Book Review: The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys

Book Review: The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect BoysThe (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys by Barbara Dee
Release Date: Sept. 30, 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

According to Finley and her BFF, Maya, middle school boys can be put into three separate categories: tadpoles, croakers, and frogs. Per their official Life Cycle of Amphibian Boys, while tadpoles are totally not developed yet (read: boys who still love fart jokes and can’t have a normal conversation with girls without making fun of them), a frog is the top of the boy food chain—evolved and mature. Sadly, not many boys have reached that elusive frog status at Staunton Middle School. Finley thought she had everyone pegged, until Zachary Mattison enters the picture. After suddenly leaving the year before, Zachary’s surprise reappearance at SMS forces Finley to see him in a new light. And when the official life cycle list falls into the wrong hands, it causes a battle between the boys and girls that turns into an all-out war—one that Finley isn’t sure anyone can really win...

I’ll admit I went into this book expecting a fluffy romance, but instead got something that was more  about friendship and growing up. Finley experiences all sorts of growing pains throughout the book and her relationship with Maya is something she struggles with the most. Maya hit the boy-crazy stage before Finley, something that puts them on a slightly uneven footing. Finley hates that Maya is constantly telling her she doesn’t understand boys. Sure, she may not have had a boyfriend, but does that mean she doesn’t know anything about boys? She thinks not and it’s the source of many fights. I love how realistic their friendship felt. Relationships, even with your best friend, are rarely smooth sailing. You have fight-you make up, it’s all about being on a roller coaster and just hanging on. This is magnified even more in middle school, when emotions and hormones are all over the place, and even the smallest thing can cause an upset. I really liked how Dee  perfectly captured that and how they worked through it. (Even if it did take a little nudging from her mom.)

Finley’s budding crush was captured well, too. She didn’t want to really admit she had feeling for Zachary, but it was obvious that she did. And it was equally as obvious that he felt the same. Well, maybe obvious to everyone but Finley. I couldn’t help but smile as she lamented over him calling her and talking to her whenever he could. I just wanted to pat her hand and tell her it was okay, he just like-liked her. Although, I did have a small issue with her getting mad about his CINCH acronym, especially since it wasn’t much different that what she was doing with the Life Cycle of Amphibian Boys. The only real difference was his was about how to get close to the girls he liked and hers was about weeding out who was datable and who was not. I know Finley doesn’t see the Life Cycle like this at first (if ever really), but it’s truly what it’s about. Of course, on that same note, Zachary starting the war over the Life Cycle seems just as silly. Although, I do believe he was more upset that she lied and insulted him (and the other boys) than the Life Cycle itself.

Speaking of the Life Cycle and the war, it’s hard not to cringe when Finley walks back into the room and hears two of her classmates reading the Life Cycle notes allowed. I’m sure we’ve all been there, at least on some level. That moment something personal, and maybe a little uncool, is announced to everyone. My heart totally went out for her. The war that follows is a bit silly and realistic, but works well in the book. I like that it stayed relatively innocent when it could have become something that was much meaner. How they resolved the war, felt a bit too mature/level headed, but it wasn’t too far out of the bounds of being plausible. (Mainly, I’m not used to working with teens that are that mature! Usually, it takes prodding from me for them to work out their dramas.)

Overall, if I had to use one word to describe The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys it would be cute. I already know this will be included on my list of book talks when I go school visiting in May. Perfect for those tween girls, especially those looking for “clean” reads.

Book Spotlight: Chasers of the Light

Book Spotlight: Chasers of the LightChasers of the Light: Poems from the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson
Release Date: September 2014
Publisher: Perigee Trade
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher

The epic made simple. The miracle in the mundane.

One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning, and without the ability to revise anything.

He fell in love.

Three years and almost one thousand poems later, Tyler is now known as the creator of theTypewriter Series: a striking collection of poems typed onto found scraps of paper or created via blackout method. Chasers of the Light features some of his most insightful and beautifully worded pieces of work—poems that illuminate grand gestures and small glimpses, poems that celebrate the beauty of a life spent chasing the light.

I’ve been thinking about how to review this book all week and still I come up blank. The only thing I can say is go read it. Go read it now. Seriously, I’ll wait. Just go read it and come back later. It’s worth it I promise.

Don’t believe me? Well, you should. As an English Major, it should be no surprise that I have a secret love for poetry. When I got the chance to preview this book, I jumped on it. It had been a long time since I’ve just sat down and read a book of poems from cover to cover. Way too long to be honest. Also, I loved the idea of writing a poem without revisions, which was near impossible since he was doing them on a typewriter.

What I didn’t expect was how Chasers of Light affected me. It’s been a long time since poems have hit me straight to the core. And not just once. Over and over again. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture of all the poems I have marked.

Even one of my friends, who grabbed the book from my bag, had the same experience. Over and over she exclaimed at how perfect a poem was for her life. In fact, she already plans to buy her own copy because there were so many she liked. However, we both agreed that our favorite poem by far is


I wish I could put into words why book is so good, but I know it comes down to personal experience. A poem I may love may not be one you do. However, I will guarantee you there will be at least one poem that hits you like it did me. In fact, if you make it out with just one I’ll be highly surprised.

Be sure to buy Chasers of the Light  and check out more of Tyler’s poetry.

Book Review: Just Like the Movies

Book Review: Just Like the MoviesJust Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore
Release Date: July 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

Pretty, popular Marijke Monti and over-achieving nerd-girl Lily Spencer have little in common—except that neither feels successful when it comes to love. Marijke can’t get her boyfriend to say “I love you” and Lily can’t get a boyfriend at all. When the girls end up at a late night showing of Titanic, sniffling along with the sinking ship, they realize that their love lives could—and should—be better. Which sparks an idea: Why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they create perfect romantic situations? Now they have a budding friendship and a plan—to act out grand gestures and get the guys of their dreams. It seems like fun at first, but reality turns out to be much more complicated, and they didn’t take into account that finding true love usually requires finding yourself first.

Just Like the Movies came at the right time for me. Drowning in committee graphic novels, I needed a light read with a bit of fluff; something that Just Like the Movies nailed perfectly. After all, what girl hasn’t dreamed at one time or another of having that perfect movie romance?

But let’s be honest, movies aren’t real, right? While Marijke and Lily think they have the perfect schemes to get them what they want, they soon realize that plans don’t always go according to plan. Big elaborate set-ups fail for simple reasons. Even when everything else seems to be just right, it can still fall apart. I applaud Fiore for showing how complicated and difficult relationships, no matter what age you are, can be. However, we all know that YA books are like the movies, and that Marijke and Lily get their happily-ever-after in the end. And, for the most part, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I adore those tied up nicely in a bow endings

But the question remains: is it a good thing that everyone got their fairytale ending? For Lily and Joe, absolutely. I adored every moment of this blooming relationship. They seemed to have a genuine connection once they started talking. It’s a little cheesy that Lily knows she’s in love with Joe without knowing anything about him, but that can be forgiven due to how realistic it is. How many times have we convinced ourselves that we’re head over heels for someone we’ve never said more than five words to or merely watched from afar? I loved that Lily wasn’t trying to be over the top and how honest and real Joe felt. While them becoming an item felt a bit sudden, I still cheered when it happened.

Marijke and Tommy, though? I cheered when I thought they were splitting up. I wanted to pat Marijke on the back when she finally started to put herself first. The whole book I felt like she tried way too hard, especially since Tommy felt a bit sleazy to me. He would always say the right thing, but his actions never backed it up. When your significant other tells you they need you/asks you to come over right away, you don’t go off and practice with the band; especially not after you said you would come. A healthy relationship means supporting each other emotionally. I never got that sense of support from Tommy. Time and time again he blew her off. It isn’t until she breaks up with him that he changes his tune, but even then I doubt his sincerity. The silver lining is that Marijke realized she couldn’t build her world around a boy. She started making decisions that were best for her and not their relationship. Perhaps this too will be okay, but honestly, I wish Marijke had made the decision to stay single. With her going away for college, it would have been perfectly acceptable and understandable.

There’s one more thing I’d like to talk about and that’s Marijke and Lily’s friendship. These two formed an unlikely friendship that I simply adored. What started off as a ploy to help each other developed into something meaningful. I wish Fiore had focused more on this relationship because it truly was the heart of the book. If the happily ever after would just have been that these two formed a lasting bond I would have been satisfied. Sure, the romantic stuff was a bonus, but it wasn’t as important as this friendship.

Final verdict: If you’re looking for a fast, cute romance this is it. It’s a perfect beach read that will leave a smile on your face.

Book Review: Sports Illustrated Kids Pro Files: Baseball

Book Review: Sports Illustrated Kids Pro Files: BaseballSports Illustrated Kids Pro Files: Baseball by Sports Illustrated Kids
Release Date: March 2012
Publisher: Time Home Entertainment, Incorporated
Pages: 96
Source: Publisher

DESCRIPTION: Sports Illustrated Kids Pro Files Baseball is a must - have book for every young baseball fan and player. This 96 - page book profiles 15 of the big leagues ' hottest stars and features SI Kids' signature content :great writing, fun trivia, amazing statistics, and dynamic photography. But Pro Files Baseball also delves deeper, providing insider tips from major league coaches on how to hit, pitch and field just like the stars in the book. Experts help break down each baseball skill so that young players can learn to play like the pros. In Pro Files Baseball, fans will not only read all about Albert Pujols and his accomplishments, but they 'll also learn how to smack home runs like the St. Louis Cardinals slugger.

I’m calling this more of a spotlight than review due to how hard it is to review a non-fiction book like this. In 98 pages, Pro Files: Baseball covers 15 great players from a variety of teams. These aren’t old time legends ala Babe Ruth, but current players who are still in the game. Admittedly, I’m a bit out of the baseball loop anymore, but the players chosen such as Ichiro, Felix Hernandez, & Mariano Rivera had impressive stories & stats. Each player has 6 pages dedicated to them that include biographies, resume, personal and career stats, and how to play like them.

There were many things I really liked about this book, but I thought I would highlight just a few of them.

  • The little inside information they gave on each player such as favorite cartoon character, favorite movie, and athletes they admired as a kid.
  • That it told the good, bad, and ugly. Being a pro-ball player isn’t issue and certainly isn’t all sunshine and roses. I loved reading how a couple of the players really had a dip in performance but with hard work and determination they were able to make it back to the top.
  • That baseball isn’t all about skill that you’re born with. The common thread that all these players had were how much hard work they put into the game. They were the first one on the field for practices, reviewed tapes of their pitches, and many other things.
  • How many weren’t stars from the very start. Several were discovered in unlikely places, with small signing bonuses, but came and proved they had what it took. Sometimes it just takes that one person to believe you have something special before you can show it to the world.

There wasn’t anything I necessarily disliked about the book. I am a Chicago fan, so I was sad to see that no Chicago team players were included, but that’s okay. There are a lot of teams and players out there and not everyone can be considered an elite. I have a feeling that baseball fanatics will know most of the information provided as it was just the basics, but I think it’s a good book to have in a collection. In fact, I had one of my managers order it knowing our boys will eat it up. I plan to put my review copy in our summer reading book handouts and I don’t expect it to remain around long.


Book Review: Edenbrooke

Book Review: EdenbrookeEdenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
Release Date: March 2012
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Pages: 264
Source: Publisher

Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will she be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

The Short of It: While the start was a bit slow, once it got started it sucked me in. I finished it in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down. My only recommendation would be not to start it before bed, else you’ll be up until 5:30am like I did.

Plot:  The plot reminded me a lot of a Jane Austen novel, but without the classic dryness. I’ve been saying it’s a bit of a Pride and Prejudice meets Downton Abbey and while this isn’t fully accurate, it’s the best comparison I can come up with. Honestly, it’s a classic romance full of silliness, aggravation, and wistful sighs. While some things felt a bit convenient, especially at the end, I wasn’t too bothered by it. (Of course, I used to be an avid romance reading and this was a very common trait among the genre.) Edenbrooke reminded me how a good, classic romance read should go, especially after spending so long being immersed in YA lit. I finished with a big smile and a deep want to return to this world over and over again.

Characters: Never before have I wanted to both strangle and cheer for a character more than I have Marianne. Well, at least not since I’ve met Elizabeth Bennett or Mary (sorry, the similarities really are uncanny.) I loved that she was more of a country girl than one London scene one. I also loved that she stayed true to herself, unwilling to fully change who she was just to please other people. She was a bit, shall we say, naive, but it was also something that gave her a lot of charm, even if it was infuriating at times. All in all, she was a very lovable character.

Romance: This is the type of romance that is one step forward and two steps back almost the entire time. The type that when they finally make it you can’t help but cheer very loudly. I love how they both bring out the best in each other. Marianne is able to bring the old Philip back out while he allows her to be who she is. Neither one of them expect the other to change, but simply love them for who they are. That is what makes a true romance. Edenbrooke nails it on the head without the need for any unnecessary bodice ripping action. Seriously, while Marianne and Philip may not be a Lizzie/Mr. Darcy or Mary/Matthew they come pretty darn close and are certain to remain one of my favorite couples for some time.

Writing: Donaldson’s style is spot on. She creates her world beautiful and makes it easy to envision. I will admit that the first twenty pages were a little rough for me, but they were necessary to set up the plot. Once I was past that first little spot, the pages simply flew by. The pacing, descriptions, and tone were perfect for this novel. I can’t wait to see what else Donaldson has in store with her future models.

Librarian-Mode: If you couldn’t guess I would put this one in the hands of those who like Pride and Prejudice  and Downton Abbey. While this is an adult book, teens who love this era will find Edenbrooke has high appeal. Other pairings to consider would be I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend and The Luxe series.

So, now that you know what I think, you have an opportunity to find out how good it is for yourself. I have one extra copy to give away to a lucky reader. All you need to do is leave a comment tell me why you want to read Edenbrooke. Be sure to leave your email address so I know how to contact you!

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