Thursday, December 30, 2010
Description from GoodReads:
Being a hefty, deaf newcomer almost makes Will Halpin the least popular guy at Coaler High. But when he befriends the only guy less popular than him, the dork-namic duo has the smarts and guts to figure out who knocked off the star quarterback. Will can’t hear what’s going on, but he’s a great observer. So, who did it? And why does that guy talk to his fingers? And will the beautiful girl ever notice him? (Okay, so Will’s interested in more than just murder . . .)
Those who prefer their heroes to be not-so-usual and with a side of wiseguy will gobble up this witty, geeks-rule debut.
Aly: So are we ready to start the chat?
Vi: Sounds good.
Aly: We read The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk. A 2010 debut book. What was everyone's initial impressions?
Vi: Good pacing and an interesting main character. I liked how the story developed, though I was expecting it to be a little more like a mystery, where the death didn't end up happening until quite a ways into the story. I wasn't disappointed, since the overall story was great, but it just wasn't what I first thought it would be.
Renee: I thought it was alright. It isn't the sort of book I would usually pick up, but I was surprised by how funny it was. The voice was strong and it had great humor, although story-wise it is outside my usual tastes.
Aly: I had mixed feelings about this book. First, I liked the humor. Second, I liked the story better when they got more into the mystery. I wasn't expecting a mystery at all but I liked that part of it. I found the first part a little slow. And I had a few issues with the deafness part of it. I think Anthony John's Five Flavors of Dumb which I just read spoiled me because it was such the stronger book (and also had a deaf main character.)
Vi: I'll have to read that one. I don't think I've read much where there are deaf characters, especially not main characters. I would say I thought it was handled well, but as I don't have much experience, I can't say there isn't anything better. I liked Halpin pretty well. I found the mixture of his issues as an overweight teen boy blended with his issues as a deaf boy, so overall, it worked for me.
Aly: Since I have a degree in Deaf Ed and attended Gallaudet, I can be kind of picky about the deafness piece. In some ways, I think that the deafness aspect did not add as much as I had hoped and if it was left out it would be fine. Back to this topic - did you feel that at times it seemed to stereotype boy humor?
Renee: I mean there was a lot of appropriate slang and phrases that felt "boyish" and appropriate for the age group (as far as I know) so that was one element of the story that didn't feel forced or anything.
Vi: I don't think I felt like anything was stereotyped. To me, it all felt natural for Halpin, and nothing sticks out to me as forced or sloppy. It made sense to the situations he ended up in.
Aly: I was just curious about it. I think the humor and the situations in the gym, etc. were pretty accurate.
Aly: So were there things that you specifically liked or didn't like with the book? Characters that grew on you?
Vi: I liked Devon. Even though he's the nerdy sidekick, he's also quirky, and not cliche as a sidekick. I liked the way the character was handled, and how there was still doubt as to his guilt/innocense even though he was so nice and fun. He was probably my favorite aspect of the book.
Renee: Character-wise, I liked Halpin. He was earnest and funny without being whiny or victimized. It was interesting take on a narrator with a disability. My favorite aspect of the book was probably that they included so many instant messages, newspaper clippings, letters, etc. I liked breaking up the narrative with these excerpts to keep it fresh.
Aly: Actually I thought Halpin and Devon made a good pair. Liked the references to the Hardy Boys and then Nancy Drew when Ebony joined in. The texting, and all of the fingerspelling parts were cool. I just felt that aside from Halpin and Devon most of the other characters were kind of flat? Or was that just me?
Vi: I did feel like the mystery part got a little lost because we didn't get as much of the other characters as we did of the two boys. The ending came as more of a surprise to me than I thought it should. But I liked how the "big party" wove in and out of the plot, and either including or ousting various characters along the way. So even though some of the characters felt more like they were in the background, the "big party" kind of made up for it. Also, I actually kind of thought the author might've meant to do it. Sort of a by-product of the main character not being quite in on everything and everyone else.
Renee: I felt that Ebony was also a bit developed, but not as much as the two boys, and especially someone like Leigha, who was mentioned so much, I expected more from the author when it came to character-building.
Aly: I think this is one book that I would have suggest be a tad bit longer and in the first part flesh out the other players a little more. But Vi, I like your thought about it being a "by-product of the main character not being quite in on everything". It may also be partially due to this being a first time author. I would hang in there for future books and see where he goes. And Renee, I agree I was surprised that Leigha didn't have more. The conclusion almost comes at a surprise in some ways.
Vi: I'd be interested to see where he goes next. I'd actually like to see more of Halpin and Devon. As relationships go, theirs is fun and I feel like there's a lot more to explore.
Aly: I am not sure where to go next with this. The book seemed short in some ways. Were there other things that jumped out at you? Things that struck you? Things you liked or disliked?
Renee: Well, I noticed that this book showed up on several lists of "best YA of 2010" or similar, so I was just wondering why you think this resonated so much with critics/readers? Is it just because it starred a boy with a disability or what?
Vi: I actually think it's because Halpin is a likeable guy, and the chemistry between him and Devon is great. Despite a somewhat lackluster cast of other characters, the two boys are written well. And it's something of an underdog, with an underdog main character. People tend to gravitate towards that sort of thing. Oh, and as for other things that I liked, I loved the way the other mystery, of the miner Dummy Halpin, was "solved". It was pretty great, and I wasn't expecting it at all.
Aly: Renee - I think that the humor of the book and the male character that isn't your typical popular guy is part of what attracted people. And I think that it is a mystery makes it something that people like as well. I agree with Vi in that the two mysteries and how there were solved was fun.
Vi: I just looked up Josh Berk's page, and it looks like he's working on a new mystery novel that's set to publish in 2012. Not a Hamburger Halpin book, but sounds interesting anyway. ^_^
Aly: Thanks Vi...like I said I will definitely check out a second book and see how his writing develops.
Renee: I might read more of his stuff in the future, because his prose was direct and the voice of the MC was strong and funny, but this one disappointed me a bit considering how much hype it has received.
Aly: I think there are quite a few books that get hyped up and aren't really as good as the hype. But I think because of the short chapters and that it did pick up that I would give him another shot.
Vi: I'm definitely interested in seeing more from this author, and I think Hamburger Halpin makes a good book for boys.
Aly: Yes, I think this is one book that would connect more with boys.
Renee: Yep, definitely a "boy's" book, but I think it had more crossover as being "gender-neutral" than Vladimir Todd (from what I can recall).
Aly: Thanks everyone for all their thoughts on this book. This was a great chat.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Publisher: Egmont, USA
Reading Level: 14 and Up
Enjoyment Level: High
Oscar Banks has everything under control. In a town where his father brainwashes everyone, he's found a way to secretly fight the subliminal Messages. He's got them all fooled: Oscar's the top student and the best-behaved teen in town. Nobody knows he's made his own Messages to deprogram his brain. Oscar has even found a way to get rich. For a hefty price, he helps new kids escape Candor, Florida before they're transformed into cookie-cutter teens. But then Nia Silva moves to Candor, and Oscar's carefully-controlled world crumbles.
On one hand, this book is seriously creepy. Controlling people with subliminal messages isn’t necessarily a new concept, but Candor puts an interesting spin on the idea. Oscar’s father doles out subliminal messages to everyone, but he caters to wealthy parents who want to control and change their children. It pings my creepy-bone to think that there would be people out there who pay someone to subliminally alter their kids, just because something isn’t good enough.
And on the other hand, it’s not exactly a horror story. Oscar is a pretty likeable guy. Even though he aims to profit off the kids he helps, there’s still a strong thread of decency for him, which helps him as the story progresses. He makes some mistakes, but ultimately makes the right choices and he develops into a self-sacrificing guy.
The pacing of the book is good. I couldn’t put it down, but didn’t feel like I had to rush through it to find out how it all turned out. There were plenty of places where I had to put it down because of the tingly, weird feeling that someone was watching me…
This is what good science fiction should always be. It’s fiction, but it’s plausible. Strong characters drive the novel, making the science seem even more plausible. Oscar is a great male lead, and the whole thing is interesting enough to get older reluctant readers to pick it up and enjoy it.
Until next time, go read something!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
But I'm happy to say that mathsie is has won herself a copy of Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld. Please email me to claim your prize! :) email@example.com
Thanks everyone who entered, and keep an eye out for our next contest.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Reading Level: 15 and up
Enjoyment Level: medium/high
I found this book simply by browsing. I get half of my books just randomly. I liked what I read on the back cover so I got it.
Reminiscent of the movie, Say Anything, a debut novel for all those searching for The One!
Sara and Tobey couldn't be more different. She is focused on getting into her first-choice college; he wants to win Battle of the Bands. Sara's other goal is to find true love, so when Dave, a popular jock, asks her out, she's thrilled. But then there's Tobey. His amazing blue eyes and quirky wit always creep into her thoughts. It just so happens that one of Tobey's goals is also to make Sara fall in love with him. Told in alternating points of view, Sara and Tobey's real connection will have everyone rooting for them from the minute they meet!
I like a good love story. It doesn’t have to be complicated - just a love story. This is one of those. High school problems, boy meets girl, boy pisses girl off, girl forgives boy, and they run off to college together. The characters were fun and frustrating at times to me and to each other.
It all worked - there wasn’t any point in the book that I said “huh? “ I believed these people, I liked these people. They had me rooting for them and their relationship even in the moments that they weren’t. There is something so fabulous about such an uncomplicated love story.
I would recommend this book to an older audience; there are some mature situations and language in this book.
: Thyra :
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Despite getting some bad press lately, Thanksgiving embodies the idea of being grateful for what we have and for other people. This November, YALR Blogs wants to spread the joy and show our readers and fellow bloggers how grateful we are for all the support we've received.We're also collecting donations for Kids Need to Read, sponsoring literacy among all children.
For our big Thanksgiveaway November giveaway you can enter to win one or more of the following prizes:
- a signed copy of Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare
- a signed copy of Glass, by Ellen Hopkins
- a signed copy of Virals, by Kathy Reichs
- Fall Goodie Basket (contents to be announced after the contest is over)
You can enter for all of the prizes. You can only win one book, but everyone has a chance to win the Fall Basket, even if they've already won a book. There are several ways to acquire contest entries:
- leave a comment on this post - this is the one required item to enter to win and constitutes one (1) entry.
- blog about this contest +3 entries
- tweet about this contest +2 entries
- be a blog follower +1 entry
- be a twitter follower +1 entry
- make a donation (via YALR) to Kids Need to Read - $5.00, +6 entries; $10.00, +15 entries; $15.00, +20 entries; $25.00, +35 entries (Higher donations can be made and will receive entries based on the amount and entrants will also receive special acknowledgement as well as YALR swag. Higher donations will also be automatically entered into our big December giveaway unless a prize is won in November.)
- donate gently used books +5 entries per book
P.O. Box 541812
Houston, TX 77254
To donate to KNtR, use this paypal link:
An official email will be sent to you confirming your donations and entries.
The contest deadline is November 25, 2010. The contest is open internationally. If a winner is under the age of 17, they must have a parent or guardian claim the prize.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
When the principal announces that every senior must participate in a mandatory year-long Marriage Education program, Fiona Sheehan believes that her life can’t get any worse.
Then she marries her “husband”: Jerky jock Todd, whose cheerleader girlfriend, Amanda, has had it in for Fiona since day one of second grade. Even worse? Amanda is paired with Fiona’s long-term crush, Gabe. At least Fiona is doing better than her best friend, Marcie, who is paired up with the very quiet, very mysterious Johnny Mercer.
Pranks, fights, misunderstandings, and reconciliations ensue in an almost Shakespearean comedy of errors about mistaken first impressions, convoluted coupling, and hidden crushes.
Renee: Alright. Are we ready to discuss A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL by Kristin Walker?
Vi: Absolutely. :)
Renee: OK. What was your overall impression or opinion about the book?
Aly: It was funny!
Vi: I liked it. Only took me a few hours and it was an easy read.
Aly: Seriously, it was funny, and I needed something light. But on the other hand, I liked that it truly was an ensemble book despite being focused on Fiona.
Renee: I agree. It was very funny and I liked that it was a light, easy read, with lots of great ensemble characters. Were there any storylines that you liked more than others or any characters you didn't like?
Vi: I liked the way it all worked together. Even though there were subplots, it all felt attached to Fiona's, and it was seamless. It made it very easy to get and stay invested in all of the characters, even though I didn't like Gabe. He played his part and was important to the plot.
Aly: I think that was what was great about the book. I really liked all the characters and ones that you were suppose to change your feelings about as the book developed -- I did change feelings about. It wasn't overly predictable... parts...but lots that I wasn't expecting. And I liked how quirky it was, but that there was growth for the characters, etc. So really - overall I am very positive about it.
Renee: Reading the back of the book, I thought it was going to be a very predictable book, where the jock would fall for Fiona, all the couples would learn something new about each other, etc. However, I'm glad that the story gave some surprises (for me, at least) in the relationship department and plot-wise.
Renee: I do have to say, though, that by the end of the book, I still wasn't completely in love with Marcie, Fiona's best friend. I never really took to her in this novel…
Vi: I actually felt like Fiona was taking on a little too much responsibility for some of the bad things that happened. Even though she wasn't in any way innocent, I didn't feel like she should've taken the blame with the Marcie situation. And the one real issue I had (which was small) was the part where Fiona was told that Marcie didn't lie, she just didn't tell Fiona anything. A lie of omission is still a lie and Fiona wasn't to blame for talking about Gabe when Marcie was the one who didn't admit to what was going on.
Aly: But really, an 11 year old was giving Fiona advice at that point... HaHa! But yes, I see your point. However, I do think Fiona needed some extremes since she seemed a little clueless of emotional clues at times.
Renee: Hahahah. Fiona was a little clueless sometimes! I had a feeling from the beginning that Marcie was hiding something, but Marcie seemed to overreact to a lot of things concerning Fiona for the first half and just seemed a bit harsh, esp. since she wasn't being completely honest. I was surprised at how much I ended up liking Todd, though. I usually find those types of characters clichéd, but not the case with him.
Vi: Todd ended up being one of my favorite characters. He actually seemed much more dialed in to Fiona's personality than others. He came off as a jerk at first, of course, but I think he was almost more open to changing his attitude than anyone else. He was the confident jock but he actually rolled with the punches really well, as evidenced by his back story of losing football but going with cheerleading and making the best of it.
Renee: Yes, yes, I loved him!
Aly: I agree on the Todd part. And I loved Fiona's parents. They were present, but so very different than what you usually see in YA. I loved the scenes with her parents.
Vi: I liked her parents. They were quirky and I felt like they provided Fiona with a great foundation. I liked that they were supportive of her, although when things were going wrong, she didn't end up getting a lot of advice from them. So, I liked them and they were there, but I wish they'd been utilized just a little bit more.
Renee: I was so surprised that they were there at all! I'm so used to parents being absent or an obstacle to the young adult protagonist getting what he/she ultimately wants, that I liked seeing her parents’ quirky/flirtatious relationship present in the book.
Aly: I think by watching her parents you get an idea where Fiona gets some of her personality and spunk. And even the other adults in the book were varied. I liked that. Granted at times we want more adults... But this is YA and it is from the perspective of a teen; and my guess is most teens shut out the adults. LOL! I would have liked more for her parents to be there but just because they were so much fun.
Renee: That's true. In most YA, I usually look forward to when we can get back to the teen's POV, lol. But is there anything else anyone would like to add? I liked that the "Trying the Knot" school course actually sounded believable (with the managing a budget, etc.), so I could buy the different stories in the novel. Anything else worth mentioning? We haven't talked about Johnny…
Aly: See the "Tying the Knot" class seemed the most unbelievable to me at first, and I know I *eye-rolled* but she developed it okay. And, as for Johnny... I like when a character that you don’t expect to turn out to be one way does. I really liked him & his connection with Fiona.
Vi: He reminded me of someone I used to know, so I liked him right away. I also pegged him as the guy who'd end up with Fiona simply because he was set up with her best friend, lol. But that didn't make discovering his character less than it should've been. He was great and I loved seeing his interactions with everyone.
Renee: I liked him too. He came out of nowhere for me. I wasn't really paying attention to him, because I was keeping my eyes on the Tood/Fiona dynamic. So when Johnny emerged as a bigger character, I was like, "Hey, hey! Look at you!" :)
Aly: Well you did a good job with picking this book. It was fun...
Vi: I loved how fun it was. I didn't have to think too hard about the underlying meanings or anything, and it was refreshing.
Renee: Same here. I was ready for something that was light and not riddled with paranormal teen angst ;) Thanks for another lovely chat!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Jamie (Spacecadet570) wins the signed copy of Firelight, by Sophie Jordan.
Laura, aka Booksnob wins the copy of Magnificent 12: The Call, by Michael Grant. I hope you and your son enjoy the book!
Congratulations to both of you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prizes. Thanks to everyone who entered, and stay tuned for more fun giveaways!
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Reading Level: 12 and up *Books for Boys*
Enjoyment Level: High
I’ve been a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld for a long, long time. I’ve loved everything of his that I’ve read and after Leviathan, I couldn’t wait to read Behemoth. Then I found out that I’d get an interview with him. *Squee* Of course, I was super-professional and we had a good time. You can check out my interview with Scott Westerfeld on the podcast.
Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.
Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead.
I love this book! I’ve heard mixed reviews about Leviathan, but I loved that one, too, although it’s not as action-packed as some books. Behemoth delivers the action and tension that people might’ve missed in Leviathan.
The story continues with Alek and Deryn, though this time they’re in the grand city of Istanbul (Constantinople). It’s a brilliant backdrop for the story with its vivid inhabitants and tense political undercurrents. The descriptions of the city made me want to go there. The details of the fictional story meshed so well with the true history of Istanbul that it seemed like the events in Behemoth could’ve really happened.
All of the characters jump off the page. The development deepens and people who were interesting in Leviathan are even better in the sequel. The tension for Deryn’s character (pretending to be a boy) is very heightened. I found myself biting my nails in some parts because I just knew she’d be discovered.
And I can’t do a review without talking about the amazing illustrations. How happy am I that someone thought to put artwork in a book like this? I figured I’d grown out of enjoying art in books, but now I think it’s just because it hasn’t been an option. I love seeing the beautiful illustrations in Behemoth. They enhance the story and give me intricate details I might otherwise miss.
Because I love this so much, and because of my interview with the author, I want to share the story with you. You can win a signed copy of Behemoth. Here are the rules:
- you must be a twitter or blog follower
- you must tweet, blog, or facebook about this giveaway
- you must leave a comment on this blog entry giving us your name, age, and links to where you tweeted about the contest
Deadline to enter is 10/31/2010. Good luck!!
Until next time, go read something!
Friday, October 22, 2010
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: High
I felt like I was waiting forever for this one! I wasn’t, but anticipation had me all tied up in knots for a while. I loved Hush, Hush, and was excited when I interviewed Becca Fitzpatrick (hear it on the podcast) and heard about Crescendo.
Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described as anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away, and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.
The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch, or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?
These are the things I wanted to do to the book at various times during my reading:
- throw it through the window
- shred it
- set it on fire
- burn it with acid
- erase most of the words
- stomp on it…
Personally, I find my reaction a sign that this book is totally awesome. Totally frustrating, sure, but I was completely invested, hence the list of ways to destroy it.
It’s a different Nora I found in this sequel to Hush, Hush. Not different in a way that felt unnatural, but I thought she was stronger for her experiences in the last book. And maybe a little more paranoid, as well. I understood her mental lapses when it came to Patch and what was going on. Her passionate new love for him mixed with her paranoia and it made me alternately feel for her and want to smack her around.
The bad guys are brilliantly hidden throughout the novel. It felt more like a good mystery than a paranormal romance, with all the red herrings, misdirections, and hidden agendas. Avoiding spoilers as much as possible, I did not suspect the real bad guy, and yet I suspected everyone at one time or another in the course of the story.
Hush, Hush was what I considered a stand-alone book, but Crescendo has burst into the series, bringing with it a deepening of Nora’s story and many, many new questions about her life. Becca Fitzpatrick gave me characters and a plot that just about did me in. The only “bad” thing I have to say about this one is that once again, I’m left on a cliffhanger.
The anticipation might give me a stroke.
Until next time, go read something!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Vi: Today we're discussing Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr. What did everyone think about the book?
Renee: I really liked Wicked Lovely. Faeries or the fae are probably my least favorite of the paranormal creatures that are coming out in fiction these days, but since I felt that Wicked Lovely focused more on the romantic elements between Seth and Ash and Keenan and Donia, I didn't mind it as much.
Aly: I would also agree that Fae are not my favorite paranormal creature. Partially because they tend to be so devious and mischievous. But I liked the characters. Well I have a huge crush on Seth so I kept reading because of him. I did feel the book took a little bit to get going though.
Vi: So this was the second time I read Wicked Lovely, and I think I appreciated it more the second time around than the first. I felt like I liked the characters more and the story held more tension for me. I remember liking it the first time I read it, but now I actually want to continue the series, whereas before, I could take or leave the other books. And I loved Seth even more the second time reading it!
Aly: I am skipping the 2nd book so I can go right to Seth in Fragile Eternity. LOL
Vi: Okay, so any favorite characters? I have to say that I love Donia, myself. She rocks.
Renee: I actually am like Aly and went out and bought Fragile Eternity (book 3) so I could get more of Seth. I loved Seth and Ash, both together and individually, and actually Donia was my least favorite character of the bunch. I kind of wish we learned more about the grandmother though... because I think she has an interesting past.
Aly: Oh I also liked Donia. I thought she offered another level to the book. And I loved Seth, and I liked Ash. I think I agree too with Renee that I would have liked to have known more about the grandmother and her past and everything with the fae.
Vi: I honestly didn't like Ash as much as I thought I would. She's okay, but as far as heroines go, Donia got to me more. And it's interesting that you two are interested in the grandmother. I'd never really thought about her at all. She's barely been a blip on the radar for me. I guess I'm sort of neutral about her. I definitely didn't like Keenan's mother, but she was a very creepy and good villain.
Aly: See that is the issue with the fae. Most of the time they are scary and creepy. They like to have fun at the expense of mortals and usually they don't have true feelings (i.e., love) and so a relationship with them is kind of limited. However, I do feel that in some ways Keenan really did care for Ash. And as for liking or not liking Ash - I didn't love her but at least she didn't annoy me. And as for the grandmother - I always love back stories.
Renee: Agreed. The fae seem very fickle, so it was hard for me to make up my mind about them, especially regarding Keenan. I agree that I think he really does have some kind of feelings for her beyond her practical purpose for the fae, but I always second guessed myself.
Vi: I got the distinct impression that Keenan cared for Ash, and that he truly cared for his people. He wanted to bring them balance and be the king he should've been. That made me like Keenan, even though I was rooting for Seth and Ash.
Vi: What did you think of how Keenan's mother didn't care at all for him, but his two advisers seemed to care for him like a son? I found it interesting, myself. Thoughts?
Aly: See this is what confuses me about the Fae. You have different courts. You have summer and winter or Seelie and Unseelie and I don't always understand if they are on the same side or different sides? It's like because Keenan was one thing and his mother a different thing, then they were enemies but the two advisers are like royal advisers or pseudo-parents or whatever. Which seems to fit most fantasy stories. But I kind of liked the two advisers.
Vi: I know that in most schools of myth-thought, there are Seelie and Unseelie courts. It's pretty typical. The mythology in Wicked Lovely has the Winter Court, the Summer Court and the Dark Court. I kind of got the impression that his mother didn't have to dislike Keenan, but she just wanted the power. But I liked that the advisers seemed to care for Keenan, even though they didn't really have to since he was technically their boss.
Renee: I liked the idea of two different courts, and thought that was an interesting way to develop an enemy with a family twist -- making it even more sinister. I guess I just felt that the non-romantic aspects were less developed in this book, and maybe later in the series once the courts have been restored you'll learn more about the fae world.
Aly: Thanks ladies... that helped explain some stuff for me. Now did anyone feel like it took awhile to really get anywhere? I felt that 100 pages in, we were still talking about some of the same things in the first couple of chapters. It was almost as if I could skip them and then picked up and continued on without missing anything. Was it just me?
Vi: I think that may have been why I didn't love the book the first time I read it. I didn't really notice it the second time, but that might be because I already knew what was going to happen. I did think that Ash hemmed and hawed a lot over certain things, like Seth, and that had she made a decision sooner, things might've been resolved quicker. Or the author could've thrown a few more bad things Ash's way to impede her a bit.
Aly: I think I agree. I was surprised at how long it took to get to the whole point of Ash and Keenan going against the Winter Queen. I kept thinking it would happen a little earlier. And yes, Ash hemmed and hawed a lot. She liked Seth. He liked her. Why not move it along a little faster.
Renee: The general pace was pretty subdued throughout for me. Don't misunderstand: I really enjoyed this book, but I never felt like it got to a point where I couldn't put it down. It was a nice little teen romance book for me and the tension about whether Keenan would find the Summer Queen and all of that never really felt monumental for me.
Vi: I feel like I've picked up several books recently with a lack of tension. I felt the same way with this one, even though I wanted to know what would happen I could put it down and do other things without feeling the craving to read more. I did like it, though.
Aly: Same here...which is why I could see you not picking up the next book for a very long time. So where there were parts that I enjoyed. It wasn't like this amazing read.
Vi: Would you recommend this out to other people?
Aly: I know a lot of teens who like it and yes, I think there are people who really like this genre and would enjoy the book.
Renee: I would definitely recommend it -- there's obviously a huge market for this kind of book in YA right now -- although I might not call it the strongest of its type out there.
Vi: I think that the romance element was strong enough to attract some girls who are less-inclined to read, and I would recommend it to those, but I agree that there are other books who do the genre better for the more reluctant readers. Any last thoughts?
Renee: Wicked Lovely gave me enough to make me want to continue in the series, and I think it does have very strong character development with less conventional teen romance elements -- doesn't Seth have multiple piercings? A refreshing change :)
Aly: I think that is part of what I liked. Seth isn't exactly the type of lead romantic character on some level (multiple piercings, etc.) but I think that is another reason I loved him so much.
Vi: Thanks for the chat, ladies! Once again, it was fun, and I'm glad we all enjoyed the book.
It was another great chat for me with these two amazing people! If you want to help us continue this discussion, please leave us a comment. We love to hear from you. ^_^ Thanks for stopping by!!
Monday, October 11, 2010
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Reading Level: 8-12 (*Books for Boys*)
Enjoyment Level: High
It’s quite the thing these days for books, especially those for younger kids, to come complete with stuff to do online. The idea is to make it more fun for kid who love to read, and more appealing for reluctant readers. You get to become part of the adventure, which helps to bring the characters and plot to life. I could discuss this at length, but I’ll leave it alone for the time being and just give you the link to the book's website. :) Magnificent 12
Twelve-year-old Mack MacAvoy suffers from a serious case of mediumness. Medium looks. Medium grades. Medium parents who barely notice him. With a list of phobias that could make anyone crazy, Mack never would have guessed that he is destined for a more-than-medium life.
And then, one day, something incredibly strange happens to Mack. A three-thousand-year-old man named Grimluk appears in the boys’ bathroom to deliver some startling news: Mack is one of the Magnificent Twelve, called the Magnifica in ancient times, whatever that means. An evil force is on its way, and it’s up to Mack to track down eleven other twelve-year-olds in order to stop it. He must travel across the world to battle the wicked Pale Queen’s dangerous daughter, Ereskigal—also known as Risky. But Risky sounds a little scary, and Mack doesn’t want to be a hero. Will he answer the call?
It was good to know, starting out, that this book was the first of a series, because otherwise, I would’ve hated having so much left unwound at the end. (Some of you may know how much I hate cliffhanger endings these days.) Even though I was drawn into the action, I kept thinking that they’d never be able to wrap anything up by the end of the book. They did, of course, wrap a few things up, but it was easy to tell that the entire story was still left hanging.
I’m not sure how many books will be in the series, but if they can make it a full twelve, it’d be pretty interesting, considering some of the little details that are in the book – like how the monster they’re fighting has to die twelve times before she can really be killed, and the first death is in the first book. But I feel like that’ll only be cool if they make her die once in each book now.
The main character is pretty funny, and easy to connect with. He’s “got a series case of mediumness” which a lot of kids will understand, and yet he’s something of a hero right from the beginning because he doesn’t let bullies bully him, and he stands up for other people. This gives him an advantage and a head start as a hero.
The other characters are fleshed out well. The villain is properly creepy and villainous. Grimluk, the quasi-mentor of Mack, is also a little creepy, but interesting, being 3,000 years old. There’s a definite feel of ragtagness to the group who ends up together by the end of the book, and that’s fun to read.
There’s enough humor and tongue-in-cheek witticism in here to reach out to reluctant readers, plus the action keeps going and pulls the reader in quickly. The story is fun and would even make a great read-aloud selection for teachers and parents.
While I know that a lot of my blog followers tend to read more of the older teen choices, this book would make a great gift to anyone with younger brothers and sisters, or any other young person you know. And the publisher has provided me with a signed copy for a giveaway. Here are the contest rules:
- Be a Twitter or a blog follower
- Retweet, facebook, or blog about this contest
- Leave your name, age, and why you’d like this book as a comment to this post
Deadline to enter is October 18, 2010. Good luck!
Until next time, go read something!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Please email us at email@example.com to claim your prize. Thanks to everyone who entered - we very much appreciate all your support!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: High
I knew this book was coming before I actually got it. I had browsed online at Barnes and Noble and saw it as a “coming soon” title, liked the synopsis and was excited to read it.
Lucy Scarborough is seventeen when she discovers that the women of her family have been cursed through the generations, forced to attempt three seemingly impossible tasks or to fall into madness upon their child’s birth. How can Lucy succeed when all of her ancestors have tried and failed? But Lucy is the first girl who won’t be alone as she tackles the list. She has her fiercely protective foster parents beside her. And she has Zach, whose strength amazes her more each day. Do they have enough love and resolve to overcome an age-old evil?
There are very few books out there that I love from start to finish - and this is one of them.
The author does a great job. She sucks you in from the beginning and doesn’t let go. The characters are great, the trials they go through are written so that you believe it, and the love story is beautiful. She mixed in the fantasy elements so well that I almost believed that it all could happen. It was just a gorgeous book.
I would recommend Impossible to anyone!
: Thyra :
Friday, October 1, 2010
Firelight, by Sophie Jordan
Reading Level: 14 and Up
Enjoyment Level: Dragons!
With her rare ability to breathe fire, Jacinda is special even among the draki—the descendants of dragons who can shift between human and dragon forms. But when Jacinda’s rebelliousness leads her family to flee into the human world, she struggles to adapt, even as her draki spirit fades. The one thing that revives it is Will, whose family hunts her kind. Jacinda can’t resist getting closer to him, even though she knows she’s risking not only her life but the draki’s most closely guarded secret.
Even though I didn’t get the ARC myself, I read the one my sister had. I couldn’t wait! I raced through the book pretty quickly, shelving several things I needed to do that day. That should tell you pretty solidly that the story sucked me in. Bliss!
I love Jacinda. What a great character. She feels so real, and her emotions come across so well. The dynamic she has with her family and the other people around her is natural, and not once did I feel snapped out of the world by anything awkward. Though there were times I wished Jacinda would see something I did, or do something I wanted her to do, it was never out of frustration with the author. I felt so in tune with Jacinda that I wanted the best for her.
The other characters are all fleshed out well. The various depictions of family create an interesting backdrop for the story, and cause plenty of tension throughout the book. Jacinda’s love interest, Will, is amazing, and I totally want to meet him in real life.
Only one thing kept me from giving this a five-star rating on GoodReads, and that was the ending – and only because I’m so tired of cliffhanger endings. It’s not even that Firelight has a cliffhanger, but it really feels like one to me, where there are several plot points that weren’t resolved at the end. It’s mostly frustrating just because I have to wait, wait, wait for the sequel.
Now it's your turn to read it! We're giving away an autographed copy of Firelight (massive cheering can now ensue). Just follow the rules below. Deadline to enter is October 13, 2010.
- Follow the blog or our twitter.
- Tweet, facebook, or blog about this contest.
- Leave a comment on this post with your name, age, link to tweet/fb/blog, and the reason you'd like to win.
Until next time, go read something!
(photo by whitestarphotography.blogspot.com)
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
For me, the absolute best part has been hearing from all the readers! I’ve gotten some wonderful letters (hand written even!) and emails from readers who loved THE BODY FINDER. How freaking cool is that?!?! That is by far my favorite part of getting published!
Not only is this a paranormal YA, but it's also a very good mystery novel. Did you draw on any other books for inspiration as you were writing this?
I’ve always loved a good mystery, although my original inspiration is probably more along the lines of true horror. As a teen, I pretty much read everything Stephen King had written.
Was it difficult to write Violet and Jay's relationship?
I wouldn’t say it was difficult, although when I first started writing The Body Finder, their relationship wasn’t going to play such a big role in the story. Of course, the more I got to know Jay, I simply couldn’t keep him away from Violet! :)
Why did you choose to have Jay in on the secret of Violet's ability?
Violet definitely needed someone she could confide in. And when she shared her secret with Jay (at such a young age) I think it showed just how deep their friendship went. That bond between them was important, especially when they started to explore their true feelings for each other.
There are parts in The Body Finder that are definitely on the darker side of YA. Do you ever have trouble processing those parts, emotionally? Why did you feel it was important to include the killer's perspective?
Call me creepy, but these were actually my favorite parts to write! I loved letting readers see glimpses of what was going on inside the killer’s head. The first version of The Body Finder had fewer chapters from the killer’s POV, but thankfully, my editor wanted more which made my incredibly happy! (Okay, that even sounded creepy to me!)
What do you hope readers will take away from The Body Finder?
I really hope the readers feel a connection to the characters, and I guess it wouldn’t hurt if they were a little scared here and there!
Oh, and don’t talk to strangers!
Can you tell us anything about the sequel, Desires of the Dead?
I may get in trouble for telling you this but… someone will definitely die!
Seriously, though, here’s the short synopsis: When Violet Ambrose's morbid ability to sense the echoes of those who've been murdered leads her to the body of a young boy, she draws the attention of the FBI. She is reluctantly pulled into an investigation that will endanger more than just her secret... but her relationship and possibly her life as well.
If you could put your name on any book ever written, claiming it as your own, what book would you choose and why?
Despite everything I’d tried for many, many years, my oldest daughter was simply a non-reader… until she read Twilight. Now, she’s a huge reader. So yeah, I would love to have written the book that finally hooked her! Plus, if I wrote Twilight, I’m pretty sure I could introduce my youngest daughter (9-years-old) to Robert Pattinson, which would score me some huge mommy points because she’s totally Team Edward!!
- Tweet, Facebook, or blog about this contest.
- Follow us on the blog and/or on Twitter.
- Leave a comment on this post with your name, age, and a link to your tweet/FB/blog, along with the reason you'd like to read The Body Finder.
Until next time, go read something!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Reading Level: 14 and Up
Enjoyment Level: High
I actually didn’t plan on reading this book. However, the author showed up at an event held in Houston, and I ended up being intrigued by her answers during the Q&A part of the event. Her book was so new that she had the shortest line when the authors were signing, and I hurried down to purchase a copy of the book. After talking to her, and hearing that she’d be more than willing to do an interview for the blog, I decided to get another copy as a giveaway. So it’s time now for the review portion, and stay tuned tomorrow for the interview and the contest.
Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.
I’m so happy that I decided to take the plunge that night and buy this book for myself. I really enjoyed seeing the story and characters play out along with the mystery of the serial killer. I was sucked in, blissfully, and sufficiently creeped out by the bits from the serial killer’s point of view.
I loved the interesting paranormal aspect of The Body Finder. Although the idea might not be unique, it is to me. I haven’t read another book that didn’t deal with necromancy where the protagonist could locate dead bodies. It hooked me, and kept me interested throughout the whole novel. There were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing and second guessing, and the author even gave clues that made me suspect characters that didn’t deserve my suspicion. It was so great.
The characters made me care about them. Violet is at once vulnerable and strong-willed, and I enjoyed seeing her develop and make mistakes. Her friendship with Jay sustains a decent chemistry, though I actually felt that it was lukewarm compared to some other YA novel romances I’ve read. Jay is a great character, though, and his relationship to Violet did deepen the story for me.
If you haven’t picked this one up, you absolutely should. Watch for my interview with Kimberly Derting on the blog tomorrow. Our giveaway will be announced tomorrow, as well.
Until next time, go read something!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Since it's late, and I don't feel like editing a bunch of photos, the only one I've got is the one of all the swag. One person who entered our three giveaways will win a bunch of swag, including bookmarks, a necklace signed by Kami Garcia and Margie Stohl, an excerpt from Holly Black's new book, Red Glove, and an excerpt from the new anthology, Zombies vs Unicorns.
First up, the winner of White Cat, by Holly Black. The winner is Meaghan. Congratulations Meaghan! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize.
Next, our winner of Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare. Sara! Thanks for entering. Please email us to claim your prize.
And for Radiance, by Alyson Noel, the winner is April! Email us to claim your prize.
Our last winner gets all the swag from the Smart Chicks event. That's everything you see in the picture above, and the winner is Launa Sorenson. Email us to claim your prize.
Congratulations to everyone! Thank you so much for your support. Stay tuned for more great giveaways on the blog, and watch the podcast (yalitreview.libsyn.com) for our interview with the Smart Chicks.
Until next time, go read something!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
First of all, thanks to our wonderful Aly, for passing on the One Lovely Blog award. I'll have a more detailed post up about it next week, but wanted to make sure I mentioned it now.
The rest of this post will be all about the Smart Chicks Kick It tour, which is coming around to Houston September 14th and 15th. On the 14th, they'll be at the Barnes and Noble in the Woodlands. Then they'll be hosted by Blue Willow Bookshop at The Refuge at 7pm on the 15th. That's the one I'll be attending, and I'm so excited.
Not only will I get to take part in this fabulous event, but I'll also be recording a group interview with all of the authors before the show! Yes, that's Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Melissa Marr, Alyson Noel, Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare, and Margaret Stohl all in one podcast interview!
First up on the giveaways, I have Holly Black's newest book (signed, of course), White Cat. I also have a signed copy of Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare up for grabs as well as a signed copy of Radiance, by Alyson Noel. That's a total of three separate giveaways. We will have three different winners - one person cannot win all three books. Please remember that when you enter.
For the giveaways:
1. You must be a subscriber of the blog OR a twitter follower (twitter.com/yalitreview).
2. You must comment on this post stating which book or books you're entering to win.
3. You must tweet, facebook, or blog about this contest, linking back to this blog entry.
The deadline for the giveaway books is September 18th. If you have any questions, please email me at email@example.com. Thanks, and good luck!
Thursday, September 2, 2010
********** SPOILERS ************************
Aly: So basically what did everyone think? Did it live up to the hype? Did you like it? Hate it?
Vi: Okay. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. I had bouts where I was sucked in and had to keep reading, and then the protagonist would annoy me and I'd want to leave the book forever. It was kind of a weird feeling. I'm not sure about the hype, but there's a lot in here that struck me as bordering on 'literary' fiction. The protagonist would have some deep thoughts that were very interesting, and then she'd go and do something seriously childish, so it was definitely different for me.
Renee: I loved this book, which was surprising because I was kind of skeptical going into it because I wasn't thrilled by THE LOVELY BONES, and I thought it would be the same thing. But it wasn't. I liked how strong the characters were and how different each day was that she kept reliving. It didn't feel as repetitive as I thought it would. And I agree that it had a literary fiction feel to it, which might also be why I loved it so much...
Aly: I realized about 20 pages in that I really dislike chick-lit and high school drama and mean girls and was having a "what was I thinking suggesting this book?" but probably the last 150-200 pages I couldn't put it down. I have trouble with stories where I don't connect with the main characters. Lindsey, Elody, Ally, and Sam were not girls I would ever like in a million years. But the fact that Sam seemed to learn from her experience and evolve and change helped me feel better towards the end. I know a lot of people really loved this book so I was curious to read it. Still mixed feelings but guess I am glad that I did. So, what about the length of the book and the fact that there are 7 days?
Vi: I liked that each day wasn't completely repetitious, and that they took Sam into different aspects of the day and the lives of the people around her. It helped me like her more as she came to realize that she couldn't really hide, but everyone else tried to hide things, too, if that makes sense. Despite the fact that the book is so long, it didn't feel like anything dragged. It was nice to see the various cast of players and how it all eventually worked out on the seventh day.
Renee: I agree. Since each day revealed different people's stories it didn't feel repetitive at all. And it did help me to like Sam, because as she would see the "truth" behind people, beyond her catty mean-popular girl type-casting, I felt like I kept looking forward to how things would be different the next day. And it definitely didn't drag, for me.
Aly: At first I was afraid that the days would be really similar and I liked that a chapter represented a day as the book progressed (well sort of). I did like seeing the back stories as they were revealed and the motivations. And also the "truth" but I was a little confused at the end. Is Sam the only one who dies? Did she get to change it for everyone else?
Vi: As far as I understood it, she's the only one who died. She shoved Juliet out of the way, and heard Juliet's voice as she was dying. But, if someone else has a better explanation...
Renee: I think Sam is the only one who died, as far as I know. I think that was her "mission" or something, to be like a martyr I think.
Aly: That was the part that was confusing at first it seemed that all of them died (well the 4) and then as she tweaked things it was almost as if she was trying to save everyone, knowing that she couldn't really save herself. And that was what seemed really sad. Anyway, was there something that really stood out for you with this story? A character? The writing?
Renee: I loved the writing style, but I really loved the character development. My two favorite characters were Kent and Lindsey, for completely different reasons. I loved Kent because he seemed like such a sincere guy and not the usual bad-boy-turned-good romantic male you see in YA a lot. He was just very loveable.
Renee: I liked Lindsey, because even though I didn't like her as a "person," I liked her as a character. She was very interesting and obnoxious and cruel, but she was obviously making up for her own vulnerabilities and insecurities and I thought she was very sad and complex. I liked that even though she was obviously flawed, she was a good friend to Sam and their gang and in her own way cared. I feel like so many books have girls who defeat the mean popular girls, but very few try to humanize those mean girls, so that was a nice change.
Vi: Very true about the mean girls, Renee. I felt like the author really did an amazing job at portraying all of the characters as having flaws, but good points as well. That's probably what stood out the most for me. And, of course, I had to love Kent. He's such a great character!
Aly: I think that was part of what I thought Oliver did really well. I think she portrayed the whole mean girls/high school drama very well. Not over glamorizing anything or under playing things. I was very pleased when Sam began to see Rob as a jerk. I liked that Juliet had a chance. And I adored Kent. I loved that he was more than what appeared on the surface in some ways and that Sam had a chance to see this.
Aly: So would you recommend this? Would you read more from Oliver? I know her next book seems to be getting some hype already?
Renee: I would definitely read more from Oliver, because I liked her writing style. And I would recommend this, but probably only to 16/17 yr olds or older, because the book does give a very frank (and therefore, not particularly wholesome) picture of the lives of some teens. And like Vi said, it did feel kind of literary fiction adult-ish, like Curtis Sittenfield.
Vi: I actually have someone in mind that might like this. I do think that, because of the literary feel to it, not everyone will take to it. I'm still sort of border-line, myself. I'd also definitely call this "new adult" and would not really recommend it to anyone younger than about 15, although mostly it's because there's a certain maturity in the writing that anyone younger might have trouble with, not that it's overly explicit about anything.
Aly: I think there are actually "younger" teens like Freshmen who will like it because it is chick-lit and because they read at a higher level. I wouldn't put it in a middle grade library because if you tried to limit it to 8th grade then everyone wants to read it. I think some teen readers might find it "literary" but I think it actually moves kind of quickly from the middle to the end. So if they had the attention to hang in...but I probably wouldn't be recommending it to all teens. I would more likely be selective. As for "new adult"...I'm not sure that I agree. I think DUST OF 100 DOGS is very much either new adult or adult with a crossover interest for upper teens because the character doesn't seem particularly YA...but in this case the characters are strictly in the high school age group participating in high school stuff...if you know what I mean.
Vi: I say new adult mostly because the content reminds me of that in BALLADS OF SUBURBIA. I got a more mature vibe. I wouldn't even really say it's a "crossover" novel, because it deals with more high school dramas, but the thoughts and ideas and development of the main character push it into an older category for me. Some more mature younger readers could "get" it, but I think the difference would come when some readers get the entertainment value and some get the real issues it's dealing with. It kind of makes me think of Nirvana's music - it was popular because some teens decided it was catchy, but the ones who really "got" the music were few and far between.
Aly: Any other thoughts on the book? I am kind of feeling like I am missing something but I think we covered most things?
Vi: I think we covered it pretty well.
Renee: Agreed. I think we got most of it, although I was curious about why Sam's reliving her life 7 times was never really explained. Did it have to be exactly 7 days, or if she completed her final mission/martyrdom on day 4 would that have been it? I didn't need the answer to that question to enjoy the book, but I guess I was kind of curious about it...
Aly: I thought it was kind of hinted at by Sam at one point when she mentioned some movie? Or am I making this up?
Vi: I'm not sure. Maybe? Maybe the significance was just that it was a week? She referenced GROUNDHOG DAY day at one point, but there weren't just seven days in that.
Renee: Like I said, I enjoyed it without getting an answer, and I didn't see GROUNDHOG DAY, so I didn't know if I was missing something.
Aly: I would have to check but it didn't necessarily bother me. Also didn't see GROUNDHOG DAY so it wasn't exactly as if I was checking.
Thanks Vi & Renee for participating in the chat. I know that I love discussing books with other book people and in discovering new books. As usual, this was fun. Now, if you have read BEFORE I FALL, how would you respond to the questions?
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Reading Level: 14 and up
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens--both named Will Grayson--are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most fabulous high school musical.
John Green is my favorite author. I'll just get that out of the way now. I could gush about his books for days, but I'll try to contain myself. With Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I knew I could expect in-depth characters, an interesting story, and great writing. But, this book wasn't written by one author; it was written by two. Although David Levithan is another popular young adult author, I had never read one of his books before, so I didn't know what to expect. What I found was brilliance.
Each author wrote from the perspective of one of the Will Graysons in alternating chapters. I expected to love John Green's Will Grayson, and I did. Will is a typical teenager dealing with life, love, and friendship. His best friend, Tiny Cooper, is a larger-than-life character who is both extraordinary and believable at the same time. The humor and honesty in these chapters was highly enjoyable.
Even though I loved John Green's Will, I have to say that David Levithan's Will blew me away. Will is a teenager dealing with depression and I was astounded by how real the depression was portrayed. I've heard reviewers’ comment that this Will was unlikable in the beginning, but I disagree. As a mental health professional, I know quite a bit about depression and I saw Will's "unlikable" behavior as a reaction to the depression. This endeared the character to me instead of pushing me away. It has been a very long time since I've felt so connected to a character. Also, there was more plot in this storyline, so I enjoyed that aspect as well.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is that I couldn't predict the story. Specifically, there is a huge moment in the middle of the book (I won't spoil it) that completely took me off guard. I literally stared at the page for several minutes in shock. I had to re-read the previous passage a few times before it sunk in enough for me to move on. The shock and emotion that part elicited has been unmatched by anything else I've read.
I can't think of anything I didn't like about this book. It was fabulous from beginning to end. I actually stayed up till two am on a weekday, just so I could finish the story. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins (June 22, 2010)
Age Level: Grades 4 to 8
Source: Publicist for Review
Description from GoodReads:
Mackenzie Blue is hitting the trails!
It's time for Brookdale Academy's camping field trip, but Zee has much more to deal with than a lesson about nature. . . .
1. My BFF, Ally, is visiting all the way from Paris! Ooh la la!
2. My friends and I are so going to win the environmental scavenger hunt!
1. We have to stay in teeny-tiny log cabins. How will we all fit?
2. The legendary (and terrifying) Mountain Man . . .
The Mackenzie Blue series is by Tina Wells. When I was approached by by Buzz Marketing to review the books, I was excited to read a new middle grade series that I might be able to share with my students. When the books arrived, I realized by looking at the covers and format that there would likely be a formulaic feel to each book. This didn’t bother me. As a 9 year old, I read every Nancy Drew Book, Hardy Boys, etc. Each one was really the same with just a different antagonist and different location. Many children love books in series formats. With a series, they get to spend time with favorite characters, and there is always the understanding that each one will turn out just fine for the main character and his/her pals. Maybe the best comparison for childrens book series, such as Mackenzie Blue, would be the weekly sitcom or drama. Each week, the main character faces a new challenge, learns a lesson, and everything is wrapped up neatly in 30 to 60 minutes. Or in case of the book, the dilemma is wrapped up in 200 pages.
In these books, Mackenzie “Zee” Blue is a 7th grader at Brookdale Academy. Her BFF, Ally, has moved to France and she has several other friends including a close male friend named Jasper. Each book focuses on a dilemma that Zee must learn from. In the third, and most recently published book, Friends Forever?, Zee is attending science camp with all her the other seventh graders. In addition to the common issues of being away from home, dealing with outdoor bathrooms, and camp chores, Zee is trying to figure out how to maintain her friendship with Ally (who is visiting from France) and her current friends. As if friendship troubles wasn't enough, there seems to be something up between Landon (Zee has a crush on him) and Jasper (her male BFF) - could Landon be jealous? During all this, Zee must also cope with getting her first period.
When I first started reading the Mackenzie Blue series, there were several things that struck me. A friend of mine said “You are looking at it with your educator’s eyes”. Maybe I was – maybe I always do. However, I was torn. I realized that there are many tween girls who would likely want to read these books and would enjoy them and even those that we would identify as reluctant or hesitant readers might like them. The books have illustrations dispersed through the pages and at times you see snippets of Zee’s diary or text messages. Zee is a fun main character that girls would like to know. She worries about her friends, tries to do the right thing, and faces issues that every 12 year old girl is struggling with. These are all positive elements that tween girls love.
So what was my issue? First, I cringe every time an author throws in name brands and certain things that in my mind aren’t necessary and date the book. For example, “She pulled her iPhone out of her pocket. It had a bright blue skin with a big pink Z.” (p. 28 MB #3) Do I really need to know who has an iPhone (or a Sidekick in the first book) or that one of the girls in the cabin has a Louis Vuitton bag? I can honestly answer “no”. Isn't this the concern with children watching television is that they are overly exposed to products being directly marketed to them? Not only during the commercials, but also in the product placements within the show. As I read through the books, I almost imagined that I was flipping through a tween version of Vogue magazine. I found that it often distracted from the story and placed more focus on products than on the wonderful qualities that were hidden within the pages of the book.
My second concern was the Instant Messaging (“IM”) name of “E-zee”. I am puzzled by the selection of this nickname for a 12 year old girl. I am especially surprised that Wells, a marketing expert, would not have thought about the connotations of that name.
Finally, and I know that authors often have little control over the covers of their books or the illustrations, but, often I felt that the drawing of the characters made them appear to be in late high school rather than in seventh grade.
I agonized over writing this review and I have probably spent more hours writing and re-writing this because I recognize that I am likely in the minority regarding my opinion of the books. Ms. Wells has worked hard to write books for girls. I recognize this fact. Over the course of the three books, I have also seen growth in her as a writer and I would say in all sincerity that Mackenzie Blue: Friends Forever? #3 is the most developed of her three books. However, if I can offer any input to Wells, it would be to focus more on her wonderful characters and spot on issues facing tween girls, then creating a book version of a tween television sitcom.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The Smart Chicks will be in the Houston area on September 14th in the Woodlands at the Barnes and Noble (even though it doesn't list it on the calendar), and on September 15th, in Houston hosted by Blue Willow Bookshop.
I will definitely be attending the Blue Willow event, which will be held at The Refuge (they ask that you bring a canned good to help support The Refuge). If you're there, please be sure to find me and say hello!
You can stay tuned to the blog, because we'll be doing some major giveaways in connection with the tour. We'll have books from each of the authors as free giveaways, and we'll have a raffle with at least two prizes. You can start thinking about one giveaway now... The signed copy of City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare, will be a YouTube contest. You'll make a video showing why you deserve to get the signed copy of City of Bones. :)
Before the event, I'll be doing a group interview for the podcast with some of the Smart Chicks. You leave questions for them by commenting on this post, and I'll be sure to include all your questions when I do the interview, but you have to comment here before September 14th.
Get excited! ^_^
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Publisher: Amulet Books
Reading Level: 14 and Up
Enjoyment Level: Medium/High
Here come a few more gods and goddesses… Actually, this is just a fun re-telling of a large part of Homer’s Iliad. A nice departure from the fantasy realm for me – I picked it up on a recent trip to the bookstore because it sounded kind of cool.
Homer’s Iliad, the classic tale of love and revenge, is shrewdly retold for teens in Troy High.
Narrated by Cassie, a shy outsider at Troy High, the story follows the Trojans and Spartans as they declare war on the football field. After the beautiful Elena—who used to be the captain of the Spartan cheerleaders—transfers to Troy High and falls madly in love with Cassie’s brother Perry, the Spartans vow that the annual homecoming game will never be forgotten. Off the football field, an escalating prank war fuels tensions between the schools.
The stakes are raised when Cassie is forced to choose between the boy she loves (a Spartan) and loyalty to her family and school.
I’ll start this one off by just saying that parts of it fell flat for me, but not enough to make me dislike the book. It was some of the character interaction that left me hanging. Cassie’s relationship with her older brother and his character development leave a few gaps going from his original attitude to the one he’s got at the end of the story. She lets him walk all over her for most of the book, never standing up for herself until the end, and she readily forgives him without much fight, either.
I also felt like Cassie’s relationship with her best friend wasn’t as solid as it could’ve been. There are some major-blowout fights that should’ve given Cassie more pause to think and should’ve had stronger reactions, but the fights seem to blow over without many repercussions. It would’ve been nice to see Cassie dealing more with the consequences of her choices.
But I still enjoyed the overall story. It was fun to research the characters and the history of the Iliad to figure out who was who. I liked the idea of bringing Helen of Troy into the modern age. Transferring the Iliad to the football field gave it new life and made it interesting to me.
The author did a wonderful job with the Helen character, Elena, and her relationship with Cassie is one of the highlights of the book. The chemistry between the two of them is just right. Cassie learns a lot from Elena. I really enjoyed seeing their friendship develop, as it was something I didn’t expect at all.
So despite my picking at a couple aspects of the book, I did enjoy it. If you’re looking for a book that is a quick read and delivers an interesting re-telling, pick up Troy High.
Until next time, go read something!
Friday, August 20, 2010
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: High
A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster. You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.
Re-told fairy tales are books I generally tend to avoid. It gets less and less like re-told, and more and more like regurgitated. But I liked Alex Flinn’s take on "Sleeping Beauty" (A Kiss in Time), so I read Beastly, too. "Beauty and the Beast" has always been my favorite fairy tale. That said, I was still apprehensive to read Beastly, since I had such high hopes for it.
The plot, since this is a re-telling, follows a pretty well-established line for Beauty and the Beast. No real surprises with that. There were a few highlights where something stood out, but not much. It was really nice to have it set in NYC (my favorite city), which made for a good alternative to some countryside castle.
The characters set this apart in the re-told library. The story comes from the Beast’s point-of-view, and as such, it feels more gripping to me. Being in the mind of the Beast lends a nice reality to the plot and it makes him falling in love with “Beauty” much more natural than in other versions.
I also really like that the Beauty of the story is plain and bookish – someone the Beast, pre-curse – would never look twice at. Again, it makes the story realistic without becoming cheesy. The interaction between all the characters is great. They all make the Beast’s transformation (physical and mental) meaningful. (A side-note/rant here… I am SO upset that they picked Vanessa Hudgens to play the Beauty character in the movie. Stupid Hollywood – can’t they leave a plain character plain? She’s not supposed to be beautiful!)
Like a lot of books, I felt that the ending was just slightly too fast and neatly wrapped. I would’ve liked to see a few more of the repercussions from the events in the climax, but it’s nothing that made me dislike the book. I still wholeheartedly recommend the book to anyone who’d enjoy a good urban-fantasy version of "Beauty and the Beast". It’s fast-paced and interesting.
Until next time, go read something!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Now that we've been blogging for a while, we finally won an award! :) Thanks to Lost in Believing for thinking of YALR! I'm so excited. Probably more than I should be, lol!
So I guess now it's time to fulfill my part of the award by sharing seven things about myself. I'm not sure if they're supposed to be things most people don't know, but I'll assume not. I don't know if there are seven things to share, otherwise! ^_^
- I collect Babysitter's Club books. I have about 70 of them right now.
- Dragons are my favorite mythical creature and they have been since I read my first Anne McCaffrey novel.
- I love to watch Friends, even though I've seen every episode several times now.
- I paint ceramics, and I'm attempting to get into painting canvas.
- I have a record player, and I still use it!
- I've always loved to write, but I started getting serious about it when Order of the Phoenix came out.
- My favorite movie is Empire Records.
And I'm also supposed to pass this award on to fifteen other bloggers, however, at this point, I think we're all running out of people who haven't gotten it yet. lol. So I'm at least going to try getting ten bloggers into this list.
Kristy Baxter's Blog
YA Book Realm
B is for Books
The Unprofessional Critic
YA Book Nerd
Girls in the Stacks
The Here. The Now. And the Books!