June 11th, 2010

Book Review: The Ghost and the Goth

Book Review: The Ghost and the Goth
Ghost and the Goth, The by Stacey Kade
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: July 2010
Pages: 288
Source: ALA

After a close encounter with a bus, Alona Dare goes from homecoming queen to Queen of the Dead. She's stuck as a ghost in the land of the living with no sign of the big, bright light to take her to a better place. To make matters worse, the only person who might be able to help her is Will Killian, a total loser outcast. More than anything, Will wishes he didn't have the rare ability to communicate with the dead, especially the former mean girl of Groundsboro High

The Short of It: Interesting concept that held my attention throughout the entire book. There were times that it moved a little slow, but this was mainly when Kade was getting important/relevant background info in. I was pretty excited to learn there will be more books with these two and cannot wait to see their story develop more.

Plot: So, this brings “I see dead people” to a whole new level. Poor Will. While I love to go “ghost hunting”, I can safely say that I would never want his ability. I mean, to hear all those people talking around you whenever you’re in public. How could you honestly NOT go crazy? And of course, he can’t really tell anyone for fear they’ll think he really should be in a mental ward. I have no idea how he made it as long as he did and still stayed reasonably sane. Like I understand his little tricks worked, but how was he ever able to concentrate on school and not hear what was being said? I enjoyed how Alona was able to come in and basically save the day. I figured she would be important, but I never guessed how important she would be. Of course, I don’t think they knew either. After all, Will had spent his whole life avoiding the dead and all Alona wanted was the bright lights. I’m anxious to see how their roles will continue to develop as the series progresses.

Characters: Poor, poor Will. I really did feel sorry for him. Most people thought he was a freak of nature, well, ok maybe he is a little. After all, he can see dead people. However, he isn’t just some goth kid who enjoys wearing black and talking about death. Honestly, he’s just misunderstood. Yes, he’s sarcastic and aloof, but that’s his defense mechanism. As long as people generally leave him alone, he doesn’t care what they think. His main goal is to survive high school and move to where there are less people and less of the dead. It was heartwarming to see how he cared and his few friends and his mom, especially his mom. He would bend over backwards to make his mom happy and on several occasions resisted a fight because he can see how much it wears on his mom. And once you got down to who Will really was, he was a pretty cool guy, one I would easily love to have in my life.

Oh, Alona. Make way for another misunderstood character. Yes, she may be miss popular and look like everything is perfect, but it truly isn’t. Once you learn what her life is really like, you can’t help but have a little sympathy for her. After all, no teen should have to deal with the home life she had. But that’s when she was alive. I’m not sure that death has been all that much kinder to her. I mean, being hit by a bus…ouch! Not to mention, she got to see people’s true colors once they thought she was gone. And the comments she heard and actions she witnessed were probably things that no one would want to hear or see. However, death and Will acted as a small wake-up for her. She was used to being blunt and even mean, but the problem was she didn’t see it that way. When she told someone their sweater was ugly, she was trying to help by getting them to care more. Good intentions, but totally wrong way to do it. In death, she has to learn to say nicer things. (There is a reason but I won’t say why.) She learns how to be honest in more gentle fashion. I also enjoyed that she wasn’t just some dumb blonde. Alona proved time and time again how strong and intelligent she was. It was fun to see Alona grow into someone with much more character and I am excited to see how she continues to transform as their story continues.

Romance: This one is a little…odd. I don’t know how else to describe it. After all, Alona is dead. And while the dead do have a solid substance when they’re near Will so that they can touch and what not, but um still dead. Yet, despite all that I still kind of rooted for something to develop between them. After all, Will has been crushing on her since they were in the sixth grade and, well, being the only living being to see her kind of gives him the advantage. In all seriousness, while there are some sparks flying, at this point it was more about a friendship and getting beyond their old stereotypes to the point of actually caring about each other.

Writing: Another alternating view point book. I’ve read TONS of these lately and I’m discovering that I really like them. I enjoy being able to step into both main characters’ points of view. Adds a whole new depth to what is happening, especially when they’re not together. And the alternating chapters keeps the story from jumping all over the place. Of course, it does annoy me a little. There were times I had wanted to stay with Alona or Will a bit longer and was instead thrown into the other POV.

On the story telling front, Kade does an excellent job. I had this book for months before reading it because initially hadn’t caught my attention. And, honestly, I may have passed it up all together had it not been for some of the buzz going around. I was pulled into the story within the first few chapters and had a hard time putting it down on occasion. In fact, I had a temptation to skip an author event to finish up the book…or at the very least read the whole way there and ignore the person driving. (I promise I did neither!) All in all, this one ended up a very pleasant surprise indeed.

Librarian-Mode: Hmmm, I think one is going to go well with the paranormal readers. Yes, it’s not your typical werewolves or vampires, but ghosts are just as much fun! I would say that those who liked Once Dead, Twice Shy or Shiver would enjoy this one as well. There are still romantic undertones in this one (as with any good paranormal read), but it isn’t your straight out romance. I think the romance-crazed readers will like it as well, but it may be a harder sell for them.

So, now it’s your turn…have you read The Ghost and the Goth? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.

May 5th, 2010

Chronicles of Vladimir Tod Mini Reviews

Mini-review time! I’ve never been much of a vampire girl, but my friends kept insisting I needed to read the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer and I finally broke down and picked them up. Boy, am I ever glad I do. Vlad is unlike any vamp (well, half vampire) I have ever meet. In fact, I almost hate lumping into the whole Twlight-vampire craze; he really belongs more with someone like Harry Potty. And honesty, if Harry Potter turned into a vampire you would have Vladimir Tod. Needless to say, I devoured these books as fast as I could get them from the library. And since I read them all back-to-back I figured doing a mini-review for each book would be the best way to go…and then when the final book comes out I’ll do a normal one!

The Short of It: If you can’t tell from my intro, I loved these books. They’ve become one of my top recommendations and I’m even trying to get it on the middle-school reading program for next year! I can’t believe I missed these books and simply cannot wait for the next/last book!

Series
[Rating: 4.5]

Eighth Grade Bites
Publisher: Dutton Juv
Release Date: Aug. 2007
Pages: 182 pgs
Buy from (affil. links): Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound

Vladimir Tod is unlike any teenage boy you’ll ever meet. Yes, he’s a little gothy, sarcastic, and likes to play video games with his best friend (Henry), but, well, he also has fangs and craves blood. That’s right, Vlad is a vampire, but he’s not ordinary vampire. In fact, he’s really only half-vampire (his mother was human) and he’s sure he’s the only one left of his kind. Since his parents’ death three years ago, he’s been living with his “Aunt” Nelly and living as normal of a life as possible. That, however, becomes impossible as a new teacher joins Vlad’s middle school and begins to pay a little too much attention to Vlad. The questions Mr. Otis asks are too close to comfort and Vlad is terrified he’ll figure out his secret.  Not to mention, things only get worse when he realizes there’s a vampire killer out to get him! Can Vlad manage to keep his secret under wraps and remain alive?

Eighth Grade Bites is a wonderful first book. Brewer pulls you fast into the world she has created and doesn’t let you go. Even though it was relatively short, I felt like I knew all the characters fairly well. I adore Vlad and his sarcastic wit. I mean all the jokes about vampire and the whole “Vampires Suck” t-shirt were a lot of fun. Of course, Nelly and Henry are wonderful characters as well. I wish I could have seen a little more of them, but there’s still lots of time for that! There were a couple of things I would have liked to have explained more, like the whole drudge thing, but I assumed that Brewer would flesh out the vampire rules/ways as the series progressed. The books wraps up well, but I was very anxious to see what the next book would bring Vlad.


Ninth Grade Slays
Publisher: Dutton Juv
Release Date: Apr. 2008
Pages: 278 pgs
Buy from (affil. links): Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound

Vlad must say good-bye to summer and his uncle Otis and hello to freshman year. Hello to the same old bullies, the wanna-be journalist nerd with a camera who tails him, and Henry’s cousin, Joss. Basically, it’s life as usually for Vlad. The only bright spot is a trip to Siberia that helps him learn new vampire abilities such as mind reading and mind control. But will these new powers be enough to conquer the newest threat in his life? Will he really be strong enough to recognize and defeat a vampire hunter? Or will he be just another vampire who finds a stake in his heart? 

Ninth Grade Slays is a nice continuation to the series. I really enjoyed the new character, Joss, and was sad to see he wouldn’t be sticking around after this book. Of course, maybe I liked Joss because it reminded me of Joss Whedon (Buffy!) and felt like a total homage to him/Buffy! (No idea if is actually is though.) I also had fun seeing Vlad’s power expand and his relationship with Meredith edging into the next stage. I’m not sure how I feel about the whole prophecy/Harry Potter vibe. While I may grow tired of it fast, I’m willing to overlook it because I like Vlad so much! And, yes, the same bad guy is in the background, but it’s fun to see what other evil do-ers he can pull into his grasp. Although, in this case, I felt sorry for the slayer. He was sort of tricked into the role he played and things got way more mixed up than they should have. It’ll be interesting to see if it plays a part in the future books (which I knew it would). Again, a very nice wrap-up, but couldn’t wait to move on to the next one!


Tenth Grade Bleeds
Publisher: Dutton Juv
Release Date: June 2009
Pages: 292 pgs
Buy from (affil. links): Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound

Another year at Bathory High for Vlad, but things have yet to really look up for him. Yes, his long-time crush, Meredith, is now his girlfriend, but now he’s on the edge of losing his best friend. Henry has been acting distant and hanging out with the popular crowd more and more. Vlad knows that this may be the end for him and Henry, especially when he learns there is a way to release drudges. Without Henry to hang out with, Vlad finds himself spending his free time with the goth kids. He’s introduced to a new world called the Crypt where being a “vampire” is cool, but the overwhelming urge to feed makes his time there limited. Add in the chilling nightmares that D’Ablo is sending about him being tortured and bled to death and anyone can see why Vlad is having a rough time. Without his uncle or faithful friend, Vlad may be facing this latest threat all alone. Will Vlad’s nightmares become reality or will he manage to escape yet again?

Tenth Grade Bleeds may have been my least favorite of the four, but that’s not to say it wasn’t good. This is the book were the whole prophecy thing started to annoy me a bit. I was tired of D’Ablo and his schemes and I was ready for one of them to burst into flames already. (And by one of them, I mean D’Ablo.) I understand not wanting to bring in a whole new bad guy every single book, but I do go weary of him. And while I wish he were gone for gone, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. (Are we sure Vlad is the only one who can’t die?) It really is a lot like Voldemort where I just wish he’d GO AWAY. But, eh, what I can I do; every book needs its villain. I was glad Brewer spent some time developing the Vlad-Henry relationship some more. I adore both boys and it broke my heart to see them growing distant. I was pretty worried that this would be the end of these two, something I don’t think I could have handled! And can I also just say how sweet Vlad & Meredith were? I won’t give it away, but I was sad to see what happened to them. They really were a cute couple! And the whole Crypt events could either be a big mess or a big leg up for Vlad; something I was anxious to see how it would all play out. So, while not my favorite book, still good and had enough appeal where I was ready to continue on right away.


Eleventh Grade Burns
Publisher: Dutton Juv
Release Date: Feb. 2010
Pages: 309 pgs
Buy from (affil. links): Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound

Life has hit a new all time low for Vladimir. Not only has Joss moved back to Bathory for good, but his uncle is to be tried and probably executed by the vampire council. Add in a weird vampire, love sick drudge, and dealing with the memories of his dead parents as they renovate his old home and Vlad’s hands are truly fully. The only bright spot is that with the upcoming trial, Otis no longer has to run and can spend more time with Vlad. While things look bleak, there is always some hope that they will be able to free Otis of all the accusations against him. Surely the council will see be able to see the truth, right? Or will Vlad be saying goodbye to the only family he has left?

Ok, hold on a moment while I scream. AHHH! So, Eleventh Grade Burns is really, really good. I enjoyed seeing Vlad and Otis’ relationship grow more than it had now that he was around a lot more. And how Vlad’s powers are developing, almost super-vampiric, is fun, too. Vlad is developing powers more and more that no one else has seen before. It all keeps leading the reader toward the fact that he is the one from the prophecy. And it was nice to see him repair his friendship with their nightly “practices” even if it is a little dangerous. And risk of spoiling anything, I’ll stop right after I say one more thing. I.Hate.Cliffhangers. And this is the MOTHER of all cliffhangers. Brewer’s only saving grace is that the last book will be out this fall, so the wait won’t be that long. (And may all the book god/goddesses hear my plea and let there be an ARC @ BEA!)

So, now it’s your turn…have you read the Vlad books? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought!

April 14th, 2010

Book Review: Identical

Book Review: Identical
Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: Aug. 2008
Pages: 576
Source: Library

Meet Kaeliegh. She's your average, all-American girl who loves to act and work part-time at a retirement home. She's rather soft spoken and tries to help people when she can. But underneath the surface, she's harboring a dark secret. When she was eight, her father crossed a line that no father should ever cross...one that ended with him molesting and raping her. She longs to break free and have a normal life & love, but could she ever have enough strength to do it alone?

Now, meet Raeanne, her twin sister. She suspects her sister's secret, but doesn't understand her pain. In fact, she's a little jealous of the attention her sister is getting. She sometimes even wishes it was her. A crazy need that pushes her to seek out attention through older guys, drugs, and sex. Raeanne believes that she is in control, but the truth is that her self-destructive attitude is about to send her over the edge. Will she seek out help before it's too late?

Watch as this seemingly normal family falls apart in plain sight.  Their lies and secrets chip away at them a little more each day until there is nothing left of the life they once knew. Can they pull it together before everything crumbles or will this be the end for Kaeliegh, Raeanne and their all-American family?

 

So, this was my first Hopkins book and all I have to say is, wow. I have heard time and time again how she has a way with verse and bringing it to life and I fully agree. I was reading this one in the 20-24 hour range of the read-a-thon and boy did it hold my attention. I remembering struggling to make it to that mark last year, but Identical truly helped keep the tiredness at bay. And this coming from a girl who normally doesn’t like verse novels! But Hopkins does such a great job at bringing her characters to life. I felt like I knew Kaeleigh and Raeanne so well, almost as if the 565 pages had been full of prose with lots of descriptions rather than carefully constructed verse. And, without ruining it, the ending totally surprised me. In no way shape or form did I see that one coming. I mean, yes, I have heard of that concept before and even have seen it in another book, but I was so drawn into the characters that I totally missed the truth of it all. Looking back at it now, I can totally see it, but I so missed the big clues as I was reading. I almost want to go back and read it again and see what other clues I missed along the way.

Before I end this mini-review, I want to talk about the writing itself. I’ve already established that I think Hopkins is pretty amazing, but she takes it to a whole new level with the stylization of her poems. I loved how she did different shapes from time to time and how they corresponded to the poem (hearts, glasses, etc). I also really liked the mini-sentence at the end/start of each Kaeleigh/Raeanne section and how they mirrored each other. And to be honest, I was halfway through the book before I really noticed it. I thought Hopkins was just sticking a work out to the side and never really even noticed that those isolated words formed a phrase. (Of course, my delay in noticing should be totally forgivable; after all I was reading this one from 1:00 – 6:00 am. Normally, I’m not so dense and would have caught it right away.) And how for each sister that phrase took on a new meaning. It really did help put extra meaning to what the sisters were talking about.

Being a slight poet myself, I tip my hat to Hopkins and her powerful skill to bring a story to life via verse. I certainly look forward to picking up Hopkins’ other works.

 

April 13th, 2010

Book Review: Radiant Shadows

Book Review: Radiant Shadows
Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr
Series: Wicked Lovely #4
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: April 2010
Pages: 368
Source: ALA

One decision can change everything. One order not followed, an act of mercy, will have an effect that no one could have foreseen. Surely, Devlin could have never guessed how special Ani would be. Ani, a half blood, is unlike any other Faery alive. She is driven by hunger of both the flesh and emotions. A hunger that keeps her from living peacefully in the mortal world like her siblings, but not quite strong enough to truly be part of the Hunt or Dark Court like her father. Yet, it's an ability that no one else has ever possessed and it's drawing unwanted attention, including attention from Devlin. Of course, their next meeting will be much different from the first, and this time it'll be a kiss that changes everything. The start of an attraction that could bloom into more, if they can stay alive and outrun the danger that surrounds them. But if they can, they may find out that they were meant for each other and that that fact could change the Faery Courts forever.

 

The Short of It: Radiant Shadows is my favorite Faery Court/Wicked Lovely book to date. I was sucked into Ani’s life immediately and was quite sad to leave it. I read this one back in January and to be honest, I’ve been itching to reread it ever since, which is something I rarely ever do. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve reread, yet, this one may still join that elite list as I impatiently wait for book 5 next year.

Plot: Ok, first things first, Radiant Shadows is Ani and Devlin’s story. Yes, Ash, Keenan, and Seth all make an appearance, but this book is not the continuation of their story. In fact, I would say it really is more of a continuation of Ink Exchange. I will admit that I read Radiant Shadows before Ink Exchange, so it can be done, I just wouldn’t recommend it. Ink Exchange is where you first meet Ani, plus the knowledge of the Dark Court really helps you understand what Ani is going through, especially when you take her special ability into account. I really enjoyed seeing Ani and Devlin both grow as characters. In the previous books they kind of annoyed or irritated me, something that was in the background, but now they’re real and fleshed out. It’s kind of hard to really talk about this plot without giving anything away. Instead, I’m only going to say I absolutely adore how Marr is pulling all the different elements of all the books together. I knew they were both going to hold an important place in the courts, but I never would have guessed how it really ended up being. And I love how one simple action can change so much. If Devlin had done what Sorcha asked when Ani was young, I’m afraid to see how much trouble the Faery Courts would be in right now. Sorcha is so unbalanced since changing Seth that she can barely rule. If not for Devlin or Ani, I’m certain that Bananach would have tore about the High Court…and the rest of the courts for that matter! This book is definitely about returning balance to a world that was quickly becoming chaos.

Characters: Ani. Ani. Ani. What could I possible say about Ani beyond that I easily adore her. She swiftly made herself my favorite character of the series. I love her spunk and courage, not to mention the love and unselfishness she has when it comes to those she loves. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a character as much as I have for Ani. I hated what Irial was doing to her, but loved she was willing to do it to save her court. And my heart so went out to her as we got a glimpse of her loneliness caused by not belonging to either world; she was too faerie to live as a mortal, but not faerie enough to be part of the Hunt. Of course, I also love her namesake, Ani Difranco, and Ani-the-character was almost the embodiment of Difranco’s music. It’s hard to explain, but it was as if Ani’s soul was an echo of Difranco’s music; so much so that I’m itching to create a playlist to go along with the book.

Devlin. Wow, Devlin really shined in this book. In Fragile Eternity, I thought he was a major, cold-hearted jerk and hated when he appeared on the page, but my opinion has done a complete 180. I never really realized how lonely he must be himself. Sorcha would never truly love him, he was an instrument to do her bidding and add a certain balance to their world. He watched as she doted on others, but never him. It was heartwarming to see how he treated Ani and Rae. He would have literally done anything to protect both of them…and really did for Ani. I also liked seeing him break the rigid formal attitude he had in the previous book. It was kind of fun watching him bend, break, and shatter the rules that had been previously been placed on him. I can’t wait to see where his fate takes him as I have a feeling there are still big things awaiting him.

Romance: Ani and Devlin’s romance isn’t your normal romance. After all, if Ani gets carried away feeding off him physically and emotionally she could easily kill him. However, at the same time it is hot! They were absolutely the perfect match for each other. Something about them just clicked right away and seemed to work so well. Although, to be honest, I’m not sure anyone else could have handled them; no one else could have satisfied their needs and allowed them to escape the chains that were holding them back. I also enjoyed seeing how protective each could be of the other, even though they were both strong faeries, their protectiveness came when it was needed the most. I could easily go on and on about how much I love this couple, but instead I’ll simply say they’ve become one of my favorite couples second only to Niall and Irial.

Writing: Man, what is there to say here? Marr’s writing continues to surprise me. I always think that surely she can’t top her previous book and she continues to prove me wrong. When I first picked up Wicked Lovely I could have never guessed this is where she would have taken the story. She is masterfully pulling all the different stories and plot lines together with supreme grace. They way she slowly reveals a little more of her master plan with each book is both tantalizing and torture. I’m so anxious to see how it will end that it’s not even funny. (How will I ever make it a year?!) It’s no wonder that Marr is one of my favorite YA authors!

Librarian-Mode: Ok, I must confess that this is the hardest part for me. I haven’t read other faerie books so I can’t necessarily lump it in with those. I do tend to recommend this one a lot to my fantasy-loving teens, though. It usually gets lumped in with my other favorites such as City of Bones and Graceling. I know the styles of all three books are very different, but I have found some teens who have liked all three. Marr’s books are a little darker than the other two, so the recommendation may not work for all. You may also want to consider Holly Black’s Modern Faery’s Tale Series. I would love to hear if anyone else has some read-a-likes that I can add to my list.

So, now it’s your turn…have you read Radiant Shadows? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.

 

 

April 10th, 2010

Read-a-thon, Update 3

Ah, another book down! Got a few breaks in for a walk and lunch, but staying pretty focused overall! Let’s hope I can keep it up!!

Party by Tom Leveen
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: April 2010
Pages: 228 pgs.
Source: ALA
Buy from (affil. links):
Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound
[Rating: 3.5]

It’s officially summertime in Santa Barbara and what better way to kick it off by having the party of the year. A party full of drugs, alcohol, girls, and much more. But just because it is the party of the year doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a good one. For some it will mean reconnecting with lost friends, but for others it will be crossing an unthinkable line. After all, alcohol, anger, and hormones don’t mix well. Yet, among all the chaos and heartbreak, forgiveness and redemption may just be found. Told through eleven different teens, watch as the story interweaves and unfolds through the different perspectives. This is sure to be one party that no one will forget.

I was debating on to rate this one. Really, I think that 3.5 is a little low, but 4 would have been too high. If my start system would let me do 3.75 I probably would have placed it there. The books is good, but I think I was hoping for something more. Everything seemed to work out a little too nicely for me. The jock who beats up a kid gets off, the best friends make-up, and the guy gets his girl back. When does that ever happen? I mean, I like happy endings as much as the next, but this felt too convenient. I mean, even the cops show up and they don’t even do anything about all the underage kids who are smashed out of there minds! Really?! And I think Leveen took on too many characters. I liked being able to see the story from different views, but eleven just felt like too much. So much so I don’t think I really connected to any of the characters. Some of the guys that he added in just felt liked added space. Yes, we learned more about the story, but they really weren’t needed. They were extras who got to “over hear” what was going on, but didn’t add anything pivotal to the story themselves. Leveen could have easy shown the same thing, but done it through characters who truly mattered.

Beyond that, I did like how well Leveen weaved the story together. There was only one part where I felt like the time-line may have been a little off, but I’m really not sure how fast Morrigan’s parents were able to get a hold of her. They could have been calling for hours for all I know before she finally picked up. I do also like the message of forgiveness and looking beyond stupid mistakes, but I don’t know how I feel about no one truly paying the consequences. The fight and the alcohol should have been enough to get several of the kids into deep trouble. I mean, even the one girl who did get in trouble only got grounded for a month. Perhaps they’ll think about that night the rest of their lives and never forget the lessons they learned, but I highly doubt it.

If anyone else has read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

Read-a-thon Stats
Total Read time: 5 hrs 30 mins
Books Read: Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams (78 pgs), Ask Me No Questions (162 pgs), Party (228 pgs)

April 10th, 2010

Read-a-thon; Update 2

Well, I just finished book number 2! I got a little distracted and lost some time due to a work issue, but it wasn’t horrible,

Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos
Publisher: Atheneum
Release Date: Sept 2007
Pages: 162pgs.
Source: Library
Buy from (affil. links):
Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound
[Rating: 4.5]

Ask Me No Question by Marina Budhos is about a Bangladesh family who are illegal aliens in the United States. They came over to America via a tourist passport and stayed to make a life even after it expired. They tried to become legal, but thanks to a corrupt lawyer and a messy system, their papers never went through. But it really didn’t matter, the laws were kind of loose and they stayed invisible for many years. That is until 9/11 and the nation became worried about terrorist living among them. Trying to gain asylum, they run for Canada only to be turned away, which lands Nadira’s father in jail. Their mother stays behind to stay close, but sent Nadira and her sister back to New York to continue on with school while it gets straightened out. Of course, that’s easier said than done. And while Aisha, Nadira’s sister, falls apart, Nadira starts to shine and comes up with ways to help their family out. The only question is will it be enough or will they find themselves deported and without a home?

I really enjoyed this book and thought it gave in insight into what many illegal immigrants have to deal with. Everyone hopes for the American dream, but for many it is so hard to obtain, especially with so much legal tape to get through. Budhos does a wonderful job at showing the emotions of fear, hope, and courage that these families deal with. And while it ended well for Nadira’s family, there are so many others that it does not. Such a complicated situation with no easy answers. This book was one I picked up on a whim and so glad I did! One that I can easily recommend to others!

Read-a-thon Stats
Total Read time: 2 hrs 45 mins
Books Read: Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams (78 pgs), Ask Me No Questions (162 pgs)

April 6th, 2010

Book Review: Rules of Attraction

Book Review: Rules of Attraction
Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
Series: Perfect Chemistry #2
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA
Release Date: April 2010
Pages: 326
Source: ALA

Carlos Fuentes wants nothing to do with his new life in Colorado with his brother, Alex. So what if he was in a gang in Mexico? He liked living life on the edge; safe and boring is not his style. Of course, being out of Mexico doesn't mean that trouble won't find him. When drugs are found in his school locker, he's faced with two options: jail time or living with Alex's former professor. Neither choice is particularly welcomed, but living with an all-American family has to be better than jail time, right? But when Carlos starts to fall for Kiara, the professor's daughter, he begins to learn how complicated life can be. Torn between the growing attraction and remaining at arm's length, Carlos will have to decide if Kiara is worth putting his heart on the line. She may not be his normal Latino hotty, but she may be exactly what Carlos needs. Will he be able to give up his bad-boy, gang lifestyle for her or will he let his perfect chance at happiness slip away?

 

The Short of It: There are some similarities between Rules of Attraction and Perfect Chemistry, but there are enough differences to make Rules of Attraction stand out on its own. Elkeles drew me into her world right away and I had a pretty hard time putting this one down. A sizzling romance with spunky characters, this book is one I easily recommend buying right now. And to be honest, while it’s being called a sequel, you could easily read this one without having read Perfect Chemistry.

Plot: So, the rich girl-poor boy theme is just a tad bit overplayed. We saw it Perfect Chemistry and now again in Rules of Attraction. Of course, the drugs and gang affiliation play a big role as well, but it’s more to put the story in motion than pivotal facts. Carlos has been sent to Colorado from Mexico to distance himself from his gang and the type of life his brother has worked so hard to keep him out of. And while Carlos joined to take care of his family, he doesn’t hate it like Alex did. His need to keep Kiara safe is the only thing that truly begins to change his mind. In between the fights, drugs, and gang threats, you’ll find a story of two teens falling for someone who seems wrong, but may just be the perfect match.

Characters: Carlos is, well, he’s your typical smart ass bad boy. I know a lot of girls love bad boys and I hope that Carlos will be added to their list. Yes, he has a bad attitude and doesn’t think he needs to play by the rules, but underneath it all he really isn’t a bad guy. A little rough around the edges, but he do anything for his family/those he loves. He tries to push people away by being a punk, but it is more of a defensive mechanism than truly being an ass; he thinks that if he can live his life in numbness then he’ll have nothing to worry about. There were several, several times I wanted to slap the boy because of his attitude, but I really did enjoy his character and he is easily one of my favorite “bad boys”.

Kiara, man, what can I say about her? I adored her. I loved how she wasn’t afraid to stand up to Carlos, even when he did intimidate her. (And the cookie prank, priceless!) Yes, she had some self-doubts/pity, but she proved time and again that she was able to hold her own and didn’t need a man to complete/protect her. She may look soft, but she really wasn’t. Her inner strength was one of my favorite things about her. I also liked how appearances didn’t really matter to her. I know she made comments that she wasn’t as pretty as Madison/other girls, but it really takes a certain level of self-confidence not to care about make-up or if her hair was falling. I think we need more characters like Kiara in novels; girls who are outside the “norm”, but still prove to be sexy just the way they are.

Romance: Hot, Hot, HOT. Overall, I really liked Carlos and Kiara’s relationship. There was a lot a bickering and hating on both sides to start from, but it more in the fashion of “I like you, but I shouldn’t, so I’m going to push you away”. They both had walls they had to break down in order to be with each other. I liked that even when they were trying to “hate” each other there was a lot of playfulness to them, like the cookie-locker incident was hilarious! Beyond one little spot where I felt the relationship skipped ahead really fast, I thought the romance was spot on. And the cover scene was totally my favorite scene of the whole book; it may have made me melt a little. (Did I mention I’m a big romantic sap at heart?)

Writing: I really enjoy Elkeles’ writing and story telling. I like that she does switching point-of-views in alternative chapters. It’s a nice way to see into both character’s heads. The only thing is I wish that we could have had more of Kiara’s POV. At times, it felt that Carlos’ chapters were much, much longer than Kiara’s. I realize that Carlos’ story is kind of what moves the plot along, but I would have loved to see just a bit more of Kiara, too.

Librarian-Mode: Of course those who liked Perfect Chemistry will enjoy the sequel. Other than that, I think this could easily be recommended to your chick-lit/romance readers. There is a bit of predictability to it, but isn’t that true of most romances? (I mean, the guy is usually going to get the girl, right?) I’ve been reviewing a lot of this type of book lately, so if you want more suggestions try doing a search for chick-lit.

March 29th, 2010

Book Review: Sing Me To Sleep

Book Review: Sing Me To Sleep
Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: March 2010
Pages: 320
Source: Around the World Tours

Beth has always been the unattractive girl; teased endlessly by her peer and nicknamed "The Beast".  However, everything changes when Beth lands a solo in her all-girls choir; one that wins them a spot in an international choir competition in Switzerland. And after an intensive make-over, Beth now resembles the angel she sounds like and begins gaining attention from boys, including a dreamy, Canadian singer named Derek. While their time is short together in Switzerland, the two fall in love and plan to continue the relationship once they're back home. The only problem? Not everything is as magical once they've returned. Beth soon realizes that Derek has a dark secret, one that is threatening to tear them apart. Not to mention her geeky, and now hunky, best friend, Scott, has proclaimed his undying love for Beth as well. The only question now is who makes Beth's heart sing more: the boy she's always known or the one who feels like a dream?

 

The Short of It: I’m still a little torn about how I feel about this book. On one hand it’s an interesting story and excellent writing. Morrison knows how to spin a story in a way to keep the reader captivated and interested in her characters. On the other hand, I’ve been unable get past the emotions this book inflicted (whether intentionally or not) and ultimately hurt how much I could have enjoyed the book.

Plot: The overall plot was okay. I enjoyed reading about Beth in choir and how she earned the right to be in the spotlight. It was obvious that she cared a lot about singing and had enough talent to go far. Being from a musical background myself, I did like how it was intermixed into the book and how fun it was/could be. While my own choir experiences were different, I couldn’t help but remember all the good times I myself had with my high school choir. As for the ending, I wasn’t surprised and actually saw it coming. I don’t want to ruin it for my readers, but by the way he acted I figured it was something more than a bad boy/drug behavior.

Before I move on, I do want to talk about the make-over, which is something that really, really bothered me. In fact, it’s part of the reason why I ended up not liking the book. I don’t mind the type where a little hair restyling and wardrobe change gives the illusion of a “better” girl. I do have a HUGE issue with the lengths that this makeover went to. When you get into cosmetic procedures and other surgeries, I start to cringe. What kind of message is that sending to teenage girls? (Who already have SO much to deal with when it comes to body image.) Morrison’s only saving grace is that the makeover didn’t instantly “fix” Beth. She still had doubts about how she looked and took her a while to believe she was truly beautiful. I only hope that the girls can latch onto that and not the whole ugly-duckling made swan = get everything I want.

Characters: I hate to say this, but overall I was rather indifferent to the characters. There were moments of sympathy, but there were also a lots of moments where I was to shake some sense into them. For example, I hate how Derek lied to Beth. I understand why he did, I really do, but how can you have a true relationship, friendship or dating, based on such a BIG lie? And then Beth how she sulked and pouted whenever he did his disappearing act; it literally drove me insane. On the other hand, I did admire Beth’s loyalty to stand by what she really cared about. She could have easily ditched both Derek and her choir, but she chose to stick it out.

Although, I suppose if I were to name a favorite character it would have to be Scott. He felt like the one person who was honest and true throughout the whole book. He wasn’t afraid to love Beth when she was the “Beast” and did everything he could to protect her from their cruel classmates. I loved that he was able to see past the physical appearance and care for the girl within. In fact, I think he earned even more points with me when he disapproved of the make-over because it wasn’t Beth. Ok, maybe he did a few things that were a little creepy, but they were kind of sort of adorable at the same time (like tracing her lips with his fingers).

Romance: This is where I have to be very careful not to rant. I hated, HATED the romance in this book. My hackles raised and all I wanted to do was save Beth from the abusive/controlling relationship with Derek. Yes, there were times that Derek felt like the perfect boyfriend, especially all the events in Switzerland, but once they were home it was a whole different story. It made me sick how he tried to control her life without consulting her. I know finding out his secret explains his actions, but I don’t think that it excuses him. The way he demanded her to do things, coupled with the emotional and physical outbursts felt way too abusive to my tastes. Girls should NEVER feel like this behavior is acceptable.

While Scott had his own quirks, I kept wishing that Beth would dump Derek already and go to him. He was the one who truly knew Beth’s beauty (before she was one!) and loved her for HER and nothing else. I think their relationship was the true love story and wish it had played out more than it did. Of course, their story was not the one that Morrison was trying to tell. (Again, trying to stay relatively spoiler free, but once you read the book and author note, you’ll understand that comment.)

Writing: This is where Morrison shines. She truly know how to weave a story that keeps someone reading. Even though, overall, I was rather indifferent to most of the characters, I still found moments where my heart strings were pulled. (I’ll even admit I shed a tear or two at the end.) To still pull that kind of emotion out of someone, especially when they don’t agree with things that had done or went through, is a true gift indeed. And while I may not have enjoyed this book, I am interested to read other books by Morrison.

Librarian-Mode: The romance of this book reminds me a lot of the romance in Twilight. So, the paranormal-vampire lovers looking for something more realistic may just love this. Also, this is a big tear-jerker novel and would easily fall in with those who love Lurlene McDaniel.

Have you read Sing Me To Sleep? If so, let me know what you thought!

March 25th, 2010

Book Review: Beautiful Dead: Jonas

Book Review: Beautiful Dead: Jonas
Beautiful Dead: Jonas by Eden Maguire
Series: Beautiful Dead #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
Release Date: March 2010
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

Darina has just entered the world of the Beautiful Dead. A world that contains four of her classmates...her dead classmates, including her boyfriend Phoenix. This world is supposed to be secret from those of the living, but Darina makes a deal in order to be the exception. She must help solve the mysteries that surround each of her classmates' deaths.

Jonas was the first to die and the first to need her help. Darina must discover the real reason that Jonas crashed his motorcycle, causing his death and crippling his girlfriend. He was an experienced and cautious rider, could Jonas have really been driving too fast and risking himself and his love? Or was there something more that happened on that tragic day? And more importantly, will Darina be able to discover the truth and finally allow Jonas to pass on in peace?

The Short of It: This is one of those liked, but didn’t love. And honestly, it’s really hard for me to say why. There was a lot of potential, but it kind of fell short. I felt like the world could have been fleshed out a bit more, but it was still a decent read overall.

Plot: I will warn you, that you are instantly thrown into the plot. There is no introduction, no hello this is where you are…you’re just there. I know many have not liked this, but I didn’t mind it too much. Although, I was a little confused as first and had to go back and reread a few pages to understand what was going on.  And I really do wish things had been fleshed out a bit more, but I’m hoping the future books will help with that issue. Other than that, I thought the plot was an original concept; I would have never thought of making zombies beautiful, intelligent, and almost like they had been before they died. The mystery behind the deaths is interesting, although, Jonas’ death was a little predictable. Then again, I’m not sure it was supposed to be hard to guess as Darina was calling it long before the end of the book. This book is truly just one slice of the pie and am I interested to see where Maguire plans to take it.

Characters: I’m sort of indifferent when it comes to the characters. I didn’t feel like I got to know them well enough to care what did or did not happen to them, especially Jonas. I mean, I didn’t want him to disappear without having his mystery solved, but I also wouldn’t have cried any tears if he had. And he seemed like a nice, loving boy, but I never felt like I knew him. To me, he was some casual person I knew in passing and nothing more, which made me a little sad since it was his book.

Honestly, I think the book focused a little too much on Darina and Phoenix – like it was really more their book and Jonas was just in the background. Still, I’m not sure I really know them. Darina is close, but I’m still not sure what really makes her tick. I want to know if there is a reason, beyond Phoenix, that she’s willing to help them out. I just wanted more about her and her life in general. Right now, she feels more like someone who is just there to fill a role – not a true character, but I have hope that that will change as the books progress.

Romance: This one is really hard to talk about. After all, by the time we meet Phoenix he’s already dead. It is obvious that they care a great deal about each other, but their time together is very limited. What we learn about their relationship is mainly through Darina’s reflections on the past, which I’m not sure if it can be taken as accurate or a girl in love shading the truth. Although, you can tell that Phoenix is protective of her and wants her to be happy. I only worried that in his new zombie-state the emotions he sends are not real. There have been several hints at that, but it’s impossible to say for sure.

Before I move on I do want to mention Jonas and Zoey’s relationship. What tiny bit we saw of it was truly sweet, but tragic. He truly did love her, even if she did doubt it a little after the accident. Although, I think deep down she knew he did. It was a relationship that seemed to be blooming and was kind of sad that it ended before it really began. I am glad that she was able to find closure though.

Writing: I didn’t think the writing was bad. Some of the descriptions and dialogue felt silted, but nothing that made me shout and scream in frustration. I know I had a couple of eh moments, but nothing that had me ranting.

Librarian-Mode: This is a hard one for me. It’s unlike any zombie book I’ve ever read, so I’m not sure the normal zombie-lovers would like it. There’s no gore or brain eating here. I don’t really think this book can sit neatly in a niche, but I would try recommending it to other paranormal lovers.

You can see other reviews by tour participants at the Teen Fire Ning

February 23rd, 2010

Book Review: Lockdown

Book Review: Lockdown
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: 2010
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher

Reese has had to learn the hard way that one stupid act can land you where you never wanted to be. Now serving time at Progress Juvenile Facility, he is doing his best to keep himself out of trouble and get back home. And his good behavior hasn't gone completely unnoticed; he has been chosen for a new work-release program at Evergreen, an assisted living center for seniors. Matched with Mr. Hooft, Reese struggles to gain the man's respect and to prove he's not some hoodlum from the streets. The lessons he learns from Mr. Hooft are invaluable, but will they be enough to keep him on the straight and narrow road; especially if keeping out of trouble means turning his back on a friend in need? Can Reese turn his life around or will he be bound to spend the rest of his life in and out of prison?



The Short of It:
I really did enjoy this one. I must confess I’ve only read one other Walter Dean Myers book, which was Monster. While they have the same sort of feel, Lockdown was more straightforward and easier to read. I liked how the little life lessons were mixed in without feeling overwhelming/beating the reader over the head with them.

Plot: This book is brutally honest. The only way Reese is going to get himself out of the dead-end lifestyle is if he works for it himself. Most of the adults in his life are not going to give any help. In fact, he would have been sent upstate long ago had he not been chosen for the juvenile facility’s work-release program. Pulling him out for his “bad behavior” would only make the warden and others involved look bad. And Reese already knows that those around him will only tug them back down to their level. No one wants to see another escape when they themselves are still trapped. This story is about Reese finding that motivation to keep him alive and going.  Nothing comes easy for Reese, but isn’t that so true to life? And while Reese may not get the easy way out of jail, I think the life lessons were worth the extra struggle. I have hope that Reese’s life back in the real world will be a good one and that he’ll accomplish all that he sets his mind to.

Characters: I have to admit, I kind of felt sorry for Reese. Yes, he did something kind of stupid, but I’m not sure the action warranted the punishment he got. Basically, he was a scapegoat for someone doing crap way worse than him. Not only that, but then all the punishment he got for defending a friend seemed unfair, too. He didn’t start the fights, he was just trying to protect a weaker kid. But I guess a fight is a fight in prison no matter how/why you were involved. However, I felt that underneath it all he really was a good kid. The bad decisions he kept making were to help out people he cared about.

Romance: None in this book. But the poor boy is in jail and is trying to set his life back on track, so romance really is the last thing on his mind!

Writing: Myers is quite skilled in weaving a story together. It takes a special skill to tie in the parallels and life lessons without feeling preachy and still make the read enjoyable. I really had no complaints in this department. The pacing and style were well done and I never felt bored. I also want to mention how smooth the actual storytelling was. I can remember in Monster having a couple moments of confusion because of the style/flashbacks, but there was none of that in Lockdown. If you have teens who kind of liked Monster, but were thrown off by the style, I would give them Lockdown. Chances are they’ll like the straight-forward storytelling much better.

Librarian-Mode: This is definitely more of a boy book, but I think that girls can enjoy it just as well. If they’re fans of Myers’ books, especially Monster, they’ll love this one as well. This type of book isn’t my normal reading, but it kind of fits in with those nitty gritty true life books, so it go over well for fans of Ellen Hopkins and Paul Volponi.