Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bookish Wishlist #3

Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala
(Amazon / Goodreads)

It's tough living in the shadow of a dead girl. . . .
In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda's death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister's world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.
When two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears, Miranda is stripped of her former life. She must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister's demons and her own.
In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her own future.

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner
For months, Cass has heard her best friend, Julia, whisper about a secret project. When Julia dies in a car accident, her drama friends decide to bring the project - a musical called Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad - to fruition. But Cass isn't a drama person. She can't take a summer of painting sets, and she won't spend long hours with Heather, the girl who made her miserable all through middle school and has somehow landed the leading role. So Cass takes off. In alternating chapters, she spends the first part of summer on a cross-country bike trip and the rest swallowing her pride, making props, and - of all things - falling for Heather.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out. When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home. But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

Split by Swati Avasthi

Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $3.84, and a secret. He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind—his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret. At least so far.
Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split—how do you begin to live again?

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

Shine by Lauren Myracle
(Amazon / Goodreads)

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.
Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Everyone has weird thoughts sometimes. But for seventeen-year-old Dani Solomon, strange thoughts have taken over her life. She loves Alex, the little boy she babysits, more than anything. But one day, she has a vision of murdering him that's so gruesome, she can't get it out of her mind. In fact, Dani's convinced that she really will kill Alex. She confesses the thoughts to keep him safe, setting off a media frenzy that makes "Dani Death" the target of an extremist vigilante group.
Through the help of an uncoventional psychiatrist, Dani begins to heal her broken mind. But will it be too late? The people of her community want justice . . . and Dani's learning that some thoughts are better left unsaid.

Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith
(Amazon / Goodreads)

What's worse than getting dumped? Not even knowing if you've been dumped. Joy got no goodbye, and certainly no explanation when Zan—the love of her life and the only good thing about stifling, backward Haven, Utah—unceremoniously and unexpectedly left for college a year early. Joy needs closure almost as much as she needs Zan, so she heads for California, and Zan, riding shotgun beside Zan's former-best-friend Noah.
Original and insightful, quirky and crushing, Joy's story is told in surprising and artfully shifting flashbacks between her life then and now. Exquisite craft and wry, relatable humor signal the arrival of Emily Wing Smith as a breakout talent.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Title: The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Little Brown/Poppy
Pages: 288
Release date: September 7th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him. Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

First sentence:
This was getting old.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I had pretty high expectations for The DUFF because of the huge buzz around it. I'd gotten kind of wary of books with that big of a hype because I'd been disappointed quite a few times, but The DUFF is definitely worth the hype - I don't even know how to describe it, it's just so real! It's fast-paced, fun and entertaining, but it's also subtle and emotional.

I loved the whole idea of the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. I guess it's kind of offensive, but I think it's a great concept. It's not something I'd thought about before, but that could really be true - I feel like the Duff all the time. I really liked the whole message of this novel.

What I loved most about The DUFF are the characters. Bianca is probably one of my favorite main characters ever. She's different from the girls I usually read about, but still really easy to relate to. She's actually the kind of girl I could really dislike if I met her in real life just because of her attitude - I think she'd come off as rude and unfriendly. But being able to know her thoughts and feelings made me understand where she's coming from, and I ended up loving her.

I loved how multi-dimensional the secondary characters are. In the beginning, Casey and Jessica (Bianca's best girlfriends) seemed kind of superficial and boring, but later on, when the reader finds out about their history and how their friendship developed, I really liked them, too, and enjoyed reading about them and the ups and downs in their friendship.

At first, I didn't get Wesley's and Bianca's relationship. Her hatred for Wesley (albeit fun to read about), seemed a little overdone to me. I didn't really get the transition from the hatred to their friends-with-benefits relationship. That change is too sudden, in my opinion, and should have been elaborated on more. Later on, though, I loved Bianca's and Wesley's relationship. Their chemistry is hot - the way they interact isn't the normal romance-type, but it's so much fun to read about. Wesley, the man-whore, would be the kind of guy I'd normally hate, but I really liked how the author made him a sympathetic character. He has problems, too, and I felt for him. It's adorable how sweet he is to Bianca, and the romance is definitely swoon-worthy.

The style of The DUFF is great. The way Bianca narrates is hilarious and touching at the same time. What I loved most is how honest it is - the whole novel is just such a realistic portrayal of teen life, and the emotions are honest and raw.

***The next paragraph contains spoilers.***
I'm not sure what to make of the family storyline. I really liked the unique idea, and how things get worse is described really well. I also loved how Bianca dealt with her family's issues. My problem, though, is the resolution - it just seemed too easy, in my opinion. Her dad goes too quickly from the raging alcoholic to the loving father who'd do anything to get better. Bianca's relationship with her mom is a little strange, too - she goes back and forth between being angry at her and understanding her, and I would have liked to see some kind of confrontation between Bianca and her mom.

The DUFF really is as good as everyone's been saying it is - honest and real with a great message, lovable characters and hot romance. I didn't like the resolution for the family storyline all that much, but it's still a great, fun read. If you haven't read this one yet, you should - it's definitely worth it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

Title: Going Too Far 
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publisher:  Pocket Books/MTV Books
Pages: 245
Release date: March 17th 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads 

Goodreads description:
All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far...and almost doesn't make it back.
John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge -- and over....

First sentence:

"That's the worst idea I ever heard," I told Eric.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is my first Jennifer Echols book, but I'd heard great things about her novels. Going Too Far lived up to my expectations, and it won't be my last of her novels! I read this in one sitting, and it's sort of an emotional roller coaster ride - it had me laughing at times, gasping when a secret was revealed, and angry, wanting to shake the main characters when they couldn't just be together and be happy.

At first, Going Too Far was hard for me to get into. I didn't like Meg at all in the beginning, and I didn't get why she acts the way she does. Her irresponsible decisions and the way she treats other people really annoyed me. I also found strange how much she disliked John, much more than the other cops. That made everything a little too obvious, in my opinion. But over the course of the book, Meg's character really grew on me. Once I found out about her insecurities and her past little by little, I could understand why she is that way and I could relate to her.

Even though I didn't like Meg at the beinning, the characters in Going Too Far are great. Meg and John are dynamic and complex characters. I loved finding out more and more about them and gradually getting to understand them. The way Jennifer Echols hinted at their problems but didn't reveal their secrets until the end had me guessing throuhgout the book. However, once John's secret is revealed, we don't find out too much about how that's affected him, and I really would have liked to see that elaborated on. None of the other characters are as fully-developed as Meg and John and are mainly there to show the reader what kind of people the two main characters are, but they still have some quirks that make them unique. I really enjoyed reading about Meg's relationship with her parents.

The chemistry between John and Meg is great, and the reader really feels the vibes between the two. I loved the romance aspect, but I also liked that this book isn't only about the romance - it's more about how these two people change each other and how both develop so much over the course of the novel. I especially liked the last scene and that it's between Meg and her parents instead of between Meg and John, as that made the book less corny and really showed Meg's character growth.

I feel bad about criticizing this, since as far as I know this isn't the author's fault, but I really dislike the cover and the title of this book. The cover screams superficial romance and the title Going Too Far makes it seem (or at least made me think) like this book is about sex/whether or not to have sex, etc. I don't think that does this book justice, and I didn't want to read this in public and had to hide it from my parents - it almost made me not want to read Going Too Far at all.

Despite my dislike for the cover and title and my problems getting into this novel at the beginning, Going Too Far is a great, fun read. A sweet romance with fully-developed characters and great character growth. I'm looking forward to reading more by Jennifer Echols in the future, even though most of her books have these embarrassing covers...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In My Mailbox #24

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where you can talk about the books you bought or received this week.

So this week I got...
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
Sarah and Brianna have always been friends, and it's always gone like this: guys talk to Sarah in order to get closer to Brianna. So even though Sarah met Ryan first, she's not surprised that he ends up with Brianna (even though Sarah has a massive crush on him). The three of them hang out, and Sarah and Ryan's friendship grows until one night an innocent exchange between them leads to a moment that makes Sarah realize that Ryan might be interested in her after all. But if there's one unwritten rule, it's this: you don't mess around with a friend's boyfriend. So Sarah tries to resist temptation. But with the three of them thrown together more and more, tension builds between Sarah and Ryan, and when they find themselves alone together at one point, they realize they just can't fight how they feel anymore...

I love Elizabeth Scott, and The Unwritten Rule sounds cute... even though I liked the cover of the hardcover version a lot better than the one of the paperback...

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

I'm not going to lie - I'm scared of this book. The topic is creepy, wrong, and, well, kind of gross. But so many reviewers have said that they actually understood the feelings the two characters had for each other, so I'm intrigued to see whether I can, too.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
(Amazon / Goodreads)

So you're a guy; you're at a band show and your ex, the girl who dumped you, walks in with the new guy. Looking for a safe exit, you ask the girl you happen to sitting with to be your girlfriend for five minutes . You're a girl; you're at a get-together and your least favorite female strolls in. The stranger sitting next to you asks you to be his five-minute date. So what do you? You lock lips . Nick and Norah's instant connect begins a roller-coaster "first date" that takes them through Manhattan and into themselves.

I've read Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan and loved it, but I haven't read anything by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I've heard they're great together, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist sounds cute, so I'm excited to read this one!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
(Amazon / Goodreads)

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

I know, I know, I'm crazy for not having read this yet. I know it's supposed to be amazing, but it never really appealed to me - I can't even explain why. But I saw this at the library this week and decided to read it to see whether it's as great as everyone says it is.

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Bridget Jones Diary follows the fortunes of a single girl on an optimistic but doomed quest for self-improvement. Cheered by feminist ranting with her friends Jude. Shazzer and 'hag-fag' Tom, humiliated at Smug Marrieds' dinner parties, crazed by parental attempts to fix her up with a rich divorcee in a diamond-patterned sweater, Bridget lurches from torrid affair to pregnancy-scare convinced that if she could just get down to 8st 7, stop smoking and develop Inner Poise, all would be resolved. 

Usually, I always have to read the book beofre watching the movie, but I saw Bridget Jones for the first time ages ago and didn't even know it's based on a novel. It's one of my favorite movies, so when I found out there's a book version, I had to add it to my wishlist. Now I finally borrowed it from the library, and I can't wait to see whether it's as hilarious as the movie version!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Review: Teenie by Christopher Grant (Teenie Blog Tour)

This review is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Teenie by Christopher Grant. You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops if you'd like to know more about Teenie!

Title: Teenie
Author: Christopher Grant
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 272
Release date: July 23rd 2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
High school freshman Martine (Teenie for short) is a good student, with a bright future ahead of her. She's desperate to be accepted into a prestigious study abroad program in Spain so that she can see what life is like beyond the streets of Brooklyn. She wouldn't mind escaping from her strict (though lovable) parents for awhile either. But when the captain of the basketball team starts to pay attention to her after she's pined away for him for months and Cherise, her best friend, meets a guy online, Teenie's mind is on anything but her schoolwork. Teenie's longtime crush isn't what he seemed to be, nor is her best friend's online love. Can Teenie get her act together in time to save her friendship with Cherise, save her grade point average so that she can study in Spain, and save herself from a potentially dangerous relationship?

 First sentence:
"It's better to be a good listener than a good talker, because the good listener can remember what was said."

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I had basically no expectations when I first started reading Teenie - the description doesn't sound like much, and it's not a book I've read loads of reviews for. But I'm glad I decided to read this one, and I was pleasantly surprised - Teenie is a fresh and realistic coming-of-age story! Not having one set main topic seemed like a bad thing at first, but that's one of the things I enjoyed most about this book. It touches loads of issues without being a preachy issue-book, and the subtlety is great - it's the kind of book that could mean something different to every reader, in a good way.

My favorite part of Teenie are probably the characters. Even though she's younger than most protagonists I read about (14), she is so easy to relate to, and I felt for her throughout the story. Her voice and the narration are unique but still realistic. The secondary characters are quirky and interesting. I loved reading about Teenie's father and his Bereisms (weird sayings only he uses - they're hilarious) and Teenie's relationship with her parents and older brothers. Many of the scenes with Teenie's family had me laughing out loud. Teenie's relationship with Cherise and her other friends is dynamic and realistic, too.

***The next paragraph contains spoiler-ish information!***
The only character I didn't get was Greg. That whole storyline just didn't make sense to me - if he's such a popular senior and has girls lined up to go out with him, why would he have to force a freshman to do anything with him?

The writing is really good - like I said, Teenie's voice is authentic and fresh. I love how the story is entertaining and funny, but also thought-provoking and touching.

Teenie is a great debut I think has been overlooked by many. It's a realistic portrayal of teenage life, dealing with lots of interesting and important issues without being preachy - a sweet and touching coming-of-age story. I definitely recommend it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams

Title: Miles from Ordinary
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 197
Release date: March 15th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: won an ARC in a giveaway at Midnight Bloom - thanks, Liz!
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Thirteen-year-old Lacey wakes to a beautiful summer morning excited to begin her new job at the library, just as her mother is supposed to start work at the grocery store. Lacey hopes that her mother's ghosts have finally been laid to rest; after all, she seems so much better these days, and they really do need the money. But as the hours tick by and memories come flooding back, a day full of hope spins terrifyingly out of control.... This award-winning YA author brings us a gripping story of a girl who loves her mother, but must face the truth of what life with that mother means for both of them.

First sentence:
There are mice.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I had no idea what to expect from this novel. I hadn't even read the description before entering the giveaway I won this from - I just saw it was contemporary YA and entered. But I was pleasantly surprised!

This novel is heartbreaking. It reminded me a lot of A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler - both books deal with teenagers struggling to take care of their mentally ill mothers. The emotions A Blue So Dark conveys are great, but I think Miles from Ordinary is an even more heartbreaking read because Lacey's only thirteen. Seeing how Lacey gives up basically every aspect of her life to take care of her mother is heartbreaking - she's an incredibly strong character.

While Lacey never really tells the reader what her mother is suffering from (probably because she doesn't know what to call it herself - after all, she is only thirteen), it's downright scary. This isn't really a suspense novel, but it had me scared and thoroughly creeped out, especially at the end. The descriptions of the mother's condition are eerily real.

Lacey is a great character. I've never experienced anything close to what she's going through, but I could understand her nonetheless. I felt for her throughout the book. She makes it so easy to understand her conflict of wanting to take care of her mother and needing to protect her, but at the same time wanting to have a normal life. The one thing I didn't really get is why she didn't want to ask her aunt for help anymore - it seemed like they had such a good relationship, so I didn't really see the problem of calling her and asking her to help when things got really bad.

I'm not sure what to say about the secondary characters because, well, none of them are all that important. Most of them are just used to portray Lacey's problems and her mother. The only character I would have liked to know more about is Aaron. No, he's not that important, but I think some kind of quirk or problem of his own would have made him more realistic. The way it is, it seemed like Lacey was the only one who had any problems, and everyone else's life is just perfect.

I have to admit I was a little confused while reading this. The actual plot is only one (incredibly eventful) day, but there are lots of flashbacks and memories Lacey goes back to. For me, it was very confusing to keep up and know whether we're in the present or past.

I love the ending. It's always hard for me to decide what I want from the ending of a book - I don't want it to be too happy and unrealistic, but I don't want it to be sad and depressing either, and Carol Lynch Williams found the perfect middle. I think I've said this in another review, but this is something like a hopeful ending, which are the endings I like best.

What I don't quite get is the title, Miles from Ordinary. The title made me think this book was going to be about being different and accepting who you are, which doesn't really fit to this novel. No, Lacey's life isn't ordinary, but I still would have preferred a different title, something that better fits to Lacey's situation.

Don't be discouraged by the fact that the protagonist is only thirteen - even though Lacey's voice is a realistic portrayal of a thirteen-year-old girl, this book seems more like YA than MG. Miles from Ordinary is not an easy read - it's utterly heartbreaking - but it's definitely worth it! I really recommend it, especially if you liked Holly Schindler's A Blue So Dark!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interview (Book Line Answers) with Angela Fristoe (Songbird Blog Tour)

Today we have Angela Fristoe here for an interview with book line answers. This interview is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Songbird by Angela Fristoe. You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops if you'd like to know more about Songbird!

What was your inspiration to write this novel? What made you decide to write about such dark topics?
I was all too aware of the fact that it wasn't a perfect world. The drama was too good not to do.

How would you describe Songbird's main character, Dani?
Pretty quiet. One of those cool by association anomalies. Attempting to act as if everything was normal.

Has writing always been your passion?
Yes...No... I don't know. The desire to write drove me to my room. I frantically grabbed for a pen to write with before I lost the words.

Is there anything you'd like to say to your readers?
I wanted to run, but fear paralyzed me. I was throwing away chances every day. Get over it. Put your past behind you. Get yourself together. Move on.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Watch a few movies and enjoy not being subjected to simulated public sex.

Thank you for these great answers - they're hilarious!

Angela Fristoe is a debut novelist with Little Prince Publishing and is gearing up for the release of her first YA romance, Songbird. She was the winner, and double finalist, in the Romance category of The Strongest Start Contest 2010 hosted by The Next Big Writer. When not writing, she teaches and spends time with her family. Make sure to visit her website and blog! Keep your eye out for Songbird, which will be released June 30th 2011!

Songbird by Angela Fristoe
(Amazon  / Goodreads)

There are defining moments in life when everything changes. For Dani Mays, it was the day she witnessed her father kill her brother. Now seventeen years-old, she still hasn't put it behind her.
After Jace's death, she bounced between her alcoholic mother and foster homes, until she found a permanent place. And a reason to stay: Reece Tyler. He's her best friend, yet Dani wants more from Reece.
Faced with possibly losing Reece, Dani struggles to define his place in her life and escape the memories of her brother's death and the influence it has over her choices. Even as she weaves the pieces of her heart back together, the past becomes more than a memory when a former foster brother reappears and Dani begins receiving threatening phone calls.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In My Mailbox #23

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where you can talk about the books you bought or received this week.

So this week I got...
You Against Me by Jenny Downham

If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another.

I loved Before I Die by Jenny Downham, and I hope her second novel is just as great!

Sean Griwold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
(Amazon / Goodreads)

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object—an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas—it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him. The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking—er, focusing on—Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

I've heard great things about this book, and it sounds adorable!

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Anke's father is abusive. But not to her. He attacks her brother and sister, but she's just an invisible witness in a house of horrors, on the brink of disappearing altogether. Until she makes the volleyball team at school. At first just being exhausted after practice feels good, but as Anke becomes part of the team, her confidence builds. When she learns to yell "Mine!" to call a ball, she finds a voice she didn't know existed. For the first time, Anke is seen and heard. Soon, she's imagining a day that her voice will be loud enough to rescue everyone at home - including herself.

This book sounds interesting, in a weird kind of way, and the cover is creepy good!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee

Title: Say the Word
Author: Jeannine Garsee
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Pages: 368
Release date: March 17th 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
The world expects perfection from seventeen-year-old Shawna Gallagher, and for the most part, that’s what they get. She dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father’s every rule. But when her estranged lesbian mother dies, it’s more than perfect Shawna can take. Suddenly, anger from being abandoned ten years ago is resurfacing along with Shawna’s embarrassment over her mother’s other family. As she confronts family secrets and questions from the past, Shawna realizes there’s a difference between doing the perfect thing and doing the right thing.

First sentence:
When the phone slashes a machete through my brain at six fifteen a.m. it can mean only one of two things.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This book just didn't work for me. I liked most of the ideas - they're pretty original, and I thought it would be interesting to read about a girl with a lesbian mom. A lot of interesting topics are mentioned - homosexuality/homophobia, domestic abuse, etc. - but I didn't like the execution, and I never really got the point.

My main problem are the characters. I didn't get Shawna at all. She has no real personality, always changing. First she's so ignorant and narrow-minded about her mother's homosexuality, then she's defending her mom, Fran (her mom's lover), and her gay friend LeeLee. If that showed her character growth or something like that, it would have been great - but she just switches between the two. She can never settle on anything else, either. That made it impossible for me to understand or relate to her.

Most of the secondary characters are like that, too, not having any real personalities and never deciding on anything. All of them go from happy to furious in a second. If that were a trait to describe one character, fine, but since all of them are like that, it's just annoying. None of the characters have anything that makes them unique or interesting. So many of them are incredibly narrow-minded and rude, and don't care about anyone but themselves. Can't we at least have one empathetic character?  I can only speak from my own experience, but the people at Shawna's school and Shawna's family are too rude and ignorant to be realistic. I was especially disappointed by Shawna's father's character. He's the "bad guy" most of the time but a normal dad at others. The reader never finds out anything about his motivations. The only character I sort of liked is Schmule, but he's unrealistic at times, too.

I didn't get the relationships between the characters, either. Not between Shawna and her dad, whom she hates sometimes but does anything to please at others; not between Shawna and Schmule, who seems like he can talk to Shawna sometimes but shuts her out most of the time; and not between Shawna and Arye. Their  romance happens way too quickly - first they hate each other, and then they're making out in his car. It doesn't even seem like the way they treat each other changes much, except for the physical aspect.

While I enjoyed the basic ideas of this book, I couldn't really enjoy the plot, either. Maybe that's because of the strange length of chapters - Say the Word has somewhere between 110 and 120 chapters. Some of them aren't even a page long, while others are almost ten pages. That made the pacing very strange - at times, it's so fast I didn't get what's going on, at others it's slow and nothing happens. The choppy writing had me confused throughout the book.

***This next paragraph contains spoiler-ish information.***
The ending is strange as well. There is no resolution for Shawna's problems with her father, and I didn't get why Shawna shouldn't continue a relationship with Fran, Arye and Schmule. What annoys me most is that Shawna goes to med school instead of art school. The whole novel deals with Shawna finding the courage to be herself and stand up to her father, but then she ends up doing what he wants her to instead of following her dreams. I have no idea what kind of message that is supposed to send.I'm just realizing this now, but what kind of a title is Say the Word? What word? I have no idea what it's supposed to mean, or what it's got to do with the actual novel.

Say the Word has some nice ideas, but I had lots of problems with the execution. Choppy writing and flat, narrow-minded characters made it hard for me to enjoy this novel.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Teenage Garage Sale post by Margie Gelbwasser (Inconvenient Blog Tour)

This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser. If you'd like to know more about the book you can read my review here and you can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops if you'd like to know more about Inconvenient!

Today we have Margie Gelbwasser here for a Teenage Garage Sale post! A Teenage Garage Sale post is basically just a guest post on what kind of things we’d find if Margie were to have a garage sale of items from her teenage years.

I have always wanted to have a garage sale, so this is my chance! To be honest, I would have NEVER parted with some of the stuff below as a teen, but the grown up me can let them go.
1. My Brandon and Dylan pins (the heartthrobs from the original Beverly Hills 90210). These babies weren't the tiny kind you'd put on your purse for decoration. Uh uh. They were BIG. And I had them right on my nightstand—for sweet dreams.

2. My diary with the rhinestone, puffy, purple cover. Never would I really sell this because it's filled with deep tidbits like, “I really really like Joe. My books fell on the floor today, and he helped me pick them up. Did he know I purposely carried that many books by his locker?” But, man, I can see it ending up in a box accidentally.
3. My junior and senior year prom dresses. How can you not include prom dresses in a garage sale? The black and white one, was for my junior prom, which I went to with one of my best friends. And the red with a set-up, and we're still friendly. My proms weren't crazy romantic or anything, but I still remember being asked and how excited I was to go. And, c'mon, those dresses are so cute!

4. My geometry book. I hated this thing, and if I got money out of it, something good would have come out of this class. While we're at it, I'll throw my Chemistry book in for free.
5. A mix tape of Guns 'N Roses and Poison music. I LOVED their music. At my eighth grade dance, a boy asked me to dance to Every Rose Has its Thorn and I thought it was the most romantic thing ever. It was going to be my wedding song. That or Paradise City. When the time, neither made the cut. Go figure.
6. My Units outfit. Total coolness, guys. I mean, the pink belt could be worn as a belt OR a skirt OR a top. Here I am wearing it at age 12. Rockin' it, huh?

7. My band uniform. Cowboy hat. Need I say more? Our school mascot was a bird, then a pirate. I don't know where the cowboy hat fit in. The recipient of this piece d' resistance, can have loads of fun with it. It can be a Halloween costume, an accessory for line dancing classes, or a great way to embarrass your siblings or—if you're a parent—your tweens or teens.

Thanks for the great guest post and the fun pictures, Margie!

Make sure to check out all the other stops of this blog tour, and keep your eye out for Inconvenient - it's already been published!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review: Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser (Inconvenient Blog Tour)

This review is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser. Tomorrow Margie will be here for a guest post! You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops if you'd like to know more about Inconvenient!

Title: Inconvenient
Author: Margie Gelbwasser
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 360
Release date: Novmeber 1st 2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
In fifteen-year-old Alyssa Bondar's Russian-Jewish culture, having a few drinks is as traditional as blinchiki and piroshki. So when her mom's midday cocktails turn into an all-day happy hour, it seems like Alyssa's the only one who notices—or cares. Her dad is steeped in the nightly news—and denial—and her best friend Lana is too busy trashing their shared Russian heritage so she can be popular.
Alyssa would rather focus on cross-country meets and her first kiss with her running partner, Keith, but someone has to clean up her mom's mess. But who will be there to catch Alyssa when her mom's next fall off the wagon threatens to drag her down, too?
First sentence:
The cement beside the town pool is hot, the kind of hot where you can see steam rising off of it.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. If I'm being honest, I only decided to read it so I could be a part of the blog tour (since I'm international, I can rarely take part in blog tours). It didn't sound bad, but not extraordinary either - a little too out there for me, with the Russian-Jewish culture and all, since I usually need to be able to relate to the main character to enjoy the novel. None of that was a problem, though - this book is great!

What I enjoyed most about this one is the writing. It's so graceful, beautiful and vivid - the best writing in a debut novel I've read in a long time! I felt like I was there right alongside Alyssa. At first the metaphors (especially the butterfly ones) seemed kind of forced, but I got used to the style quickly. I love how Margie Gelbwasser ended each chapter with a beautiful, thought-provoking sentence I had to let sit a while before I could start the next one.

The characters are great and complex. Despite our different situations, Alyssa is easy to relate to - she's just a normal teenaged girl trying to cope with what's going on around her. Her insecurities are ones most teenagers have felt (well, at least I have, and I'm going to assume others have, too). Lana is a great character as well - even though I didn't particularly like her and wanted to shake her most of the time, her motives are understandable and she's a very realistic character. Just like Alyssa, I'm split on what to make of her mom. At times I hated her for making those decisions and putting her daughter in such a difficult situation, but I could also understand how she felt pressured and didn't know what else to do. Towards the end, though, I grew more and more frustrated with her.

The novel does have some flaws, though. For me, the romance aspect is only okay, at least in the first half. While I could understand Alyssa's feelings perfectly, I just did not like Keith. I got annoyed by how he treated her. I warmed up towards Keith by the end, once the reader found out about his problems, but it still wasn't enought to make me feel that storyline.

I'm not sure what to make of the whole Jake-Ryan-Trish storyline. Obviously, everyone's experiences are different, but from what I know, it's not realistic how easy it is for Lana to befriend the "cool kids", and how even before they start hanging out she comes up to them and just starts a conversation with them. In my experience, that's not how popularity works.

***The next paragraph contains vague information about the ending that could be considered spoilers!***
I love the ending of Inconvenient. It's always hard to find a good ending for a book like this - if the author wrote a happy ending, it wouldn't seem realistic, but if the ending were sad and there was no real development, the novel wouldn't really have a point. Margie Gelbwasser chose the perfect balance of sad and happy: hopeful. Hopeful endings are always my favorite ones, and this one is perfect; it's realistic but still showcases the development and character growth of the main character.

Inconvenient is a great read with beautiful writing, fully-developed characters and a hopeful message. Despite my problems with two of the storylines, I definitely recommend Inconvenient!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In My Mailbox #22

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where you can talk about the books you bought or received this week.

So this week I got...

Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Kate Brown's life has gone downhill fast.
Her father has quit his job to sell vitamins at the mall, and Kate is forced to work with him. Her best friend has become popular, and now she acts like Kate's invisible.
And then there's Will. Gorgeous, unattainable Will, whom Kate acts like she can't stand even though she can't stop thinking about him. When Will starts acting interested, Kate hates herself for wanting him when she's sure she's just his latest conquest.
Kate figures that the only way things will ever stop hurting so much is if she keeps to herself and stops caring about anyone or anything. What she doesn't realize is that while life may not always be perfect, good things can happen -- but only if she lets them...

I love Elizabeth Scott, and this one sounds adorable!

Forget You by Jennifer Echols
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Why can't you choose what you forget . . . and what you remember? There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four- year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. Feeling like her life is about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.
But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people— suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

I really enjoyed Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols and hope Forget You is just as great!

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

I've heard great things about The Sky Is Everywhere and it sounds right up my alley, so I'm excited to finally read it!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?
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