Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

The Story Siren is hosting a challenge called the 2011 Debut Author Challenge...and since we are did the challenge last year (successfully), we decided to participate in the challenge again this year. The challenge is to read at least 12 debut novels, but you can do more or less if you prefer. Since there are two of us, we decided on twenty-four total on the same list.

The challenge goes from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012, and you can start at anytime, but it has to be before November 20, 2011.

We would recommend that if you love to read, this is a great opportunity to introduce yourselves to some great new authors! We loved it last year and read some terrific books in the process. Here is our list this year!

1) The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
2) Head Games by Keri Mikulski
3) The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
4) Across the Universe by Beth Revis
5) The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
6) How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen
7) Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison
8) Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley
9) The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
10) I Am J by Cris Beam
11) Possum Summer by Jen K Blom
12) Wither by Lauren DeStefano
13) Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
14) Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
15) Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
16) Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
17) Unlocked by Ryan G. Van Cleave
18) Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
19) The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg
20) The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder
21) The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless by Allan Woodrow
22) Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
23) My Un-Fairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski
24) Alice-Miranda at School by Jacqueline Harvey

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: Across The Universe

Title:  Across the Universe
Author:  Beth Revis

     From GoodReads, "A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. 

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. 

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone--one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship--tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next. 

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming."

     The first thing that I have to admit is that when I first read the description of the book, I wasn't too excited about reading it.  I liked the cover, but the premise of the book seemed a little strange.  A girl that is cryogenically frozen?  Doesn't that sound a little odd or at least something Walt Disney or Ted Williams would do?  I'm not a huge fan of science fiction/fantasy, but have been reading more in this genre lately and liking some of the books that I have read (Hunger Games, Twilight, and the Chaos Walking series), but I wasn't sure if I could make the jump to this book.  I finally decided to give it a try and from the opening chapter it caught my attention and kept it throughout the entire book.  I was right that the book is strange and there are a lot of concepts that were difficult to think about, but I truly underestimated this book before reading it.  
     The book is told from alternating perspectives between a teenage girl (Amy) that is cryogenically frozen and later is woken up on a starship and the future leader of the ship (Elder).  I really enjoyed both these characters and the dilemmas they are faced with.  Both of the characters are likable and realistic.  Which is strange to say when the whole book takes place in a world that is completely different from our own.  It was great to see characters written with such depth.  I loved the fact that the characters in this book were never truly good or evil, there was some aspect of both in the characters that made me identify with all of them in some way or another and made them human.  
     This book was full of mystery, suspense, and romance and left me wanting to know more about the characters and what happens next.  I am hoping that this is a first book in a sequel or trilogy and that readers are able to hear more from debut novelist Beth Revis.  Outstanding work from beginning to end!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review: Falling Under

Title:  Falling Under
Author:  Gwen Hayes

     From GoodReads, "Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams.

As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.

And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul."

     If you are looking for a quick-read romance, this is not the book for you.  The story itself is a romance, but it is one that I felt I had to read methodically and really search out the meaning behind what was going on in the story.  I believe that author, Gwen Hayes, really took the time to describe the details and is looking for a sophisticated reader to really grasp her work.  
     I felt that this book had something different to offer than other books in this genre because it is different from any other book that I have read.  The main character, Theia, is a strong character and although she knows that she might have to give up the things that she loves, she makes sacrifices that are believable, even though this is a fantasy. I have to admit that there were a few terms introduced in this book that I had never heard of before so I had to either look them up or do some more research about them once I found out what they were.  By the way the story ends, it lends itself nicely to a sequel... so we may be hearing more from Gwen Hayes in the future.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Review: Girl, Stolen

Title:  Girl, Stolen
Author:  April Henry

      From GoodReads, "Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen—with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?"

     This book starts off intensely (an accidental kidnapping) and never lets go.  Every moment of this book was fascinating and unpredictable.  I loved the main character, Cheyanne.  She was likable, believable, and each and every moment of her ordeal, I felt like I was living it right along with her.
     I also liked the character of Griffin, who the readers get to know because they also get to see his perspective.  We learn at the same time as Cheyanne that he isn't the person she thinks he is.
     This novel is an intense read that contains many twists and turns that add to the story.  A particularly harrowing scene at the end really added to the suspense of the novel.  April Henry should be proud of this book and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Sean Griswold's Head

Title:  Sean Griswold's Head
Author:  Lindsey Leavitt

     From 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."

     First off, I love the cover and title of this book.  I know Sean Griswold's Head sounds like a weird title (and it kind of is), but when you read the book (and you should!), it makes complete and total sense.  I have not ever read a book by author, Lindsey Leavitt, but I am looking forward to reading another and thankfully, Princess for Hire is available.  I absolutely love Leavitt's writing style, kind of sarcastic and sweet at the same time.
     The main story line was interesting because even though the main character, Payton, is dealing with a lot, she's kind of in denial about it, which was very realistic. I liked how the author weaved so many different nuances into the story.  It was never predictable and I love that.  
     The main character is strongly written and most good books are, but the supporting characters are also strong, which makes this a truly enjoyable read.  Everything that Payton went through I could identify with, but it also made me think about the situation in a whole different way.  I think the best thing about this book is the sweetness of the story.  It has family values, young romance, and no inappropriate language or sex scenes which makes it easy to recommend to not only YA readers, but younger readers as well.  It also doesn't have any werewolves or vampires (well maybe one!) that are so prevalent in today's YA fiction, which makes me like it even more!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: The Education of Hailey Kendrick

Title:  The Education of Hailey Kendrick
Author:  Eileen Cook 

     From Amazon, "Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what's expected of her.  She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way...and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.
Suddenly, Hailey's perfect life--and her reputation--are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don't trust her. Her boyfriend won't even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she's been dumped.

They say honesty is the best policy--but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?" 

     Occasionally I will email or write an author to tell them that I really like their book, but in this case, I couldn't even wait until the end to let author, Eileen Cook, know how much I liked this book.  (I actually emailed her twice, which may have caused her to worry that I have stalker syndrome).
     I have to say that I liked many things about this book, but my favorite was the main character, Hailey Kendrick.  I know that Hailey is a fictional character, but she seemed so real that I truly felt as if I knew her.  I liked the fact that she was flawed and had problems, but was still willing to work on herself and had integrity.  I found myself rooting for her and actually yelling at the people who mistreated her (out loud... no less, which added to piling up evidence that I'm strange!) It also seemed that every time that Hailey tried to do the right thing somehow it always backfired on her and she would add to her problems instead of solving them.  (I think I identified with this so much because I do it all of the time.)
     Needless to say, I really liked this book!  It is the perfect choice for a quick read that makes you laugh and think at the same time.  I can't wait to see when Eileen Cook's next book comes out... (I promise I won't email stalk you!)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: Babe in Boyland

Title: Babe in Boyland
Author: Jody Gehrman

     From GoodReads, "Natalie, a seventeen-year-old former drama club member who now writes a relationship column for her school newspaper, decides to go undercover as a student at an all-boys boarding school so that she can figure out what guys are really like."

     First off, I have to say that I love, love, love the cover!  Haven't seen anything like it before.  Secondly, I am a huge fan of the movie She's the Man (and no, it isn't because hottie Channing Tatum is in it!) and this book reminded me of that movie a couple of times.  The girl on the front cover kind of looks like Amanda Bynes... but I digress.
     I liked that the main character, Natalie, who writes a column for the student newspaper under a male pseudonym, feels like she isn't appreciated by the know-it-all editors and decides to do something about it.    She decides to go undercover at an all-boys boarding school to figure out the male psyche. (I know tough assignment!) Anyways, after finding out she's rooming with Emilio, the sensitive and sexy doormie (cue Channing Tatum), the reader knows that she's in for a challenge.
     Overall, I really liked the book, but was somewhat disappointed by Natalie's letter towards the end of the book and thought that author, Jody Gehrman, could have delved a little deeper into the "male world" than she did. But with it's hijinks and humor, Babe in Boyland is sure to be a hit with teenage girls.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Guest Review (Kaylee): Wish

Title:  Wish
Author:  Joseph Monninger

     From GoodReads, "Bee’s brother, Tommy, knows everything there is to know about sharks. He also knows that his life will be cut short by cystic fibrosis. And so does Bee.

That’s why she wants to make his wish-foundation-sponsored trip to swim with a great white shark an unforgettable memory.

But wishes don’t always come true. At least, not as expected. Only when Bee takes Tommy to meet a famous shark attack survivor and hard-core surfer does Tommy have the chance to live one day to the fullest.

And in the sun-kissed ocean off a California beach, Bee discovers that she has a few secret wishes of her own. . . . "

     After talking about elements of great story openings last week in class, I can honestly say that Wish does not have many of the elements, but is a book that you should keep reading because it does get better after a slow opening.  Wish should appeal to readers that like realistic fiction because it is written in a way that makes you feel like you are part of the action.
     The main character, Bee, is very believable and Tommy is a sweet little boy who is pretty mature for his age, which I think is due to his life-threatening condition.  I would recommend reading this book because it makes you appreciate all of the things in life that you might take for granted.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: One Night That Changes Everything

Title:  One Night That Changes Everything
Author:  Lauren Barnholdt

     From GoodReads, "Eliza is in a full-blown panic. Her notebook has been stolen—the one that lists everything she wants but is afraid to go after. And the absolute worst person in the world has it: her ex-boyfriend, Cooper. 

Like it’s not enough Cooper was lying to Eliza for their entire relationship, now he and his friends are blackmailing her. They’re giving her just one night to complete the most humiliating tasks on her list or they’ll post her secrets online—including the ones that aren’t just about her.

Eliza’s sure of only one thing: she isn’t going down without a fight. Cooper may have what’s left of her dignity, but she’s not the only one with something to hide … "

     I was so excited to read Lauren Barnholdt’s latest book.  As usual she didn’t disappoint me!  One Night That Changes Everything had all of her writing qualities present.  Her books always have excitement, romance and suspense.  Every time I read her books I lose a little sleep because I can’t put it down.    One Night That Changes Everything is about a girl named Eliza and her quest to hide her most precious secrets.  To make matters worse her ex-boyfriend Cooper has to follow her around for the night. By the end of the night she learns a lot about herself and the others around her.  I would highly recommend any books that Lauren Barnholdt has written.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: The Duff

Title:  The Duff
Author:  Kody Keplinger

     From GoodReads, "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 "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face. 

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley. 

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that 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."

     There are some books that once you pick up, it is difficult to put them down... for me, this was that book.  I started the book at 9:00 p.m. and finished at around 1:30 a.m.  The Duff was quickly paced and I couldn't wait to see what happened.  I was very surprised to find out that author, Kody Keplinger, isn't that far out of high school.  
     The main character, Bianca, is extremely sarcastic.  So much so that some people reading the book might not like her too much.  I like her sarcastic nature.  She's the girl in high school that says what's on her mind and that you wish you could be more like.  Underneath her sarcastic attitude lies a girl that is afraid to let people in, including both her family and friends.  Bianca's nemesis in the book is Wesley, the bad boy that is known for his non-committed relationships (that's teacher-speak for one-night-stands!)  The bickering between these two was constant and often hilarious.  There was always an underlying chemistry between them that made me as a reader know that something was up between these two.  
     As a parent and teacher, I was surprised by some of the language and content in the book, however, I'm sure that some teens will appreciate Kody Kepplinger's honesty and strait-forwardness regarding these issues.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Title:  Cold Hands, Warm Heart
Author:  Jill Wolfson

     From GoodReads, "Dani was born with her heart on the wrong side of her body. In her fifteen years of life, she’s had more doctor’s appointments, X-rays, and tests, and eaten more green hospital Jell-O than she cares to think about. Fourteen-year-old Amanda is a competitive gymnast, her body a small package of sleek muscles, in perfect health. The two girls don’t know each other, don’t go to the same school, don’t have any friends in common. But their lives are about to collide."

     This novel did something that a lot of novels do not, it made me act.  Many good novels make you ponder and think of something in a different light and this novel did this as well for me, but it also made me act... by checking the organ donation box when renewing my driver's license.  I will never think of organ donation quite the same way after reading this book.  This is the amazing story of a fourteen-year-old girl who is seriously injured in a gymnastics accident.  Her family decides to donate her organs and the story continues through the eyes of the recipients of said organs and also the story of the gymnasts older brother.  This novel could have easily switched to something more sugary, but the author, Wolfson, stayed true to the characters of the book and made them heart-wrenchingly believable.  I was truly inspired reading this book and I think many others will be too.  I was happy to see that this novel is nominated for the 2012 Nebraska Golden Sower award in the Young Adult category and I am eager to get it in the hands of many readers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review: Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters

Title:  Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters
Author:  Natalie Standiford

     From GoodReads, "The Sullivan sisters have a big problem. On Christmas Day their rich and imperious grandmother gathers the family and announces that she will soon die . . .and has cut the entire family out of her will. Since she is the source of almost all their income, this means they will soon be penniless.
Someone in the family has offended her deeply. If that person comes forward with a confession of her (or his) crime, submitted in writing to her lawyer by New Year's Day, she will reinstate the family in her will. Or at least consider it.
And so the confessions begin...."

     As a mother I was intrigued about the confessions of three teenage girls.  It was interesting to ride along with each daughter and hear each thought and indiscretion each revealed.  I kept reading to see which one I felt had done the most damage and who could be the one to offend their grandmother.  Reading each confession you could see how different each daughter was and the different perception of  what could have been the offending incident.   I also liked how each girl learned, healed and felt remorse on their confessions.  The end was unexpected and surprising which definitely left me smiling as I closed the book.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: Bruiser

Title:  Bruiser
Author:  Neal Shusterman

     From GoodReads, "Tennyson:Don't get me started on the Bruiser. He was voted "Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty" by the entire school. He's the kid no one knows, no one talks to, and everyone hears disturbing rumors about. So why is my sister, BrontË, dating him? One of these days she's going to take in the wrong stray dog, and it's not going to end well.BrontË:My brother has no right to talk about Brewster that way—no right to threaten him. There's a reason why Brewster can't have friends—why he can't care about too many people. Because when he cares about you, things start to happen. Impossible things that can't be explained. I know, because they're happening to me.Award-winning author Neal Shusterman has crafted a chilling and unforgettable novel about the power of unconditional friendship, the complex gear workings of a family, and the sacrifices we endure for the people we love."

     In 2008, Neal Shusterman's The Schwa Was Here, was nominated for the Nebraska Golden Sower Award.  Prior to the nomination, I had never read any books by Neal Shusterman, however, I liked the book so much, picking up Bruiser, was an easy choice.  I think what I like most about Shusterman, is the way that he speaks to his readers without preaching his point.  He also doesn't talk down to his readers and assumes that they will be able to understand his intricately woven language or at least look up some of the words  (I admittedly do this at times).  
     Bruiser started out with such brutal reality that I couldn't wait to see what happened.  It did take awhile for me to figure out what the deal was and I will admit that once I figured out what was really going on, I almost put down the book.  I am glad that I finished it though because it turned out to be an intense story on just how deep the power of love and friendship can go.  

Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

Title:  The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin
Author:  Josh Berk

     From GoodReads, "Being a hefty, deaf newcomer almost makes Will Halpin the least popular guy at Coaler High. But when he befriends the only guy less popular than him, the dork-namic duo has the smarts and guts to figure out who knocked off the star quarterback. Will can’t hear what’s going on, but he’s a great observer. So, who did it? And why does that guy talk to his fingers? And will the beautiful girl ever notice him? (Okay, so Will’s interested in more than just murder . . .) 

Those who prefer their heroes to be not-so-usual and with a side of wiseguy will gobble up this witty, geeks-rule debut."

     I wasn't sure whether or not I would like this book after I read the description, but decided to give it a try.  I must say that I am really glad I did.  I must say that I really enjoyed that the main character, Will Halpin, has a disability, but doesn't let that keep him from trying new things... so much so that he transfers from a deaf school to a public school.  I loved Will's sense of humor and found myself laughing out loud from his sarcastic humor.  It also helped that his sidekick, Devon Smiley, is the coolest geek I've read about in years. The book was incredible... funny, mysterious, and typical (or not) teenage drama!  I would highly recommend reading it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Review: Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me

Title:  Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me
Author:  Kristen Chandler

     From GoodReads, "When KJ Carson is assigned to write a column for her school newspaper about the wolves in nearby Yellowstone National Park, she’s more interested in impressing Virgil Whitman, the new kid in school and the photographer assigned as her partner, than in investigative journalism. But before long, KJ has a face-to-face encounter with a wolf that changes her and the way she thinks about wolves. With her new found passion for protecting these controversial animals, KJ inadvertently ignites the fuse of the anti-wolf sentiment in the community. First Virgil is injured during a town parade, and then her father’s store is set on fire in retribution. To stop the escalating violence, KJ follows Virgil to the cattle ranch of the most outspoken anti-wolf activists in town, against her father’s will. What she discovers there threatens everything and everyone she cares about.  In KJ’s fierce and funny attempt to make peace between the wolves and the people that despise them, she must first face her own long-held fears. It’s terrifying, but then, finding yourself always is."

     Due to the success of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, there have been lots of books springing up about vampires and werewolves.  I assumed this was another one of them and I was completely and utterly incorrect and I am willing to admit it because I found this book to be AMAZINGLY unique.  So much so that I cannot believe that this is author, Kristen Chandler's first novel.  
     The book takes place in Yellowstone National Park and discusses, in depth, the quirkiness of both the human and animals that share the natural habitat.  I like animals, but have never really been one to want to know more about them and reading this book made me truly appreciate wolves.  
     If you are looking for a book that you can quickly read and just have a good time reading it, this is not the book for you.  This is a novel that you really have to sink your teeth into (pun intended).  I found myself having to look up more than a few words to understand the deeper meaning of the book and it really made me think and read with more of an analytical mind.  I am really glad that Chandler wrote in this way and I'm sure that deeper thinking teens will appreciate the fact that she doesn't talk down to her readers as well.
     I absolutely loved the main character in this book because of so many reasons.  First of all, KJ Carson, lives with her father who is a guide in Yellowstone.  Her father is supportive and loving in his own unique way.  I love the fact that even though these two characters experienced a loss (KJ's mother died when she was very young) they don't let that fact hold them back in any way, shape, or form.  Secondly, I liked that KJ had flaws, but was willing to stand up for what she believed in even though there were times in doing so that she caused pain to herself and the people she loved.  Lastly, I loved watching the dynamics between KJ and all of the other characters in the book.  Every character had such a deeper quality to them that it was fun to see what KJ was thinking.
     In addition to the wonderfully developed characters, an amazing plot, and superb writing, the book managed to be suspenseful and unpredictable.  I would recommend this book to anyone, teen and adult reader, who is looking for a thought-provoking, powerful read.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: Little Blog on the Prairie

Title:  Little Blog on the Prairie
Author:  Cathleen Davitt Bell

     From GoodReads, "Little House on the Prairie? Great book. Horrible idea for a family vacation.

Gen’s family is more comfortable spending time apart than together. Then Gen’s mom signs them up for Camp Frontier—a vacation that promises the “thrill” of living like 1890s pioneers. Forced to give up all of her modern possessions, Gen nevertheless manages to email her friends back home about life at “Little Hell on the Prairie,” as she’s renamed the camp. It turns out frontier life isn’t without its good points—like the cute boy who lives in the next clearing. And when her friends turn her emails into a blog, Gen is happily surprised by the fanbase that springs up. But just when it seems Gen and family might pull through the summer, disaster strikes as a TV crew descends on the camp, intent on discovering the girl behind the nationwide blogging sensation—and perhaps ruining the best vacation Gen has ever had."

     To be honest, I was really excited to read this book because of two things... the cover (which is so authentically appealing) and the title (which reminded me of some of  favorite books as a child, The Little House on the Prairie novels).  This book did not disappoint!  I absolutely loved it and so will upper elementary, middle school, and even high school girls.  (Heck, even moms will like it... I speak from experience.)  The premise of the book, a family transplanted back in time to experience life in the good old days as a family vacation, is a unique one, and I think that kids will identify with Gen because they will feel her pain when all of her technologic gadgets are stripped away from her.      Readers of the Little House on the Prairie series will immediately notice that Gen has her own Nellie Olson nemesis to deal with, just like Half Pint did in the Little House series.
     There was a lot to like about this book... I loved Gen the main character and thought that her voice specifically was relevant for young girls.  She had a quality about her that made her likable in a best-friend, kind-of way.  I loved how the author, Cathleen Davitt Bell, described Gen's frontier experiences.  The milking the cow scene was especially enjoyable.  I also loved how you got the best of both worlds in the story.  You went back in time, the 1890s to be exact and experienced some of the things that happened through Gen's eyes and you got a modern day story including an aspect of reality television.  The frustration that the family experiences at both the situations at the frontier camp and Gen's shenanigans throughout the whole process will have you laughing and identifying.  All in all... a great read!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: The Life of Glass

Title:  The Life of Glass
Author:  Jillian Cantor

       From GoodReads, "Before he died, Melissa’s father told her about stars. He told her that the brightest stars weren’t always the most beautiful—that if people took the time to look at the smaller stars, if they looked with a telescope at the true essence of the star, they would find real beauty. But even though Melissa knows that beauty isn’t only skin deep, the people around her don’t seem to feel that way. There’s her gorgeous sister Ashley who will barely acknowledge Melissa at school, there's her best friend Ryan, who may be falling in love with the sophisticated Courtney, and there’s Melissa’s mother who’s dating someone new, someone who Melissa knows will never be able to replace her father.

To make sure she doesn’t lose her father completely, Melissa spends her time trying to piece together the last of his secrets and completing a journal her father began—one about love and relationships and the remarkable ways people find one another. But when tragedy strikes, Melissa has to start living and loving in the present, as she realizes that being beautiful on the outside doesn't mean you can't be beautiful on the inside."

     I have to admit that this book reminded me a little bit too much of my own life to a certain degree.  As I began reading, it was eerily familiar and I felt a certain deja vu until I got past the first several chapters.  Let me explain... in high school, my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor that eventually led to his death after hospice in his early forties (which is similar to the main character's issues).   Another similarity that the main character and I share is our first name, Melissa.  As I started reading, the book transported me back to my earlier experiences.  Thankfully, those two similarities are the only ones we shared.  If the book had had anything else in common with me, I might have written the author and asked her where she got her inspiration.  
     To say that I liked this book would be an understatement.  I thought the book was amazing.  I loved how the author, Jillian Cantor,  voiced the main character, Melissa, and found her to be a honestly, refreshing high-school female character.  It was easy to feel what she was feeling.  I found Cantor's writing to be impeccable and reminiscent of why I fell in love with Sarah Dessen's writing in the beginning.  The way Cantor describes Melissa's emotions make it easy to identify with her problems and dilemmas.  It is unbelievable to think that this is only her second book.  From the first written words on the page to the very last period, she made me a part of her story and it reminded me of why I love reading in the first place... that you get a chance to live somebody else's life for a while.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: She's So Dead to Us

Title: She's So Dead to Us
Author:  Kieran Scott

     From GoodReads, "Perfect, picturesque Orchard Hill. It was the last thing Ally Ryan saw in the rear-view mirror as her mother drove them out of town and away from the shame of the scandal her father caused when his hedge fund went south and practically bankrupted all their friends -- friends that liked having trust funds and new cars, and that didn't like constant reminders that they had been swindled. So it was adios,Orchard Hill. Thanks for nothing.

Now, two years later, Ally's mother has landed a job back at the site of their downfall. So instead of Ally's new low-key, happy life, it'll be back into the snake pit with the likes of Shannen Moore and Hammond Ross.
But then there's Jake Graydon. Handsome, wealthy, bored Jake Graydon. He moved to town after Ally left and knows nothing of her scandal, but does know that he likes her. And she likes him. So off into the sunset they can go, right? Too bad Jake's friends have a problem with his new crush since it would make Ally happy. And if anyone deserves to be unhappy, it's Ally Ryan.
Ally was hoping to have left all the drama in the past, but some things just can't be forgotten. Isn't there more to life than money?"

     As a huge fan of Kieran Scott, I had been anxiously awaiting this book.  Unfortunately the book didn't live up to my expectations.  Don't get me wrong, there were lots of things about this book that I liked.  For example, I liked how the author used the school calendar to present what was going on in the story.  I thought that this was a clever way to progress through the book.  I also liked the premise of the book, especially because of all the things we hear on the news about the recession and ponzi schemes.  I also liked how the book alternated between two perspectives, Ally and Jake.  I liked the character of Ally for the most part.  Her fall from grace was believable and I could totally buy why it would have been difficult to return to the scene of the crime.  The hardest things to read were the parts of the story where her former friends were so incredibly mean to her.  I really liked the character of Jake.  Even though he was probably one of the most popular guys in school (and one of the best looking), Kieran Scott managed to give him soul and depth.  His inner struggle with fitting in with the crowd and doing the right thing was my favorite thing about the book.
     Now for the things I didn't exactly like.  Maybe I am just used to the way Kieran Scott usually writes, but this book was a lot different from earlier books that I have read.  I thought that in many ways the book was very predictable.  Once I realized that Ally's friends were mostly mean girls (especially Shannon), I pretty much could guess what their next terrible plan was for Ally.  I almost put the book down a couple of times, but the one thing I really wanted to know about (Ally's father) kept me reading.  Without giving away anything, I was very disappointed in how the book ended.  I now know that this book will probably be a sequel and it really isn't one that I can't wait to get my hands on... in fact, I'm not really that invested now with how Ally's life will turn out.  Having read (and loved) all of Kieran's Scott's book, I will definitely return to this author, but I probably won't return to this series.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Review: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder

Title: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder
Author: Julie Halpern

     From GoodReads, "It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathelete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college (and in the meantime has shaved his mohawk and started dating . . . the prom princess!) . . .

Things are changing fast. Jessie needs new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high-school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way—the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, who out-nerd everyone. Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes? If you go into the wild nerd yonder, can you ever come back?"

     I'm feeling a little conflicted about this book because I love the main character in the story's quirkiness (she sews her own patterned skirts and plays the drums and Dungeons and Dragons), her ability to get rid of poseur-friends, and her smarts.  There is one aspect of the main character that bothers me though and that is her relationship with her brother, Barrett.  I am fine with the fact that they look up to each other and have a close relationship, but there were times where I felt that they were too close.  I felt like Jessie had a certain innocence on one hand, but the next minute she was discussing her friend Bizza's sexual exploits with her brother. I think that the author meant this to demonstrate a certain coming-of-age quality to the book.  
      Overall, I liked the book and think that it would appeal to middle school and high school girls particularly.  There were parts of the book that I think upper elementary girls would like, but I worried about some of the sexual aspects of the book for this age group.  One huge compliment that I have for the author is her highlighting other terrific books.  I loved how she described the audiobooks that Jessie was listening to and a couple of the books discussed I had read and some I had not, but it made me want to read those books as well. Kudos, Julie Halpern!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Review: Split

Title: Split
Author: Swati Avasthi

     From GoodReads, "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. First-time novelist Swati Avasthihas created a riveting and remarkably nuanced portrait of what happens after. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split — how do you begin to live again?"

     This book was an amazing read!  I'm always trying to find great books for guys and I am really happy that this book is written from a guy's perspective.  I think that author, Swati Avasthi, (a woman, which I didn't realize until I read the back flap) did an amazing job portraying the feelings of someone like Jace, a teenager who purposefully takes the abuse of his father to protect his mother.  The book is a roller coaster ride of emotions and it is easy to see how even in a bad experience, family is one of those things that is permanent.  
     I loved the dynamic between Jace and his brother, Christian, who left the family when Jace was eleven to escape the abuse.  It is understanding that Jace would be somewhat untrusting of Christian and vice-versa.  The thing that is difficult to understand, both before and after reading the book, is why someone stays in an abusive relationship.  The book gave me some insight into the reasons, but I still don't understand it fully... and maybe, fortunately for me, I never will.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: The Julian Game

Title: The Julian Game
Author: Adele Griffin

     From GoodReads, "New girl Raye Archer is desperate for a way into the In crowd, so when ice-queen Ella Parker chooses her to get back at her ex, the gorgeous Julian Kilgarry, Raye is more than game. Even if it means creating a fake Facebook identity as “Elizabeth” so that she can learn enough about Julian to sabotage him. While a fun and dangerous thrill at first, what Raye hadn’t counted on was falling for Julian herself—and igniting Ella’s rage. 

As Raye works to reconcile the temptress Elizabeth with her real-life self, Ella serves up her own revenge. Now it’s Raye who falls victim, as Ella creates an online smear campaign of nasty rumors and trashy photographs. Suddenly notorious, Raye has to find a way out of the web of deceit that she’s helped to build, and back to the relationships that matter. "

     First off, I have to thank Adele Griffin for sending us an ARC of The Julian Game.  This book is a lot of fun to read.  The main character, Raye Archer, is a mix of nerdy, smart, naive, and funny... and I really liked her.  I also thought that her best friend, Natalya, was the epitome of a true friend.  It was especially interesting to see the dynamics between these two characters.  I think that Natalya was a better friend to Raye than vice-versa.  
     Another thing that stood out to me in the story is the fact that the bad girl, Ella Parker, has OCD, which makes her seem more human.  However, it doesn't take away the fact that she is an easy character to dislike.  The worst thing about her is how she treats people and not just the people she dislikes, but also the people that she considers friends.
     Another thing that I really liked about the book is the relationships between Raye, her father, and her future step-mother. It was nice to see an instance where family got along and wasn't dysfunctional. 
     There were a few times in the story that I got a little lost in the writing and I worry that the book might only have appeal for a limited time due in part to so many pop-culture references, but overall I really liked the book and I think most teen girls will like it as well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: My Father's Son

Title: My Father's Son
Author: Terri Fields

     From Shelfari, "WHAT IF YOUR FATHER ISN’T WHO YOU THOUGHT HE WAS? “I turn up the volume as a woman at a news desk announces, ‘This just in…the alleged DB25 monster has been arrested.’ Good. The camera switches from the anchor to a mug shot…and it is my face—or at least my face as it will look thirty years from now…A new image replaces the full-screen mug shot as I see two cops hustling my handcuffed father into the back of a police car.” Kevin has to face the worst imaginable possibility: that his father may be the man responsible for a series of vicious killings. How much does he really know about his father?"

     I began reading two nights ago and ended up staying up until the wee hours to finish it because this book grabs you from the opening pages and never lets go.  This is one of those books that you think that you have things figured out, only to realize that you are totally off base.  

     This is one of those books that keeps you thinking.  I liked that the main character, Kevin Windor, thinks that he has the perfect life only to have the world come tumbling down upon him.  It was interesting to see how he deals with all of the trauma unfolding around him.  I felt that the way that Kevin dealt with his life, his family, his friends, and all of the other aspects of the story was completely believable.  Author, Terri Fields, has written a masterful suspense story that is filled with excitement and mystery and I would highly recommend reading this book.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Review: Linger

Title: Linger
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

From GoodReads, "In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, inLinger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past...and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabel, who already lost her brother to the wolves...and is nonetheless drawn to Cole. At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love--the light and the dark, the warm and the cold--in a way you will never forget."

     It's been almost a year since Shiver came out and I am pretty sure that is why it took me awhile before I could re-connect with the characters from the first novel.  I distinctly remembered Grace and Sam, the main characters of the two books, but was having a hard time remembering the other characters from the story.  The book is told from different points of view, but unlike the first book, which was told just from Sam and Grace's perspectives, this book throws in two other character perspectives as well... Isabel and Cole.  I remember Isabel from the first book, but couldn't for the life of me place Cole from the first book.  I almost put Linger down to go back and re-read Shiver when a plot point in the book made me realize that Cole wasn't in the first novel (no wonder I didn't remember him.)  
     The moment that Cole St. Claire comes onto the scene, I instantly disliked him.  His cocky demeanor and abrasive viewpoints made me wonder why Maggie Stiefvater would want to include him in this second novel.  Then Maggie Stiefvater pulls a fast one on me as an unsuspecting reader and after all of the crappy things he does (and there are many), I find out that I'm actually starting to like him... just in time for the book to end.
     I have to admit that this book had me going through emotions that I don't normally experience while reading a book.  There were times that I was incredibly mad at Stiefvater.  I am a fan of happy endings and when I had the feeling that the book might not be going in that favor, I had to put the book down for two weeks while I made a decision whether I would return to it or not.  I did return, mainly because I wanted to know what happened.  I guess that is what makes Maggie Stiefvater a great author because she writes from her own emotions and in the process touches the reader's emotions as well.
     I can honestly say that I wasn't thrilled with the way this story ended (being the sucker for happy endings that I am), but again Stiefvater has me looking forward to finding out what happens to not only Grace and Sam, but Cole and Isabel as well... unfortunately it looks like I'll have to wait another year for the ending... here's hoping it is a happy one! 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Party

Title: Party
Author: Tom Leveen

     From Shelfari, "It's saturday night in Santa Barbara and school is done for the year. Everyone is headed to the same party. Or at least it seems that way. The place is packed.  Simple, right? But for 11 different people the motives are way more complicated. As each character takes a turn and tells his or her story, the eleven individuals intersect, and reconnect, collide, and combine in ways that none of them ever saw coming."

     I standing at the bookstore looking for a new read and the title Party definitely caught my attention!  I love reading about teens and their stories, so when I read the inside cover saying the book was about eleven teens and exciting party I was definitely interested.  Not only was this book exciting, I liked how each chapter covered a different teens story.  It was interesting to see how each story was related to one another.  I couldn’t wait to read the next chapter to see what the next teen had to say.  I almost felt like I was there!  I work at our schools library and will definitely put this book on the must read rack! 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

Title: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Author:  Morgan Matson

     From GoodReads, "Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself."

     I saw this book while I was searching for a new book to read (even though I have a shelf full of books that I haven't read yet at home, but I digress). Anyway, the cover immediately caught my eye.  I had finished reading another book recently about a road trip and hoped that this book would be as good as that one was.  This book not only met my expectations, it exceeded them.
     This book has a lot going for it, there was a little bit of mystery thrown into a self-discovery trip across the landscapes of America.  This book did something that not very many books have been able to do, it inspired me.  I actually took a short jaunt to Walmart this morning to purchase an atlas and start planning my own Epic Detour.
     There are some readers out there that might not like the character of  Amy, but I think that you don't necessarily have to like a character for them to be believable.  As a person who lost my father when I was close in age to Amy, I could totally identify with the flood of emotions she was feeling about his death.  I liked that this book represented not only Amy's journey of self-discovery, but Rogers as well.  I also thought it was cool that the book showed how you could be on a journey towards something only to discover in the end that it wasn't exactly what you wanted.  
     The only complaint that I have about the novel is that there is no way that you can "sip" a Blizzard at Dairy Queen.  If that is the only thing that bothered me, obviously it was a great book.  With my trusty atlas in hand and awesome songs from the Playlists suggested in the book, I hope to begin my own Epic Detour next summer... thanks to Morgan Matson!

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