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!


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 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.


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.


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.