Monday, November 29, 2010

The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman

The first time Wes meets June, he thinks her mouth is too wide and her eyes are too far apart. June, in return, thinks his hair is shaggy. It would seem these two were not meant to be together right from the start. And yet, against all odds, their paths continue to cross. Thus begins a romance where nothing is easy to explain or simple to figure out. Navigating through friends, family, and their own heads, Wes and June fumble towards a unique happy ending.

Wow, this book was incredible. It's funny, sad, tender, and exciting. The only other book by Pete Hautman I have read was Sweetblood, which I also enjoyed very much. Still, this one was above and beyond good. The characters, the emotions, the situations were all so raw and realistic. It showed the honest side of love - that it always isn't the clean-cut, love-at-first-sight other books make it out to be. On the contrary, Hautman creates a rather messy situation for these poor characters. I found it difficult to sympathize with June sometimes, as she wasn't very nice a lot of the time. But Hautman gives her a viable back story to explain her reserve. Readers won't be able to help but root for Wes, especially the males out there. Which brings me to one last comment: this book is equally great for girls and boys. Each will have someone to identify with, and the scenarios are common enough to speak to just about anyone. Hautman writes all of his secondary characters excellent too, with Wes' friends supporting him and June's acquaintances having their own agendas. I'll say it one last time - this book was amazing. A short read that's highly recommended!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Emma is shocked speechless when her foster brother shows her a video from the internet of a girl who looks exactly like her. Emma's never had a real family before, only foster ones. So she's super excited at the thought that she might have a long lost twin out there named Sutton. The only trouble is, Sutton is dead. As Emma leaves her world behind in search of Sutton, things quickly become dark and twisted. No one seems to realize that Sutton is gone- not her friends, her boyfriend, or even her family. Then the threatening notes begin to arrive, and Emma has no choice but to play along.

This is the first time I've read anything by Sara Shepard, though I have been wanting to start the Pretty Little Liars series for a while now. At first it was a little tricky to navigate the tenses of Sutton narrating Emma's story, but after a few chapters it gets easier. I was skeptical in a few places at how Emma managed to fit in so easily, but it was such an absorbing mystery that I was willing to overlook some of these details. She's such a brave girl! Reading about mean girls has a tendency to be so scary, with their acts of cruelty and harsh words. Overall, the chapters move quickly and the story is breezy but intense. Fans of Veronica Mars and Desperate Housewives will like the way this series starts.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 11/24/10

BOUND BY GUILT by C.J. Darlington

Roxi Gold has been shuttled from one foster home to another for most her life. She longs for a family and will do anything to fit in even if it's against the law. Soon she's traveling the country in an RV, stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores. She knows it's wrong, but if she refuses, she'll be put out on the streets.

Police officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society, and not just at work. Her ex-husband wrested her daughter away from her in a bitter custody battle. The job she once loved has become a chore, the world isn't any safer, and there's no joy in her life.

One fateful night a man's innocent blood changes both Roxi's and Abby's lives forever. One searches for justice; the other finds herself on the run until a first edition of The Great Gatsby catches up with her. Will the power of forgiveness set them free, or will they both remain bound by guilt?

I fell in love with Darlington in her first book Thicker Than Blood. Her writing was soft and suspenseful and kept me turning the pages late into the night. Plus, I'm a sucker for books where a rare book is central to the plot. Books about books! I have been waiting and waiting for this next one to come out!

Release Date: March 1, 2011

Monday, November 22, 2010

Angel by L.A. Weatherly

The only life Alex has known is being an Angel Knight, sworn to hunt and kill horrible creatures commonly identified as angels. Real angels that walk among us, blending in with humans. The Church of Angels is a group created for people who have had encounters with angels. But once a human has been touched by an angle, they are left worse off than before. It is up to Alex to track down these Angels and dispose of them so that they can't continue to hurt people. Everything is going fine, until he receives orders to kill an angel that happens to be half human. Willow Fields is not your typical high school teenager. She loves to fix cars, she buys all of her clothes second-hand, and she can predict a person's future just by holding their hand. Until the day she meets Alex, she is completely unaware of the other side of her. Going against everything he has ever known, Alex is somehow drawn to her. And despite their initial distrust of each other, they know they will have to work together if humanity has any hopes of survival.

With a market that is quickly becoming overstuffed with angel stories, this one stands out as being refreshingly different. I mean, BAD angels?! That is not something you normally hear. They were almost vampiric in nature and I thought it was rather unique. Plus, how about that semi-creepy cover? I really liked the character of Alex - how he was only a teenager but had seen so much of the world. Willow was interesting too, but I felt we didn't get to learn as much about her past as we did with Alex. I would have liked to hear more about how she lived with her incapable mother. I also liked how Weatherly switched between Willow's POV and Alex's story. It gave me time with each character to really get to know them better. Despite an exciting start and a lot of build up, however, there's not very much action in the book. Just over 500 pages and a total of three short edge-of your seat scenes. There was a little twist at the end made my heart beat faster, but Weatherly rushed through it. Perhaps this is all just part of the world-building though, which leaves me wanting to read more! Next up is Angel Fire, coming to the UK next year.

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cover Colors Part 5

This installment of Cover Colors features Christian Fiction War Time Pilots. I have noticed a surge of stories based around these stories lately, and I like the retro/vintage looks to the covers. This isn't a genre I am normally interested in reading, but it's hard not to get sucked in by some of these gorgeous images. Will probably read Love Finds You in Victory Heights, WA first, and then I am looking forward to getting into Sarah Sundin's Wings of Glory series.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ruby Notebook by Laura Resau

Leeta and her mom Layla travel to a new place every year. That's sixteen different homes in sixteen years. As an English teacher obsessed with water rituals, it's simply what her mom does. This year, it's Aix-en-Provence, France. At first, the only thing that excites Leeta is the thought of her boyfriend Wendall coming to stay with her for two months. But then she meets a traveling theater group who call themselves Illusion, and her priorities change. She finds herself spending more time with the troupe than with Wendall. Especially the charming Jean-Claude and the whimsical Amandine. She also meets an old man and woman who entice her with talk of legendary sacred healing waters, somewhere nearby. To top it all off, someone- a fantome- is leaving her baffling gifts... or perhaps clues. With so many strange pieces to Zeeta's life, she hurries to find meaning in them all.

I was totally caught off guard by how much this book sucked me in. The rich, vivid images of the French lifestyle pulled me into the world effortlessly. I admit I have not read The Indigo Notebook, but there was no trouble catching up to the story. And now I definitely want to go back and learn about Zeeta and Wendall some more! Other characters, like VIncent and his lovely pigeon Maude, were so much fun! I felt the troubles and personal struggles Zeeta went through were very rewarding in the end. Zeeta and her mother have a unique relationship with each other and life style that is sure to interest even the pickiest reader. Laura Resau has a sensual, moving style to her writing. The whole experience will leave readers enchantee. And if you liked this one, be sure to check out Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 11/17/10

ARRANGED by Catherine McKenzie

Anne Blythe is lucky. She's got a brand new book contract, a great newspaper job and a steadfast best friend, and she can land just about any man she sets her sights on - and the ones that appeal are typically tall, dark and handsome.

Problem is, the men she chooses never last. Shortly after yet another relationship goes down in flames, Anne comes across a card for what she believes is a dating service, and pockets it just in case. If she's so unlucky in love, maybe she could use a little assistance. Then her best friend announces she's engaged, and envy gets the better of Anne. Now's the time, she decides, to give the service a try - and she is shocked to discover that what the company specializes in are exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriages. After learning of the company's success rate, however, she overcomes her reluctance and signs on. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, and she's not done so well selecting a mate on her own. So why not use a professional service that claims it can produce the perfect match?

Some time later, Anne is traveling to a Mexican resort, where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack, the man they have chosen for her. And against all odds, it seems to be working out, until Anne learns that Jack and the company who arranged their marriage are not what they seem at all.

Not a typical choice for me, but I am intrigued nonetheless. What's the mystery? I must know!!! Looking forward to checking this one out.

Release Date: January 8, 2011

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fear Street Flashback (10)

Why? Because FEAR STREET was like, my favorite series growing up.

Originally released in February, 1995.

What fun! A Truth or Dare game gone bad! What potential this premise has! Unfortunately, RL Stine doesn't quite measure up to all of the possibilities. I immediately liked all of the characters, even bad boy Tony, who wasn't supposed to be at the house. Dara was great and had a little trouble-maker streak in her too... I wished we could have spent more time with her! I also liked the setting of a ski lodge with no adults around and only friends to keep you company. How fun is that?? Of course, things did go bad, but still the thought of all the snow and beautykept me glued to the pages. And I was definitely surprised by the ending. Totally did not see that one coming. A good book and fun to read, but there just wasn't enough evidence of a threat to really have me spooked anywhere.

Fear Rating: 1 out of 3 Screams

Friday, November 12, 2010

Teenage Waistland by Lynn Biederman and Lisa Pazer

Marcie Mandlebaum knows she is grossly overweight, and can't help feeling as though her mother would love her more if only she was thinner. Bobby is a mediocre football player with dreams of being a star, but he has his "moobies" and his father's expectations to hurdle first. Annie "East" Itou feels sad all the time since her brother moved away and her mother refuses to leave her bedroom. The only time she feels half normal is when she is pigging out with Char. Char is East's best friend who is also hiding a huge secret, one that could unravel East's entire life. On the inside, these four teens are seemingly very different. On the outside, however, they are all morbidly obese. After going through a series of tests and interviews, they all qualify for a controversial Lap-Band clinical trial, a surgery that will help them lose large amounts of weight. It also means drastically changing their lifestyles, though, and the four friends will get to know themselves and each other better than they ever have before.

Teenage Waistland is a surprisingly good book. I was snagged right at the beginning from the incredibly raw voices each character had. But be warned: this book is not full of happy scenes and feel-good moments. On the contrary, the stories are all quite tragic and sad, each in their own unique way. I admit I got a little squeamish over some of the details, but it was fascinating to read about the Lap-Band. Who hasn't seen those ads and wondered what it was? I thought there wasn't enough about the eating habits or requirements after the surgery though, as it was mainly about the emotional impact of the weight and the baggage each teen had in their life. This almost glorified the surgery, showing the teens losing a ton of weight and overcoming their emotional baggage, without paying tribute to the intense eating lifestyle changes. Lynn Bierderman and Lisa Pazer are fantastic writers, creating some really touching moments and a few downright hilarious ones. Buying a certain item for Marcie's sister's party CRACKED me up! And though it felt rushed, the ending wrap-up for all of the characters was rewarding.

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 11/10/10

MAD LOVE by Suzanne Selfors

When you're the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life should be pretty good. But 16-year-old Alice Amorous has been living a lie ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness. After putting on a brave front for months, time is running out. The next book is overdue, and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs a story for her mother—and she needs one fast.

That's when she meets Errol, a strange boy who claims to be Cupid, who insists that Alice write about the greatest love story in history: his tragic relationship with Psyche. As Alice begins to hear Errol's voice in her head and see things she can't explain, she must face the truth—that she's either inherited her mother's madness, or Errol is for real.

I am a big fan of Selfors' writing, both her teen books and her stories for younger kids. She writes great premises with the perfect twinge of the paranormal. It took a while for the cover of this one to be released, and now I can't wait to read it!

Release Date: January 4, 2011

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bound by Book-to-Movie Law: Percy Jackson

Book-to-Movie Law states that once you have read the book, you are bound to go see the movie based on said book, and therefor compare to two.

Oh man, the movie was terrible. Terrible for me perhaps, as I am not specifically the target audience. I can see where younger boys might like it a lot more. I was surprised by how different it was from the book. The Lightning Thief read like it was made for the big screen, but the actually movie changed around a lot of smaller details to make it feel almost like it's own entity. The main points of action were still the same, sure. But there were a lot of minor details that were changed for the movie, perhaps unnecessarily. Some were simple character changes, some chronological, others were teeny references in plot. I didn't think these changes worked to make the movie version more palatable for movie-going audiences, but maybe they did. The special effects were a little cheesy at times, too, though it was very cool to see some of those mythical creatures comes to life. Anyone know if they are working on making the second book?

Bottom line: While the movie was fun, I think boy readers would enjoy reading the book and imagining it in their own head first.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Holidays: Time for Tomes

Ahhhh, the holidays. Time to see the family, eat yummy food, and spend lots of time with books. If you're anything like me, the upcoming holidays represent time off and relaxing with a good book. Sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace with quiet music in the background and a good book open on my lap. This year, I am making it a goal to use the days off to tackle some larger books. Books too long in length to squeeze into the normally busy schedule. It would be super nice to finish at least one on my list, but it would be even more awesome to finish these four:

What are the tomes on your holiday reading list?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My First Love by Callie West

Amy Wyse lives with her busy mom and her busy schedule. It is her junior year of school and she is studying for the SATs, getting involved in tons of extra-curricular activities, and working hard to keep her grades as high as possible. There is no room for boyfriends in her life. But all that changes when in a moment when her long time friend unexpectedly kisses her. To add to this unknown territory, Amy realizes she is not attracted to her friend, but rather to Chris Shepherd from swim team. As luck would have it, he is interested in her too, and a relationship soon blossoms. However, spending time with Chris means Amy is spending less time on her school work, and her grades start to slip. Amy needs to quickly figure out how to balance these new feelings with her already full life if she wants to continue to succeed!

This novel is short in length, and I read it in one sitting. The first thing I did when I finished was close my eyes and revel in the romance. SO ROMANTIC! It only took a few pages for me to fully dive into the plot. Chris is completely dreamy. The perfect balance of bad boy and total gentleman. Amy is very easy to identify with. Callie West writes a raw teen voice complete with confusion and hope. The details in her mom being both a comfort to her and a burden on her existence will ring true for many readers. It may even help teens cope with the stress of wanting it all in high school - the great boyfriend, the sports super-star, and the college career. Though readers may be disappointed with the sudden ending, this is a tender-hearted book sure to speak to every girl out there who's ever been in love before.

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 11/3/10

ENTANGLED by Cat Clarke

The same questions whirl round and round in my head:
What does he want from me?
How could I have let this happen?

17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got here.

As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see?

Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here?

Besides the stunning cover, doesn't that synopsis sound so intriguing?? Haven't heard many early reviews on this one yet, but I am definitely going to pick it up.

Release Date: January 6, 2011

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Beautiful Dead: PHOENIX by Eden Maguire

Love lingers long after death, doesn't it? That is the question Darina has been trying to answer since the death of her boyfriend Phoenix almost a year ago. Four teenagers from her town died during the course of a single year and turned into the Beautiful Dead. Darina was enlisted to help each of them solve the mystery surrounding their deaths, to help them cross over permanently and not remain as tortured beings. At last it is Phoenix's turn, only Darina is torn between wanting to help Phoenix and wanting to keep him close by her side.

I picked this one up almost immediately after finishing Summer's story. I needed some closure with Phoenix!I haven't enjoyed a series this much since reading Helen Dunmore's Ingo books. Eden Maguire wraps things up beautifully. No questions go unanswered, no character is left hanging unsatisfied (even Hunter!). Honestly, I thought it would be a lot more difficult for Darina to say goodbye to Phoenix, but when I look back at all she's been through, it was incredible to see her grow to be so strong. It showed a lot of talent on Maguire's part to tie all four stories in together in some way, much like how small towns are so closely knit. Wish I could say more, but don't want to give away any spoilers. Her next series is called Dark Angel and it sounds equally enticing. Thanks for the great reads, Eden!

Overall Rating: 5 Stars
Rating in Series: Hmm. Maybe this was a tie with Arizona's story. Good, but still not as powerful as the first one!