Browsed by
Tag: Realistic Fiction

Book Review: Pink

Book Review: Pink

Book Review: Pink
Pink by Lili Wilkinson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: Feb 2011
Pages: 320
Source: ALA

Ava is ready for something new. Tired of a wearing black and remaining outside of the social norm, she wants to reinvent who she is. She wants to wear the pink Argyle sweater hidden in her closet. Maybe even date a boy. When she transfers to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence she thinks she’s found the perfect opportunity; a place where no one knows her and she can try on a new “Ava”. The only problem? She must hide it from her changes from her parents and her girlfriend, Chloe. They’d never understand her new desires, plus they’re a nice safety net in case her new personality doesn’t work. The thing about secrets is they’re hard to keep and Ava risks everything if her two worlds collide. But as the dust settles Ava will discover who her real friends are...and maybe even a step closer to discovering who she truly is.

 

The Short of It: Hands down one of my favorite books! I’ve been gushing about this book to so many people since I read it in January (including the publisher and author!) I can’t remember the last time I was THIS excited about a book. In other words, why haven’t you bought it yet?

Plot: The first thing that sold me on this book was that it was about a lesbian. Can I say there are just not enough books featuring teen lesbians out there? Seriously, I wish there were tons more, so when I hear of one I usually jump on it. But…but…this book goes way beyond that. It’s not about being gay, bi, or straight; it’s about discovering who you are. Ava’s parents are so much about sticking it to the man and thinking outside the norm, that they have painted her into a new sort of box. The gothy lesbian look is all good and dandy, but Ava really just wants to wear pink. She wants to know what it’s like to be part of the “in-crowd” and maybe even date a boy. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems, which is a lesson Ava learns the hard way. There are many bumps–okay potholes–and detours along the way as Ava tries to make things work. Of course, the end of the book was not the end of Ava’s journey. She still wasn’t sure exactly who she was and may not know for a while, but she’ll continue to try to figure it out. Honestly, this is my favorite part; a school year is not enough time to firmly stamp you are and what your sexuality is. Kudos to Wilkinson for keeping it real and not tying it all up in a nice little bow.

Characters: Ava is far from perfect. She makes mistakes. HUGE mistakes. I understand the desire to be someone new/start over fresh though. Been there, done that several times over now. While I don’t condone all the lying that Ava does along the way, I can sympathize and understand how she got to that point. One little secret turns into another and another and pretty soon it’s out of control. However, I love that Ava is brave enough to admit her mistakes and apologize to everyone she wronged. She may have gone about many things wrong, but she tries her hardest to make them right again. And it’s not a quick fix, either; she’ll have to rebuild some of those relations, but Ava is willing to do what she can. I also love that she didn’t buckle under pressure and return to how others saw her. She had the chance to return to how everything was before, but she stick to her instinct, even if it meant losing someone she cared about.

Before I move on, I have to mention the side characters, especially the Screws. Being a theatre stag-crew/props/behind the scenes person myself, the Screws where my people in high school. While none of my friends where anything quite like them, it did bring back happy memories. I will say that Jen was my favorite character overall. The whole geek girl is my world and I kind of wish she were real so I could make her my new BFF (or more). But seriously, if you finish this book and not have an intense love for the Screws, well, something just isn’t right! (I’ll still love you, but I’ll have my serious doubts.)

Romance: Okay, so I’ll be honest. Ava is not single for most of this book. She and Chloe are in a relationship from the get-go, but honestly, Chloe does not have much page time. And when she does, you kind of wish she’d just go away. She’s too stuck in the thought that her opinions are law and is kind of a big bully. Her words are cutting, brutal, and very hurtful, especially when aimed at Jen. Not to mention her ultimatum to Ava is pure bs. So yes, Chloe exists but she is a predominant character.

Now there are other flirtations that are in the book, but nothing that evolves to a full out romance. There is definitely the possibility of more, especially with one character, but Ava still has a lot of figuring out to do before she crosses that line. If nothing else, there is still a great friendship–even if more never comes from it.

Writing: Wilkinson does a superb job at pulling readers into her world and making this world universal for anyone. I know this book took place in Australia, but for most of the book I forgot that detail, except when they mentioned what university they wanted to go with. Seriously, though, I could have seen this story taking place in my own home-town, which is the beauty of it. Wilkinson is quite spot on for the entire book. There was not a single time where I thought the pacing was off or a character would do this or that. And just how realistic everything thing is. . . Ah, really, I’m going to quit now before I get too gushy!

Librarian-Mode: Okay, pairing time. So there are a lot of books I think this one would do well next to. I truly believe it should be a GLBTQ staple and is a nice read-a-like for Keeping You a Secret, Ash, and Geography Club. However, this is a very good coming-of-age story and would work with realistic romances as well.

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

 

Book Review: Things I Know about Love

Book Review: Things I Know about Love

Book Review: Things I Know about Love
Things I Know About Love by Kate le Vann
Publisher: Egmont USA
Release Date: June 2010
Pages: 160
Source: ALA

Livia Stowe hasn't had the best luck when it comes to boys. She's come across those who have lied and those who have left her broken hearted when she needed them the most. But this is the summer where she hopes everything will change. After finally beating her battle with cancer, she has convinced her mom to let her spend the summer with her brother in the States. This was to be the summer about inner reflection and figuring out the things she has known about love through her private blog. And while she is endlessly talking about love, she never thought that a holiday love would happen to her. Not until Adam that is. If she can just grab his attention, this may become the best holiday ever. If only Livia can move beyond writing about love and risk the chance to experience it...

The Short of It: I adored this book…until the end. Really, honestly, until the last 20 pages or so. I kind of suspected it was going to end the way it did, but I had high hopes that I was wrong. When I figured out I was right, I literally threw the book across the room and left it there for a while. I did end up finishing it, but the ending really did disappoint me. And although I didn’t cry, I would recommend having some tissues close on hand.

Plot: I liked the plot. Really I did. Or at least I did until the last 20 pages or so. I love the idea of a girl truly reflecting on love and taking it seriously. It’s not about bad boys or quick, unrealistic or unhealthy love. It was still a bit quick, but she had met him before and sometimes first impressions can be very strong. She learned from her past mistakes, no matter how small they were, and took them into account as she moved forward. I will admit, that most seventeen girls do not think this way, but I wish they would! This book has one of the more healthier messages I’ve seen in YA in regards to romance.

Now, I really wish she had been wiser when it came to the rest of her life. She should have ignored the things that she did. As a cancer survivor, I think she would have planned things just a bit more safe. However, I do understand as a young girl tasting her first chance at freedom in years would get carried away. I only wish Le Vann wouldn’t have felt it necessary to end it as she had. I’m sure some of my opinion on this area is that I’m a sap for happily-ever-afters, but the larger part of me felt like it was a ill-fit. She could have done so many other things and the ending just felt too fast, a tad forced, and unrealistic.

Characters: Livia is a very likable character. I was reminded of my own seventeen year old self and could easy relate to her. (Ok, so my twenty-something self can as well.) I was right with her as she tried to figure out something that is completely illogical and irrational…love. Her stories were ones that any normal girl could see herself in. Haven’t we all had a boy twist the truth to make himself look more favorable? Or leave us when we least expected it? Even her lists and final conclusions were honest and raw. Her view on a possible holiday romance was refreshing and I truly enjoyed my journey with her.

Romance: The moment Adam entered the picture, I knew he would be perfect for Livia. Normally, I’m not sure I would approve of the age gap for someone that young, but it really didn’t bother me in this case. Perhaps it was because I was excited to see a truly realistic boy for once. One that was incredibly sweet and kind, but that wasn’t sure of his footing. It was refreshing to see a boy’s doubts as he worries about missed chances, perfect dates, and falling in love. It was cute how their thoughts echoed each other almost perfectly. And even if the romance didn’t last forever, it was a nice reminder that love can hit without any warning when you least expect it.

Writing: I really enjoyed the blog style that Le Vann chose to use. It gave it a more personal, story-telling effect without feeling overwhelming. Yes, there wasn’t necessarily a lot of dialogue, but it worked well in this case. After all, the story was more about Livia and what she has learned about love than an actual love story. It’s her personal thoughts and reflections on the things she has already experienced in order to help with what she will someday experience. This book was her facts and no one else’s, so a blog seemed the perfect way to go. I am glad, though, that Le Vann decided to have Adam do a blog as well. It was nice to see his perspective and his voice added quite a bit to the story, in more ways than one. His thoughts truly made the story richer and may just be the reason that the blog style really worked in this book. I never felt like I needed more or that I was missing pieces of the story/inner thoughts of someone else. And while I may have hated the ending of this book, I would love to read something else by her.

Librarian-Mode: Hands down I think this book will fit the best with those who love Lurlene McDaniel. You may also try recommending it to those who enjoyed Sing Me To Sleep as well. Simply put, those who love those sappy, tear-jerker endings will adore this one.

So, now it’s your turn…have you read Things I Know About Love? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.

 

Book Review: Identical

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.

 

Read-a-thon, Update 3

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)

Read-a-thon; Update 2

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)

Book Review: Rules of Attraction

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.

Book Review: Sing Me To Sleep

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!

Book Review: Lockdown

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.

 

 

Book Review: Magic Hands

Book Review: Magic Hands

Book Review: Magic Hands
Magic Hands by Jennifer Laurens
Publisher: Grove Creek Publishing
Release Date: Feb. 2007
Pages: 216
Source: Library

Cort, a popular, cute jock, has everything but a job; something that he desperately needs. The normal hot spots are already overrun with kids and the outlook is pretty bleak. In fact, it's so bad that the only job he can get is at Miss Chicha's Nail Salon. Needing money, he puts aside his pride and learns how to do girl's nails. At first, it seems as if his new job may slide beneath the school's radar, but when some girls from school find out it's all over. Soon, his days are booked with endless appointments and he's quickly learning an important lesson: girls can be catty, gossips, and cruel. But there's one girl, Rachel, that he still has hope for. She may be elusive, but she's intelligent, beautiful, and Colt's dream girl. The only problem is that he has to prove to her that there's more to him than being a good looking jock. Can Colt win her over or will she always remain just out of his reach?


The Short of It:
I kind of went into this one not expecting much and came out being pleasantly surprised. There are some general editing and narrative issue and some cliquish moments, but overall it was a solid read.

Plot: The plot is what really drew me to this book. I mean, c’mon, a boy working in a nail shop?! How could you not be interested in that? Of course, what I got was not exactly what I was expecting. I figured he may do the prep work or paint a few nails, but I NEVER imagine he would actually do the nails. But maybe that was because I knew you needed training to actually do nails. (Sorry tiny spoiler-but common sense right?) The miles of miles of girls that come to have their nails done after he’s discovered seems rather accurate at first glance. The only thing that nags me is do that many high school girls really get their nails done and would older women really care? Ok, maybe the cute guy has something to do with it, but it was stated several times that the clients only really ever wanted Cort. I can understand that if you’re a high school girl (cute, popular guy + doing nails + hand massages = girl heaven) but would the older women really care? I guess some may like to be fawn over by a cute guy, but if it were me I would totally just take whoever was available. I mean, really, are you seriously going to wait hours just to have some boy do your nails?  Other than that, the plot really rang true on the realistic front.

Characters: Colt and Rachel were both great characters. They both had they’re flaws, but overall they were enjoyable characters. Colt was your All-American boy; the popular jock with enough intelligence, kindness and charm to make everyone like him. I also liked that he was a hard-worker. He could have easily walked away from the nail gig at anytime, but he kept with it no matter how tiring it could be. I’m sure part of this had to do with the big tips, but he still took the time to learn how to do everything properly. The only thing I didn’t like about him is that he seemed to be a bit of a push-over. Perhaps this went with the nice-guy routine, but it felt like he was being taken advantage of/rolled over, especially when it came to Bree, Rachel, and Miss Chachi.

Rachel, on the other hand, was a bit harder to like. I did end up liking her, but it took much longer. There were times she was so aloof and a little snobbish that it drove me crazy. She kind of had this superior “I’m better than you” attitude for most of the book. Even worse, there was no justification to the attitude. I think Rachel was trying to be mysterious and hard to get, but it’s not how it really came off. However, once she opened up and stopped hiding herself she was a wonderful character. I really enjoyed her job and the easy repertoire and friendship she developed with the elderly.

Romance: I would have enjoyed the romance a lot more if it had been played out a bit differently. Rachel’s hard to get attitude really affected the relationship. What bothers me the most is that she really does like him. The first page talks about how he’s great eye-candy; the only problem is he’s a jock. An irrational hate that I really don’t understand. I know the stereotype is that all jocks are jerks, but Colt proved rather quickly that he wasn’t. And every time she let him near, she would push him away without any warning. It was one-step forward, two-steps back the whole way with her. If there had been a reason for her mistrust/aloofness I might have been okay with it, but I don’t think one bad experience with a crush when she was young was enough. I felt like there should have been a pile of them to make her that leery of guys.

Colt, however, was kind of cute. He was a little crazy for continuing to go after Rachel despite all her mixed signals, but it made him more likable. I have to give him kudos for going to the lengths to prove that he wasn’t some egotistical jock and that he really did like her. In fact, I’m a little surprised that he stayed around for all her head games, but I guess the chase makes the catch more valuable? Ok, so maybe he’s a little too good to believe as a high school boy, but I did enjoy the fact that he took note of what was important to her and tied them into his own. All in all, once Rachel opened up they really did make an adorable couple.

Writing: Ok, this is where my biggest complaint lies. There were some minor editing errors that I could overlook, but the switching point of views drove me batty. Without any warning, Laurens would change from Rachel to Colt or vice versa. And I’m not talking like one chapter Colt, one chapter Rachel, I’m talking in the middle of the scene. Like they could be sitting in class, Colt could think or say something and suddenly you’re in Rachel’s mind hearing what she thought. I will admit that it was nice to hear both of their thoughts, but Laurens needed to figure out a smoother way to do it. The instant switching was much too jarring for me and drew me out of the story way more than I would have liked.

Librarian-Mode: I would easily recommend this one to my realistic, romance lovers. Those who love a good cat-and-mouse game will eat this one up. If I’m picking read-a-likes I would most likely place this one with Sarah Dessen or Elizabeth Scott (ala Bloom/Perfect You). I will also be honest in that my library does not currently own this book, but I am going to look into order it. (Well, providing it has the new cover. Old cover is HORRIBLE and almost made me send it back!)

 

Book Review: Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous Materials

Book Review: Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous Materials

Book Review: Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous Materials
Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: Feb. 2010
Pages: 304
Source: Library

Charlie Healey, a freshman, believes that Harmony Falls will be her reboot to life. No longer subjected to the abuse of her "best friends," she's ready to hide her past away and become someone new. But on her very first day she'll learn that you simply cannot outrun your past. Faced with a best friend turned hunk and a girl she terribly wronged, Charlie learns to blend the old with the new. She'll need to learn to conquer old demons if she ever truly plans to achieve a new start. Amidst it all, Charlie will face many challenges such as jerky boys, a prank gone wrong, and learning what boundaries are okay to cross. Will Charlie shrink back into her shell or will she finally be brave enough to do the right thing?

The Short of It: Ah, so nice to have a book I really enjoyed. This was the first book I had read by Wiseman and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was a fun story about discovering who you are, correcting old wrongs, and standing up and doing what’s right. A story of friendship and life that’s worth checking out.

Plot: Ok, so I admit that the plot didn’t have a lot of originality. In fact, you may even say a lot of it was predictable, but something about it really pulled me in. Beyond the stereotypes, it is an honest story about a freshman getting a second chance as she figures out the truths to life. It’s about friendship and and learning to break out of one’s shell. Having been in Charlie’s shoes most of my life, I could easily relate to the storyline and it rang true to me. But don’t think that this book is all seriousness because there are still a lot of fun, crazy, and even drama filled moments. All around, I really do think it’s a fun plot (cliques and all)!

Characters: I think Charlie is a love her or hate her type character. Being where Charlie has been, I didn’t find her as annoying as I normally may have. I understand the power that some people can have over others, but I’m really not sure why Charlie allowed herself to be stomped on and belittled for so long. At first, I thought maybe it was just because she was weak, but I no longer think that’s the case. She obviously had enough courage to break tradition and tell someone of authority about the hazing issue. Something that had been going on for years, that no one else had really been willing to challenge and see that it changed. Not to mention the way she told off her former “best friends” during the dance. That kind of courage/strength doesn’t just appear because you’re going to a new school; I just don’t understand why she didn’t use it much, much sooner. Other than that, I really did like Charlie. She was a nerdy/smart girl, who although clueless at times, really did have a lot of substance to her.

Of course, I think her best friends, Sydney and Nidhi, really helped bring her to life. Both girls were smart and sassy and didn’t allow anyone to bulldoze over them. I kind of wish Wiseman would have fleshed them out more than she had though. For the most part, they were kind of stuck in the background (especially Nidhi) and never truly got to shine. I felt like there could have been so much more to them than being Charlie’s cheerleaders or filling the high school persona quota. It really is your classic case of secondary character who have so much potential that is never fully reached.

Romance: Without ruining anything here, I’m going to say that most of the romance is a read between-the-lines one. A lot of that high school drama of “oh he could never like me” type stuff. This is probably the area that felt the most cliquish to me. You’ve got the hunky jock who will inevitable like the sexy friend and then the boy who she grew up with who is just a “friend”. But while there is a lot of back-and-forth teasing and whatnot, nothing really happens until the last page. Like, literally, the last page. While there are couple of sweet moment here or there, don’t expect a heart-throb, sweep you off your feet romance.

Writing: Really no complaints whatsoever here. Wiseman really does weave a good story, even if it has all been done before. I was sucked into her world right away and never felt myself bored/not caring. The story flowed with ease and had me eager to see how it would turn out.

Librarian-Mode: I feel like I’ve been reading a lot and lot of chick-lit lately and have been giving the same recommendations over and over. Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials really is your typical high school drama full of peer pressure, friendship, and kicking away the norm. There are hundreds of books out there like that so I won’t go off naming them all. But if I were making a booklist I would easily throw this onto one with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Real Real, and Little Black Lies.