Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MiddleGrade Monday and Contest Winners

First up, I'd like to announce the winners of the first ARC grab bag giveaway. These folks were chosen at random and they will need to contact me at blogger at yaliteraturereview.com to claim their prizes. The four winners are: Kristin, Braine @ Talk Supe, Dorine White, and Eric at YAvolt. Watch for another contest this Wednesday - all about signed copies!

Middle Grade Monday: The Pen Pals Series, by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Publisher: Yearling
Pages: 144 (varies - paperback)
Reading Level: 10 and up
Enjoyment Level: High

This is one of the series that I loved growing up. I didn't get to read them all, but I devoured the ones I did have. And reading them made me want to go away to boarding school.


Four girls at boarding school meet, become friends, and run an ad in the neighboring all-boys' school newspaper for pen pals.

While I think writing for kids has kind of come a long way since the late 80s, this series is pretty well-written. There are details here and there that make me cringe a little, reading them now. But I also remember how it was to read them the first time, and as a kid (which might be more important), I never would've found anything to critique. I had characters I liked, and some that I didn't, but I never had any trouble loving the stories.

As an adult, I feel like several plots could be cleaned up, and the characters are definitely not as modern now as they felt then, although unlike some books, even the references to electronics (records, tapes, and VHS!) and other pop-culture things don't date the series for me. And, if they were to re-release these (like they are with some BSC books) it wouldn't be difficult to update the various details.

The characters always seemed older to me, but then, I was reading them as a 12-year-old. I can't say that they are realistic for 13 and 14-year-old girls. The dialogue sometimes comes off as forced. They get into trouble and have reactions that sometimes don't make sense to me.

But whatever they are to me as an adult, they were successful for me as a kid, and the books still have me reading easily as soon as I start page one. I miss having a series like this to read - the kids' market has changed so much that a lot of long-running series aren't as successful as some from back in the day.

This series is still a good one to share with middle grade girls. They might want pen pals and to go to boarding school after reading them, but there's nothing wrong with that, right?

Until next time, go read something.

~ Vilate

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Super Holiday Giveaway 2

It's that time again! Time to announce another giveaway for the holidays! This is the "I'm Thankful for Awesome Authors, the Melissa Walker Edition."

Yesterday, I posted my review of Small Town Sinners, by the fabulous Melissa Walker. And on the podcast, we have my interview with her from the Austin Teen Book Fest. Now it's time to give you the chance to win a signed copy of Small Town Sinners.

To enter, be a follower of the blog. Leave a comment on the review entry. Deadline to enter is November 30th. The winner will be chosen randomly.

Good luck!

~ Vilate

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Small Town Sinners

Small Town Sinners, by Melissa Walker

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288 (hardcover)
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: mid-high

I meant to read Violet on the Runway and review that with my Melissa Walker interview, but this is her newest book, and I thought it’d make a better giveaway, lol. Also, the blurb for Small Town Sinners caught my attention even before I heard Melissa Walker talking about the book at the Austin Teen Book Festival.

From Amazon.com:

Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver's license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church's annual haunted house of sin, Lacey's junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn't know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion.

I’m glad I felt drawn into this book enough to want to see what happened in the end. Lacey Anne, the main character, has an innocent voice that carries the story well and makes you want to get to know what’s going on. While at times she seemed younger than sixteen, I can chalk that up to the character being from a small, evangelical town, and to the innocence that is so obvious from the beginning. Lacey Anne has a good, strong development through the story and I liked the highs and lows she experienced. They felt like a natural progression, leading her to discover things about herself without seeming overdone.

The details about the Hell House had me creeped out, which might not be what the author was going for, but I believe she portrayed the whole idea realistically. That goes along with Walker’s treatment of the religious beliefs of the characters – I do feel like she tried to write this book while respecting the evangelical religions, and by the end of the book, Lacey Anne hasn’t given up her faith but also hasn’t submitted wholly without getting her questions answered. I felt that it was fair and it shows a respectfully open mind.

Overall, the story kept me interested. The characters are definitely done well. I did have some issues with some of the dialogue at times seeming unnatural or forced. While there wasn’t any time where I felt a “message” was being shoved at me, some of the conversation the kids have at the end felt stilted, as though a “moral” was being given and being unsuccessfully hidden in a page of dialogue.

Of course, that didn’t keep me from enjoying the book as a whole, and I still recommend it as great reading. The title may make you think it’s deep and hard to get through, but the writing is light and very easy to like and connect with.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Super Holiday Giveaway 1

Today kicks off my season of giving stuff away! This is my "I'm thankful for all my ARCs" grab bag giveaway. You won't know what you get until you get it, but some of my ARCs include:
  • Tempest Rising, by Tracy Deebs,
  • The Lost Saint, by Bree Despain,
  • Trial by Fire, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and
  • Drought, by Pam Bachorz.
Someone may get my ARC of Crescendo, by Becca Fitzpatrick as well. For this first giveaway, there will be up to four winners.

Just be sure to follow the blog, tweet about the contest, and leave a comment on this blog post, and that enters you to win! Winners will be chosen at random after November 15th, so you have until then to enter.

Good luck and thanks for being part of my blog!

~ Vilate