Monday, April 26, 2010

In Our Mailbox (4)

The Karma Club by Jessica Brody
From GoodReads, "Madison Kasparkova always thought she understood how Karma works. It’s that mysterious, powerful force that brings harmony to the universe. You know—do good things and you will be rewarded, do something bad and Karma will make sure you get what’s coming to you. A sort of cosmic balancing act. 

But when Mason Brooks, Maddy’s boyfriend of two years, gets caught tongue-wrestling with Miss Perfect Body Heather Campbell, and absolutely nothing happens to either of them—except that they wind up the hot new couple of Colonial High School, it seems like Karma has officially left Maddy in the lurch. That’s why Maddy and her best friends, Angie and Jade, decide to start the Karma Club—a secret, members-only organization whose sole purpose is to clean up the messes that the universe has been leaving behind. Whether they’re modifying Heather Campbell’s acne cream as part of “Operation Butterface,” or righting a few wrongs when it comes to Angie and Jade’s own slimy exes, they know they’re just doing what Karma should have done in the first place. They’re taking care of one another.

Sometimes, though, it isn’t wise to meddle with the universe. Because it turns out, when you mess with Karma, Karma messes back. Now Maddy must find a way to balance her life for good, even as everything around her seems to be toppling to the ground."

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

From Good Reads, "In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, 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."


The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

From GoodReads, "Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don't like your best friend's boyfriend.

Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He's easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he's paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna's boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah's best friend.

Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she's thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It's wonderful...and awful.

Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can't stop herself from wanting more..."

The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

From GoodReads, "When the Prom Queen becomes your fairy godmother… 

Sixteen year old outsider, Jess Parker, gets the chance of a lifetime: an invitation to join a secret society of popular girls dedicated to defeating the mean girls of the world. The Cinderella Society guides all new recruits through its top secret ultimate life makeover. It’s all part of preparing them to face down the Wickeds and win. Determined not to let the Cindys down, Jess dives in with a passion. Finally, a chance to belong and show the world what she’s made of.

… be careful what you wish for.

Jess’s transformation wins her the heart of her dream crush and a shot at uber-popularity. Until the Wickeds–led by Jess’s arch enemy–begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers the real force behind her exclusive society. It’s a high stakes battle of good vs. evil, and the Cindys in power need Jess on special assignment. When the mission threatens to destroy her dream life come true, Jess is forced to choose between living a fairy tale and honoring the Sisterhood… and herself.

What’s a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn’t want to wear it anymore?"

The Blind Faith Hotel by Pamela Todd

From GoodReads, "When her family falls apart, fourteen-year-old Zoe feels like her whole world is going to pieces. Zoe's mother takes her kids away from their father, a fisherman who ships out to Alaska, and moves them to a run-down farmhouse she's inherited in the Midwest. Zoe's stuck -- in more ways than one.
Surrounded by strangers and a sea of prairie grass, she loses her bearings. A brush with the law lands Zoe in a work program at a local nature preserve. But the work starts to ground and steady her. When she meets a wild boy who shares her love of untamed places, it seems he might help Zoe find her way. Or is he too lost, too damaged himself?
Funny and poignant, sharp-eyed and real, this is a portrait of a girl looking for her own true self and a place she can call home."

Split by 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? Readers won’t be able to put this intense page-turner down."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Review: It's Not Summer Without You

Title: It's Not Summer Without You
Author: Jenny Han

From Shelfari, "Can summer be truly summer without Cousins Beach?
It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come.
But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started--at Cousins Beach."
Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Book 1.
      Ever since I read Shug, I have been a fan of Jenny Han.  This book is the sequel to The Summer I Turned Pretty.  I really enjoyed the first book and couldn't wait to read more about the lives of Belly, Jeremiah, and Conrad.  I found this book to be different than the first book in that it dealt with heavier issues.  The characters in the book are all dealing with the death of someone that was very important to them, each in their own unique way.  
     The first book left off with Conrad realizing that he had deeper feelings for Belly than he had imagined, much to Belly's surprise and Jeremiah's disdain.  The love triangle continues throughout this book, but it is not the center of the story.  The main focus is the death of Conrad and Jeremiah's mother and how everyone is taking Susannah's passing. 
     I bought this book on Thursday and finished it on Friday.  The reason I couldn't put it down was because of the fluent and realistic writing of author, Jenny Han. Han has an amazing gift of pulling the reader into the story so much that you are emotionally invested in the lives of the characters.  This book makes you travel the emotional roller coaster ride right along with the characters.  The Summer books have a delicate balance... one minute you can be laughing and in the next crying.  The characters are not one dimensional and they all have flaws or moments of weakness that make them very believable.  I know that you could probably read this book without reading the first one and it would make sense, but you cannot fully understand the complexity of this book and its characters without reading the first book.  
     I had a couple of complaints about the book. The first is that, at times, it wasn't clear immediately whether the action was taking place in the past or the present.  The second is the end and it is for purely selfish reasons.  I was all excited about the progression of Belly's love life until the "couple of years" later chapter, which tells you only that Belly is with someone, not who.  Now I am left with the feeling that I have to wait to see what happens and since this book just came out this week, that means that I am probably going to have to wait a while to find out what happens to Belly and ???? Curse you, Jenny Han! (Only in a good way, of course!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review: Palace Beautiful

Title: Palace Beautiful
Author: Sarah DeFord Williams

From GoodReads, "When sisters Sadie and Zuzu Brooks move to Salt Lake City, they discover a secret room in the attic of their new house, with a sign that reads “Palace Beautiful” and containing an old journal. Along with their neighbor, dramatic Belladonna Desolation (real name: Kristin Smith), they take turns reading the story of a girl named Helen living during the flu epidemic of 1918. The journal ends with a tragedy that has a scary parallel to Sadie and Zuzu’s lives, and the girls become obsessed with finding out what happened to Helen after the journal ends. Did she survive the flu? Is she still alive somewhere? Or could her ghost be lurking in the nearby graveyard?"

     I'm going to begin this review with one little word that means so much when referring to this book, WOW!  I stayed up into the wee hours of the night just so I could finish this terrific, thought-provoking, expertly written novel.  
     I loved this book so much that I'm not sure that I can due it justice in a paragraph or two.  This is the story of two girls, Sadie and her next door neighbor Bella, who discover a diary hidden in a secret room in Sadie's attic.  The diary is written by a girl named Helen that is about the same age as Sadie and Bella, but from almost seventy years earlier.  I have never been a fan of books that go back and forth between time periods, but this one is so well-written that it is fluent.  I really appreciated that author, Sarah DeFord Williams, didn't hold anything back just because this is a middle grades novel and I'm sure that kids will appreciate that about this book as well.  I also loved the characters in this book, especially Zuzu, Sadie's younger, temper-tantrum throwing sister.  I've never had a sister, but I liked the relationship that these girls had one minute annoyed with each other, the next best friends.  I can imagine that this is the way real sisters interact.  I also really like the character of Bella, the flamboyant, artistic, next-door neighbor of Sadie.  Her struggles with her mother and finding a place where she could be herself were some of the best parts about this book and there were a lot of great parts.  I also liked how Williams made a connection between the girls that were one focus of the story and Helen's family that were the other focus of the story.  This book was so beautifully crafted that the climax of the story will have you holding your breath wanting to read more. (Thus, the reason I was up so late!)
     I learned so much about the influenza epidemic of 1918 just by reading that it made me want to know more, which is a big feat as I am not normally a fan of historical fiction.  This book should be on several state and national awards lists as it truly is a remarkable read.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie

From GoodReads, "Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live."

     I know that this book came out in 2007, but I just had a student read this book and brought it back into the library laughing.  I had read it awhile ago and remembered liking it, but his reaction made me want to read it again. Wow, now I remember why I liked it so much the first time.  

     The book is told from the perspective of Junior, a high school boy, that leaves his school on the Indian reservation to attend a nearby school where the majority of the school is white.  It is easy to see from reading Alexie's take on Junior's life why this book was a National Book Award winner.  I actually wasn't sure that I would like the novel because I am neither a teen boy or a Native American, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Alexis' writing touches the teen loner in all of us.  The person that wants to be so much more than what they truly are.  I loved Junior's voice and thought his was both insightful and funny.  I learned recently that this book was loosely based on Alexie's life experiences and what experiences they are.  I loved the fact that even though Junior had many things to overcome, he was able to weather the storms of his life with humor and resilience.  The perfect mix of emotional highs and lows is what makes this book such an enjoyable read and Alexie's writing makes you feel such a deep connection to Junior that sometimes you think you are Junior.  I also enjoyed the mix of writing and cartoon images throughout the book and felt that the illustrations really added to my understanding of Junior's life.  There were definitely times that I was acutely aware that I wasn't a teen boy, thanks to some stomach-turning humor, but that is the beauty of its appeal for teens and it is easy to see why my student left the library laughing to himself.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review: The Tension of Opposites

Title: The Tension of Opposites
Author:  Kristina McBride

From GoodReads, "It’s been two years since Noelle disappeared. Two years since her bike was discovered, sprawled on a sidewalk. Two years of silence, of worry, of fear.

For those two long years, her best friend Tessa has waited, living her own life in a state of suspended animation. Because how can she allow herself to enjoy a normal high school life if Noelle can’t? How dare she have other friends, go to dances, date boys, without knowing what happened to the girl she thought she would share everything with?

And then one day, someone calls Noelle’s house. She’s alive.

A haunting psychological thriller taken straight from the headlines, The Tension of Opposites is a striking debut that explores the emotional aftermath of a kidnapping on the victim, and on the people she left behind."

     When I read the back of this book my first impression was the story was going to be really sad.  All I can say is I was totally wrong!! Even though this book covers some scary issues, it has so much more to it.  This book in my opinion covers all genres.  It has suspense, mystery, drama and plenty of romance. 

     Tessa McMullen, the main character, is one of the most amazing girls I have read about in a long time.  Learning to live her own life without guilt, have trust, and think of herself first are her biggest challenges.  How could she be happy and live life to its fullest when her best friend was living with none of these things?  When Noelle comes back it becomes Tessa mission to make things just the way they used to be.  Then there’s Max the new boy that adores her no matter how hard she tries to push him away.  In the end Tessa learns a lot and things work out just right!

     I highly recommend you read this book!  I never read a book twice, but would consider reading this again.  Give this book a shot, you won’t regret it! Put it this way….when you can't wait to get home from work to read a book, it is a great book!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review: The Body Finder

Title: The Body Finder
Author: Kimberly Derting

From GoodReads, "A serial killer on the loose. A girl with a morbid ability. And the boy who would never let anything happen to her. 

Violet Ambrose can find the dead. Or at least, those who have been murdered. She can sense the echoes they leave behind... and the imprints they leave on their killers. As if that weren't enough to deal with during junior year, she also has a sudden, inexplicable, and consuming crush on her best friend since childhood, Jay Heaton.

Now a serial killer has begun terrorizing Violet's small town... and she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him." 

     This book has it all... mystery, romance, heart-racing action, and a unique paranormal twist.  Add in wonderfully, creative writing from debut author, Kimberly Derting, and you've got one heck of a good book!  

     Violet, the main character, was a unique character...  not just because she has the gift (if that's what you want to call it) of finding the dead, but also because she was just a regular teen just trying to live her own life.  I thought that it was interesting that in the midst of dealing with a serial killer, she still managed to try and have a normal life.  Jay, Violet's friend since childhood, was also a unique character.  I don't know too many teen boys that would take care of Violet with the compassion and care that Jay did.  Jay will be sure to have many female fans, as he has all the characteristics that women, both young and old alike, are looking for in a guy. (Similar to Edward, but without the stalker quality!) I liked these two characters because they had a believability that many lead characters are lacking.  I also liked that they knew each other so well.  It was fun to watch their relationship grow throughout the novel.

     This story got my attention from the very first sentence of the book and kept it all the way through.  I also appreciated that it wasn't predictable in the way it could easily have been.  About half way through the book, what I thought would happen in the end happened and it left me wondering what I missed and from there the story unfolded even more.  Even though the ending had an ending, this book lends itself well to a sequel because of Violet's unique ability and I, for one, would love to hear more from Violet and Jay.  All in all, I would highly recommend this book, you won't regret it!

     On a side note: I am so glad that I joined the Story Siren's 2010 Debut Author Challenge because many of the books that I have loved and reviewed on this blog lately came because of this challenge.  There is still time to join so you might want to check it out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: The Ghost and the Goth

Title: The Ghost and the Goth
Author: Stacey Kade

From GoodReads, "After a close encounter with the front end of a school bus, Alona Dare goes from Homecoming Queen to Queen of the Dead. Now she’s stuck here in spirit form with no sign of the big, bright light coming to take her away. To make matters worse, the only person who might be able to help her is Will Killian, a total loser/outcast type who hates the social elite. He alone can see and hear her, but he wants nothing to do with the former mean girl of Groundsboro High. 

Can they get over their mutual distrust—and this weird attraction between them—to work together before Alona vanishes for good and Will is locked up for seeing things that don’t exist?"

     Thanks to an ARC, I got a chance to read this book way early (the official release date is July 6, 2010) and I am so glad that I did!  I am not normally a fan of ghost stories.  I've just began trying to branch out of my favorite genres into the science fiction/fantasy realm.  While this book technically fits into both of these genres, it is so much more!  I can truly say that this book has something for everyone.  I liked the fact that although it was a story about a young man that could communicate with ghosts, there was still an aspect of mystery, a touch of romance, and a unique story line.  
     When I first began reading the novel, I wasn't a fan of Alona Dare, the cheerleader who finds herself half way between the living and the dead.  It's really difficult to like a character that most of the other characters in the book dislike.  As the novel progresses, you realize that there is more than meets the eye and that Alona has a lot of depth to her character.  In fact, all of the characters in this book have great depth.  
     I immediately liked Will Killian, the goth who can communicate with the dead, even though he really doesn't want to.  Once again, we find out that there are a lot of elements at play in making Will who he is.  I am trying very hard to praise this book without giving away to many plot twists and turns.  It was the unpredictability of the book that made it most enjoyable for me to read.  I take that back, it's the complexity of the characters. No, it's the author's writing style.  Okay, it's all of the above!  This is a book that you won't regret reading.  I'm just sorry that you have to wait until July.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: Princess for Hire

Title: Princess for Hire
Author: Lindsey Leavitt

From GoodReads, "When a well-dressed woman steps out of a bubble and wants to know if you'd like to become a substitute princess, do you 
A) run
B) faint
C) say yes?
For Desi Bascomb, who's been longing for some glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C). Desi has a rare ability: with the help of "Royal Rouge," she can temporarily transform into the exact look-alike of any princess who needs her subbing services. Dream come true, right?
Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras.... In this winning debut, one girl's dream of glamour transforms into the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact Desi makes, one royal fiasco at a time."

     Lindsey Leavitt's debut novel has a very catchy cover and title that would appeal to any pre-teen.  As soon as I started reading, I knew the main character, Desi Bascomb, was a really great girl that had a big heart.  I like that she took her princess subbing seriously and wanted the best for the clients she subbed for.  She had a lot of courage and integrity.  When she was confronted by the Court of Appeals on her subbing performance, she never backed down to them and stuck to her position on why she behaved the way she did.  I think Desi is a great role model for girls because she takes a stand for what she believes in.  This book had romance, mystery and suspense.  I would recommend this book to any pre-teen that comes into our library.  

Monday, April 5, 2010

Review: Escaping the Tiger

Title: Escaping the Tiger
Author: Laura Manivong

From GoodReads, "When you're so skinny people call you Skeleton Boy, how do you find strength for the fight of your life?

Twelve-year-old Vonlai knows that soldiers who guard the Mekong River shoot at anything that moves, but in oppressive Communist Laos, there's nothing left for him, his spirited sister, Dalah, and his desperate parents. Their only hope is a refugee camp in Thailand—on the other side of the river.
When they reach the camp, their struggles are far from over. Na Pho is a forgotten place where life consists of squalid huts, stifling heat, and rationed food. Still, Vonlai tries to carry on as if everything is normal. He pays attention in school, a dusty barrack overcrowded with kids too hungry to learn. And, to forget his empty stomach, he plays soccer in a field full of rocks. But when someone inside the camp threatens his family, Vonlai calls on a forbidden skill to protect their future—a future he's sure is full of promise, if only they can make it out of Na Pho alive.
In her compelling debut, Laura Manivong has written an evocative story that is vividly real, strongly affecting, and, at its heart, about hope that resonates in even the darkest moments."

     The whole time I was reading this novel, I kept thinking, I wonder if this is based on a true story. I was so curious that I did some research and found out this story is based on author, Laura Manivong, husband's experiences.  Knowing this information brings an even deeper connection to the story than before.  The novel is told from the point of view of twelve-year-old Vonlai Siravong.  It is so incredible to think of the experiences that Vonlai had compared with the typical twelve-year-old American boy's experiences. 
     This novel isn't one that is easy to read, the experiences that face the Siravong family are incredibly moving.  Especially the way that Vonlai has to protect his sister from sexual assault within the refugee camp.  I really liked the connection Vonlai has with an older Lao colonel within the camp, who becomes a mentor to Vonlai.  Especially moving to me was the idea that within a refugee camp where it takes hard work, effort, and a positive mind-set to survive, there are still moments where normalcy occurs, like soccer games and school.  In these rare moments, I was reminded that Vonlai was still just a kid.  This novel should be on many awards lists and I will be sure that it gets read by as many people as I can possible entice.  

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