Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: The Running Dream

Title:  The Running Dream
Author:  Wendelin Van Draanen

     From GoodReads, "Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?
As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.
With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her."

     If I had to describe The Running Dream in one word I would say AMAZING!  I am not even a runner but I am thinking I am missing out on something after I read this story.  I also think this story could be related to anything you have lost that made up your total existence.  It’s a story about something that you believe in with all your heart, put your 100% into being the best at and can’t image never doing ever again.  But it is also a story about overcoming a tragedy, finding yourself again, friendship, believing in dreams and never giving up.  This story felt like a journal traveling through Jessica Carlisle's endeavor to overcome the impossible.   I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed this book.  I highly recommend it! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Paranormalcy

Title:  Paranormalcy
Author:  Kiersten White

     From GoodReads, "Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal."

     I keep telling myself that I am going to go away from science fiction/fantasy novels and then great books, like this one, just keep being written.  What I really liked about this book was that it is unlike any book I have ever read before.  It has a little bit of everything in it wrapped up in a super-cool package of sugary sweetness.

     I loved the main character of Evie!  She is sarcastic, unapologetic, and brash... but has a sensitive side to her personality that she only shows to those that are really close to her.  This book plucks Evie, who is a typical teenage girl (besides the fact that she lives with mermaids, werewolves, and vampires), and places her in an environment where she has the power to make life-changing decisions (for said mermaids, werewolves, and vampires.)  I has the just the right amount of balance between genres that it will appeal to a lot of different types of readers.

     The book has a lot of great side characters too including her best friend Lish (who just happens to be a mermaid), her love interest, Lend (whose cloak of invisibility both confuses and entices Evie), and a myriad of other characters too unique to justify in a quick sentence.

     The incredible part of the book was how human Evie was in a world where very few humans existed.  Parts of her personality reminded me Lara Croft's kick-ass attitude and parts reminded me of the Alicia Silverstone character, Cher, in Clueless in her dimwittedness.  I also loved her reactions when she visited normal high school with Lend.  The whole book was just amusing.

     As a librarian, I appreciated the fact that the romance was subtle and the swearing was censored, which makes it easy for me to recommend this book to teens, middle schoolers and even some of my upper elementary students.  Kuddos to author Kiersten White for an amazing debut!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: If I Stay

Title:  If I Stay 
Author:  Gayle Forman

     From GoodReads, "In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...
A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands."

      I have wanted to read this book for a long time and am wondering why it took me so long!  Let me just tell you...I read this book in two hours!  
     I love the main character Mia, she is such a likable high schooler.  I love kids that have their ducks in a row.  Another thing I liked is the whole out of body situation.  I have always wondered if this was possible so it was fun to hang out with Mia and play what if. I can’t image what Mia is going though.  She had a great family and to make this huge decision would be very difficult.  Should I stay or go.  The relationship between Adam and Mia is very mature.  I really think they have true love.  This book left me hanging in the end, but in a good way!  The second book, Where She Went comes out in April and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!!!  Great story!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: Somebody Everybody Listens To

Title:  Somebody Everybody Listens To
Author:  Suzanne Supplee

     From GoodReads, "Retta Lee Jones is blessed with a beautiful voice and has big dreams of leaving her tiny Tennessee hometown. With a beaten down car, a pocketful of hard-earned waitressing money, and stars in her eyes, Retta sets out to make it big in Nashville. But the road to success isn't a smooth one in a town filled with dreamers, and Retta begins to have doubts: can she make her mark while staying true to herself?"

     I love books that feature characters with real problems, but don't let those problems stand in the way of getting what they dream about.  This is a novel that is both inspiring and realistic.  Retta, the main character, is a girl set on getting what she dreams about... a music career.  The book is written in her perspective and it shows that sometimes you have to go through a lot of stuff in your life before you are even able to go after what you want.  Retta's voice is so strong in this book, that it made me feel as if I were on this journey with her and her hard-knocks left me reeling with the frustration that she probably felt.  
     I absolutely loved Supplee's first novel, Artichoke's Heart, and I think this book, her second, will not disappoint either.  I also saw that she has a new book out called Mad Love, which looks great too.  Supplee definitely has a great start for what, I hope, is a long and prosperous writing career.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: I Am Number Four

Title:  I Am Number Four
Author:  Pittacus Lore

     From GoodReads, "In the beginning they were a group of nine. Nine aliens who left their home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack by the evil Mogadorian. Nine aliens who scattered on Earth. Nine aliens who look like ordinary teenagers living ordinary lives, but who have extraordinary, paranormal skills. Nine aliens who might be sitting next to you now. 

The Nine had to separate and go into hiding. The Mogadorian caught Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. All of them were killed. John Smith, of Paradise, Ohio, is Number Four. He knows that he is next. 

I AM NUMBER FOUR is the thrilling launch of a series about an exceptional group of teens as they struggle to outrun their past, discover their future—and live a normal life on Earth. 


     About two months ago, my son told me about this book that he was reading.  He's a reader, but normally doesn't say anything about a book unless it is a great one or something really catches his interest about it.  I was really reluctant to read it because, once again, it was sci-fy and I really didn't like the cover.  (I know... shame on me for judging a book by its cover, but it is a horrible cover.  Not the one that is here, but the red, orange and yellow one... I digress).  During the holiday break, my son said something that got my attention, he said, "This book is better than Twilight and almost as good as The Humger Games."  I decided that I needed to check it out and so I did. 
     I must say that the book had me from the opening sequence.  Since finishing the book, I have gone online and checked out many reviews and yes, most of them were not as favorable as mine is going to be, and they do say that there is a lot of action, but is action really such a bad thing?  I think not.  This is the kind of book that is going to get some of those teens out there that don't like to read all that much to actually pick up a book and I personally think that is a good thing.  
     This review has good news and bad news though.  I loved the story.  I thought it was a unique premise that hasn't been used before and the book, although violent at times, is worth reading.  I loved the main character, Number 4 (he also has a whole bunch of aliases), he is a believable character in a book where you have to suspend your beliefs every now and then.  I'm not as found of the main female character, Sarah, in the book though because she isn't as strong of a character as I would have liked her to be.  If my boyfriend told me that he was an alien from another planet, I'm not sure I would be quite as understanding as she was.    My favorite character was Sam, Number 4's best friend.  I loved that he was kind of a nerd, but still able to go for what he believed in.  Another character I really liked was Bernie Kosar, Number 4's dog, not the former football player.  All of this is good news.
     The bad news... I guess I think of it as bad news.  I have been frantically searching for the "real" author of the book because it says it is written by Pittacus Lore, but reading the book tells me that Pittacus Lore is actually one of the elders of the planet that Number 4 is from... so I really wanted to know who wrote this book.  Actually the book is co-authored by Jobie Hughes and James Frey.  I had never heard of Jobie Hughes, but James Frey is a different story.  James Frey is the author of A Million Little Pieces and is infamous for admitting to Oprah Winfrey and the world no less, that his book, which was supposed to be a true story about addiction, actually was fiction in multiple places.  (No wonder it's difficult to figure out who wrote it.)  Had I known before reading the book that it was written by Mr. Frey, I might not have read it, so kuddos to him or whoever thought up the fact to keep his identity as secret as possible.  Also, another thing that really surprised me (not exactly in a good way) is the fact that this series is planned to have six books.  Yes, you read that right six!  I can understand two or three, but six?!  Anyway... I guess time will tell how long I decide to hang in there.  For now, there is a movie based on the book coming out in February and the second title will be releasing later this year.  
     Now that you know the good/bad news, I guess you can decide for yourself whether you want to begin reading or not!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Review: Matched

Title:  Matched
Author:  Ally Condie

     From GoodReads, "Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow."

     I wasn't quite sure whether I wanted to read this book or not.  I liked the cover, but couldn't figure out how it related to the story.  I also knew that this novel was science fiction/fantasy which isn't my favorite genre so I was putting reading it off.  It wasn't until I saw that it was on the New York Times Bestseller list that I decided to take the plunge and read it and I'm so glad that I did.
     This novel is rich in so many ways... the first of which is the richness of the writing of Ally Condie.  This book is so beautifully written, I felt that it was a privilege to read each word.  I could tell that Ally Condie took her writing personally and chose each word with the greatest of concern.
     The novel takes place in the future where the Society controls everything... what you eat, who you marry, and even when you die.  This novel is reminiscent of many novels that I have previously read, but it brings a whole new spin on dystopian society.
     I loved the characters in the novel.  Cassia, the teenage girl whose life changes after she is Matched with her best friend and another boy.  Yes, that's right.  She has two matches, but one of those is a mistake.  Both of her matches, Xander and Ky, are also remarkable characters and it was easy to see how Cassia could love them both.
     Watching Cassia grow, develop, and most of all think in this novel is what makes it so wonderful.  I love how invested the reader gets with Cassia and finding out what she will do.  It is also good to see that each character has good and bad in them and that sometimes they make the right decisions and sometimes they make the wrong ones, but through it all they are human.  This is an amazing and beautiful read which is also powerful and at times, forbidden.  You will not be disappointed if you begin this book, just don't wait as long as I did.

Review: 13 to Life

Title:  13 to Life
Author:  Shannon Delany

     From GoodReads, "Everything about Jessie Gillmansen’s life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing.  Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she’s about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent—he’s a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie’s small town.  It seems change is the one thing Jessie can’t avoid…"

     I will just tell you this is one of those books that will keep you up at night, keep you from household chores or you can’t wait to get home to start reading again!  I really enjoyed reading this book and am so excited for the second one, Secrets and Shadows, that comes out in about a month.

     If your like me I am getting a little burnt out on paranormal and vampire books and have been craving a love story with normal people again.  So when a student recommended I read 13 to Life, I was reluctant, but decided to take a chance.  I read nearly the whole book before the paranormal part came into play.  By then I was so addicted to the characters and story it didn’t bother me a bit.  I absolutely love the main characters.  Jess Gillmansen is high school girl that I probably would have hung out with.  She is the outdoors type, not a lot of fluff and just real!   Pietr Ruskova, the new kid in school, is the mysterious type that you shouldn’t like, but can’t help it.  This book has forbidden love, suspense, mystery and romance.  I highly recommend this book and anxiously await the second one!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Tutored

Title:  Tutored
Author:  Allison Whittenberg

     From GoodReads, "Wendy Anderson and Hakiam Powell are at opposite ends of the spectrum—the social spectrum, the financial spectrum, the opportunity spectrum, you name it. Wendy lives in an all-white suburb of Philadelphia, where she’s always felt like the only chip in the cookie. Her dad, who fought his way out of the ghetto, doesn’t want her mingling with “those people.” In fact, all Wendy’s life, her father has told her how terrible “those people” are. He even objects to Wendy’s plan to attend a historically black college. But Wendy feels that her race is more than just the color of her skin, and she takes a job tutoring at an inner-city community center to get a more diverse perspective on life.
Hakiam has never lived in one place for more than a couple of years. When he aged out of foster care in Ohio, he hopped a bus to Philly to start over, but now he’s broke, stuck taking care of his cousin’s premature baby for no pay, and finding it harder than ever to stay out of trouble. When he meets Wendy at the tutoring center, he thinks she’s an uppity snob—she can’t possibly understand his life. But as he gets to know her better, he sees a softer side. And eventually—much to the chagrin of Wendy’s father and Hakiam’s cousin—they begin a rocky, but ultimately enlightening, romance.
This edgy story about a star-crossed couple features strong African American characters and sparkles with smart, quirky dialogue and fresh observations on social pressures and black-on-black prejudice."

     I was really excited to read this book when it came because the description sounded really good and I loved the cover.  Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed by the book itself.  The main characters, Wendy and Hakiam, began by hating each other, but you knew, as a reader, that the relationship would change.  It was how the relationship changed that really stumped me.  It was as if one minute they hated each other and the next minute they were kissing and totally into one another.  There just wasn't a momentum change that made sense.  
     There were aspects of the book that I liked.  I didn't realize in my own naive world that their was racism within a community and this book did a great job of showing that racism exists everywhere.  I was especially upset with Wendy's father.  He was a very domineering personality and it was interesting to see how Wendy challenged his value systems in her own way.  
    There were similarities between this book and Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, but if you are looking for a contemporary twist on a classic, I would skip this book and try Prom and Prejudice instead.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Prom & Prejudice

Title:  Prom & Prejudice
Author:  Elizabeth Eulberg

     From GoodReads, "After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.
Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway?
Will Lizzie’s pride and Will’s prejudice keep them apart? Or are they a prom couple in the making? Whatever the result, Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club, has concocted a very funny, completely stylish delight for any season — prom or otherwise."  

     I am quickly becoming a devoted fan of author Elizabeth Eulberg.  If authors had groupies, I would follow her around, I choose to read anything that she writes instead.  Her debut book, The Lonely Hearts Club, came out in 2010 and I loved it and was excited when I saw that she had a new book out.  This book didn't disappoint.  It was totally different from her first book, but outstanding as well!
     This book, a homage to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, contains many of the same characters as the book it pays tribute too, but they are re-done with a contemporary flair.  The main character, Lizzie Bennet, was a strongly written, unbelievably relatable character.  This character had so many dimensions to her, that you would be hard-pressed to not be able to find something that you could relate to.  I loved how strong-willed that she was and that she wasn't willing to compromise her beliefs and wasn't afraid to stand up for what she believed in.  
     Lizzie's object of affection/revulsion (depending on the day) was Will Darcy.  Every time that I have seen this name come up in books and movies, I have instantly been interested in him as a character and Eulberg makes this character deeply dimensional as well.  It is so fun to read about characters that keep some of their lives private and you have to dig into the layers to get to the true character.  
     I also really liked the supporting cast of characters in this book as well.  There were characters that I loved and ones that I loved to hate.  This is a novel that you will find entertaining, well-written, and worth the time it takes to read it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Review: It Started With A Dare

Title:  It Started With A Dare
Author:  Lindsay Faith Rech

     From GoodReads, "Self-proclaimed nobody CG Silverman sees her move to an upscale new school as her chance to be somebody different. Her devil-may-care attitude attracts the in-clique, and before CG realizes it, a routine game of truth or dare launches her to iconic status.
While this rebel image helps secure CG’s newfound popularity, it also propels her through a maze of unprecedented chaos, with each new lie and every dare opening doors that, in most cases, were better off left shut.
CG is on a collision course with disaster. Will she be able to keep up the fa├žade? Or will the whole world find out she’s a fraud?"

     The cover of this book goes very well with the book itself because the book is flirty and fun.  It Started With a Dare is a quick read from author Lindsay Faith Rech and it is her first YA fiction novel.  
     If you are looking for a book that is a quick, fun read, then this is the book for you.  The book reminded me of the popular movie Mean Girls because it had similar story lines.  The main character, CG, is a character that is definitely relatable, but doesn't really have too many redeeming qualities.  I had a hard time feeling bad for her because much of the situations she was in she brought upon herself.  Another thing that bothered me about the book was the amount of slang in the book or references to current pop culture.  I always worry when writers use too much of this because the book ages more quickly than it should.  The book itself is very predictable and there were a lot of things that made me think about my earlier days and smile, but all in all I would recommend this book to girls that want more fluff than substance.

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