Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: July 30 - Aug 2, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Who is your favorite new-to-you author so far this year?

I have read so many new, fantastic authors this year, I don't think I can choose just one. I love what I read from Kay Cassidy (The Cinderella Society), Alexandra Bracken (Brightly Woven), Jennifer Echols (Forget You), and Josh Farrar (Rules to Rock By). Two of those were my absolutely top picks of 2010 (so far, anyway).


 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: RULES TO ROCK BY by Josh Farrar

Final Grade: 96/A
256 pages
YA Contemporary
Available Now
Review copy purchased
Recommend to students: A resounding YES!

BLURB: You'd never guess it now, but Annabelle Cabrera used to be a rock star. And not like her mom or dad called her a "total rock star" after she won a spelling bee or something. She was a real rock star, the bassist of Egg Mountain, the most popular band in the New York music scene. But when her parents uproot her from Brooklyn and move her to Rhode Island so they can record their own album, Annabelle feels lost. Starting a new band isn't as easy as she'd hoped, the school's rival band is a bunch of bullies, and her parents are so immersed in recording that they're completely neglecting Annabelle and her younger brother. How can Annabelle truly make herself heard?

REVIEW:  Oh, I really, really liked this story. Annabelle Cabrera is such a fun character--she's bright, driven and spunky (oh, wait...don't call her spunky, she hates that). And I feel so bad for her at the beginning of the book. She had a really good thing going back in Brooklyn with her grandmother to take care of her while her parents are off doing their band thing. The parents' indie band, Bennie and Joon, is Dad's main focus and Mom's focus is Dad, leaving little room for the kids. This was okay  when they lived with their grandmother but not good at all when they're stuck up in Providence, RI. One cannot live on chocolate chip pancakes alone, no matter how tasty.

Plus, and possibly most tragic, Annabelle has no one to rock out with! Back in NY, she was part of an up-and-coming band, one that was going places, one with fans as far away as Japan. But in RI, nothing. She's bound and determined to form her own band, with her as bassist and lead singer, and to write her own songs, too. That's more difficult that she expects, especially with an already-established rock band of 8th graders who also like to beat kids up and steal their lunch money.


The author brings his experience and knowledge of the music scene and of playing music to the story, which adds another dimension to it. I love how into music Annabelle is, how she goes about finding people who feel the same as she does, and how she finds support for her efforts from her ex-bandmate, who gives her the Rules to Rock By.

My only quibble is that these kids seemed older than sixth grade. The sixth graders I taught, especially at the beginning of the year, are more like elementary kids, pretty immature and nowhere as confident as Annabelle and her friends. I saw them more as eighth or ninth graders (which may not sound like a lot but it *really* is, especially in middle school). However, that's just me. I know there are mature 11 and 12 year olds out there but they're few and far between (despite what they think!). But this such a minor thing, it doesn't change the tone or tenor of the story (notice the music reference? heehee).

I'm adding this one to my list of favorite summer reads for 2010 'cause it totally rocks! (Sorry, it had to be said.)

The Crossroads Tour: What do YOU want to know?

This Halloween (Oct. 17-31, 2010), I'm taking part in a fantastic blog tour: The Crossroads. I'm super-excited about it, especially considering the awesome authors who are participating in it.

As one of the blogs hosting this (Judith Graves is the big Kahuna on this one--yay Judith!), I've got to come up with a couple questions or a topic for each author. (These can be the same for everyone or tailored.) Why am I telling you all this? I'd love some suggestions from you--what do you want to know about these authors and/or their books? Writing processes, ideas, what's up next, whatever! Give me some ideas about what you'd like to read this October as these fabulous authors tour through this blog.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW? 


Authors on The Crossroads Tour:
Amy Brecount White
Amanda Ashb

Jeri Smith-Ready


Angie Frazier
Lucienne Diver
Rosemary Clement-Moore
Linda Joy Singleton
Jordan Deen
Judith Graves
Jackie Kessler
Tonya Hurley
Karen Kincy
Kitty Keswick
Joy Preble
Stacey Kade

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2010 Summer Beach Read Challenge

I'm joining the challenge!

BWS tips button

Timeline: July 1, 2010 - August 31, 2010


Levels: Remember swim classes? Thus our reading challenge levels!
* Tadpole - Read 4 books in this challenge.
* Minnow - Read 8 books in this challenge.
* Dolphin - Read 12 books in this challenge.
* Shark - Read 16+ books in this challenge!

This summer, I've been devouring so many good books (yay for the YA scene--there are an amazing amount of completely awesome books out there). Most of what I've read, I've reviewed on this blog but not everything--I'm trying to stay mostly YA, especially since, once school starts, my students will be reading this blog! I'll have to count up my books but I think I'm already at the Dolphin level and on my way to Shark--yeah, baybee! I'm a predator in the book world!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: FORGET YOU by Jennifer Echols

Final Grade: 95/A
304 pages
YA Contemporary Romance
Available now
Review copy purchased
Recommend to students: Yes, with reservations (Content: sex, language)

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

REVIEW:  Wow. This book was fantastic! Jennifer Echols is now on my list of must-read authors. Before picking up this book, I'd never read her work but there were a ton of great recommendations out there from both bloggers and Tweeters I trust, so I bought it. One of the best purchases of the year.

Zoey is a great character. While she's a "rich girl", head of the swim team, and very smart, she's also personable and the kind of girl I could've been friends with in high school. And her life's not perfect--her dad cheated on her mom with a 24-year-old (divorce!), Mom has a nervous breakdown (Dad commits her. Yeah, he's a great guy *insert sarcasm*.), and Zoey's completely freaked out because she doesn't want anyone to know about Mom. But Doug does. Doug, who was in juvie, who hates her, knows, though he promises not to tell.

Unwilling to talk to her friends (the twins, who are terrible gossips and would blab Zoey's secret to everyone), Zoey tries to act normal, hanging with her friends at a beach party (this isn't actually normal for her), hooking up with Brandon, someone who she's always considered a friend (again, not normal for her--she has a rep for not putting out). After they hook up, she thinks Brandon is her boyfriend, even though he doesn't call, they don't go out, and he pretty much doesn't talk to her at school. He's even got his eyes on another girl, but Zoey doesn't notice. She's acting pretty stupid here and, if I were one of her friends, I would have to call her on it. But her friends are only thinking of Brandon's hottness and not of his bad, unboyfriend-like behavior. (Bad friends!)

After a football game, the swim team crashes the "boys only" beach party. Brandon is there so Zoey decides to go. The next thing she knows, she's being pulled from her wrecked car by Doug (who's acting all nice and tender--very unlike him--and she's feeling sparks of attraction). Then she wakes up in bed. Amnesia. She can't remember anything between the football game and the next morning. Doug's acting weird, Brandon's still avoiding her, her friends are distant, and her dad, who knows of the amnesia, threatens to lock her in the loony bin with her mother if she actually can't remember (oh, yeah. Such a nice guy).

There were times I really wanted to shake Zoey--she can't seem to see what's going on right in front of her face. I mean, Brandon's obviously not interested in her, and something went on/is going on between her and Doug (Doug's adorable, sweet and kind of broken because of his dad and other things). But she's afraid to ask outright or tell anyone that she really can't remember (okay, that's understandable since her dad threatened to lock her up). She won't talk to her friends (why, I don't really understand) and she won't ask Doug, mostly because she thinks he'll then turn around and tell everyone about her mother. So frustrating--come on, Zoey, talk to someone!

But that's what makes this book great. There's amazing tension and, while you may want to strangle the girl or knock some sense into her, she actually has a reason for doing what she does. Plus, what girl hasn't been completely stupid over a guy, despite all the signs pointing to his being a jackwagon? (love that word! It just cracks me up.) Read it. It's one of my top recommendations for 2010.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Review: BRIGHTLY WOVEN by Alexandra Bracken

Final Grade: 94/A
354 pages
YA Fantasy
Available now
Review copy purchased

BLURB: When Wayland North brings rain to a region that's been dry for over ten years, he's promised anything he'd like as a reward. He chooses the village elder's daughter, sixteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabel, who is a skilled weaver and has an unusual knack for repairing his magical cloaks. Though Sydelle has dreamt of escaping her home, she's hurt that her parents relinquish her so freely and finds herself awed and afraid of the slightly ragtag wizard who is unlike any of the men of magic in the tales she's heard. Still, she is drawn to this mysterious man who is fiercely protective of her and so reluctant to share his own past.

The pair rushes toward the capital, intent to stop an imminent war, pursued by Reuel Dorwan (a dark wizard who has taken a keen interest in Sydelle) and plagued by unusually wild weather. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers North's dark secret and the reason for his interest in her and learns to master her own mysterious power, it becomes increasingly clear that the fate of the kingdom rests in her fingertips. She will either be a savior, weaving together the frayed bonds between Saldorra and Auster, or the disastrous force that destroys both kingdoms forever.


REVIEW: This is a beautifully-written book. With sparkling imagery, Alexandra Bracken creates a world filled with magic, danger, love, witches, and wizards. I'm absolutely amazed that Bracken is a first-time novelist; she has such a way with words.

Sydelle is an interesting character, so determined to escape her hum-drum life for the adventure of her realm's capital or, at least, some place better than where she is. When the wizard North shows up and offers to take her away from it all (after saving her town from drought), she leaps at the chance, never guessing North's ulterior motive. It's not just her talent at weaving North is interested in (No, it's not her as a girl, either. At least in the beginning.).

North is on a mission to stop a war and, as he and Sydelle race across the country, they battle a dark wizard from North's past, rogue magic and their feelings for one another. I love their interactions, though most of the time, I wanted to smack North over the head with a large stick and tell him to stop being such a jackwagon. Poor Sydelle, she's just trying to do her job as North's assistant, to look out for him, and he's just such a jerk. Plus, he doesn't tell her anything about anything so she has to try to figure it out for herself. But Sydelle doesn't take much of his crap and has no problem standing up for herself. She's no wimpy character.

The entire book is pretty fast-paced, but the end of the book is filled with so many twists and turns and surprises and action that my head was spinning by the time I read the last sentence. This is not to say that I wanted the story to be drawn out but it was a little overwhelming. Plus, I really wasn't expecting what happened, and I didn't figure out Sydelle's real secret until quite late (I knew something was off, that she was more something but I couldn't decide how she was more or what she was).

I'm looking forward to reading whatever magic Alexandra Bracken produces next! (I know she's writing and working hard but I couldn't find any word of an upcoming book in my Google search. Has anyone heard anything?)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Fabulosity! Review & Contest: THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY by Kay Cassidy

Final Grade: 93/A-
322 pages
YA Contemporary
Available Now
Review copy purchased

WIN THIS BOOK!
(Contest rules at the bottom of this post)

BLURB (via Amazon): Sixteen-year-old Jess Parker survives by staying invisible. After nine schools in ten years, she's come to terms with life as a perpetual new girl, neither popular nor outcast. At Mt. Sterling High, Jess gets the chance of a lifetime: an invitation to join The Cinderella Society, a secret club of the most popular girls in school, where makeovers are the first order of official business. But there's more to being a Cindy than just reinventing yourself from the outside, a concept lost on Jess as she dives tiara-first into creating a hot new look.

With a date with her popular crush and a chance to finally fit in, Jess's life seems to be a perfect fairy tale. That is until the Wickeds--led by Jess's archenemy--begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers her new sisterhood is about much more than who rules Mt. Sterling High School. It's a centuries-old battle of good vs. evil, and the Cindys need Jess on special assignment. But when the mission threatens to destroy her new dream life, Jess is forced to choose between this dream realized and honoring the Sisterhood. What's a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn't want to wear it anymore? 


REVIEW: I'll tell you right now, my girls are going to love this book! (Yes, I'm giving away this copy--but I'm so getting another one to put on my classroom shelf!) It's all about girl power and standing up for yourself and standing up for those who need protecting, all great lessons that everyone should learn (though, unfortunately, some never learn).

The beginning of the book seems like one massive cliche: girl on the outside, mean girl who starts rumor about her and torments her endlessly, the crush on a hot guy who just happens to be the brother of the mean girl...but the author took these cliches and ran with them, creating something completely different.

The "good" girls, the ones with massive girl power and self confidence, are all part of a secret society, The Cinderella Society aka the Cindys. The "bad" girls are the Wickeds, also part of a secret society. (In this book, as in life, no one is completely good or bad; there's always the potential to switch sides.) The Cindys and the Wickeds battle for the Reggies--the regular kids. If the Wickeds can bend the Reggies to their wills, they'll have the Reggies in their power forever (meaning high school, college and beyond). The Cindys work to back the Reggies, helping them find their inner strength and stand up to the Wickeds. The Cindys and Wickeds are kind of good vs. evil, battling for the regular-type folks' souls and a balance of power. Of course, the guys aren't left out--there are Charmings and Villians (You can guess who goes with with, I'm sure), too.

While I loved this story, the whole girl power thing gets too in-your-face sometimes (I'm all for empowerment but, in a story, I need it to be a tad bit more subtle). "Wicked" thoughts being negative ones, being true to yourself, not putting others down, not dwelling on the embarrassing things were themes the author returned to time and time and time again. However, it didn't effect my enjoyment of the overall story.

At the center of the story is Jess, who is just a Reggie until she gets invited into the Cinderella Society. The Cindys help her find true self and her confidence, pushing her to be all she can be (yes, there's cheesiness just like that throughout the story but it's kind of cute). And one thing she wants to be is hottie Ryan's girlfriend (yay--romance!). But first, she has to gain confidence, find her style and get a makeover. She goes from someone being tormented by Wicked princess Lexy to someone who makes long speeches and stands up to said Wicked really quickly. Still, I liked her so I was willing to go with it. I'm not going to say any more about Jess and her rise to power because I don't want to give out any spoilers.

This story is a great set-up for the next book: CINDY ON A MISSION (Coming out Spring 2011). I'm now invested in all the girl-power rah-rah and looking forward to Kay Cassidy's next book. I want to find out if Jess wins...oh, wait. I can't say any more without giving it away! Just go read it (or win it!). You'll feel empowered after you do.

*******THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY CONTEST*********

Okay, honey bees! It's time to enter to win your very own copy of THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY so you can find out what happens with Jess and Ryan and the Cindys and the Wickeds! Now, I haven't quite figured out Google Docs yet (next contest, I promise) so we're doing this the old fashioned way, through the comments. And keeping it simple. I'm all about simple.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT TO ENTER THE CONTEST AND TELL ME IF YOU:

1 point: Followed this blog (required) (You won't regret it, I promise!)

EXTRA ENTRIES:
 
1 point: Tweeted about this contest

1 point: Mentioned this contest on your blog/sidebar (please leave me a link)

Old-school but simple. This contest ends July 30th, 5pm EST and is open only to US/Canadian residents (sorry international folks, I'm but a poor schoolteacher!). Don't forget to include your email address so I can contact you.

Good luck and I hope you enjoy being a honey bee in our swarm!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: July 23-26, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

The books I'm currently reading are:

The Carb Lover's Diet--I'm a carb addict and I'm trying to get healthy so I'm all about this book. I should have time to try the recipes within the next few days and, hopefully, they're as good as they look in the pictures (plus, they seem pretty simple and I'm all about simplicity, especially when it comes to cooking which I don't like).

Forget You--Jennifer Echols: Just started it (I'm on the first page!) but I've heard great things.

Can't wait to see what you all are reading!

TV Thursday: BURN NOTICE

When I was younger, I remember summertime was rerun time. There was NOTHING good on TV, unless they were rerunning an episode of a show you missed. We spent our summers playing Star Wars outside (which usually degraded into a game of Ghost in the Graveyard because all the girls wanted to be Princess Leah and none of the boys wanted to Darth Vader), hanging out at our grandmother's lake cabin in Wisconsin (which only had rabbit-eared TV and terrible reception), and reading.

Over the last couple of years, though, I've noticed new TV shows have crept into my summertime. And these some of these shows rock!

My very favorite (and one of the first to be part of the summer season, I believe) is BURN NOTICE. The banter between all the character is quick and witty, even snarky at times. And Michael Weston? *swoon* He's smart and adorable--a fabulously wounded character who's just trying to get his life back. I love how he talks you through what he's doing to nail the bad guy, his relationship with his mother (Sharon Gless, who was Cagney of Cagney & Lacey), and his on-again-off-again relationship with Fiona Glenanne (who he met when he was undercover in Ireland).

Bruce Campbell is Sam Axe. I've always loved Bruce Campbell, the king of the cheesy B movie. I mean, how can you not love someone who plays it straight in a Sam Rami movie called EVIL DEAD?!? And then goes on to make fun of himself in the made-with-so-much-cheese-you-might-explode SyFy movie, MY NAME IS BRUCE? Plus, he even has his own action figure, complete with:
  • Shemps Olde Tyme Whiskey
  • A Bruce collectible toy in melted package
  • Angel and Devil Bruces that attach to his shoulders
  • Refreshing Lemon Drink bottle
  • A miniature Chins book
  • A big honkin' gun with price tag still attached
And, finally, there's Fiona. She's teeny, she's tough--she's a total bad-arsed chick who I wouldn't want to be on the bad side of, especially since she really enjoys blowing stuff up. I even named my new rescue dog after her. Yep, little Fiona, who doesn't take any crap from her (much) bigger brother, especially when he tries to steal her chewies. And, if she could, I think she'd enjoy blowing stuff up.

The characters are wonderful, the story lines are intriguing and the writing rocks. If you haven't ever watched BURN NOTICE, check it out. (It's on USA, Thursdays 9pm EST.)

Final Grade for BURN NOTICE: 99/A+

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: THE GHOST AND THE GOTH by Stacey Kade

BLURB: 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 as a spirit (DON’T call her a ghost) in the land of the living with no sign of the big, bright light 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 who despises the social elite. He alone can see and hear (turns out he’s been “blessed” with the ability to communicate with the dead), but he wants nothing to do with the former mean girl of Groundsboro High.

Alona has never needed anyone for anything, and now she’s supposed to expose her deepest, darkest secrets to this pseudo-goth boy? Right. She’s not telling anyone what really happened the day she died, not even to save her eternal soul. And Will’s not filling out any volunteer forms to help her cross to the other side. He only has a few more weeks until his graduation, when he can strike out on his own and find a place with less spiritual interference. But he has to survive and stay out of the psych ward until then. Can they get over their mutual distrust—and the weird attraction between them—to work together before Alona vanishes for good and Will is locked up for seeing things that don’t exist?


REVIEW: I have to admit, this wasn't one I was planning on reading right away (no particular reason). But, after reading some excellent reviews and seeing the cute cover, I snatched it up and, boy-howdy, I'm glad I did! After getting it yesterday afternoon, I settled in to read it and couldn't put it down (while this is meant as a complement, I always feel bad when I say I read a book in a matter of 2-3 hours, since I know how much work the author put into it!).

Alona's a great character, and she, as well as her interactions with Will, are what kept me reading until the wee hours of the morning. In life, she was the perfect cheerleader-student-A-lister. In death, she finds out just how far she's fallen from the top of the social pyramid--her friends talk crap about her, her BFF has her tongue down Alona's boyfriend's throat the day after Alona's memorial, and every day she winds up flat on her back in the middle of the road, just like when that big bus hit and killed her.

She's understandably ticked off but determined to find "The Light" (although some people believe she belongs in, yanno, the other place). Then she discovers Will, a creepy, goth-looking guy who, while alive Alona would have nothing to do with. But he can communicate with the dead--something he'd rather not do, something his psychiatrist wants to lock him up in the looney bin for--and Alona needs him to go to the light, a place with unfattening Krispie Kremes and endless shopping.

Another thing I liked about this story is how Stacey Kade takes typical high school cliches, like the gorgeous cheerleader who has everything or the loser goth kid, and tweaks them. Throughout the story, Kade makes it a point to show how things aren't always what they seem. Alona may look like she has a perfect life but she also has an alcoholic mother and a distant father. Will's father committed suicide, devastating Will's mother and leaving Will to deal with his "gift" alone. This point-making was a little heavy-handed at times but not annoyingly so.

Besides Alona finding her way in the spirit world and Will trying not to get expelled or committed, there are other plots going on that keep the action moving forward and keep it from being all about Alona (although she'd probably like it that way) or Will. Kade's story is fast-paced, filled with tons of snarky dialogue, and well-drawn characters who keep you rooting for them. Highly recommended!

Final Grade for THE GHOST AND THE GOTH by Stacey Kade: 95/A
288 pages
YA Paranormal Romance
Available now
ARC provided by We Love YA!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: THE IRON DAUGHTER by Julie Kagawa

BLURB: Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron Fey, iron-bound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her. Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's alone in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.

REVIEW: This is the second complete book in the Iron Fey--and I highly suggest you read both THE IRON KING and the novella, WINTER'S PASSAGE (an e-book which, I think, is still free through Julie Kagawa's website), before picking up THE IRON DAUGHTER. While you probably can jump into book two of the series, you'll be missing a lot of details. Plus, how will you know if you're on Team Puck or Team Ash? 'Cause DAUGHTER's all about Team Ash (and after reading this book--no spoilers--I have totally jumped on board with Ash).


Just like in the first book, I really enjoyed the way Kagawa used the already-existing mythology surrounding the fay. There's the Summer King versus the Winter Queen (Gotta love Mab. She's a great villian.); gnomes, redcaps, plus a ton of more obscure mythological creatures; and, of course, magic. 

Kagawa's power of description, which I fully appreciated in the first book, took me to the Winter palace, as cold and beautiful as Mab herself, where Meghan is at the beginning of the book (due to her bargain with Ash, a Winter prince), and almost made me shiver in the summer heat as I read. The descriptions weren't quite as crisp or clear once Meghan and Ash escaped into the land of Nevernever but my imagination had no problem filling in the gaps (though it helps if you've read book or mythology involving the land of the Fey).


One of my favorite minor characters was one of the Iron Fey, Virus. It's not that I like-liked her but she was the most creative, I felt. The Iron Fey rose up from human obsession with technology so there are wiremen, packrats (they were in book 1 but not this one), little metal flying creatures and even a character who is a massive iron horse (named Ironhorse). Virus can infect Summer and Winter Fey, much like viruses can infect computers. She's a power-hungry creature who'll do just about anything to get it.


The Meghan-and-Ash love story and Ash-Meghan-Puck love triangle are all about heartbreak in this book. By the rules of the Fey, Summer and Winter must not get involved. And, as soon as Meghan turns herself in to Mab, Ash turns cold as ice towards her. Meghan's heartbroken. I was a little aggravated with her because of this--Ash told her he had to ignore her, that he had to be mean. He even said that if his mother ordered one of his brothers to kill or torture her, he could do nothing more than stand there and watch. But she seemed to have forgotten that, weeping and moaning about Ash and his meanness. Then there's Puck, who miraculously reappears from his time of healing in a tree (Book 1), who loves Meghan. Poor Puck. Meghan only wants Ash. And Ash leaves her. (Okay. No more or I'll be spoiling!)


All in all a great book--fast-paced, with characters you can get behind, and a creative twist on a classic mythology.

Final grade for THE IRON DAUGHTER by Julie Kagawa: 93/A
368 pages
YA Fantasy
Release date: August 1, 2010
E-Galley provided by netGalley and Harlequin

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Review: THE ORACLE OF DATING by Allison van Diepen

BLURB: For five bucks, the Oracle of Dating will tell you:
* How to flirt
* If that cute guy you're crushing on likes you, too
* Whether your new romance will last through lunch period
* And much more
What she won't tell you? Who she is.

No one at Kayla's school knows she's the famous Oracle of Dating—the anonymous queen of dating advice. She doesn't even have a boyfriend. Two relationship disasters were enough to make Kayla focus on everyone else's love life.

But then her advice backfires on her own best friend. And Kayla starts to seriously obsess about Jared Stewart—the very cute, very mysterious new guy in school. Suddenly, the teen queen of advice needs her own oracle of dating—and she knows just where to find one….


REVIEW: In the mood for a fun beach read? Check out THE ORACLE OF DATING. The main character, Kayla, is all about helping people with their love lives and she's pretty good at it, handing out love and dating advice to her older sister and people who visit her website (no one but her sister knows Kayla's The Oracle and she wants to keep it that way). She works hard to give good advice to those who IM, email or call her (at $5 a pop--she's hoping this hobby will get her out of a crappy job and soon), though she doesn't really see the repercussions of her advice until she gives advice to one of her best friends.

Kayla gives tons of good dating advice (as posted on her blog), some of which is based on her past experiences, some is based on books she's read and, later in the book, Kayla's posts started reflecting her real life. Like when her crush, Jared, starts seeing someone else, she posts "Lovesickness: You Want Who You Can't Have". Or, after her first date with Jared, he doesn't kiss her and she's left wondering if it really was a date or if he really likes her, she writes a post entitled "To Kiss or Not to Kiss? The Rules of Kissing on a First Date: A Plea to Guys Everywhere".

Jared was a bit of a stereotype--an artsy, I'm-in-a-band kind of guy who acts like the bad boy but is more of a marshmallow inside. However, he grew on me, despite the fact that he was a walking cliche. Another little issue for me in the book was Kayla's older sister, Tracey's plotline. While I think it was in there so the reader would know that Kayla gave good advice but, to me, it was distracting. Written in third person present (the rest of the book was first person present, in Kayla's perspective), Tracey's story didn't seem all that necessary. Kayla, her actions and her friends carried the story well enough on their own.

All in all, THE ORACLE is great for a day planted on the beach with a sling chair, a cold lemonade and your toes buried in the sand.

Final grade for THE ORACLE OF DATING by Allison van Diepen: 85/B
256 pages
YA contemporary romance
Available now
E-Galley provided by netGalley and Harlequin

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: July 16-19, 2010 & Follow Friday


The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy for Books.
Check out Jennifer's blog to sign up and start hopping!

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: RIGHT THIS INSTANT, WHAT BOOK ARE YOU DYING TO GET YOUR HANDS ON (PAST, PRESENT, OR FUTURE)?

I'm dying to read Kathy Reichs's VIRALS (I wrote about it on Thursday's post and it sounds like all kinds of awesome)! It's not out until November, and I just contacted her PR department begging for an ARC of any kind. 
*fingers and toes crossed even though I know it's a super-long shot!* 
But, if it were in my hands right now, I'd be reading it today. And not doing anything else. Except maybe drinking Diet Coke and eating copious amounts of chocolate while doing so.


 Want to participate? Check out the lovely host of Follow Friday http://www.parajunkee.com/!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ooh! Want! VIRALS by Kathy Reichs

Okay, while this is a case of yet another adult author venturing into the fantastic-fabulous YA market, I love Kathy Reichs. I love Bones. I love Temperance Brennan and all of Kathy Reichs's books. So, when I saw this pop up in my Amazon alerts, I got excited:

BLURB: Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvo virus that changes their lives forever.
As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their new-found physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot--if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.
Fortunately, they are now more than friends: they're a pack. They are Virals. 

Amazon is calling this "Teen Adventure/Thriller" but it's got some sci-fi elements to it so I'm calling it a YA SciFi Thriller. Either way, it looks great!

Unless I can get my hands on an ARC, I guess I'll have to wait until it's released November 2, 2010.  *sigh* I've never been very good at waiting.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: THE RISE OF RENEGADE X by Chelsea M. Campbell

BLURB: Sixteen-year-old Damien Locke has a plan: major in messing with people at the local supervillain university and become a professional evil genius, just like his supervillain mom. But when he discovers the shameful secret she's been hiding all these years, that the one-night stand that spawned him was actually with a superhero, everything gets messed up. His father's too moral for his own good, so when he finds out Damien exists, he actually wants him to come live with him and his goody-goody superhero family. Damien gets shipped off to stay with them in their suburban hellhole, and he has only six weeks to prove he's not a hero in any way, or else he's stuck living with them for the rest of his life, or until he turns eighteen, whichever comes first.

To get out of this mess, Damien has to survive his dad's "flying lessons" that involve throwing him off the tallest building in the city--despite his nearly debilitating fear of heights--thwarting the eccentric teen scientist who insists she's his sidekick, and keeping his supervillain girlfriend from finding out the truth. But when Damien uncovers a dastardly plot to turn all the superheroes into mindless zombie slaves, a plan hatched by his own mom, he discovers he cares about his new family more than he thought. Now he has to choose: go back to his life of villainy and let his family become zombies, or stand up to his mom and become a real hero.


REVIEW:  I really, really enjoyed this story (when you finish a book in just a couple of hours and don't just skim the thing, you know it's good!). It was fun and snarky. Yay for the anti-hero. Or at least a kid who's convinced he is an anti-hero, hates heroes and everything to do with them, and swears he'll never be a hero.

But is he really the villian he thinks he is (and really wants to be)? Well, he's dating a supervillian chick who's power is shapeshifting. He "punishes" those who annoy him with robot scorpions in their backpacks and worms in their shampoo. He has a List of those on whom he will seek revenge (It sounds much more ominous written with proper grammar. Go figure.) when he gets his powers. But he freed his mother's lab rats. And goes out of his way to help his ex-girlfriend when she makes a mistake. And befriends the class outcast. Guess that's why he's a renegade. Well, besides the fact that "Renegade X" is a really cool name.

Campbell does a great job developing her snarky antihero. The dialogue is snappy, and I can totally hear echoes of my students in Damien's conversations with not only his friends but his parents. The other characters are also well drawn: Mom as the science-focused evil scientist; Kat as the friend/ex-girlfriend/girlfriend; Sarah as the nerdy sidekick; and Dad as the put-upon superhero. All in all, a very enjoyable summer read.

Final Grade for THE RISE OF RENEGADE X by Chelsea M. Campbell: 95/A
352 pages
YA Superhero
Available now (hardcover)
Review copy purchased

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: THE SLEEPING BEAUTY by Mercedes Lackey

BLURB: Heavy is the head—and the eyelids—of the princess who wears the crown…
In Rosamund's realm, happiness hinges on a few simple beliefs:
For every princess there's a prince.
The king has ultimate power.
Stepmothers should never be trusted.
And bad things come to those who break with Tradition….

But when Rosa is pursued by a murderous huntsman and then captured by dwarves, her beliefs go up in smoke. Determined to escape and save her kingdom from imminent invasion, she agrees to become the guinea pig in one of her stepmother's risky incantations—thus falling into a deep, deep sleep.

When awakened by a touchy-feely stranger, Rosa must choose between Tradition and her future…between a host of eligible princes and a handsome, fair-haired outsider. And learn the difference between being a princess and ruling as a queen.
The moral of the story? Sometimes a princess has to create her own happy endings…. 

REVIEW: Mercedes Lackey, along with Anne McCaffrey, was one of the authors who first introduced me to the fantasy genre. It was her Valedmar series that sucked me in (I found it in the early 90's) and her Five Hundred Kingdoms series (2004) that brought me back to her. THE SLEEPING BEAUTY is the fifth novel of this series.

Although the blurb only focuses on one character, Rosa, there are actually three main characters: Rosa, Seigfried and Lily, who is a Godmother (just like in the fairy tales). Lily is my favorite character. As a Godmother, she must make sure The Tradition doesn't totally screw up people's lives. (The Tradition is a magical force that pushes people into traditional fairy tale roles like sleeping beauty, snow white, the handsome prince, etc.) Rosa, a beautiful princess whose mother just died, seems to be on the path of Snow White and Lily, as Godmother, sticks her nose into it because, if an evil stepmother did come into their lives, the kingdom might fall into ruins.

Rosa's a little too passive and whiny at first, which kind of turned me off. But after Lily helps her escape from a bunch of nasty little Dwarves and two handsome princes appear to kiss her awake, she fires up and takes back a bit of control.

Sigfried, one of the two princes, has his own problems with The Tradition--not the Anglo-Saxon fairy tale traditions but traditional stories from the Norse tales, which include Shield Maidens, half-gods, and cursed rings. It's obvious as soon as he's introduced that he is going to be Rosa's love interest and her future husband. The fun is in how Lackey eventually brings the two of them together. (I suppose you might consider that a spoiler but, as he's one of three third-person narrators and none of the other guys are, I'm figuring you'll realize it as soon as you meet him.)

I love how Lackey creatively twists fairy tales and mythology into her story, adds in a dash of romance and, of course, a bad guy (who isn't so obvious until later on) who's out to steal the fair damsel for his own. This story is entertaining, a quick and easy read, and makes a fabulous beach read.

Final Grade for THE SLEEPING BEAUTY by Mercedes Lackey: 87/B
352 pages
Fantasy, Romance
Available now (hardcover)
eARC provided by Harlequin's Luna imprint

Monday, July 12, 2010

Once Upon a Read-A-Thon July 12-14

Today is the first day of the Once Upon A Read-A-Thon! Yay!


I've got an extensive TBR pile (I blame it on an Amazon addiction. Oh well.) but for the read-a-thon, I think I'm going to read:

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY by Mercedes Lackey (Fantasy)
MANIFEST by Artist Arthur (YA urban fantasy)
THE ORACLE OF DATING by Allison van Diepen (YA contemporary)
THE IRON DAUGHTER by Julie Kagawa (YA fantasy)

I might be able to read some more but I actually have to work Tuesday and Wednesday (*gasp* THE HORROR! Just kidding) plus I'm on a roll with my WIP and don't want to totally lose the momentum. So many books, so little time!

If you want to join us for the read-a-thon, visit Pure Imagination and sign up!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review: WILDTHORN by Jane Eagland

BLURB: They strip her naked, of everything—undo her whalebone corset, hook by hook. Locked away in Wildthorn Hall—a madhouse—they take her identity. She is now called Lucy Childs. She has no one; she has nothing. But, she is still seventeen—still Louisa Cosgrove, isn't she? Who has done this unthinkable deed? Louisa must free herself, in more ways than one, and muster up the courage to be her true self, all the while solving her own twisted mystery and falling into an unconventional love . . .
 
Originally published in the UK, this well-paced, provocative romance pushes on boundaries—both literal and figurative—and, do beware: it will bind you, too. 
 
 REVIEW: Historical fiction isn't my current preferred genre (back in high school, I went through a long period where I read nothing but historical romances. Oh, and assigned readings, of course. But that was years ago.), but the premise of this story intrigued me. The main character, Louisa, has always dreamed of being a doctor like her father but, unfortunately for her, she lives in a time when women are expected to be nothing more than good hostesses and pretty decorations. Her continuing desire to learn, to better her mind and earn a degree are seen by her family and by others as signs of madness. So, they lock her in an insane asylum and forget about her.

Thank God we don't live in those times anymore. I mean, it's one thing to watch a period movie and think how romantic and lovely it might be. The reality of the time was quite different: whalebone corsets, no real schooling for women, barbaric and deadly medical practices, and inhumane hospitals for those with (and without) mental illnesses. And this story addresses it all. 
 
Eagland tells the story in first person, through Louisa's eyes. Part of it is in present tense, when Louisa is in the asylum, trying to preserve her mind and escape the place. Part of it is told in flashbacks including how she became interested in medicine, her relationships with various family members, and the incidents leading up to a relative's decision to put Louisa away "for her own good". While I'm not a big fan of flashbacks (especially ones that carry on throughout the entire story), these are both purposeful and necessary to better understanding Louisa and the world she lives in.

The portions when Louisa was in the asylum are well done and heart-wrenching at times, especially when she gets involved with another patient who claims to have lost her baby. The historically accurate details sprinkled throughout only add to the realistic feeling. All in all, Louisa and her struggles against the rules of her society make for an interesting story.

Final grade for WILDTHORN by Jane Eagland: 85/B
352 pages
YA Historical Fiction
Hardcover out on September 6, 2010
Online ARC, cover illustration and blurb provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: July 9-12, 2010

This week's question:  Tell us about some of your favorite authors and why they are your favorites!


Ooh, so many authors, so little time. But here are a couple of my faves:

1) Janet Evanovich - you may laugh but this woman writes pure brain candy and I LOVE it. I'm re-reading her first Stephanie Plum (One for the Money) and I'm amazed how she can set a scene and define a character with just a couple of words. Okay, so her stories are a bit repetitive (I do love how Stephanie's car is destroyed in EVERY book) but they're fun.


2) Dodie Smith - She was the woman who wrote 101 Dalmatians, one of my very favorite books when I was a kid. My parents read this one aloud to me, and then I re-read it so many times our original copy just about fell apart (and then we lent it out and didn't get it back. Took me forever to find another copy!).


3) Jim Butcher - This man knows how to write a series and keep it on track and interesting. Harry Dresden rocks!


4) Lilith Saintcrow - God, her fight scenes are to die for. And I don't think I've ever read more kick-butt heroines than hers (both her adult series and her YA series). Fantastic.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review: SISTERS RED by Jackson Pearce

BLURB: The wolf opened its long jaws, rows of teeth stretching for her. A thought locked itself in Scarlett's mind: I am the only one left to fight, so now I must kill you.


Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister, Rosie, from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and a blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She'd determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.


Rosie March once felt that her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Scarlett's only friend, Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax. But does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?

REVIEW: While I ultimately enjoyed the story as a whole, it took me a while to finish the book (I stopped and read two books in between starting and finishing SISTERS RED, which is really unusual for me. I generally like to finish what I start, specially when it comes to books.). I liked how Pearce used the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale to create this story: the big bad wolves (men who become Fenris after cornering their prey of young, tasty girls), the grandmother (who gets eaten at the beginning of the story), the woodsman (who comes too late to save granny but saves and raises the girls), and the girl with her hooded red cloak (the two girls who become huntresses in their own right).

SISTERS RED is written in two points of view--that of the two sisters, who, while they say they "share one heart", are completely different personalities. Scarlett is incredibly driven, feeling responsible not only for her younger sister but for all the girls the Fenris attack and eat. All she thinks about is how to kill the Fenris. Rosie tries to live up to her sister's high standards, to be as focused on taking out the werewolves as Scarlett is.

About halfway through the book, I decided Scarlett needed therapy. Lots of it. The poor girl was obsessed to the point of not sleeping or eating. And she was driving her sister and her friend away with her need to hunt and her anger at them when they weren't as focused as she was. But her obsession was somewhat understandable: Fenris ate her grandmother, scarred her terribly (even taking one of her eyes), and ate pretty young girls. She knew there was evil in the world and felt she had to do something about it.


When the Fenris head to the city to find the Potential (Fenris are human first, able to be changed into a werewolf with a bite every seven years), the trio follows, determined to find the Potential before he can be added to one of the packs. Scarlett pursues the Fenris and their Potential with typical single-mindedness. But Rosie tries to get a life outside of hunting (which included falling for Silas and learning origami), though she hides it from her sister. There is a bit of a twist to this story, though it was pretty easy to spot. Some excellent action scenes, but the romance between Rosie and Silas seemed forced, like Pearce felt she had to have some romance in the book.

Final Grade for SISTERS RED by Jackson Pearce: 85/B
352 pages
YA Urban Fantasy (though I'm calling it a "Twisted Fairy Tale")
Review copy was purchased

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hunger Games Book Trailers

My 8th grade students' final project of our dystopian unit (well, final project of the year, too) was to create a book trailer for one of the two books they read (they had a choice of 13 different books to read). Their favorite book to create a trailer for was THE HUNGER GAMES though, somewhat surprisingly to me, Fahrenheit 451 came in a close second.

Before creating the videos, we watched a ton of different book trailers on YouTube, which the kids loved (though I got a couple of groans and "not another one" by about the fifth trailer that involved vampires or witches or faeries).

Anyway, I wanted to share a couple of them with you all. Here are three different trailers for THE HUNGER GAMES:





Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Contest Winners!

Wow! What a welcome to the Book Blogging Community--you all rock and I'm thrilled to be a part of it!

And now, on to the winners of my first contest (chosen through Random.org):

KRIS (of The Cajun Book Lady) won INSATIABLE by Meg Cabot

SAM (of Read Sam, Read!) won BURNED by PC & Kristin Cast

TORE won THE DEMON'S LEXICON by Sarah Rees Brennab

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you via email shortly so I can get these lovely books out to you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: July 2-5




Hi! I'm a little late with this but there've been a bunch of Blog Hoppers visiting, I wanted to jump on it (hehe. very punny). If you're into joining the fun, visit Jennifer over at http://www.crazy-for-books.com/ - there are some absolutely amazing bloggers doing the hop (I can't wait to meet even more of them!)!

As you may have noticed, this is a brand new blog. But I'm not a brand new blogger. I actually started blogging in 2008 at http://marybrebner.blogspot.com/, which is more of a writing-focused blog (though there's some other stuff there, too). But I'm an avid reader, like you all, and found myself posting more and more book reviews until I finally decided to just go ahead and create a dedicated review site.

Besides reading and writing, I teach 8th grade English (which is logical, I guess. Reading...writing...there you go!). If you read my contest post, you'll see that I'm hoping to include student reviews on my blog, once the school year starts. (We'll see how that goes as middle schoolers can be notoriously reluctant readers. But bribery and flattery usually work!) My students are another reason why I started this blog--so they can be exposed to more books including ones that they might not normally pick up, and so their opinions can be heard (well, read) by more than just their peers or me.

When you leave a comment, don't forget to leave a link to your website (or the address) so I can come over and visit you, too! Have fun doing the hop!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Review: SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready

COVER COPY: Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a crucial gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never though it would be his last.

Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.
Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and talk to ghosts. This mysterious ability had always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she could undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because Dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding--and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary, Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift.

Purchased on the recommendation of a bunch of folks on Twitter, this book's been on my TBR pile for a while (no particular reason, it just got kind of buried under my leaning tower of TBR books).

This book was an unusual take on the "kids who talk to ghosts" stories floating around out there--instead of just a chosen few, there's an entire generation of people who can see and talk to ghosts (anyone born before the Shift, which happened a bit over sixteen years ago). No one seems to know why this Shift happened, though there are hints sprinkled throughout the story that it may have something to do with the monoliths around the world (think Stonehenge). Ghosts are violet, hate red, and can turn into nasty Shades (really, really mad and willing to do harm).

Aura, the main character, was well-written, believable in her grief over the death of her boyfriend (Logan) and the choices she struggles with throughout the book. All the characters have a lot to deal with: death, drugs (Logan dies of an overdose, mixing alcohol with cocaine), sex, love (there's Logan and then there's the new Scottish boy, who's connected to Aura in a very unusual way), and how to say goodbye but Smith-Ready successfully balances all the elements, creating a cohesive, enjoyable story.

Plus, I love that Logan's band is into the Irish rock music scene, styling themselves as the new Flogging Molly, rather than just being another rock group. Sometimes, it's little changes that change a cliche into an interesting component.

The cover copy's a little misleading, though. Aura isn't really all that focused on undoing the Shift, though she is interested in why it happened (she thinks it has something to do with her mother). I'm assuming Smith-Ready will get into the "undoing" of the Shift more in her sequel, SHIFT (out May 2011).  Despite the upcoming sequel, SHADE was a complete novel and can be read as a stand-alone (as long as you don't mind some dangling threads in the story).

Final Grade for SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready: 93/A
YA Paranormal
309 pages
Review copy was purchased