Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review: Willow by Julia Hoban (ARC)

Total: All Five Stars (!!!)

{From Back Cover}

Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, Willow Randall's parents drank too much wine at dinner and asked her to drive them home. But they never made it - Willow lost control of the car, and both her parents were killed.

Now seventeen, Willow has left behind her old home, friends, and school - numbing the grim reality of her new life by secretly cutting herself. But everything changes when one of Willow's new classmates, a boy as sensitive and thoughtful as she is, discovers Willow's secret and refuses to let her destroy herself.

Behind The Grade:

I'm not one of those bubbly, bright people who likes to start reviews off with phrases like "I was hooked from the first line," and yet, when faced with Julia Hoban's to-be-released YA debut, this is the only thing that comes to mind.

It was mind-blowing.

While, sure, Willow could technically be defined as a cutter, she's so much more than that. Even though the book is told in third person, the spotlight never strays from our unlucky heroine, Willow. Somehow, Hoban manages to give clear insight into Willow's thoughts and everything she thinks - about herself, her parents' death, those around her - is so well backed-up, I found myself nodding along to her justifications. So: characterization? Spot-on.

Second: plot movement.

This is a love story of the top tier. Willow's relationship with Guy is fresh and interesting - never do they stray into boring couple's territory. Partly because Willow isn't looking for anything romantic - in that sense, she's great for girls to look up to. Today, teenagers are surrounded by books and movies telling them they should fall into a fast, dizzying, love-at-fist-sight love, but Willow takes it slow and, in this, acts like a normal girl would.

Rather than be bored by the lack of car crashes or magic spells, it's so easy to get lost in Willow's world, that I found myself trying to go slowly and savour her every thought. For someone who's typically a speed-reader, this was obviously a great thing for me.

Third: wrap-up. The ending was perfect. I wish I could share the ending line, or even the last chapter, because it was so amazing, but I wouldn't want to spoil you.

Willow will be availible in hardcover on April 2nd. You better be getting it!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review: The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick


This post's subtitle:

Why I Can't Review MG Books Anymore! -tear-

Total: Two stars

{Summary From Back Cover}

The book club is about to get a makeover...

Even if Megan would rather be at the mall, Cassidy is late for hockey practice, Emma's already read every book in existence, and Jess is missing her mother too much to care, the new book club is scheduled to meet every month.

But what begins as a mom-inspired ritual reading of Little Women, soon helps four unlikely friends navigate the drama of middle school. From stolen journals to secret crushes to a fashion-fiasco first dance, the girls are up to their Wellie boots in drama. They can't help but wonder: What would Jo March do?

Behind The Grade:

So, this was the hardest book for me to grade in a long time. I can pinpoint it down to one reason: I'm older than the main characters and I can't seem to relate to them.

This would definitely have been one of my favourite books when I was at their age: in the sixth grade. It's impossible for middle grade readers not to relate to one of the four girls that make up the daughters' end of the book club (as well as pushing out of their stereoytpes): popular Megan, nerdy Emma, tomboyish Cassidy and down-to-earth Jess.

Except...I'm not their age anymore. As someone who eagerly kissed the sixth grade goodbye quite a while ago, I know how ridiculous and wrong some of the aspects of this novel are. I know that middle school in America starts in the sixth grade (in Canada, you start in seventh), so it's realistic that the girls would have their first school dance then, but...a formal? With frilly dresses and slow songs and photo ops? Not how my first dance went, I'll tell you that much.

Also, the girls have quite enviable vocabularies. Even the girls like Megan, Jess and Cassidy, who are portrayed as less academic, use words more likely found in Little Women than out of a sixth-grader's mouth. I could imagine Emma, the studious, dorky one, using dictionary-length words, but the others girls...? Not so much. Also on the (Un)Realism Scale, this book is about as foul-mouthed as a television evangelist. That is to say, not at all. I don't know about you all, but sixth grade was about the time when everyone started discovering the joy of cursing.

I understand this is a children's book, but couldn't Frederick have thrown a bone and at least had, say, Cassidy or one of the boys mutter 'crap' or something?

Furthermore, I loathed the changing-POVs with a passion. This is something I hate in books. If a book is going to be first person, can't it be from just one character's perspective so you can grow attached to them? I didn't like any of the four girls here.

To be clear, I'm not saying this is a bad book - it's not. It's just not very realistic and not enjoyable for someone older than the main characters. Give this as a present for your younger sister or niece - but take a pass on reading it yourself.

A Very Booktastic Christmas

So, I only have about...oh, I don't know... three hundred dollars worth of gift cards for Chapters (a big chain of bookstores in Canada, like Borders or B&N) to spend on books, so I'm really trying to narrow down my hundred-plus list of Books To Buy.

One that isn't technically on the list, but that I keep hearing about...

Cassandra Clare's 'City of Bones' series. It's also on sale at Chapters, which is never bad... Anyone read it? Is it the best thing that's happened in your young life? A watse of 12-point font?

Answer in comments!

One of the driving forces in my wanting to read this, is this awesome fan-made trailer I found while fooling around on YouTube. Thoughts?



Feel free to leave more info about the series in the comments, as I'm too lazy to Amazon it, and the one description I found doesn't give too much away. Is it first person/third? Does the redhead hook up with the blond? Details, please!

Hope your holidays were just as booktastic as mine! Many, many reviews await us!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Waiting on, er, Tuesday (Take Two) + A Book Trailer

For my second WoW post, I picked Simone Elkeles' "Perfect Chemistry." And only because the trailer, done like a rap music video, was too cute for words! How can you not love a video that rhymes "hottie" with "potty"?



Since the trailer is hosted by Simone's own website, I can't (figure out how to) embed it here, so I'll just give you the link. You can watch the "Uncut Version," (which isn't all that bad) or the "G-rated version," and there's also a "Making Of" featurette.

I won't be posting for a couple days, which is the reason for this early Waiting on Wednesday post, but I'll leave you with the description for the book. Happy holidays everyone!

'A modern tale of star-crossed lovers with a fresh urban twist. At Fairfield High School, on the outskirts of Chicago, everyone knows that south-siders mixing with north-siders can be explosive. So when Brittany Ellis and Alejandro “Alex” Fuentes are forced to be lab partners in chemistry class, this human experiment leads to unexpected revelations – that Brittany’s flawless reputation is a cover for her troubled home life, that Alex’s bad-boy persona hides his desire to break free from gang ties, and that when they’re together, life somehow makes more sense. Breaking through the stereotypes and expectations that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart, Perfect Chemistry takes readers to both sides of the tracks in a passionate love story about looking beneath the surface.'

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Review: Summer Boys by Hailey Abbott

Total: Three stars

{From back cover}

First boy. First love. First time.*

Ella: Peter was watching me all night - I could feel it. I wish he'd make a move already. Too bad he's my sister's boyfriend.

Beth: Suddenly George is looking really good in his swim trunks. I don't know what I'm thinking - he's my best friend. Do I want more?

Jamie: Last summer, Ethan and I fell for each other - big-time. My feelings for him haven't changed. But why is he pushing me away?

It's summer. It's hot. It's time to hook up.

Behind the Grade:

As the summary would imply, this book is chock full of moral ambiguity and bad decision-making. That being said, it was another cute, fast, and light read - the perfect pick-me-up in the dead of a Canadian winter.

Or an American winter or whatever.

A lot of the problems were easy to relate to - the whole 'summer love or true love' thing, however, got on my nerves. Frankly, I don't see the whole big problem with having a "summer boy" (someone you only date/hook-up/whatever with for just the summer months and subsequently leave when it's time to go back home). Do you?

I mean, these girls are sixteen, seventeen. I'm not saying they should be sexing up any random 'hottie' they meet on the beach, but come on? Who really finds true love as a teenager? And even if you do/did, what are the chances you'll still be together in five, ten, fifteen years? There's nothing wrong with having fun.

Besides that long, drawn-out complaint:

- it was pretty good
- the characters had distinct personalities, but Beth was often ignored and could've been developed further
- I can't help but loathe self-loathing Jamie
- pretty good writing, like usual, but plot and characterization doesn't merit a four

I ran out and got the sequel, Next Summer, as soon as I finished. Hopefully it's better than this - has anyone read this series? I noticed, from the back, that Jamie seems to be gone... (YAY!)

* {SPOILER ALERT} Whose first time is it? Jamie's, from last summer? Ella's, avec Peter, although she does state she had sex prior, could this be some crazy metaphorical virginity? (Like, she lost self-respect or something?) I don't think it's Beth's, HELP!?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review: The Au Pairs by Melissa de la Cruz

Total: Two point five

{My own craptastic summary}

Three girls. Ten thousand dollars. One summer.

Eliza, Mara, and Jacqui - teenage girls who were selected to be 'au pairs' (in a nutshell, summer nannies. Usually accented, hot, and imported from small European countries) for the four wild, privileged, and out-of-control Perry children.

Behind the Grade:

Another 'eh' book. Nothing outstanding, besides Melissa's writing. I love her. Slap her name on anything and I'll buy it - no need to put blurbs, an image, or even a summary. She's great and her blog is pretty much my life.

It's quite flirty and fun. Light. Although some tough issues of class and society are touched upon, there's enough name-dropping to bring everything back down to a superficial level.

There are a couple life lessons included in here and all the beachy fun certainly warmed up my winter night.

The book is a couple years old now so some of the references are dated, just like the Gossip Girl books. I'd recommend picking up Blue Bloods, also by Melissa, instead, or even The Ashleys (also-also by her) for the younger set. Blue Bloods incorporates fantasy elements into the story and the fit between the vampire lore and masked balls is seamless.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2009 Teen Choice Book Awards

Just popping by to inform you guys of CBC's (Children's Book Council) Teen Choice Book Awards that are currently going on at Teenreads.com.

Between now and January 31 (the day after my birthday!) you can head on over there and vote for five of your favourite titles from a list that includes many of this year's best in YA books - from James Lecesne's 'Absolute Brightness' to Rachel Cohn's 'You Know Where To Find Me.'

I've already submitted my picks - have you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Teaser Tuesday

Whee! I remembered!

Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.


Because I'm a ruler breaker, I had to pick three! Sorry, it wouldn't make any sense with only two lines!

"The party was over. Chauncey Raven and her thirty-person entourage were long gone. The only people left at the club were desperate single people who were still hoping to go home lucky, hard-core alcoholics, and a stray cocktail waitress or two."

- Taken from page 144 of 'The Au Pairs' by Melissa de la Cruz.

[For more information, check out Should Be Reading.]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: Chloe Doe by Suzanne Phillips

Total: Uh... *stumped* Two-ish.

{From the back cover}

The place they send seventeen-year-old Chloe Doe is better than where she was. Better than the streets, or so she's told. The Madeline Parker Institute for Girls is the place that can change her-that is, if she can let go of the past that has nearly destroyed her.

Inspiring in her ability to overcome, Chloe Doe is poised to show the power of perseverance and, above all, hope.

Behind the Grade:

As noted above, I'm positively stumped by this book. Here's why:

For one, I was absolutely unprepared for the plot (or lack thereof) that fell into my lap. I couldn't find many good descriptions online, but I thought it sounded pretty interesting and I'm a suck34 for sympathize-with-me-dear-reader? stories.

I actually thought this book would be about Chloe, an underage prostitute, going to some schmancy fancy private school and living with a rich foster family she hated, etc. (I was thinking more along the lines of Sarah Dessen's Lock & Key)

Instead, Chloe gets picked up by an undercover cop and is sent to some glorified juvie hall.

Well, then.

Some background characters are well expanded-upon, which I thought was good. You get to know Chloe's roommate at Madeline Parker pretty well and through flashbacks you can't help but relate Chloe's older sister, Camille, to your siblings, if you have any.

That being said, eh. I was waiting for the chapter/page/line when I would go, "Wow. That was so 'moving.'' (As blurbed by KLIATT on the back cover) I never did. It was just kind of boring. There was no real plot. It's not very uplifting, though it tries to be at times, but Chloe's first-person is so blah and boring and deadpan, I wasn't even sad.

Wouldn't recommend this, though the writing is a saving grace.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Apocalypse Now

Edward. Cullen. Body. Shimmer.

Gee, thanks, Khy, for scarring me for life.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review: Priviledged by Zoey Dean


Total: Two (and a half) stars

Privileged, formerly titled "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls," but got a tuning-up when the CW picked up the pilot which tells the same story. You following? (In short, it's being targeted as a Palm Beach-set new version of uber-hit Gossip Girl.)

What story is that?

Megan Smith, fresh out of Yale and working at a tabloid rag, is living life at the bottom. Her boyfriend, James' parents loathe her lower-middle-class ways, her sister, Lily is the "toast" of the off-Broadway theatre, and her job stinks. The latter is quickly solved when Megan gets a cool firing from her icy boss.

Of course, her send-off is filled with bizarre compliments - and a new job. Megan will be tutoring the fabulous Baker twins, Sage and Rose. Their article in last month's Vanity Fair was juicy and scandalous - but not exactly signifying the makings of the next freshman class at Duke. You following? The Baker twins will be denied their ample trust fund if they don't get accepted to Duke, where they're legacies.

Enter Megan.

Behind the Grade:

Meh.

Even the back of the book coolly dismisses it as a beach read. I guess that was Ms. Dean was going for? It was okay. The nasty jokes get boring after a while. As predicted, the plot follows a pre-set standard of trashy, adult romance.

Copious abuse of the f-word doesn't match the happy, shiny cover. I was quite confused. It was in the YA section of my bookstore, but Megan attempts to frost her nipples as a "birthday treat" for her boyfriend. I'm no prude, but, there are unsuspecting, Stephenie Meyer-worshipping, plucky little girls walking through those aisles. Could this have not been placed with the other Adult lit?

Actually, I'm not feeling generous today:

It was pretty crappy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Love Your Blog, Takes Two & Three (& Four)

Thanks for all the lovely nominations! They mean so much to me!

Molly of Random 101 and Bookworm of Bookworm Readers have nominated me for this award!

Check out their blogs!

Thanks guys!

EDIT: I've also been nominated by Vanessa @ What Vanessa Reads!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Review: The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez

The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

Total: Four stars

Summary from Amazon:

Sonia Rodriguez was born in the United States, but her parents are Mexican immigrants who came to California before she was born.

Her father has three Social Security numbers, her mother is pregnant (again), and neither of them speaks English. Sonia's mother spends most of her time in bed, watching soap operas, and letting Sonia clean up after her brothers. Sonia's father works dutifully to support his family, but he knows that his daughter's dreams are bigger than making tamales for family get-togethers.

When Sonia attempts to put school work before her familia, her mother decides that it's time for Sonia to visit her grandmother in Mexico to learn "the ways of the old world." While in Mexico, Sonia spends time with her wise grandmother and her cousin Maria who teach her that while familia is important, the most important thing is to follow your heart.

Sonia returns to the States determined to succeed in school, but the birth of her new twin siblings, inappropriate advances from her drunk uncle ("Drunkle"), and a forbidden relationship with an El Salvadorian boy push school to the back burner. If only Sonia can find the time to cook dinner, secretly meet with her boyfriend, avoid her Drunkle, AND finish her homework, she just might be able to graduate from high school...

Review:

Wow, that book was good. It's probably the most thought-provoking, intelligent book I've read in a long while. For one, even though I can't directly identify with any of Sonia's problems, the way she deals with them are so realistic, it felt like I was reading one of those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories.

Also, Sonia is a great character for teens to look up to. She works hard for what she wants, but she knows when to put others before herself. She follows her heart and it leads her well.

I'll admit: it felt like the ending was too perfect for a book full of hardships, but it never felt forced and I was rooting for Sonia all the way. Sometimes Sonia's bitter humour gets tedious, but it contrasts well with her stark situation.

My only wish is that the plot flowed differently. It felt like it took a long time for things to get moving in the beginning and Sonia's trip seems to be over before it's begun - which wouldn't be a bad thing, necessarily, but it seems to be a big part of the summary so I expected it to be longer.

I'd definitely recommend this - to you and your younger sister. Even if the content is kind of gritty, most twelve-year-olds know about sex, drugs, and violence from the name-dropping pages of Gossip Girl anyway, so why not do it with better writing and actual plot?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Waiting on Wednesday: Take One

I've always wanted to do this feature, but I can never remember! So, anyways, I've finally remembered something (I also posted at YABC; check it out!) and that something was WoW. For those of you who don't know, WoW is a weekly thing where you name one book you're really looking forward too.

For this week, I chose Julia Hoban's 'Willow.' I've seen it on a couple people's blogs and it looks really great. Also, Julia is one of the nicest people I've gotten to know through the book-blogosphere.



Summary from Amazon:

Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen year- old Willow’s parents died in a horrible car accident. Willow was driving. Now her older brother barely speaks to her, her new classmates know her as the killer orphan girl, and Willow is blocking the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when one boy —one sensitive, soulful boy—discovers Willow’s secret, it sparks an intense relationship that turns the “safe” world Willow has created for herself upside down.

Told in an extraordinary fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl’s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy’s refusal to give up on her.


What YA novel are you looking forward to this week?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stay A Breaking Dawn Virgin

(And say no to random imprinting and "vamp"-y weddings.)
I'm sure you're all aware of the Twilight fanfare of late. Whether you've read the books, watched the movie, done both or neither, you're probably painfully aware of a little emoteen called Isabella "plzcallmebellakaythnxbai" Swan and a rainy, suitably emo town called Forks, Washington, where vampires exist, werewolves are hot (literally and figuratively) and a girl named Angela Weber may or may not be a witch.

The Twilight saga (four books in total: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn, in order) has spawned more merchandise than anyone can count, including apparel, companion novels, and even (the Apocalypse is totally coming - prepare yourself) Edward Cullen action figures. I've seen the movie twice so far and have plans to see it two more times at least.

Why, you ask? And the answer isn't simple in the least. No, it's not because I love the movie to death, the actors, the director (Catherine Hardwick for the record - Thirteen was okay, but I'll never watch Lords of Dogtown of my own accord) and, Lord knows, not the screenplay.

It's because of the guys.

Oh, yes.

I went there.

I'll start with Edward. Oh, Edward Anthony Masen Cullen. You drive so many girls crazy. Most of them are a good ten years younger than you. Or, of course, a good twenty years older than you. Except you're really a hundred and eighteen years old, so... Maybe you're the cougar? Maybe you're the one robbing the cradle, Eddie? He's handsome, glorious, sparkling, and the like. But no need to remind you of that. Stephenie's already done that on every page of her wordy, 500-plus-page love children.

Of my personal trifecta of Twilight loves, Edward comes in at a respectable third. I've got to hand it to Mrs. Meyer - she's made stalking the ultimate sign of love and made teenage girls all across the globe wish their boyfriends would suck their blood (or at the very least: watch them while they sleep; is that really too much to ask for?). And yet - I don't honestly like Edward. And you have to like a character before you can fictionally love them, right? He's every romance cliche rolled into one. He's too perfect. And his relationship with Bella is more the stuff of fantasy than any of the vampire lore.

Now, onto the underdog, Jacob Black. Poor guy/werewolf/ugh. Never really had a chance. Just a secondary character that got whipped into the summary for Book Two because ooh! Edward got a flaw (except he ripped said flaw from an overachiever's college app.: too loving)!

I adore Jacob. He's snarky, he's gorgeous, he's hot (literally - Jake's a werewolf and his skin/fur/whatever is burning up) and he is full of awesome quotes of awesomeness. Namely, "I was the natural path your [Bella's] life would've taken." [See also: ECLIPSE TENT SCENE. Sexual frustration, much?] Too true. Frankly, I think Jake's too good for her. Except my little shippy heart broke into a bazillion tiny pieces when I read the horrible parodical thing that is "Breaking Dawn." Perhaps you've heard of it?

(The spoilers I was talkin' bout? Yeah, RIGHT NOW.)

(FOR SERIOUS.)

(SKIP THE ITALICS SECTION IF YOU'RE A BD VIRGIN!)

Jacob imprints on Belldward's (yeah; I just made up that couple's name; you likey?; okay, the semi-colon abuse ends...here;) vampire-human hybrid baby called Renesmee Carlie Cullen.

(Dunzo with the spoilers.)

So. If I'm not Team Edward or (really) Team Jacob, then which 'TwiTeam' AM I on...?

Dramatic build-up.

Dun-dun-dun.

Team Mike Newton.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith


Total: Three stars (One of the best)

Okay. I know. Another vampire book. What can I say? I'm addicted. Even though you're probably still half-deaf from the screaming, flailing fangirls at whatever screening of Twilight you went to, you can probably still read, so here's another Vampire Book Review.

(Summary from back of the book)

Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her parents are dead, and her hybrid-werewolf first love is threatening to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever.

Then, as she and her uncle are about to unveil their hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef. Can Quincie transform their new hire into a culinary Dark Lord before opening night? Can he wow the crowd in his fake fangs, cheap cape, and red contact lenses — or is there more to this earnest face than meets the eye? As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms, and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who’s playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything?

I'm going to start this review off a little differently. With a story. That pretty much sums up what I thought about Smith's debut.

"One day, Gabbi, a jovial teen reviewer, was ambling through the hallways. A pretty little book called Tantalize atop her toppling-over piles of notebooks, binders, and a pencil case. She was on her way to her next class of the day.

"'Hey, is that Twilight* you're reading?' asked one of her classmates innocently.

"'No!' She flipped around the cover of the book properly so her peer could see it.

"Said peer narrowed her eyes. 'That looks a lot like Twilight, doesn't it?' she asked a friend, walking beside her. That friend nodded.

"'Well, it's not!' Gabbi exclaimed. She drew her finger along the title.

"'Tantalize," the classmate pronounced. To her friend, she added, 'Even the title is like Twilight.'

"'So, what's it about?' the girl's friend wanted to know. Gabbi passed the book over to her, mumbling something about 'werewolves' and 'vampires' under her breath.

"Both girls snickered over the book. 'It's about vampires! And werewolves!'"

The End.

To clear things up: I thought this book was pretty good, but it was kind of like a more sensual version of Stephenie Meyer's novel. Vampires, werewolves, confusing lore. A beautiful girl who caught caught in it all. One of her main struggles, is, in fact, deciding between the vampires and the werewolves.

There's a little murder mystery thrown in, but the murderer was obvious to me, even from the very start.

Pick it up if you're not sick of Bella, Edward, and Jacob.

*I'm sure you're aware of The Epic Twilight Movie that came out on Friday. During the week before, everyone - particularly the girls who don't read much - were engrossed in the love story of Bella and Edward. I can't count the amount of times I overhead, "When you can live forever, what do you live for?" said in an ominous voice.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The trashy series we love to hate (or hate to love...)

As much as I pretend to be a YA literature snob, I'll cop to lounging on the couch and stepping into the oh-so-fashionable shoes of some hot-to-trot fictional socialite. It's fun! Reading without thinking, what a concept! I try to avoid reviewing these books simply because they're pretty much un-reviewable. You can't trash them, because the genre is already called 'trashy.' You can't praise them, because generally the writing comes second to pop culture name dropping.

Here are some of my favourite trashy YA lit series! Hope you enjoy!

1. Gossip Girl by: Cecily von Ziegesar (and ghostwriters)



The best of the best. Must have on any 'so trashy it's amazing' list. Cecily's series started the Upper East Side schoolgirl craze, for sure. The scandals and heartbreak of a troupe of sexy, naughty, elusive teens are told through an anonymous online blog.

Main characters: Blair Waldorf, a classy Audrey Hepburn-wannabe, whose only goal in life is to get into Yale University. Her long-time stoner boyfriend, Nate Archibald, whose affections are divided between Blair and her frenemy, Serena van der Woodsen, Mary Sue to the max.

Warnings: Extensive drug use, drinking, smoking-addictions, bulimia, peer pressure, underage sex, strong language. The word 'virginity' or 'sex' is used on every other page, so if you're not into that scene, stay away.

Extra: has now been turned into a CW TV series with quite a cult following. There's also a prequel in the series, It Had To Be You, as well as two spin-offs, The It Girl (more on that next) and Gossip Girl: The Carlyles, about the next generation of slutty socialites. It also pretty much spawned a million imitating book covers with headless/faceless pretty girls.

Trash bags?: 9/10. The only thing stopping thing from being a perfect ten is the pretentious yet poor character of Dan and his powerful prose. (He's the token wannabe writer in the series.)

2. The It Girl (created by Cecily von Ziegesar) by: various ghostwriters



A spin-off of Gossip Girl, this takes place at an exclusive boarding school in upstate New York called Waverly Academy. After getting kicked out of her single-sex private school in the Upper East Side, Jenny Humphrey (Dan's little sister) goes to a boarding school and tries to reinvent herself. It doesn't really work.

Main characters: Jenny Humphrey, sweet and innocent, Jenny often finds herself falling in love and then having her heart broken. Jenny's roommates, Tinsley Carmichael, Callie Vernon, and Brett Messerschmidt.

Warnings: Pretty much the same as Gossip Girl, but less sex. No bulimia either.

Extra: It should be said that I like The It Girl an awful lot more than GG. In the main series, I didn't really like Jenny's character. She had to much hero-worship for Serena, but she comes into her own when she goes off to boarding school.

Trash bags?: 7/10. Not so trashy as GG, but enough name-dropping and lusting over boys to still be worthy of some Heftys.

3. Upper Class by Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne, and Caroline Says



The prose is elegant, the writing exceptional in this series set at a boarding school called Wellington, and yet, I can't bring myself to buy the rest of the books that are out. It's not as trashy as those mentioned above and everything seems so serious that it just takes a little bit away from my guilty pleasure reading. The cover is enough that it gets grouped in with the aforementioned books, but the content does not match.

Main characters: Laine Hunt, your run-of-the-mill, blue-eyed blonde Wellington girl. Her roommate, Nikki Olivetti, the tattooed, dangerous, bad girl, whose obvious, in-your-face wealth doesn't fit in with her old money classmates. Other books center on different characters, who played more minor roles in the first book.

Warnings: drug, sex, strong language

Extra: One of the best things about the Upper Class books is that they are more classic, more timeless than It Girl or Gossip Girl. The name-dropping is less extensive and makes for a novel you could read ten or five years in the future.

Trash bags: 3/10. Would be even less, but it follows the long-ago perfected formula of Le Trashy Novella.

4. The Clique by: Lisi Harrison



A hybrid of MG and YA, Harrison's well-crafted Clique falls apart after the first couple books. The characters are loosely defined stereotypes and key facts (even simple appearances) are forgotten or changed throughout the course of the story. And yet, I'm hooked. The plot is lesser to, well, (not character development, certainly!) superficial problems and length descriptions of outfits.

Main characters: Massie Block, twelve, is the "uncontested leader" of her elite, single-sex day school. She rules the school with an iron fist and faces haters with a witty comeback. Her life was perfect until "LBR" (loser beyond repair) Claire Lyons and her family moved into the Block guesthouse.

Warnings: None, really. All very G-rated. Some kissing and catfights, though.

Extra: Has been made into a straight-to-DVD movie, The Clique, available now. It was executive produced by Tyra Banks, of Top Model infamy. Has also spawned a short-lived spin-off, The Clique Summer Series, that answers the ultimate fanatic's question as to what each member of the aptly-named 'Pretty Committee' spent her summer doing.

Trash bags?: 7/10. Would be less, but for the lack of plot and copious amounts of hair-flipping.

5. Pretty Little Liars by: Sara Shepard



This is what I like to think of as the best of chic(k) lit for young adults. The characters are flawed, yet it's impossible not to root for them. They go through the same problems we do, except they attend top day Pennsylvania day schools and wear Tiffany charm bracelets.

Main characters: Spencer Hastings, the good girl with some bad habits. Hanna Marin, the popular, lusted-after girl, who's finally nailed the boy of her dreams. Aria Montgomery, the artsy girl, back from Iceland only to have the same old problems resurface. Emily Field, the sporty girl, who's starting to realize that her boyfriend isn't the one for her. Maybe if he were a little more...feminine...

Warnings: Lesbianism (although I'm not sure I'm supposed to put that as a warning. Emily's relationships with other girls are as beautiful and heartbreaking as the awe-inducing Edward and Bella relationship), sex, underage girl/adult male teacher, murder, stalking.

Extra: The best of the best. Perfect for mystery- or true crime-lovers who want to venture into more girlie girl reads.

Trash bags: 2/10. Doesn't really deserve any, but there are still shopping sequences and elite private schools.

What did you think? Anything I missed? Favourites from above?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Top 8 by: Katie Finn


Total: Two and a half stars (Tolerable)

Katie Finn's debut novel, aptly called Top 8, tells the story of Madison MacDonald, who comes back from a family vacation to find her Friendverse profile hacked. Friendverse is basically the unwanted love child of MySpace and Facebook, incorporated elements of each into some weird mis-matched that somehow worked out okay.

Madison is sort of a floater at high school. She has several really close friends (all, of course, in her Top 8 on Friendverse), Ruth, Schuyler and Lisa, but is friends with everyone including the theatre kids, the computer nerd, the 'It' couple, some of the inner circle, and jocks.

Before break, Madison had it all: cute boyfriend, starring role in the school play, tons of friends.

Now? Not so much. Madison's been hacked and the Fake-Madison said some terrible things, she even broke up with Real-Madison's gorgeous boyfriend!

Review:

Well, this was okay. It was in the same vein as At Face Value , but I liked that one quite a bit more. Frankly, Finn's novel was a bit tiresome.

The ending, aka the Whodunnit?, (by that I mean who hacked Madison's profile) was completely obvious from the context clues. The ending was very clean cut. No ties were left loose and it was too unreal. Life isn't like that!

Worse than that, sometimes it just plainly didn't make any sense. I wasn't sure if some lines/paragraphs were supposed to be off-kilter jokes or if they were just...off-kilter. Some heavy editing, maybe even a change to the ending, would've helped.

That being said, Top 8 was filled with other inconsistency. At times Madison is a beautifully flawed characters, whilst in the next chapter she's a too-perfect Mary Sue type. Sometimes, Madison seems like a real, honest to God, high school student. Other times, her school/home life is just nonsensical and non-fitting for a teenager.

I think that Katie Finn should continue writing, because she obviously has some talent, but buying another book from her will be a hard sell for me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No one mourns the 'Wicked'

Fans of Sara Shepard and her Pretty Little Liars series, read on!

Want to read the first seven chapters of the as-yet-unrealesed fifth book, Wicked?

Click here.

Remember: Wicked hits stores November 23rd, just in time for the winter holidays!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What has the world come to?

While I'm sure most (or at least some) of you have heard of the hot mess that is "reality" TV starlet, Lauren Conrad's impending foray into YA literature, I feel I must comment.

There are tons of articles published online, so if you want more details you can just Google it, but this is what I know: L.C., of Laguna Beach and The Hills fame, has signed with HarperCollins for a three-book series called L.A. Candy. Said series will chronicle the mishaps and rise-to-celebrity of a teen girl who moves to L.A. and gets swept up into reality television infamy.



Okay. Time for me to segue into a mini-rant:

I don't hate this L.C. person. I've watched a couple episode of The Hills and managed not to puke my guts out. For one reason and one reason only: It's hilarious! Come on! Her life is outlandish and ridiculous and shallow! It's also highly addictive and fun! She never seems all the serious in interviews on TV or in magazines, which I like. She's cute and young and why not have a show that's more about showcasing L.A. clubs and new outfits than anything substantial?

She doesn't claim to have some fufilling, academic lifestyle, so why pick on her? It's only for entertainment!

That being said, as much as I 'respect' her for doing so well and churning out the L.C. brand, this novel thing is ridiculous. Besides blogging, how often does Lauren write?

It's like spitting in the face of all the YA authors who've tried so hard to get where they are now.

Thoughts?

Will you be reading her series? Why or why not?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

And everyone lived happily ever after...


Time for the highly anticipated results to "Once Upon A Time," where I gave the opening lines of several books. I'd recommend reading that post before this one, just because I explain this a little more in detail.

Anyways!

1. "Somewhere in the distance I heard a cell phone ringing, and I slipped in unnoticed through the side door."
Answer: The Market by J.M. Steele

2. "Right now it's seven o'clock on a Monday morning, and I'm lying on the floor of my bedroom watching the white plastic ceiling fan go around and around and around."
Answer: Leap Day by Wendy Mass

3. "'Can I please go now?' I'm staring at my mom, willing her to stop talking and acknowledge me."
Answer: Kiss & Blog by Alyson Noel

4. "This story is not mine to tell."
Answer: Hacking Harvard by: Robin Wasserman

5. "'Please tell me that's not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening.'"
Answer: A Great and Terrible Beauty by: Libba Bray

So, did anyone guess them correctly? Would you like me to continue this feature?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before


Total: I'm thinking about giving these up. I've heard from quite a few blogs that they think rating systems are shallow. Frankly, I disagree. The OCD in me loves organization and all a numbered rating does is give a clean cut response. What do you think? Lose the "x stars"?

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before by: David Yoo

Say what you want about this book, and I've read several scathing reviews, but I've definitely never heard this one before. It starts off as a fluffy, geek-boy-meets-popular-girl and subsequently, they fall in love story. Albert meets gorgeous Mia whilst working at the Bern Inn over the summer. Of course, the story doesn't end there. When Albert goes back to school in September, he struggles with the identity he's cemented and the identity Mia has.

Oh, and there's the little issue of Mia's ex-boyfriend developing cancer.

Throughout all this, Yoo's quirky voice remains true to the outsider teenager. Occasionally, the nineties references got a little tiresome, it almost felt like it was targeted to an adult audience but the ratable high school scenarios brought it back down to Earth.

Besides that, I found little faults in Stop Me.

It was interesting to hear about Albert's unique way of dealing with Mia's ex-boyfriend's illness. Rather than become comforting or distant or start abusing drugs, Albert remains exactly the same. Tongue-in-cheek comments and all.

I'd recommend this to someone who's tired of the typical cancer stories.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Living Dead Girl by: Elizabeth Scott

Total: ???

I'm sure the above line confused the heck out of all of you, so I'll try and explain myself - and this book - as best as I can.

I read Living Dead Girl so quickly the pages blurred into one. Last night I watched Bones and Criminal Minds (apt shows for the dark subject matter of the book) and read the new book I received in the mail *thanks, Vanessa & Elizabeth!* during commercial breaks. So, all in all, it probably took me a little over half an hour.

Despite the faults (and this book, like any, has its faults), I was immediately overwhelmed by the story of a fifteen-year-old girl named Alice, who lives with her kidnapper-turned-abuser and has pushed her once-normal life into the furthest crevices of her mind. She survives by eating little yogurt cups and watching other people sort out their problems on talk shows and on soap operas.

I started sniffling and whimpering before I'd even reached page twenty. This is a bone-chilling account of sexual - and emotional - abuse and definitely not for the faint of heart. It's depressing, but rewarding. I have a feeling I'll be thinking about Elizabeth Scott's latest venture long after today.

The one major 'fault' as I mentioned earlier, is the ending, plain and simple. Although hope is omnipresent, hovering in the background, for most of the story, the ending was too darn happy for me. I mean, no, I'm no cruel sadist who wanted Alice to die on her hands and knees.

The ending was just...like it had been ripped out of some happy-go-lucky children's story - well, a children's story with guns and special pills and pedophiles. Maybe this is all the nonsensical ramblings of a crime-show-addicted teenager, but,

DOES ANYONE ELSE AGREE AND/OR SEE WHAT I'M SAYING?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trailer Tuesday*

I found a really cool cool trailer for you guys. One that coincides with the release of Melissa de la Cruz's 'Revelations' book. Hopefully I'll have a review for that up soon! I know my reviews have been few (very few) and far (quite far) between, but I'll try and get a review for David Yoo's 'Stop Me...' up soon, too.



*This title in no way means I plan to have a trailer up every Tuesday! I'm not that ambitious, I was just trying to give a catchy title!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Once Upon A Time...

The days when every great book began with "Once upon a time," seem to have come to a close. To me, an opener can make or break a book. I try to go further than the first line and the deciding factor on whether or not to buy a book is if I want to keep reading past the first page before I've even left the bookstore.

Today, I decided to share with you five opening line. These are not favourites or least favourites of mine. I simply plucked novels randomly off my many shelves. For the sake of a little game, I won't post the titles/author names. Have a guess in the comments. If you guys like this, I'll post a follow-up with the answers and another set.

1. "Somewhere in the distance I heard a cell phone ringing, and I slipped in unnoticed through the side door."

2. "Right now it's seven o'clock on a Monday morning, and I'm lying on the floor of my bedroom watching the white plastic ceiling fan go around and around and around."

3. "'Can I please go now?' I'm staring at my mom, willing her to stop talking and acknowledge me."

4. "This story is not mine to tell."

5. "'Please tell me that's not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening.'"

Which ones do you like or dislike? Do you know what books they belong in?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

At Face Value by: Emily Franklin


Total: Three stars.

Cute, light, fun, witty. These are some words I would use to describe At Face Value, which finds Cyrie Bergerac, 17, falling in love with someone she shouldn't.

A modern take on the Cyrano de Bergerac tale, At Face Value reads like a movie marathon of high school-set romantic comedies.

Cyrie, a senior at Weston High, is a near-perfect student: she gets outstanding grades, is a lead reporter for the Weston Word, is best friends with the popular and beautiful Leyla and has a good relationship with her parents. However, her appearance is less than flawless.

Namely, her nose. And it's size.

Although entirely predictable - from Chapter One, even, it's easy to figure out the ending - Franklin's novel is saccharine sweet and a good weekend read. It's not exactly the next modern classic, but the prose is often elegant and the wording is lovely.

Acceptance and inner beauty are two major themes within this book, along with true love and the meaning of friendship. None of these issues are really expanded upon further than expected and the ending ties everything together far two cleanly. Not a must-read, but definitely a should-read.

I'll leave you with a quote from the novel:

It's just I can't help it. Sometimes the words rush out, like water breaking free of a dam.

Bounce by: Natasha Friend

Total: Four stars

To put things into perspective quickly, I liked Bounce about as much as I liked Perfect.

Natasha Friend's latest novel centers around an almost-thirteen-year-old girl, Evyn. Life as she knows it has been turned upside down. Her eclectic father, whom she calls Birdie, announces he’ll be marrying knockout Eleni at Evyn’s thirteenth birthday dinner. He says this like it’s a good thing. Evyn is shocked by this announcement - who would want to marry her weirdo dad? Only Eleni isn’t your typical second wife. She’s a mother of six.

Like it’s predecessors, Bounce is a slim novel, but in no way is it short on life lessons. Occasionally, Evyn’s personality seemed to flit between mature and immature, which, in theory, should be a negative point. It’s not. This is what middle school is like. One day you’re as high as a kite - the next, you’re...not.

Although Bounce is fairly predictable and the flow of the story is more forced than in Lush or Perfect, it’s still worth a read and definitely something I’d recommend.

Drumroll, please...

The winner of my inaugural contest for The Celebutantes: On The Avenue by Antonio Pagliarulo is...

Tempestt!!!

Congratulations and thanks you everyone who participated! Hopefully, I'll be doing another contest soonish (maybe next month?), so keep your eyes peeled.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Interrupting your regular scheduled posting to ask...

At the end of each term/semester/whatever you want to call it, I have to do a book report. It should be on a more intelligent type book, rather than, let's say, Jet Set or Gossip Girl: All I Want Is Everything. Maybe it's a book I've already reviewed, one you have, or simply a book that you love.

PLEASE HELP ME!

Criteria

- should be intelligently written, raises important questions
- if it's a book I haven't reviewed, please don't suggest hardcovers! As much as I would love it, I can't really get Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games right now. *pout*
- about 200-400 pages, if possible
- that's all, comment/e-mail me with your suggestion

Thanks so much!

ONE MORE THING: Criminal Minds is on at eight tonight for Canadians. You watching? Or if you live in the US of A, will you be watching tomorrow?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year by: Amy Belason and Jacob Osborn

Hell hath no fury like a JAP scorned...

Total: Ugh. I can't even rate this it was so heartbreakingly terrible. You want me to? Well, hey, since you asked so nicely. 0.5, maybe?

When I selected this book from Chapters, I had a good feeling. I'd read a couple great five-star reviews for it on Amazon, some other bloggers liked it, it's set in Canada - specifically la belle provence, Quebec. Why not? Also, it was about a teenage girl who becomes a revenge-driven serial killer. The possibilities for an awesometastic review were endless.

I imagined myself slaving away at this very computer, brow glistening with sweat, while typing up an essay-style, four-or-five star review. I would draw comparisons to the teenage generation's morbid fascination with crime and how TV shows like Dexter, CSI, Criminal Minds and the like were bringing murder to the masses and making it commonplace - sometimes even boring.

Then I started reading this book and just about barfed.

For one, all the characters fit nicely into stereotypes. Plot points are easily predicted. It reads like a mis-match of books and shows I've already read or watched.

Two: Jenny's justifications for murder were positively shallow. I never thought someone could make murder seem so vapid.

Number three: It's set in Montreal, a notably bilingual city. Occasionally, Jenny (in her downright annoying "like," "totally," and "killer," voice) complains about all the French. IN MONTREAL EVERYTHING IS WRITTEN IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH. Hello? Second of all, why doesn't anyone else speak French? And why do they speak "French" French? People in Montreal and Quebec City speak Quebecer French!*

Lastly, she says "C'est cool," a lot. It's cool? Really? Wouldn't you just say "Cool"? God, Jenny is annoying.

The only thing that was decent was the ending. Spare yourself the migraine and just skip to the Epilogue.

*Basically just French slang. Not like formal, taught-in-an-American-classroom French.

Lazy Sunday...Happy (earlyish) Thanksgiving, Canucks!

Whilst stuffing your face with turkey and homemade cranberry sauce, why not enjoy this vague yet completely intriguing book trailer?



Can I just say that I would die to get my hands on an ARC of this book? If not, at least I'll get it in time for my birthday.

Perfect by: Natasha Friend

Total: Four stars.

This was quite good. It wasn't quite as "OHEMGEE! WOW!" as Friend's secon novel, Lush, if only because she seems to stick to a formula.

My biggest gripe with Ms. Natasha is the same as my only gripe with legendary YA author, Sarah Dessen. They pick a formula and stick to it. With Dessen, all her books involve outsider girls falling in love with a unique-often-misunderstood boy. This usually happens during a summer the girl believes will be terrible. With Friend, the books are the same in that they tackle difficult issues (eating disorders, divorce, alcoholism), mothers who ignore problems, and thirteen-year-old girls whose voices are interchangeable.

Seriously. Some pages of Perfect, told in the POV of bulimic Isabelle Lee, could be torn straight out of Lush, told by daughter-of-an-alcoholic, Samantha Gwynn. Their voices are interchangeable, the characters are fairly boring, and not very memorable. I was struggling to recall the names of these girls.

That being said Perfect is still a great read. It's short in length, but not "light," "breezy," or "a beach read," in any way, shape, or form. Readers will be intrigued by Isabelle's story and all the different problems she has. Isabelle is just like any other preteen girl - she's entirely relatable. The humour is wry, subtle, but still present.

Personally, I preferred Lush over Perfect, but they are both well-written, intelligent, raw, and honest.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Stupidity Equals Your Gain

I feel seven kinds of stupid. I was getting all hyped up to read the third instalment of The Celebutantes series by Antonio Pagliarulo. It's my not-so-secret-anymore guilty pleasure. Anyways, stupid me - turned out I bought the first book. Problem? I already own it.

Here is where you come in. Please, please, please take this book off my hands. I feel compelled to put it on my bookshelf but it only reminds me of my stupidity (*facepalm*).

Contest rules:

1) Comment to be included.
2) Either give your e-mail or link to a place where I can contact you.
3) You get an extra entry for a blog mention (but you must give me a link to this).
4) You must live in Canada or the US. Sorry international readers! Frankly, I just don't have that kind of money for shippping. :( Wish I did, though.


The contest for The Celebutantes: On The Avenue will be finished Tuesday, so you have the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend to entry. Good luck!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Love Your Blog

My first nomination! Flattery gets you everywhere! Thanks to Gabrielle (God, doesn't that sound like I nominated myself?)@ Innovative Teen for the nomination.

I'm supposed to nominate my seven favourite blogs, so, here goes everything...

WAIT! Rules, first.

1. Put the logo *look up!* and rules on your blog.
2. Link the person who nominated you.
3. List your seven favourite blogs.
4. Tell them they've been nominated!

Nominating tiiiiime:

Frenetic Reader because she can review art books without sounding pretentious and has some unique opinions that I can't help but agree with.

Pop Culture Junkie: the perfect mix of television, pretty book covers, and honest reviews.

Hope's Bookshelf, 'cause she picks out-of-the ordinary books and makes me want to read them!

Reviewer X. An ardent John Green fan with a side of snark. What's not to like?

And Another Book Read. Has interviewed some of the best authors around and done it well.

Book Review Maniac - it's nice to have a guy's opinion in a debate full of girls. Also, a guy who likes Twilight...?

ANNNND, LAST BUT OBVIOUSLY NOT LEAST (what's with the capslock abuse?)

MTV Books - it's worth it for Stephanie Kuehnert's political rants alone!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Revelation (Private) by: Kate Brian

Total: Four stars

(Minor spoilers for earlier books in the series)

(Summary from Amazon)

The biggest mystery of all...and Reed is dying to learn the truth.


Two months after Cheyenne Martin was found dead in her Billings House dorm room, exclusive Easton Academy is rocked by another stunning revelation: Cheyenne was murdered. No one knows who the killer is, but everyone agrees that Reed Brennan, who took over Cheyenne's role as Billings's president, gained the most from her death. Once the most powerful girl on campus, Reed is now powerless to stop her classmates' accusing whispers. Rumours begin to swirl that she killed Cheyenne.

And just like that, Reed is kicked out of Billings.

She's lost everything -- her friends, her home, her boyfriend -- and Reed knows the only way to get it all back is to figure out who really murdered Cheyenne. And she has to do it fast because the killer is still out there. The more Reed investigates, the more she uncovers. And as any Billings Girl knows...secrets can be deadly

After eight books in the bestselling Private series, Kate Brian is still going strong. Reed is still as relatable as she was in the first book and it's interesting to see her back on the outside looking in again.

I should note that, in no way, shape or form, does Revelation work as a stand-alone. It's simply too difficult to keep track of Reed's many problems if you haven't, at least, read the last couple books.

Many of Billings' secrets and revealed and the ending is one you won't want to miss. Even if it gets tedious at times, the final chapters are worth holding out for.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Haters by: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez


Total: Three stars.

Taken from the back of the book:

"From the first day at her new Southern California high school, Pasquala Rumalda Quintana de Archuleta ("Paski") learns that popular students may be diverse in ethnicity but are alike in their cruelty. While Paski tries to concentrate on mountain biking and not thinking too much about ultra-hot Chris Cabrera, she is troubled by the beautiful and wicked Jessic Nguyen. Jessica is the queen of the haters and she's got her eye on Paski."

That was what you call a terrible summary. I can see why it was written, though. Trying to pull in readers of the Gossip Girl and A-List series, looking for a light read. Of course, Summary Writer Person completely forgot to mention that Paski is perfect at everything she does and has some bizarre psychic abilities.

After moving from the seemingly detached from modern society New Mexican town of Taos, Paski's crazy cartoonist father hits the road for sunny SoCal, where Paski is enrolled in a snooty girl-filled public school. Her "visions," help guide her, as does a spooky amulet given by her grandmother, and often lead her into trouble.

Haters is like a misunderstood, troubled middle schooler. The kind who hears over and over again that it "has so much potential," if only it "applied" itself more. A couple flaws added to Paski's character would be nice. Also, I wouldn't mind a little more about the "visions," stuff or someone who didn't immediately accept this and say "Oh, wow, cool!" or something of that effect. One more thing: sometimes problems take longer than a random out-of-the-blue phone call of which this is the general topic:

"Oh, gosh, Paski. I have been so mean, haven't I? I'm sorry. Just now I realized how horrible I was treating you and it's only because I'm so jealous because you're beautiful, smart, talented and so kind! Please forgive me and then meet me at the mall to shop?"

"Okay. Apology accepted."

It doesn't tread any new territory, but rather resorts to stereotypes and predictable plot turns. However, Paski's often-judgement but occasionally raw and real voice is worth a read if you're really bored.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Filed Under: No Comment (Well, a few actually)



Alisa Valdes-Rodriquez's YA novel, Haters, is "in development for a series at The N"??

Should be interesting, to say the least.

Haters is taking me a really long time to read. A REALLY REALLY REALLY long time. It's about as long as Twilight (the first book) but...

No! Must save comments for review!

In the meantime, check out Alisa and her oh-so-opinionated blog.

She talks mostly about Sarah Palin. And by "mostly," I mean all the fricking time. Seriously. If there weren't little images of her books on the sidebar, I would think she was simply a political blogger.

Also, she thinks Twilight is racist... Hmmmm...

This is where I stutter and ramble aimlessly like Palin at a Couric interview!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ummm... The Cleverly Untitled Post

Today I

-bought way too many books
-was ogled by a somewhat famous sci-fi author
-stepped on a discarded Dairy Queen cup
-helped many, many, many old people (they seem to swarm around me...no comment.)
-met a child Holocaust survivor - very nice man
-got a tattoo- nah. Just wanted to check that you were still listening!

All of these things and more happened at Toronto's annual Word on the Street festival. In case you don't know what that is, it's an outdoor book sale-type thing that usually takes place on a rainy weekend in the T-dot. This year, however, it was thankfully dry...but also Paul Newman-free*. Poor guy. I'll miss those blue eyes!

A whole bunch of different publishers/authors set up circus-like tents and hawk their wares. Sometimes you get free buttons. Occasionally you get stopped on the sidewalk by dashing men in cell phone costumes. Usually you pay ridiculous heaps of cash for ill-fitting sweatshirts with pointless logos/catchphrases and Reader's Digest subscriptions.

Sigh. Maybe I helped the economy's state of terror today.

Maybe I just wasted all my money.

Oy vey.


Here's The Complete(ly long) List Of Books Purchased Today

1. Would You by: Marthe Jocelyn
2. Free Ride: John McCain and The Media by: David Brock & Paul Waldman
3. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by: Mitch Albom
4. The Girls by: Lori Lansens
5. The Celebutantes: To the Penthouse by: Antonio Pagliarulo
6. Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year by: Amy Belason & Jacob Osborn
7. Perfect by: Natasha Friend
8. Getting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance and Cookery by: Susan Juby
9. Night Runner by: Max Turner

*Not that Paul Newman is Canadian or anything. 'Cause he's not. I just wanted to fit that in somewhere. :( RIP

Friday, September 26, 2008

Never Play Leapfrog With A Unicorn by: F.W. Bosworth

Total: Three (and 1/2) stars.

Special thanks to Frank for this book!

"When I was born, my dad was short and black." This is how the book begins. If I'm not at least 'intrigued' when I finish the first page of a book, it's usually a bad review for me. With NPLwaU (God, that's a mouthful) I was split right down the centre. Although I must say, the beginning definitely gave me a "chuckle" or two. ;)

Bosworth spins an elaborate tale of the kind of childhood the Cleavers wouldn't understand. While 'Unicorn' could be read as a straight up-and-down memoir, I would err on the side of humour based-on-a-true-story fiction.

Some jokes are laugh-out-loud funny while others will take readers a few moments to set in. I was slightly confused at first - what was the comedy, and what the drama?

Although not YA in particular, kids (like me) who grew up in a conventional if not idyllic home with benefit from learning about the sunnier - or, um, dirt-covered - side of life.

Told in with tongue firmly in cheek humour, F.W. Bosworth's book (originally published on a fiction website) segues into a new century of the literature experience.

Lush by: Natasha Friend

After the bomb that was Who's Your Daddy?, all the reviews I'm writing seem to be super-peppy, cheerleader-esque ones. I guess this is karma. Just so you know - be prepared for some gushing.

Total: Five Stars.

A long time ago, when I started this blog, I told myself that when I found a book worthy of "All Five Stars," it would be my final review. Obviously, this isn't the case. I can't stop now - I'm addicted! I sat staring at an open Word document for a long while, trying to give reason to a "Four," or even "Four and a half," star review. Needless to say, I found none.

Lush is everything you could ask for a middle grade and something more. Even more so than all the lovely details of how a thirteen-year-old whose world is falling apart would think or act, there are many questions that go unanswered and loose strings are left while others are tied up.

The heroine of Friend's second novel is Samantha, "Just Sam." She's an eighth grader with a troupe of loyal - if unpopular - friends: Vanessa, Angie, and Tracey. I liked how all the characters had little quirks that made them memorable and turned them into distinct characters of their own right - regardless of their relationship with Sam.

Sam's father is an alcoholic. He has been for some time. Much of the book is spent ignoring problems (like any real family would do) and trying to behave normally. Sam's mother is also addicted - to Yoga. This is her way of dealing with problems, even if Sam hates the "sport."

To try and find her own way to deal with her familial problems, Sam writes a letter to a girl she doesn't know - someone she has only seen from afar. But is the mysterious letter writer really who she claims to be...?

Short answer: no. It's fairly obvious Sam isn't writing to who she thinks she is, but my guess was totally wrong. There are several shockers in the book - none of which I was expecting.

This actually made me tear up a little. The last book I cried while reading was Deathly Hallows - and not because it was sad! The tender moments between Sam and her mom, Sam and her brother, Luke, and even Sam and her dad are enough to melt the ice surrounding my heart!

I can't wait to get Friend's other novels, Perfect and Bounce.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

TTYL by: Lauren Myracle

I've tried to start this review about half a dozen times. I wish there was a more eloquent way to put it, but I can't find one. So I'm just going to say... I loved this book!

Total: Four stars.

It was truly a fun, fast, and (looking for another 'f' word here, but coming up empty-handed...) real. Told all in IM conversations is the story of three teenagers, Zoe, Maddie, and Angela. It starts on their first day of school and goes from there, throughout the many fights, parties, road trips and dramas of fifteen-year-olds.

Sure, it sometimes gets tiring to read, but it never sways off the road of reality. All three girls have distant voices. Maddie's the firecracker. Zoe's the perfect one. Angela's the drama queen. Even though - from my above descriptions - they seem to fall into stereotypes, it's the relationships between the three girls that are constantly evolving (and devolving) that shape them into honest-to-God people. I felt like I could've been reading saved IM convos with some of my friends.

A recurring theme in the book is drawing the line between funny and hurtful. Especially in regards to Maddie. She has trouble keeping friends outside of Zoe and Angela, partly due to not knowing what makes a comment okay. This causes lots of trouble for her in the latter half of the book.

I would recommend this to someone with a short attention span. The short 'chapters' are perfect for reading at the bus stop or between classes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Who's Your Daddy? by: Lynda Sandoval


Okay. I know I usually start off with how many stars I'd give a book, but I'll save that for the very end.

There isn't much good to say about Sandoval's debut novel, but I'll try not to make this review incredibly catty. Who's Your Daddy? is actually the unofficial name of a clique of three high school-age girls: Lila, Meryl and Caressa. All of them have "unique" fathers. Meryl's is the vice-principal. Lila's is a police officer. Caressa's is an old jazz star.

The concept of the book is that none of them can find a date. Well. I'm immediately put off by this premise. High school is not all about boys. YA books generally press the "boyfriend and best friend is all you need" dynamic, but WYD pushes it to the extreme. For girls who are continually described as bright, happy and pretty, they all seem so depressed that they've been dubbed untouchable.

Moreover, this novel is told in alternating first-person POVs of the three girls. They are all exactly alike. It's impossible to tell apart, except for the helpful headers (i.e. Chapter Four, Meryl) at the beginning of each new chapter.

I, personally, thought the voices were completely unoriginal, contrived and un-teenager-ish. They use phrases like "triple whammy," a lot. Also, Lynda Sandoval has some bizarre obsession with CAPTIALIZING WORDS LIKE THIS. IN EVERY CHAPTER. IN EVERY GIRL’S POV.

One thing I really had a problem with (out of a long, long list) is the way these girls talk over Instant Messaging. There is no distinction between girls. All my friends IM differently. Some use all lowercase letters, some constant text talk. None of them type like this:


“My freakin’ dad told me I couldn’t come to your house on homecoming night, Caressa, that’s why.”

Lovely grammar. Really. Realistic...?

I understand that writing your first novel is no small peanuts. I don’t think I could ever write a novel. It’s a difficult task and I have the utmost respect for people who complete this. However, I think that Who’s Your Daddy? could use a plot vamp-up and some characterization before I’d ever re-read it. For example, Lila’s mother died when she was a little girl. The best part in this entire book comes early on when Lila reminisces about her mom. It was bittersweet and kind of wonderful really. If only the rest of the novel was, as well.

Total: One star.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Keeping The Moon by: Sarah Dessen


Total: Four and a half stars.

Truly, the only thing keeping this from earning a five-star review is that it is so reminiscent of Dessen’s other works. ‘Girl who doesn’t fit in finds love’ and usually during a balmy summer.

That’s not to say that Keeping The Moon doesn’t deserve to have shrines built for it in the rooms of young adult girls across the world. Because it does.

Fifteen-year-old Nicole “Colie” Sparks can’t seem to get away from the constant torture the popular girls put her through. First it was because she was fat, now it’s because she’s been branded a “Hole In One,” (read: a slut.)

Colie’s mom, fitness guru Kiki, has shipped her off to live with quirky-cool Aunt Mira in Colby, North Carolina for the summer. During that summer, Colie meets a host of eclectic small town people (waitresses Morgan and Isabel, Mira’s teenage prodigy Norman) and discovers herself along the way.

Sometimes predictable, but mostly not, Keeping The Moon stands out in a sea of trashy, meaningless Cliques and It Girls. Although this wasn’t my favourite Sarah Dessen (This Lullaby, for sure), it sure is a contender. Every girl can find themselves in Colie. Whether an art geek or homecoming queen, we’ve all had a struggle with our identity one time or another.

I would definitely recommend this to preteens or girls in their early teens. While the story rings true for older teens/young adults as well, it’s a great story to read during middle school or the first years of high school when teens are typically struggling to be accepted by peers, parents and themselves.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Forbidden Daughter & The Dowry Bride

In anticipation of my first author interview with Shobhan Bantwal, I decided to post the trailers of her two books. Hope you like! (I should have our interview posted by tomorrow evening.)



My Inagural Interview: With Shobhan Bantwal

Hey all. For my first interview, I got the chance to ask the lovely author, Shobhan Bantwal, some questions.



Without further ado...

1. When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

When my husband and I became empty nesters a few years ago and later when he accepted a consulting job that kept him out of town on weekdays, I took up creative writing to occupy my lonely evenings. I started writing small social interest articles for a number of Indian-American publications as a hobby. Then I changed gears to short stories, and when I won three awards, I decided to write full-length novels. Therefore my writing career was a “Menopausal Epiphany,” that started at the age of 50 and it has gradually turned into a second career (besides my full-time occupation as a public service employee).

2. Do your novels take directly/indirectly from personal experience?

My stories are entirely fictitious and do not come from personal experience. However, what does come is the cultural detail of small-town India in all its colors, flavors, and textures. Some of the characters’ qualities also come from my personal life. Stern fathers, soft-hearted mothers, idealistic young men who are willing to sacrifice a lot for the women they love, and women who are strong and stubborn on the inside and appear compliant on the outside are based on people I know.

3. What was the road to the publication of The Dowry Bride and The Forbidden Daughter like?

The road to publication is full of pitfalls for most writers, except for a handful of lucky ones who get discovered with minimal effort. I am no exception to the other plodders. Honing my writing to bring it to a level good enough to make it marketable was a lot of hard work. It was also a rough path to finding an agent, and then a publisher. I find that marketing the books is the hardest part of being a published author.

4. What is your favourite part about writing? Your least favourite?

Creating the characters and scenes is the most enjoyable part of writing for me. I can clearly see both in my mind. My least favorite is the plotting. I am not a disciplined writer, so I don’t have an outline when I start on a story, but just a tiny seed of an idea. Therefore my stories wander away in all sorts of directions and I have to pull in the loose ends constantly to prevent myself from getting lost and make sure I stay on track. But at times that, too, can be a pleasant creative experience.

4. Is there a fictional character - past or present, in one of your books or someone else’s - that you strongly relate to?

I am such a hopeless romantic that I relate to a lot of female characters in women’s fiction, especially romance. Without relating to one’s characters it is impossible to create true-to-life characters. To that end, I relate strongly to every one of my protagonists. I put myself in their shoes in every scene, so I feel every one of their emotions.

5. Are you technologically savvy? Do you think technology has altered the literary experience?

Although I use a computer regularly for my writing and my full-time job, my technical skills are on the poor side. But I believe technology has revolutionized the literary experience by making it easy for anyone to write. To add to that, POD publishers have made it simpler for writers to self-publish their books and sell them via Internet. Online booksellers have further changed the way books are marketed. No wonder there has been an explosion of new writers on the literary scene in recent years, and more new ones keep coming each year.

6. Is culture important to your everyday life?
Culture is what makes each one of us unique in so many ways. Although I have lived all my adult life in the U.S., my Indian culture is still very much a part of me. The food I cook and eat, my taste in clothes and entertainment, my accent, my outlook on life -- they all color my personality and my lifestyle.

7. How do you think young people would benefit from reading your books

My books are unique in that there is a social topic that is the central theme in each of the two books that have been published so far. In The Dowry Bride, the issue is India’s notorious and abusive dowry system around which the story is woven. In The Forbidden Daughter, gender-based abortion, which is practiced in some instances in India, is what drives the plot. I feel such hot-button issues can become interesting if they are interwoven with romance, intrigue, humor, and emotion.

Young people can learn a lot about Indian culture and its richness while becoming aware of certain social problems that plague women in that culture. Many of my readers have thanked me for opening their eyes to certain elements of Asian cultures and harsh women’s issues they had never been aware of. In that context I believe my books are eye-openers for readers of any age.

--

Again, thanks so much to Shobhan for graciously answering my questions!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

TBR (to be read)

I feel like the huge, almost-toppling-over stack of hardcovers and paperbacks is a weight on my chest. It really pains me to see all these books, unread, never-been-opened. I feel like I should read faster. Typically, it takes me a day or two to read a book in such a way that I can pay attention to details.

Instead of doing a “Shopping Spree,” feature, I’ve decided to make a comprehensive list of all the books I’ll get around to devouring eventually.

1. Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by: James Patterson (For a review of the first novel, go here, and for the second, here.)

2. Lush by: Natasha Friend (I’ve always wanted to read her books, they’ve gotten such great reviews, and when this one went on sale, I eagerly scooped it up.)

3. TTYL by: Lauren Myracle (I, stupidly, thought this book would be easy to find. I’ve read Lauren’s other books; loved her collaboration on How to be Bad. It took me forever to find this, though!)

4. Tenderness by: Robert Cormier

5. Sucks to be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (Maybe) by: Kimberly Pauley (Reviewer turned author? How could I not?)

6. Haters by: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

7. Who’s Your Daddy? by: Lynda Sandoval (This has been on my Want-To-Get list for ages. V. v. v. v. hard to find.)

8. The X-Files: I Want to Believe by: Max Allen Collins (I loved his work for the Criminal Minds novelizations, plus The X-Files is an old obsession of mine. I’m pondering dressing up as Scully for Halloween: Manic Panic red hair, alien baby and all.)

9. Now You See Her by: Jacquelyn Mitchard (She. Is. Amazing. Truly. I heard some negative feedback for this, so I thought I’d pick it up and see for myself.)

10. Boy Heaven by: Laura Kasischke

11. Dead Connection by: Charlie Price

12. Looking For Alaska by: John Green (No explanation needed. Nerdfighters is my oxygen.)

Jet Set by: Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman

Total: Two stars.

Frankly, the only thing that keeps this review decent and expletive-free is the fact that Carrie and Jill have such detailed writing that I feel like I really am standing in front of Van Pelt Academy in Switzerland.

This story is told in the boring, whiny first-person of Lucy Peterson. God, did I ever want to slap some sense into this so-called “brainiac” and “tennis prodigy.” As someone who plays tennis fairly well, this novel was a disgrace to the sport. It only talks about her games and practices shortly, while anyone who’s every picked up a racquet knows tennis is all about hard work. Every time Lucy serves - ace!

Yeah, right.

Furthermore, the authors are swimming in well-treaded territory: poor, but kind girl attends posh academy. Interesting, unique concept there! Not only have many authors done this before (Claire in The Clique, Jenny in Gossip Girl, Reed from Private etcetera, etcetera), but Carrie and Jill’s YA debut, “Bittersweet Sixteen,” is almost exactly the same! I have yet to read “Summer Intern,” but I assume it’s alike.

Despite the stellar writing, nothing can pull this story through. The plot has already been perfected by many an author before. Nothing new about this. The main theme is “revenge,” and it gets tedious keeping track of who’s friends and who’s not.

A predictable but happy ending is just what middle-grade readers are looking for. I wouldn’t dare recommend this to anyone a day over fourteen, because it’s very immature and scandal-free.

Again, Kate Brian’s ‘Private’ makes for a much better choice, as does the Social Climber series.