Saturday, May 31, 2008

You Are SO Not Invited to my Bat Mitzvah! by: Fiona Rosenbloom

You Are SO Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah is a sweet novel that any girl, Jewish, Christian, or otherwise, can enjoy. Our story starts three weeks prior to Stacy Adelaide Freidman's bar mitzvah. Stacy's story is a typical one with several interesting twists to the new classic that keep readers interested.

Stacy lives with her "maybe single" mother after her plastic surgeon father moved out and her younger, genius-smart brother, Arthur. She spends her days hoping: to get in with the "It" clique, The Chicas, become wildly popular, marry Andy Goldfarb wannabe hip-hopper (for lack of a better word; it was either that or "gangster") and, naturally, have an amazing bat mitzvah.

Needless to say, nothing works out as she planned. Adventures in online dating, broken friendships and tween-designer name-dropping (Miss Sixty! Bebe! BCBG!) make this tale of self-discovery a keeper.

As I said in my post about

Twisted Sisters I mentioned that the main character was unlikeable.

The same goes for the main character's friend, Kelly, and even Stacy sometimes.

Although Stacy's interest in only what was good for herself was a major plot point, I hope that in the sequel

We Are SO Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah! she'll grow to become a three-dimensional, likeable character.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Many Faces of Francesca Spinelli: Judging A Book By Its Cover

Before I go on to the actual review of Aussie author Melina Marchetta's Saving Fancesca can I have a moment to discuss WHY THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT COVERS OF THIS BOOK?

To me this one looks very fun and light and very much a beach read, which Marchetta's book wasn't AT ALL. If I saw this book in a store, I think I would be more compelled to pick it up than the copy I own. Doesn't it look like she's involved in some kind of love triangle, though? Or a book about a hapless prep school girl desperate for a first kiss?

(Hard Cover/Library Binding) From Although I think this cover relates most to the book (main character is partly shy, because she is hiding from plain view, she's sorta-kinda smiling, showing she wants to be a more outgoing person), but I much prefer the pink-toned cover to the beige one, which seems kind of bland. This looks like a serious-type book, possibly dealing with parental/friendship/love issues.

From Echo News: This cover is the most like the copy I'm reading, but mine is the girl's face in a several boxes, Brady Bunch-style. During the early chapters I found it hard to believe this girl was Frankie, simply because she is so happy and bouncy and smiley. I found myself wondering if maybe this was Frankie's mom?

One morning, Francesca's outgoing, independant mother Mia doesn't get up from bed. This situation shouldn't be alarming; but it is. Mia is the type of mother who plays loud seventies' songs for her two children, Francesca, 17, and Luca, 10, to wake up to. She drops her kids off at St. Sebastian's a prep school that only just started letting girls attend and picks them up after the many activities she encourages them to get involved with.

Francesca is having a difficult time adjusting to a school where fart jokes and bad breath reign supreme. She wishes she was at Pius School, with the cliqueish girlfriends she knew at her previous school. Only thirty girls attend Sebastian and they're a notable minority. Frankie's only "friend" options are band-geek Justine, school slut Siobahn and opinionated Tara. If Francesca wants to obtain even a smidgen of popularity, she knows these are the wrong girls to befriend, and yet, she does.

This book would've become boring quickly were it not for the cast of quirky characters (especially the school teachers) and Francesca's object of affection, Will. I rooted for Frankie's mom's recovery all through the book and I also hoped Frankie would end up with Will. I won't spoil the ending, but I will say that it's very realistic, something refreshing in YA literature.

Total: Three stars (Only because it took me a good 7-10 chapters to get into it.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Twisted Sisters by: Stephanie Hale

-Warning: Contains mild spoilers for Revenge of the Homecoming Queen-Just when Aspen Brooks thought her problems were over, her college life becomes "a big fat Greek mess!"

When Aspen winds up on scholarship at State University, because of her mom's addiction to shopping, she starts to realize being the top dog at Comfort High means nothing to the thousands of students at State... Or the sororities. Harry Malone's (the Comfort detective who got her the scholarship)niece, Mitzi, also attends State and she has an in with the exclusive Zeta sorority. Except Mitzi disappeared and it's plain to see the Zeta girls have secrets beneath their monogrammed tracksuits.
Aspen makes it her mission to break into Zeta and solve the case, all while swatting off a desperate admirer and keeping Rand by her side.

The only thing that propelled my into the "H" section of my local bookstore was the amazing chemistry between Rand and Aspen in the last book. Despite their cuteness, I couldn't help...not liking Aspen. She's very drama queen-y 24/7, narcissistic, and always seems to have her own agenda for helping people, no matter how many times she insists she's doing it to help her friends.

Also I figured out the book's ending (which ties everything up quite nicely) way before I should have. Either way, I always enjoy reading Aspen's crazy adventures and Twisted Sisters didn't dissapoint. Keep your eyes peeled for Spring Breakup coming late 2008/early 2009!

Total: Four stars

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How To Be Bad by: E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle

The much-anticipated YA book of three well-known authors, E. Lockhart
(The Boyfriend List, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks), Sarah Mlynowski (Bras & Broomsticks)and Lauren Myracle (TTYL, Eleven) is finally here!

To be frank, I'm usually not very fond of roadtrip novels, (mainly because I end up bored out of my skull or I really, really want to go on vacation) but I think I'll make an exception for How To Be Bad. Another book told in the alternating POVS (Like yesterday's review of Certain Girls!) of three Floridian teenagers: Jesse, Vicks and Mel, this story is equal parts lough-out-loud hilarious and tears-flowing sad.

Jesse, the religious, good girl of the group, just found out her Mama has cancer. The very same Mama who entered a wet T-shirt contest and whom Jesse called a whore. It's her idea to take Mama's car (without asking, natch!) on a little spin to go see her best friend, Vicks' boyfriend Brady at the U of Miami.

Mel's pockets may be flowing with cash and the pockets may be Chloe designer, but that doesn't make her life any better. After just moving down south from Montreal, she's contsantly stuck in between her older sister and younger brother. This trip is exactly what she needs. But will Mel's part be bigger than just providing the money?

Vicks is the loudmouth of the group, but you can tell more is bubbling underneath the surface. She's the youngest (and only girl) in a family of six, where money is tight. Problems with her sweethearted boyfriend Brady arise and Vicks' hard exterior cracks throughout the novel.

Total: Four and a half. Extra points for featuring a Canadian character, but occasionally the plot drags.

If you loved this book check out: Dream Factory by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Two Jennifers (Part Deux)

Bailey Morgan and her circle of best friends, Annabelle, Delia and Zo, think that some temporary tattoos will be the perfect accessories to go with their new dresses for the upcoming school dance. Sounds great, right? Wrong.

Bailey and the girls end up getting unusual, Wonder Woman-type superpowers from the tattoos. Of course, Bailey's power is the best (I won't spoil it by telling you there powers!) and she, somehow..., has this amazing destiny where she saves the world from sudden doom of a mysterious villian. Semi-realistic dialogue inhances this but the ridiculously impossible plot takes points away. Take a cue from Scott Westerfield, Jen: subtle and believable is a thousand times freakier than dramatic plot twists will ever be! Honourable try though!

Total: Three

The Two Jennifers

Despite my being Catholic, I was not turned off at all by the sprinklings of Hebrew terms, passages from the Torah and talk-talk-talk of a bat mitzvah. In Jennifer Weiner's Certain Girls, issues of growing up, love, marriage and morals are tackled with wit, a good eye for detail and the changing POVs of Candace Shapiro and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Joy.

While grocery shopping, two hardcover eye-catching novels (both NYT Bestsellers) and I found myself debating whether to buy Stephenie Meyer's The Host or the aforementioned Certain Girls. Naturally, I would have picked both, but I'm a little tight on cash so I randomlly picked up CG, trying to make the jump from YA to Adult a clean, fun, girlie one.

Although this was a sequel to Weiner's Good In Bed, I didn't read the first one and I think the reading is pleasurable with or without reading the first book. Cannie Shapiro is the average American woman: a mother, plus-size and married. Of course, she's not completely normal. Back when Joy was just a baby she wrote a barely-concealed story of her life, Big Girls Don't Cry and now that very book is coming up to bite her in the ass when Joy reads it. In it, Cannie (called "Allie") gets pregnant with a daughter she really, really, really doesn't want.

The books alternates between Cannie's worrying about her daughter and her daughter, Joy, worrying about her mother's past. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only thing keeping this from a five-star review is the Canadian-bashing which appears so early on in the book (chapter three! three!). I understand she was just trying to show her characters' opinions, but I'd rather save that for when I'm absolutely sure I love the book. Twists kept it fresh and interesting though, so I'll have to give Certain Girls...

Total: Four and a half

Watch out for The Two Jennifers (Cont.) with Jennifer Lynn Barnes' Tattoo! Over and out.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lust by: Robin Wasserman

Published in late 2005, Wasserman's YA series Seven Deadly Sins is nothing new on the market, but definately something to look out for. I'll admit it: I've breezed by the glossy titles (Lust; Envy; Pride; Wrath; Sloth; Gluttony; and Greed) with zingy one-liners and pretty faces looking tortured on the cover many a time. I'm not sure why, on my last jaunt to the bookstore, I decided to pick it up. Maybe because I've read her CHASING YESTERDAY series and stand-alone HACKING HARVARD and fell in love with them both.

Anyway, on to the review.

FROM THE PUBLISHER: Alpha girl Harper is used to getting what she wants, and that means Adam, Beth's all-American boytoy.

Bland, boring Beth, who Kane, the charming playah, secretly wants too.

Miranda thinks Kane is out of her league, but she wants him all the same. And then there's the new girl.

Kaia. Who only wants trouble--and he's definitely on his way.

FROM ME: Harper is the most popular girl in school, with the coolest friends, glossiest hair and best designer knockoffs.

But her teenage life is not without wanting. But it's not "what," it's "who," and his name is Adam.

Only Adam's dating pretty young thing, Beth, who's having some late-night meetings with a certain hot French teacher...

Kane shares a bond with Harper. He wants to break up the Alpha couple, too. And maybe he'll get something out of it too: Beth, that is.

She's new in town. She has the hottest body, best clothes and has been kicked out of every East Coast boarding school. Now Kaia's stuck in Grace. Bo-ring. Except Grace seems to be crawling with guys ripped from A&F ad campaign. Kaia wants one in particular. A man. The French teacher, Mr. Powell.

And lastly, Miranda. She loves Kane. The player. So she talks about him with Harper and obsesses over her weight. And yeah. That's pretty much it for the not-quite-as-pretty redhead.

Comments. SDS has so much potential to be the newest teen lit series. Only certain things and characters pull it away from the Times' Bestseller List. Namely Miranda. At the end of the novel, I remembered NOTHING about her besides her little crush on Kane. Nothing. Also, Grace is a pretty lame town (which makes up for it in lust and longing, natch), where hookups take place in dingy motels rather than the Ritz-Carlton a la Gossip Girl and fun Friday nights involve 50-year-old coyboys and nachos rather than champagne flutes with senators.

Total: Four

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Back Talk by: Alex Richards

Book Description (from publishers): Goodbye small town hell . . . hello Big Apple! Sixteen-year-old Gemma Winters couldn't be more ecstatic-and terrified-about scoring a summer internship at one of the hippest daytime TV talk shows, Back Talk with Kate Morgan. To top it off, she's staying in a palatial brownstone in Manhattan with celebutante Dana Cox (a virtual E! True Hollywood Story in the making) and world-weary millionheiress America Vanderbilt. Gemma's corn-fed naiveté melts away as she gets a taste of designer clothes, underclubbing . . . and a cute Johnny Depp look-a-like.

The glamour fades by nine a.m. when Gemma becomes slave labor for harried producers. Not even her borrowed Manolo Blahniks can shield her from an office romance turned ugly and backstabbing fellow interns. When someone is unfairly fired and a show is at risk, Gemma goes out of her way to prove this small-town girl is more than just a "photocopy bitch."

My Review: Honestly, I don't even remember why I picked it up. I was hoping for something Gossip Girl-esque and found, well, Back Talk. The premise is promsing, if not a bit tired. Small town girl. Big city. Chaos ensues! Gemma (whose name I instantly forgot once the book was placed back on my shelf) is a nice girl. She finds herself working at a not-so-nice job, gets almost raped, and tries to save a child prostitute from demise at the hands of her pimp. I wondered if Ms. Richards didn't like her character to begin with? Name-dropping, cursing and too-fast-to-be-real falling in-n'-out of love fill the 257 pages of this book.

Total: two and a half stars. (But only because of the exagerrated workplace, which I loevd to hate, I admit.)

Generation Dead by: Daniel Waters

I did find myself oohing and ahhing over this new read and frightening my friends when I explained my eyes were brimming with tears because of all the "living impaired injustice."

"Living impaired" or "differently biotic" are the PC terms for zombie. Teenagers all across the States are coming back from the dead. But wait. Don't think this is a horror or even action-adventure. Because while there are many elements of fantasy (zombies, "magic", telepathy)and horror (murders)there are also the underlying aspects of unconventional romance, drama and racism.

Waters uses an outlandishly drawn-out world of Oakvale High, where zombies roam among the living; walking, talking and generally acting just like us. But slower.

Pete Martinsburg is used to ruling Oakvale with the rest of the Pain Crew, Adam Layman and TC Stavis, by his side. Inflicting, well, "pain" left and right, picking up cheerleaders who giggle at their every word and taunting those of lesser status than them, Pete was ready for his best year ever. But zombies are flooding in to Oakvale and he knows he doesn't like it.

Pheobe Kendall, on the other hand, couldn't be happier about the sudden flush of the living impaired. Pheebs wears black and listens to loud, punk music. No one quite understands her except her three best friends in the world: Adam, Margi and Colette. But Colette is dead. Or rather, undead. And after the events leading up to Colette's death, Margi was never the same. And Adam's too much in love with Pheobe to be a friend to her. And then she meets Tommy. A zombie with a passion for football and a death threat joined to his name. Doomed love? Absolutely.

The only reason I'm not giving this "all five stars" is the extreme use of ellipses to point out how slow the living impaired speak and several storylines that never got anywhere. I do love the surprise ending however...

Total: four stars.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Abundance of Katherines by: John Green

Colin + Katherine = break-up

If there is one mathematical formula self-professed “washed-up child prodigy” Colin Singleton knows it’s that one. Ever since Colin was a kid, he’s been dating and getting dumped by girls named Katherine. When K-19 breaks up with him, Colin packs his bags, grabs his friend, Hassan and hits the road to Gutshot, Tennessee. Home of the body of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

There he meets a Katherine, a Lindsay, another Colin, a Hollis and a host of other well-drawn small town oddities. Lindsay Lee Wells’ mother, Hollis, a fan of an old TV show Colin was on and a bizarrely nice woman, invites the boys to stay at the Pink Mansion, the giant house she bought with money from the town’s only steady source of income: the tampon-string factory.

Frequently used anagrams (words out of another word), graphs, footnotes and snappy insults in a variety of languages only add spice to a great tale of redemption, love, learning how to tell a good story (must have romance and adventure!) and finding love.

To make this a little con-crity I wish Green would have included some… Oh, I don’t know! I loved this.

Total: Four and a quarter stars out of five

Kiss My Book by: Jamie Michaels

Although this novel is very thin and took me less than a day to finish, I was equally intrigued and disgusted. Kiss My Book centers upon Ruby Crane, who lives…and works in the heart of New York City.

Ruby is one of Them. Those heart-stoppingly good-looking people who sit with the cool kids and sip hot chocolate as they watch their handsome boyfriends skate at the Rockefeller Centre. Of course, during her freshman year, Ruby was simply a Nobody: content to read and re-read Poe’s The Raven, Rebecca, and other classics, all while pounding out her own novel, The Heart Stealer.

When Ruby’s book is picked up and published, suddenly she’s on her way to literary fame…or infamy. A hot-shot celebrity reporter accuses Ruby of plagiarism while at an event promoting her own book…what’s a girl to do but start all over???

As I said before, I found this book equally interesting and pointless. Plagiarism is an issue of great importance to teens today (some of our essays are put through anti-plagiarism software on the computer) and new authors. I found myself wondering if Michaels was parroting the harrowed tale of Kaavya Viswanathan, Harvard grad and teen author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got A Life. Viswanathan was accused of plagiarising the works of Meghan McCafferty. With her, just as with Ruby Crane, her name is now tied with that dreaded word: plagiarism.

I found Kiss My Book very promising with a neat premise. Teen author’s first book accused of plagiarism? Turning her back on all she knows? But I found myself distracted with useless subplots: a romance! An instant best friend! An ancient town legend! Evil townies! Ooh! I loved the literary name-dropping however, but Michaels’ constant use of first name-last name tired me out. I’d hope that after the first couple times I’d remember MaryAnn’s last name! Also, Miss Michaels' using of the cliched "girl takes on a new identity and moves to a small town to start over" thing, was a bad move on her part. I would have loved to see at least one chapter's worth of Ruby suffering through school after "the scandal," instead poof! Ruby's gone!

Total: Three stars out of five