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:


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...


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.)



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.


Team Mike Newton.