Book Review: Deadly Cool


Book Review: Deadly CoolDeadly Cool by Gemma Halliday
Series: Deadly Cool #1
Release Date: October 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 320
Source: Library

Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he's pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren't enough, now he's depending on Hartley to clear his name. Seriously? Not cool.

But as much as Hartley wouldn't mind seeing him squirm, she knows he's innocent, and she's the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school's resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer's next victim.

The Short of It: I had a lot of fun with this one. There is nothing groundbreaking about this novel, but it’s highly entertaining and perfect for Veronica Mars fans.

Plot: Deadly Cool is your typical who-dun-it plot-wise. The storyline is rather predictable, but I can’t remember the last time I read or watched a murder mystery where I wasn’t able to pick out the murderer before the reveal. However, the tone of the book is what sets it apart from other mysteries. It’s not dark or scary or even remotely creepy. In fact, it’s got a lot of humor in it. While it is predictable, it still has a few nice twists thrown in, especially towards the end and is overall quite enjoyable.

Characters: Hartley is what sold this book for me. She’s sassy, independent, and not afraid to follow her instincts. Hands down reminds me of Veronica Mars. Granted, she’s not quite kick-butt as VM yet, but I’ll be interested to see if that changes as the series continues. I love that Hartley wasn’t willing to go back to her ex, even when he tried over and over. Yes, she was tempted, but she stuck her ground and refused to “restart” things with him. She makes a lot of blunders along the way, but I see her detective skills only getting better as time goes by.

Romance: Honestly, there isn’t much romance in this one. She breaks up with Josh when he finds out he’s cheating. Yes, she’ll clear his name and still has some feelings for him, but she won’t be going back to him. I know we don’t see much of Josh, but overall he feels like a douche to me, so I’m glad he’s out of the picture.

There is a little tension with bad boy, Chase, but that’s basically where it stays. There is one hilarious scene in his bedroom and a little flirting, but it doesn’t go beyond that for these two. However, I can see that changing in the next book, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Writing: Deadly Cool is full of great lines. I kept reading certain parts aloud to my friends so they could experience the greatness as well. Don’t believe me? Check out the opening lines:

There are three things you never want to find in your boyfriend’s locker: a sweaty jockstrap, a D minus on last week’s history test, and an empty condom wrapper. Lucky me, I’d hit the trifecta.

And it only gets better from there. There were several times I laughed out loud because of something Hartley said or did. Halliday scores a home run with Hartley’s voice and I can’t wait until the next book comes out.

Librarian-Mode: Okay, admittedly I don’t read many mysteries; one of my weak spots in reader’s advisory. But I don’t know that this truly fits in with typical mysteries. I tend to think this one may play well with the Pretty Little Liars fans, though. It’s also a perfect recommendation for those who love Veronica Mars or Castle.

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

Book Review: Pink


Book Review: PinkPink by Lili Wilkinson
Release Date: Feb 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
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: Radiant Shadows


Book Review: Radiant ShadowsRadiant Shadows by Melissa Marr
Series: Wicked Lovely #4
Release Date: April 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
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.

 

 

Book Review: Lockdown


Book Review: LockdownLockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Release Date: 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
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: The Real Real


Book Review: The Real RealThe Real Real by Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus
Release Date: May 2009
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 310
Source: Publisher

Imagine that an MTV-like station wants to film a reality documentary in your high school. Would you prefer you be a star or just a face in the crowd? Jesse O'Rourke would love to fade into the background, but a $40,000 check for college tuition is hard to turn down. Now she finds herself living a life that is not her own; pretending to be rich and being best friends with girls she barely likes. The only bright spot is that her crush, Drew, has been chosen to be one of the cast members as well. This may finally be her chance to make him part of her life. However, the manipulations and scheming of the production team threaten to ruin that and much more. Will Jesse be able to regain control of her life or will it all go down in flames?

The Short of It: I have a confession, this book completely and utterly surprised me. I honestly didn’t think I would like it, but decided to give it a try for reader’s advisory sake. Don’t let the Gossip Girl-ish cover/description throw you off as it did me. This book is full of intelligent and realistic characters that are sure to win your heart.

Plot: I dare you to look at reality shows the same way after reading The Real Real. While I’ve never personally been in a reality show, the manipulation and “scripting” seems quite accurate. I love how Mclaughlin & Kraus show how an average, every day girl’s life can be turned upside down as she becomes a star in front of millions. How the life that the viewers see is nothing like the life she used to lead. How perfect dates could be cheeseburgers backstage while waiting to shoot the perfect-TV date. It makes you realize that the reality shows that most of us can get addicted to are nothing compared to the true reality we live everyday. No matter how many times you redo a scene it’ll never be as good as the real thing.

Characters: I simply adored Jesse. She really was your average, every day teen. Yes, she made mistakes. She let money get her into situations she never wanted to be in the first place. (But can you blame the girl? College money is hard to come by for most!) Yes, she even did some things she wouldn’t have never done without the help of alcohol and emotional distress. However, I feel like at the very core she never lost who she truly was. She dealt with the consequences to her actions the best she could, especially with millions now tracking your every move. I cheered as Jesse stood up for herself, but not sure I agree with the deal she struck. I only hope she learned her lesson from the first time around.

I also want to make a quick comment on the secondary characters. Mclaughlin & Kraus could have easily let the popular crowd be superficial, rich kids and let Jesse have all the spotlight. However, I’m very glad they didn’t. It was nice to have Jesse realize that these people who she thought had fairy-tale lives had problems of their own. From school & home pressure to parents who are hardly ever there/don’t care, the teens were painted in a way that anyone could relate to. There were even times where I felt amazed by their strength or pitied the situation they were in. Kudos to Mclaughlin & Kraus for going that extra step, making all the teens believable and relatable.

Romance: There is no easy romance for Jesse and Drew. Instead it is full of roadblocks, bumps, and lots of wrong turns. It would be easy to say the problems they faced were all due to the production team, but really a lot of it was due to them being human (especially teenage ones). However, when they work they really do work well. I found myself cheering them on and booing when something screwed up their blooming relationship. I would love to see where their relationship would lead. (sequel maybe?)

Writing: I can’t say that I had any real complaints here. And if I did, they were small enough that I’ve already forgotten them. Mclaughlin & Kraus do a good job at keeping the reader entertained and wanting to read more. I really liked how they decided the book into four sections: The Real, The Reels, The Real Reel, & The Real Real. It was a nice way to divide up Jesse’s life by what was happening.

Librarian-Mode: This is an easy one to throw into the chick-lit recommendations. Intelligent, sassy characters with lots of drama will reel in a variety of readers. The Real Real will easily appeal to those who like authors such as Dessen and Elkeles, but also has enough juiciness to pull in those who love Gossip Girls and The Clique as well.

 

And  guess what, I was given an extra copy to give to one of you!

So here are the rules, fill out the  Contest Form to be entered by Feb. 11th @ 11:59pm and must be in the US (International if you have someone to ship in US that’s fine,too).

You can earn extra entries for the following:

+1 for being/becoming a follower
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Good Luck and don’t forget to fill out the Contest Form…no comment entries will be counted!