every Other Day by David Levithan (no cover yet, boo)

A has no friends. No parents. No family. No possessions. No home, even. Because every day, A wakes up in the body of a different person. Every morning, a different bed. A different room. A different house. A different life. A is able to access each person's memory, enough to be able to get through the day without parents, friends, and teachers realizing this is not their child, not their friend, not their student. Because it isn't. It's A. Inhabiting each person's body. Seeing the world through their eyes. Thinking with their brain. Speaking with their voice.

It's a lonely existence--until, one day, it isn't. A meets a girl named Rhiannon. And, in an instant, A falls for her, after a perfect day together. But when night falls, it's over. Because A can never be the same person twice. But yet, A can't stop thinking about her. She becomes A's reason for existing. So each day, in different bodies--of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, walks of life--A tries to get back to her. And convince her of their love. But can their love transcend such an obstacle?  


----

On the night of March 18, when I first heard of this book, my twitter feed looked like this times two or three: 
 
 Clearly, I am rather excited. But how could I not be? A new book by my favorite author that sounds so unlike the other books he's written? AHHHH YAY!

Released August 28. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Freefall by Mindi Scott

[description from goodreads]

How do you come back from the point of no return?

Seth McCoy was the last person to see his best friend, Isaac, alive, and the first to find him dead. It was just another night, just another party, just another time when Isaac drank too much and passed out on the lawn. Only this time, Isaac didn't wake up.


Convinced that his own actions led to his friend's death, Seth is torn between turning his life around . . . or losing himself completely.

Then he meets Rosetta: so beautiful and so different from everything and everyone he's ever known. But Rosetta has secrets of her own, and Seth soon realizes he isn't the only one who needs saving . . .

Review:

Freefall had been sitting on my bookshelf for well over a year before I finally got around to reading it last week, but better late than never, for I did really enjoy this one. 



However, "enjoy" is probably not the best verb to use because it's a rather intense read. Seth has so many pent-up issues that when they finally completely emerge, they really do come out in full force, often in a heart-wrenching way. His angst allows for some great moments once Rosetta comes into the picture, though; because he often kept to himself prior, the relationship he forms with her is especially beautiful. The angst and drama they cause make Freefall a compelling, if sometimes painful, read but the way they affect and help one another is so pure and sweet that it's a happy-making read too.


I think what prevented me from loving this one completely is that I often have a hard time reconciling my expectations with reality, and I totally expected more about Isaac. Seth does often mention him, but I never really got a full sense of Isaac's personality and whatnot. Which is good because then Freefall didn't become totally focused on him instead of Seth's powerful journey, but sometimes I felt that a little more about him would have made Seth's narration even more emotional. However, I love Seth's other friends more than I think I would like Isaac. For example, his longtime friend Kendall totally rocks. The two have such a complex relationship because of all they've been through, which makes their interactions all the more emotionally charged and hilarious. I also love Seth's band mates because even though they appear for a woefully short time, they're just so musician-y that I couldn't help but laugh. 


It could have used a bit more oomph, but I still quite like Freefall for its emotional intensity and abundance of touching and funny moments.

Book details: Simon Pulse/Paperback/$8.99

Source: bought  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby

[description from goodreads]

Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.

Review:

The best books are the ones that take you completely by surprise, and Shooting Stars was definitely an unexpected delight for me.

The premise is totally far-fetched, but somehow this books makes almost every bit of the paparazzi fantasy realistic (I still don't get Jo's dad-- who would let their kid do this? I mean, really.) From the very beginning, Jo gives completely legitimate reasons for why she's doing this, so her presence in all sorts of celebrity hang-outs makes complete sense. And, because what she's doing makes sense, I got to just sit back and enjoy all her various adventures. She gets into plenty before heading off to the rehab center, allowing me to get a feel for what her job entails, but even at rehab the fun doesn't stop. She has to be so sneaky and creative that her methods made me laugh more than ever; plus, all the unexpected twists that pop up once she gets closer to Ned make her journey all the more dramatic and exciting.

However, Shooting Stars is definitely not all fun and games, and I think that's what made me enjoy it so much. Clearly Jo and Ned's presence in a rehab center means that there are some deep underlying issues, and this book deals with them in a way that gives them the respect they deserve but doesn't detract from Jo's purpose in being there. I'd hate to give anything away because the surprises are so nice, but the deeper issues are woven so seamlessly into the story line that they never seem like they were just thrown in for added depth. Their inclusion feels even more organic because Ned and Jo have such great chemistry-- because I got to know the two independent of each other first, it was easier for me to see why they got along so well.  I wish there was more from some of their peers because both the people from Hollywood and at rehab have such intriguing backgrounds, but all the people they encounter at the very least bring some excitement to the story.

Unbelievability of certain events and one dimensionality of certain characters aside, Shooting Stars is the perfect blend of fun, emotional depth, and pure enjoyment.

Book details: Walker/Paperback/$9.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Saturday, March 17, 2012

5 Happy-Making Favorites

Because it's abnormally rainy outside today, five favorite books that feel more like sunshine:

1. The Naughty List by Suzanne Young - Protagonist Tessa is so enthusiastic and sweet that even when she goes overboard, it's hard not to smile right along with her.

2. How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle - It was inevitable that a road trip book would show up on this list somewhere. Although it's been quite a while since I've read this one, I think I'm still going to have to count it as one of my favorite, if not my number one, road trip book. It's just too fun.

3. A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker - This book is nine kinds of hilarious and crazy (in a good way) that I laughed the whole way through.

4. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway - It's been far too long since I've read this one, but I'm thinking I might have to give it a reread soon because it's such a fun adventure.

5. Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker - It was also inevitable that a straight-up romantic comedy would show up on this list-- it may be predictable but that doesn't take away from how purely enjoyable and sweet it is.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

[description from goodreads]

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.


Review:

Although I mostly hate to use this word because of the negative connotation, my feelings on The Pledge can be succinctly summed up with "interesting." I definitely mean that in a good way, but I have a few issues with this book too.

I have to give props to this book for its unique dystopian setting; it's set in the future but the dominating tension between social classes and inclusion of a matrilineal monarchy give it a sort of medieval feel. This tense setting makes for an exciting environment, especially when conflict begins erupting between different levels of society and Charlie is forced to be a part of it because of her gift of language comprehension. However, more often than not it felt like I was supposed to just assume this was a terrible place to live in. I mean, living in this society would suck, but often I never directly saw the worst parts of it. For example, I never really understood what the queen did as ruler, let alone the harsher aspects of her rule, because it's just never discussed in detail and she never seemed to have much influence on the day-to-day events.

I'm similarly not too enthused about the other characters-- I like Charlie but everyone else seemed to exist more in terms of their role in Charlie's life or in the rebellion. Although the point of view occasionally switches to cover the actions of people other than Charlie, these shifts are so random that I almost would have preferred they weren't there-- it just didn't make sense why one chapter out of twenty would be given to someone else, especially since the new perspective added little in terms of characterization. They didn't make me understand any more Max and Charlie's interest in each other, the queen's abilities, or much of anything else from the characters. However, they did add a lot of excitement to the plot. Some of the twists were obvious but fun nonetheless, and the abundance of them make the book consistently exciting.

Flat characterization and the lack of information about the society prevented me from loving The Pledge, buts its action and potential for more development in future series installments is enough to make me want to read book two.

Book details: Margaret K. McElderry Books/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"You are waiting on" Wednesday: A Temptation of Angels

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

Normally, Waiting  on Wednesday highlights books I'm excited to read, but today I'll be discussing a book that I've read that I'm telling you to be excited about, because I'm bossy like that. It's a pre-review of sorts.

Today that book is:

 A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

 Even angels make mistakes in this page-turning epic romance...

When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world's past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong, because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel.

Michelle Zink masterfully weaves historical fantasy with paranormal romance to create a gripping tale of love and betrayal.


 ---

Normally I avoid angel books like they're the plague, but this book's take on angels is a delightfully unique because the angels actually serve a purpose rather than just being love interests. I also appreciate that the action begins straight away but never let up-- Helen is always being pursued by danger, so there's always an exciting threat looming in the background. And, despite my usual preference for standalones, I'm really hoping for a sequel to this one because there's much that can still be explored.

A Temptation of Angels will be out March 20-- just six days from now. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

[description from goodreads]

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship--or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with six months to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate stars scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood -- not even from each other.


Review:

Although I limit my reading of paranormal and paranormal-esque novels pretty heavily, I almost always never say no to a witch book, because witches are just too awesome. Thus, I was delighted when Born Wicked fell into my hands, and even though it didn't quite live up to my expectations, I see much potential for future installments in the series.

The thing that prevented me from truly enjoying this book is that it often read like one giant prologue. It doesn't actually take too long for Cate to uncover the first hints of the mystery her mother left behind, but once she begins her quest, it takes an annoyingly long time for her to make much progress. I understand that her need to be discreet makes it hard for her to find more answers, or at least uncover more intriguing questions, but there's only so much wandering I can take without getting frustrated. All the secrets are wonderfully mysterious and often contain plenty of crazy (asylums, heck yes) but because Cate never finds out all there is to know about them, neither did I, and I'm too nosy for that to be a thing I'm completely okay with. 

However, despite my deep desire for this book to have more action, I think I'll at least pick up book two in the series because most other things I liked or can see developing into something great. For example, I actually really like Cate's narration-- she's pretty level-headed, especially when it comes to controlling her magic, but it's also easy to see how deeply she cares for her sisters and how her emotions sometimes cause havoc. I like her sisters just as much, even if they were woefully absent for much of the time, because they use magic so differently than Cate that's it hard to predict just how they will act and fit into the mystery. I'm much less crazy about the rest of the cast, though, especially her Potential Boys. Cate's interest in both of them never seemed genuine because, really, they're both rather boring and don't say much outside of their feelings for Cate. Still, I think (hope) they will become less of a focus as Cate must face her magical issues in the next installments, so I don't mind them quite as much as I could otherwise.

Despite woefully lacking in action, Born Wicked possesses many intriguing mysteries and a lovely heroine that I think will make the rest of the series worth a read.

Book details: Putnam Juvenile/Hardcover/$17.99

Source: sent by publisher for review

Monday, March 12, 2012

You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis

[description from the jacket flap]

It's been a year since Luna's mother, the fashion-model wife of a successful film director, was hit and killed by a taxi in the East Village. Luna, her father, and her little brother, Tile, are still struggling with grief.

When Luna goes to clean out her mother's old studio, she's stunned to find her mom's cell phone there—charged and holding seven unheard messages. As Luna begins to listen to them, she learns more about her mother's life than she ever wanted to know . . . and she comes to realize that the tidy tale she's been told about her mother's death may not be the whole truth.


Enlisting the help of her dreamy neighbor, Oliver, Luna begins to piece together the events leading up to her mother's death, and she is shocked that so many people she thought she knew have been keeping deep secrets. Was the happy family of her memories a lie? And if so-- does she want to know the truth?

Review:

The description of You Have Seven Messages gave me the impression that the book would be a bit of a scavenger hunt-esque, thrilling read, but that ended up being only partly true. Luna's hunt for the truth about her mother's death is delightfully adventurous indeed, but the book's other subplots and elements I'm not as big a fan of.

I really did enjoy reading about Luna's quest for answers. It did take a while to get going, but I didn't always mind waiting because most of the places she ends up are rather fun. New York City is clearly home to all sorts of captivating destinations, and because the places Luna reaches are often related to celebrities or other fancy people, they're doubly exciting. However, once the mystery of her mother's death ends, there's still a lot of the book left, and that's where it lost me. I don't want to discuss too much for spoilers' sake, but the places Luna goes are just too far-fetched and ridiculous for me to believe they could ever happen even for the daughter of a famous director.

I'm similarly torn on the characters of this book, especially Luna. She's rather young, but she never really shows it; I enjoyed her mature perspective on her mother's death and the people around her because it allowed her to handle certain situations with more grace than some others her age might, but her maturity also caused me to never recognize much emotion in her narration. It seemed like she was trying too hard to appear intelligent and different that a personal connection was lost. Because of this disconnect, it was also hard for me to feel much for the relationships she had with others. For example, her love interest, Oliver, I never cared for because Luna's affection for him seemed more out of convenience than out of genuine interest.

You Have Seven Messages contains plenty of amusing adventures but the emotional disconnect and unbelievability of some of the later events were too much for me to get past.

Book details: Delacorte Press/Hardcover/$17.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Because despite how much math homework I have, it's a lovely day that I cannot interrupt with futilely trying to be creative, and because I don't know how I have never posted this before:


The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from verdemar.nacho on Vimeo.

Too good.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

[description from goodreads]

Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…


Review:

My memories of freshman year are few and rather hazy, which makes me wish even more that ninth grade was as hilarious and memorable for me as it is for Kelsey in Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters. 

Georgia and the Ace Gang seem to have met their match with Kelsey and her friends; these girls aren't quite as zany (or delightfully British) but get in just as many hilariously awkward and dramatic situations. Because everything is so new to Kelsey and the girls, their reactions to their environment are especially humorous; they never quite know how to deal with upperclassmen, clubs, sports, or the like, so they make the biggest missteps that always end hilariously no matter how embarrassing they may begin. Their shenanigans are made better by the distinct voice of Kelsey, who makes even the normal school days fun with her exaggerated, emotionally charged, snarky commentary. Sometimes she, and the stuff she gets involved in, is a bit far-fetched, but really, that's part of this book's charm.

Even though this book is nine kinds of crazy funny in the best way possible, there are a few things that prevented me from loving it completely. The novel is a bit awkwardly paced-- Kelsey sometimes skips giant chunks of time by just inserting one "a month later" into a paragraph. I appreciated that the time skipping allowed for Kelsey to experience things only available in certain seasons (fall sports, spring musical, etc.) but whenever a time skip happened I was always a bit thrown off. I also wasn't overly enthused about some of the people that came through Kelsey's life, because she views, and thus describes, them in such a limited way that it was hard for them to develop beyond their initial portrayals. Still, despite their often flat personalities, Kelsey manages to see new sides of them as the school year progresses, allowing them to affect her life in all sorts of new ways and amuse me while doing so.

It may not be groundbreaking or the best developed thing I've ever read, but Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is consistently funny, wonderfully realistic, and always a joy to read.

Book details: Putnam/Hardcover/$16.99


Source: sent by publisher for review

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

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:

 Anything But Ordinary by Lara Avery

An inspiring, bittersweet love story about making every day count.
Bryce remembers it like it was yesterday. The scent of chlorine. The blinding crack and flash of pain. Blood in the water.

When she wakes up in the hospital, all Bryce can think of is her disastrous Olympic diving trial. But everything is different now. Bryce still feels seventeen, so how can her little sister be seventeen, too? Life went on without her while Bryce lay in a coma for five years. Her best friend and boyfriend have just graduated from college. Her parents barely speak. And everything she once dreamed of doing—winning a gold medal, traveling the world, falling in love—seems beyond her reach.

But Bryce has changed too, in seemingly impossible ways. She knows things she shouldn’t. Things that happened while she was asleep. Things that haven’t even happened yet. During one luminous summer, as she comes to understand that her dreams have changed forever, Bryce learns to see life for what it truly is: extraordinary.


---

Things that sound like they might make me cry are always things I'm excited for. 

Released September 11. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson

 [description from goodreads]

A stunning new novel from threetime Newbery Honor–winning author Jacqueline Woodson.

Laurel Daneau has moved on to a new life, in a new town, but inside she’s still reeling from the loss of her beloved mother and grandmother after Hurricane Katrina washed away their home. Laurel’s new life is going well, with a new best friend, a place on the cheerleading squad and T-Boom, co-captain of the basketball team, for a boyfriend. Yet Laurel is haunted by voices and memories from her past.

When T-Boom introduces Laurel to meth, she immediately falls under its spell, loving the way it erases, even if only briefly, her past. But as she becomes alienated from her friends and family, she becomes a shell of her former self, and longs to be whole again. With help from an artist named Moses and her friend Kaylee, she’s able to begin to rewrite her story and start to move on from her addiction.

Incorporating Laurel’s bittersweet memories of life before and during the hurricane, this is a stunning novel by one of our finest writers. Jacqueline Woodson’s haunting—but ultimately hopeful—story is beautifully told and one readers will not want to miss.


Review:

I'd actually been wanting to get to a Jacqueline Woodson book before Beneath a Meth Moon showed up in my mailbox. And, although this book by no means knocked my socks off, I think it was a good Woodson book for me to start with. 

What immediately struck me about Beneath a Meth Moon is that it's so small-- around 200 pages, give or take. For such a heavy subject that length seemed a bit too short, and now having read the book I mainly agree with my initial assumption. Because Laurel spends so much time describing her past and how she reached her present low point, it often felt like her current situation was not as detailed as it could have been otherwise. I did appreciate getting to know her past because it allowed me to understand, if not agree, with the choices she made that led to her addiction, but more often than not I wanted more of the present to understand where Laurel would be headed. 


However, the brevity of this book also allows it to be more powerful. Because there's such limited space, there's no time to waste words on subjects that don't deserve them; thus, Laurel's tales always have a sense of urgency and emotion to them. The emotion in turn allows Laurel to be sympathetic because even though many of her choices choices are baffling in their desperation, she always manages to passionately discuss her logic to the point where she makes sense. However, her passion and addiction also tend to skew her judgment of others, making it difficult for me to pick up on the nuances of her peers' personalities. Still, despite her bias, her emotion always allows for her feelings on those people to come through, making her twisted relationships more complicated and her tense relationships more powerful. 


Beneath a Meth Moon could have used a bit more length to develop its characters and some of its present, but its also powerful and poetic in its brevity.

Book details: Nancy Paulsen Books/Hardcover/$16.99

Source: sent by publisher for review 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

[description from goodreads]

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-- she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starting position... suddenly she's hoping he'll see her as more than just a teammate.

Review:
 
Football is one of the sports I care least about educating myself on, but football related stories are some of the best. However, all football stories have to live in the shadow of my love for Friday Night Lights. My like of Catching Jordan definitely doesn't come close to my love for that show (then again, few things do) but I really did enjoy it.

However, I wasn't initially sure if I'd end up liking this book. Jordan is clearly a unique narrator because of her status as the sole girl on the football team, but it's immediately evident that she's the type to say things like "guy friends are so much better because girls are so dramatic and catty and I'm not like those other girls, I'm one of the guys blah blah blah." Thoughts like that are annoying from real people but they're somehow even worse on paper. Thankfully, though, she changes her mind as the book progresses. Although some of her growth occurred in an inorganic fashion-- or it at least seemed this way because she often dictates her feelings instead of showing them in her actions-- I enjoyed seeing her progress and learn what's best for her.

The best part about Jordan's growth is that it extends to all aspects of her life in a rather balanced and developed way-- all aspects of her life receive the attention they warrant, whether that aspect is football, her complicated love life, her family, or the poor treatment she faces as a girl quarterback. Some of the best scenes in the book are when she interacts with her friends from the team because they manage to be both funny and sweet. The boys are expectantly crazy and occasionally annoying, but their care for each other and Jordan is always so clear that I couldn't help but love when they'd all interact. Just as great were Jordan's interactions with her love interests, Ty (the new guy) and her old friend Henry. Although her behavior around both was sometimes baffling and frustrating, there are so many moments of angst and drama and adorableness that even my cold heart was melted and eager to see the story unfold.

A few stereotypes aside, I really enjoyed Catching Jordan because it always managed to bring a smile to my face.

Book details: Sourcebooks Fire/Paperback/$8.99


Source: bought

Sunday, March 4, 2012

In My Mailbox

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

I've been too busy to read lately so getting books in the mail is more overwhelming than exciting, but the one I got this week made me quite happy:

Gilt by Katherine Longshore
 In the Tudor age, ambition, power and charismatic allure are essential and Catherine Howard has plenty of all three. Not to mention her loyal best friend, Kitty Tylney, to help cover her tracks. Kitty, the abandoned youngest daughter of minor aristocracy, owes everything to Cat – where she is, what she is, even who she is. Friend, flirt, and self-proclaimed Queen of Misrule, Cat reigns supreme in a loyal court of girls under the none-too-watchful eye of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.

When Cat worms her way into the heart of Henry VIII and becomes Queen of England, Kitty is thrown into the intoxicating Tudor Court. It’s a world of glittering jewels and elegant costumes, of gossip and deception. As the Queen’s right-hand-woman, Kitty goes from the girl nobody noticed to being caught between two men – the object of her affection and the object of her desire.

But the atmosphere of the court turns from dazzling to deadly, and Kitty is forced to learn the difference between trust and loyalty, love and lust, secrets and treason. And to accept the consequences when some lessons are learned too late.
 
Tudors, yay!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Things That Bring Me Joy

1. The reveal of the cover of The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, who also wrote the most excellent Brightly Woven.

2. A director of Downton Abbey set to direct The Book Thief-- love that show, love that book even more.

3. The fact that when I saw Spamalot, one of the Knights Who Say Ni threw in "The Hunger Games movie comes out in three weeks, I'm so excited!" as he went through the new name of the group ("Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-PTANG...")

4. People I know writing cool things for cool people.

5. The @loversdiction twitter account, for loveliness like "care, n.: This is the core of it, that I want your happiness, your safety, your success just as much as I want my own."