Book Review: Party (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!!

Book Review: Party (Read-a-thon, Update 3)Party by Tom Leveen
Release Date: April 2010
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 228
Source: ALA

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)

Book Review: Rules of Attraction

Book Review: Rules of AttractionRules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
Series: Perfect Chemistry #2
Release Date: April 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA
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: Beautiful Creatures

Book Review: Beautiful CreaturesBeautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl
Series: Beautiful Creatures #1
Release Date: Dec. 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 626
Source: ALA

Welcome to Gatlin, a small town where there are never any surprises. Ethan Wate is following the rules of the "in" crowd, but longs for the day that he can break free and leave the town far behind. That is until Lena Duchannes appears and everything begins to change. The girl who has been haunting his dreams is now real and Ethan will do whatever it takes to get closer to her. Their connection and attraction is undeniable, but everything is not what it seems. Thanks to a locket, a curse, and a secret danger threatens to destroy them both. Will Lena and Ethan be able to solve the mystery in time or will they be just more victims to an old curse?

The Short of It: Loved it, loved it, loved it. So it may be a little massive and scary, but how could I not love a book that has a viola player in it?! Ok, ok, so even without the viola aspect Beautiful Creatures would be an awesome book. Garcia and Stohl hook you in from almost page one and draw you deeper and deeper into their world to the point that you feel like 600 pages is not nearly enough. So, um, yeah, book two now please?

Plot: Mystery, intrigue, magic, romance…what more could a girl ask for? Garcia and Stohl weave a twisted web that keep you flipping the pages to discover the answers. They do a good job at keeping a reader interested without frustrating you. There were many times I didn’t fully understand what was going on, but I knew enough to draw a close enough conclusion. I still feel as if there are some questions that aren’t answered, like the connection between Ethan and Lena, but I have faith that Garcia and Stohl will reveal the truth when the time is right. I can’t wait to see where their story goes.

Characters: Lena is a viola player, enough said, right? No? Oh, all right. Lena is one of those girls who comes off as aloof and distant on the outside, but once you get behind her wall you understand why she is the way she is. She truly is the tortured soul; yet, she still has dreams of being a normal girl-next-door. It was fun watching her bloom under the attention of Ethan. (And really Link, too!) I also loved that even though she was scared she wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself. Lena has true strength. I mean really, Bella-who?

Ethan. Well, what can I say about Ethan. He’s the all American boy, but isn’t afraid to loose it all for the girl he loves. Of course, Lena wasn’t the only tortured soul. I just wanted to scoop Ethan up and give him a great big hug. I think it would have been easy for Garcia and Stohl to have him buried in the grief surrounding his parents, but I’m glad they didn’t. I loved that he was able to focus on others that anchored him in the world and didn’t let him go too far away. I was glad that he stood his ground and didn’t let Lena or Amma push him away from what he truly wanted.

Romance: Lena and Ethan have a very awww relationship. Yet, at the same time it’s very push and pull. Lena is so scared of hurting Ethan that she continues to push Ethan away. Even when she knows it doesn’t work, she tries so hard to keep him way beyond arm’s length. But Ethan knows that they belong together and has no plans of going anywhere anytime soon. I love how he tries to give her as many normal high school experiences as he can, even if it usually does lead to trouble most of the time. Yes, Ethan is certainly perfect boyfriend material and I have a feeling their relationship will be hot, hot, HOT.

Writing: Overall, Garcia and Stohl have a nice writing style. There were a couple of times I had to go reread a passage because I didn’t understand what had just happened, but these were few and far between. And really could have been because I was up until after 5:00 am finishing it.

Librarian-Mode: Hmm, I think this could be an easy sell to all the Twilight fans. Most of them aren’t really after the vampires, but the romance itself. But with the paranormal aspects that Beautiful Creatures has it would easily please them. While the paranormal groupies will eat this up, I think it’s an easy sell to other teens as well. Teens should still be able to relate to Lena and Ethan on an every day level even with all the supernatural going on. Definitely an easier sell to girls, but I think some guys may be interested in it, but it’ll take a little more work!

Ok, Contest Time! I have an extra ARC for one lucky reader.

Edit: Contest now Closed…thanks for all who entered~12/09

So here are the rules, fill out the Beautiful Creatures Contest Form to be entered by Dec 8th. You must be a 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

+1 for blogging/putting on blog

+1 for posting on social network (Twitter – make sure to include @awaitinserenity, Goodread, etc)

Good Luck and don’t forget to fill out the Contest Form…no comment entries will be counted!

And if you’ve read Beautiful Creatures don’t forget to leave me a comment to let me know what you thought!

Book Review: Viola in Reel Life

Book Review: Viola in Reel LifeViola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani
Series: Viola in Reel Life #1
Release Date: Sept. 2009
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 288
Source: ALA

Being at a boarding school in South Bend, Indiana is not Viola's idea of paradise. Stuck in what she considers the middle-of-nowhere, Viola is far from the home and friends she loves in Brooklyn, New York. Yet, like it or not, she’s stuck there for a year while her parents film a documentary overseas. Slow to warm to her new settings, Viola is determined to keep her distance as she hides her video camera. But with a little help from her roommates, she’ll soon discover that a year at boarding school isn’t as bad as it seems. In fact, it may even be one of the best years of her life!

Before I even begin, I should probably put a disclaimer on this review.  I grew up in the South Bend area and it has been my home for the past 20 years. When I first heard about Viola in Reel Life I was so excited to see a YA book set in my hometown. Yet, the thing I was most ecstatic about ended up being the thing that made me extremely dislike the book. Trigiani paints a horribly inaccurate picture of South Bend. Yes, I will admit, that the city can be a little boring, but we are far, far from being a hick town. I know where Trigiani pulled her references from (mainly the St. Mary’s/Notre Dame area), but I felt it was such a poor representation of South Bend. And the more digs that were made about the city, the more I felt my hackles raising. I have tried my hardest not to let that shade my opinion of Viola in Reel Life, but honestly it was a factor. It was very hard to immerse myself into a world that I felt was unrealistic.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, I’m trying to gather my thoughts on how to voice my other dislikes. I think the best way is to break it down rather than trying to make it flow all nicely together. It’ll be a break from how I normally do things, but will probably stop me from burying the good under the bad. (And if you guys find you like this format, maybe I’ll take it on more!)

Plot: Cute idea. I really liked the storyline of a girl discovering who she was in the least likely place, but frankly not a lot happens. I mean, really, nothing happens. She gets shipped off to boarding school, makes some friends, has a little romance, makes a movie, and then goes home. Nothing earth shattering, right? But then again it wasn’t really meant to be. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone doesn’t have to be all about being wild and crazy. It’s about adapting and find that inner strength you didn’t realize you had. That’s really what Viola in Reel Life is all about, so it’s understandable that there is very little going on.

Characters: At times I found Viola highly annoying. She was quite whiny and self-centered, but then what 9th grader isn’t? It was totally normal teenager behavior, but it did grow tiresome at times. I really wish Trigiani would have shifted the focus to include the roommates more than she did. It was in those characters that I found myself being the most interested in and wanting more of. Although, I have a sneaky suspicion that Trigiani did that on purpose to leave openings for a series. I can totally see her letting each character have their own book. There were a few things that really nagged me, but I do think the characters were believable and quite likable.

Romance: This is both a love and a hate. I adored the cute romance that developed between Viola and Jared. It was fun reading how they worked seeing each other even though they went to different boarding schools in different towns. There were even times that I found myself going awww at. I mean really, he started out at the perfect high school dream boyfriend with snowy kisses, perfect gifts, and lovey text messages. Like I said, ideal perfect high school boyfriend, right? But then…then I don’t know what really happens. The scenes between them at the Film Festival are so out of character that it felt forced. I’m sure that you can chalk it up to stress and competition, but it felt like a complete 180 with no warning signs! And then how she handles it is completely mind blowing. I have never seen a high school girl handle a break up that well, especially not when it’s her first! Where were the tears and drowning sorrows in ice cream? Ok, ok, I know that’s cliche-ish, but I just wish there had been more emotion to it. It just made the whole relationship feel like a piece of sweater fuzz that was being flicked away.

Oh, and then there’s the thing with Andrew. I know there’s no actual dating here, but there were sure hints of the best friends wanting more at every turn. But how convenient was it for him to get and lose a girlfriend the same time as Viola? I’m still not sure if I’m supposed to believe this actually happened or if Andrew just made it up. I keep thinking he just made it up, but with all conversations being through IMs it’s really hard to tell. Could it have been a jealousy-I-won’t-look-like-I’m-pining type thing? I mean he did seem a little jealous and tended to cut any conversation about Jared short. So, yeah, I really don’t know. If anyone else has read the book I would love to hear your thoughts on this relationship!

Writing: The only issue I really have is with the pacing. There were times that the scenes felt a little too drawn out and then others when they felt they ended abruptly. I found myself on several occasions turning the page and expecting more of the conversation only to find a whole new scene; every time I just felt like there was more to the scene that needed to be told. And it wasn’t just little scenes here or there either. The pacing as a whole was the same way. A good portion of the book (read over half) is set mainly in September to December. Then BAM, there’s only a paragraph or so mentioning how fast time flies and then we’re in March and at the film festival. Shortly after that she’s heading home. I understand reading about Viola editing her film may have been a little boring, but it seemed so out of balance. I think if the scenes would have been spread out a little bit more, it would have flowed so much better.

Librarian-Mode: Can I still market this to teens? YES! I could easily sell it to middle school girls as a read-alike to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Those looking for a quick, fun read will most likely eat this up. And really, most younger teens will not even notice the things that really nagged me. (I really blame this on being an English Major!) And for those who have never been to South Bend, the setting will be as believable as the next. Although, I am wondering how South Bend teens will take to it. I plan to pass my ARC off to a friend who works with troubled teens and will definitely be interested in hearing their reactions!

So there you have it! I know I’m in the minority in disliking this book, but it is what it is. While it wasn’t my cup of tea, it may be yours! And, as always, if you’ve read Viola in Reel Life, what did you think?

Book Review: Catching Fire

Book Review: Catching FireCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Series: Hunger Games #2
Release Date: Sep. 2009
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 400
Source: ALA

Life should be perfect and carefree now that Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games, right? Walking out alive? Check. Never worrying about money/shelter again? Check. Happiness and Bliss? Houston, we have a problem! The Capital is not happy about Katniss and Peeta's win and is viewing it as an act of defiance. Add in the hushed whispers of an uprising, and all hell is about to break loose. Katniss and Peeta know they will be the ones blamed for the chaos. Will they be able to appease the Capital and restore compliance among the districts? Or will this finally be the chance to take down the oppressive government? Catching Fire, the sequel to Hunger Games, is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat and wanting more.

I’m not going to do a review-review for this book because it’s so hard to do a proper one without giving anything away. And I really don’t want to mess around with spoiler spaces or anything like that. Plus, I have some exciting news to announce that ties in perfectly with this book & my low-key review. (So that means read to the very end!)

First things first, the review; this book can be summed up in one simple word. WOW. Just…wow. I went into Catching Fire with very high expectations and I was sure that Collins would never be able to live up to them. Boy, was I wrong! This book is exceptionally written and was better than I could have ever imagined. I had had some thoughts about where she could take the storyline, but I never expected the twists she threw in. Although, I do have to admit that at first I was very taken back by what she did. I thought it was overly convenient and too easy, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how perfect it was. It was spot-on on how the government thought and how they took action.

The love-triangle is, of course, still there. I enjoyed being able to see more of Gale, although, it was still not enough. I think I’m also falling more and more in love with Peeta. He has totally won my heart over and may be becoming one of my favorite characters. (But I’m still Team GALE!) I can totally sympathize with Katniss as she continues to try to deal with such a complicated and delicate situation. She was thrown into something as a way to win a game and now untangling her emotions is becoming so hard. I doubt I would be handling it as nicely if I were in the same situation.

And, sadly, this is where my review must stop. I’m too worried that I may give away something I shouldn’t! Besides, if I tell you everything now, there would be nothing to discuss at the first YA book group meeting that is being held by Michelle and myself! The Literary League (Read ‘Til YA Drop) will begin online discussion of Catching Fire on Sept 22nd and will end with a Skype talk the weekend of Oct 4th. I’ll be posting more info/details as it gets closer. I look forward to seeing all of you there!