Thursday, December 18, 2008

GIRL WEEK

Over at Reviewer X's most amazing blog, she is doing something SUPER-
AWESOME!! As she usually is. Right now, she is doing this thing called Girl Week, which is basically a whirlwind of reviews and author interviews and guest blogs and contests, all relating to feminism. I think this rocks. A lot.

Girl Week also features some really really incredible contests. Such as two of my very favorite series(es? what is the plural of series? any grammer nazis out there?), complete, and SIGNED. Yes. SIGNED.

Go! GO! I direct you to the nifty table of contents.
http://reviewerx.blogspot.com/2008/12/girl-week-table-of-contents.html

I'm off to read an interview with Megan McCafferty.
:)))

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Whirlwinds Return!

The Maelstroms are back at their old home!

And to celebrate a year of reviewing, they're having a really amazing contest, where, should you win, you get A LOT OF STUFF.
A lot of awesome stuff, including:

TWO books, which you pick from lists of each reviewer's favorites.
A mix of music compiled by the Maelstrom.
A random bookmark from Ireland
and a UK copy of Artemis Fowl.

So go! Contest! Rules here. (I mean, there------>)http://www.maelstrombooks.blogspot.com

Love,
Caroline

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lost It- Kristin Tracy


I could respond to what my dear cohort said in her last post, but since I am so delightfully selective about the reality I choose to accept, I'm doing a review instead.

---------------------------------------------------


At the start of her junior year, Tess Whistle is a fairly sheltered girl. Her parents are strict (she's not allowed to get a driver's license, even though she lives in Idaho, where permits are handed out at fourteen), she's got a portrait of (a mysteriously blond) Jesus hanging in her living room, and she's absolutely set on saving herself for Serious Engagement. Also, she's terrified of nature (or, more to the point, terrified of the unknown). Of course, this is all before her kitchen is set on fire, her mother becomes 'born again', and both of her parents take off for an Outward Bound-type camp in the desert. This is before her best friend becomes detirmined to blow up a neighborhood poodle. This is before Ben Easter. Sheltered is soon to be the last word that could describe Tess with any accuracy.


I think that anyone who has read any substantial amount of YA fiction has read plenty of books that, upon first inspection, seem very similar to this one. The "innocent girl loses her virginity to her first boyfriend and gets her heartbroken" storyline is a familiar one, to be sure. And I was kind of hesitant to read this for that reason. However, I was really pleasantly surprised. This book actually broke down a lot of cliches, and handled a common concept in a new, intriguing way. The relationship between Ben and Tess was done beautifully. One of my favorite things about it was the way Tess wasn't totally enchanted by Ben- she actually recognized when he said something cheesy, which almost never happens in books. It's such a nice thing to see, because it's realistic. He had faults; he seemed like an actual guy, not a perfect and beautiful and witty and never-lame-ever-at-all type that I read about most of the time, and I loved him all the more for it. Also, I was overjoyed that this book strayed away from making Ben the skeezy skirt chaser who bolts after getting to the girl's pants. That made me very happy.


This book would have been pretty good if it had stuck to the Ben and Tess storyline, but the subplots were what really made it great for me. I loved Tess's crazy grandmother (who gives Tess boy-wisdom she learned from her pet monkey) and adored Zena, Tess's best friend, who is blunt and crazy and weird and awesome. I love a book with a good best friend. The writing was really nice in this as well. I can't wait to read whatever Kristin Tracy puts out there next!


4.5 cups for this one.


Love,

Caroline
PS: comments make me so so so so so so happy and i need all the happy i can get right now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

so tired of being the one

to tell you that I'm sorry. For not being active. The issue is, I'm, personally, not sure if I have the time to keep up with this blog anymore. I barely keep up with my personal blog, and that isn't as difficult. I'm thinking about reviewing a few more books this month (one for Discordia is actually in the process of being written) and then taking December off. I've been planning to take December off for a while, since I'll be gone for half of it, and I'm going to try to realize during Christmas break, maybe re-read some books that I really love and read a few more that aren't reviewing material. Some things I just want to get out of the way. After that--and I haven't even talked to Caroline about this-- I think I'll decide if I want to continue anymore. Probably not, since we are performing Emma for Drama Club next semester and that's going to be an insane amount of rehearsals, and long ones at that. So I'll be just as busy next semester (well, more probably) and that will make it harder. I'm sad that if I decide not to that I won't have even lasted a year.

And there are so many things about being in the YA reviewing world that I love. I love talking to authors and all of our readers. I love receiving books in the mail, which doesn't happen otherwise. I love the opportunities I receive by reviewing. And I love books and talking about them. But I don't love the work that I have to put into keeping this blog up-to-date, or pausing and writing a review between books, or ignoring school work so I can do this stuff. But if there's a reviewing team out there that I can join part-time coming January, I'll be perfectly happy with that. So if there's anyone out there that wouldn't mind me coming to their team in January, let me know, please.

Heather, your long lost reviewer

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

as simple as snow- gregory galloway


caution: this is not a short review.

________________________

Anna Cayne had moved here in August, just before our sophomore year in high school, but by February she had, one by one, killed everyone in town. So begins this beautiful, tragic, maddening novel. If I've ever come across a better first line, it currently escapes me. And, believe it or not, the novel gets even better than this. But, to give you a bit of back story before I leap into my unending praise:


It is said that Anna Cayne was born in a thunderstorm. A slightly spooky and complicated high school girl with a penchant for riddles, short wave radios, Houdini tricks, and ghost stories, Anna spends much of her time writing obituaries for every living person in town. She is unlike anyone the narrator has ever been with, and they make an unlikely, though happy, pair.*


Until Anna disappears, a week before Valentine's day. There is no evidence left behind except for a neatly placed dress near a hole in the frozen river, and no one is certain what's happened to Anna- murder, suicide, runaway- but the narrator is desperate to find out, especially as anonymous packages and coded messages continue to reach him. As Simple As Snow is a tale of love, of mystery, of ghosts, and of codes.


So much of this story is a mystery that it's a bit hard to write about. Anna, to start with the obvious, is the most enigmatic character I have ever encountered- not only in her disappearance, but in everything that precedes it- her bruises, her peculiar habits, her postcards and packages and notes, her riddles and her on again/off again tattoo. As she puzzles the narrator, the reader is left hopelessly confused as well- but hooked, captivated from their first conversation. Of course, Anna isn't the the only mystery here by a long shot. The narrator is never named, for one thing, which is even more infuriating here then it is in Rebecca, because of Anna's tantalizing hints. And actually figuring the name out posed even more questions- and more crazy theories. Even the acknowledgements are written in a code, mentioned earlier as belonging to Houdini and his wife (with the author's apologies to Harry and Bess). But while all of this makes me mad in both senses of the word, I love it. All of this is what makes the book impossible to put down, at least with obsessing over it for every second it's not in your hand. This is a book that you (I, anyway) stay up until 1:30 in the morning finishing, have nightmares about, and start thinking about again as soon as the alarm clock goes off 5 hours later.


Well. That's, at least, one of the things that make this novel so amazing.


The characters are multifaceted and fascinating. Anna- impossible, enigmatic, twisted Anna- is more compelling than any character I've ever read about. Her riddles, her lies, her answered questions; she has no equal in the worlds of any of the other books I've read. And Anna is only the beginning. There's Claire, the girl who is too sweet to be a Goth; Carl, the most popular guy in school, a drug dealer, and the narrator's only friend; Bryce Druit, Mr. Devon, and their inexplicable relationships with Anna; the complex and utterly screwed-up parents of Carl, Anna, and the narrator. Our storyteller himself, who very early on assures us that he is 'bland as milk- or, worse, water' establishes himself otherwise almost immediately.


And, of course, I can't resist a good love story. What I like about Ana and the narrator's relationship, first of all, is that it starts nearly right away- there is a minimal amount of the whole pining and chasing and ridiculousness that is seen in nearly every book out there. Everything about their courtship is so straightforward, so to the point. So simple. The contrast between this and the complexities of the novel and the relationship itself is brilliant. Also, there is nothing gushy or cutesy about Anna and the narrator's interactions,and yet they are an incredibly endearing couple. Their intelligent banter, their twisted manner of flirting- there is an intimacy to the way they talk, and it though neither of them once say it, it is undeniable that they love each other. And you- or, I, anyway, once again- find yourself thinking: this is what matters. This is what perfect is: not roses, not getting on an airplane with someone at a moment's notice, not landing the gorgeous guy or the most romantic first kiss or the biggest engagement ring. This. Conversations like those. That is perfect. That is love. And it is utterly devastating when it comes to an end.


The writing is exceptional. I regretted checking this book out of the library as soon as I started it- there is something on practically every page that merits annotation, hearts and underlines and scribbled thoughts. I will definitely be needing my own copy of this. Galloway writes with skill, with feeling, with beauty. As clever and as well thought out as the story clearly is, it never seems contrived. It feels so real, in fact, that I have to wonder whether I'm so sure it's not.


Yet another mystery.


But Anna sums that up better than I could if I tried to re-write this review for a lifetime:


"It's almost more fun not knowing," she said, "if you knew what it all meant, then it might not be as interesting or compelling. That's probably half the fun, not knowing. Sometimes there's more in the mystery of things than anything else."


Five overflowing cups of coffee could not bring me the same sense of euphoria as this book. No lie.


Go. Read this book.

And if you already have, uh... please email me or something so we can chat about it because I need to discuss this with someone.


ever so glad to be making her comeback,

Caroline



Monday, October 20, 2008

I feel as if a part of me is gone

How long's it been? Nearly a month now?

Sorry about the lack of reviews. I have no excuse for myself, and the only excuse I can think of for Caroline is that she is always slack like this. And that she has books I lent her months ago still on a shelf dedicated to me, unread (oh, how I love it). But I can tell you the reason is one-hundred-percent NOT becuase of a lack of books. No, we have plenty to read. In fact, I feel as if my life has been engulfed in books. Not a bad thing, I tell you. I've been moving from book to book and not giving myself time to review them. I'm sort of planning on just shoving myself back into the literary world and forcing myself to review Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde (amazing, if I do say so myself). But...I don't know. It's a very high possibility that shoving won't occur for some time. I've read many books since I seemingly abandoned Plenty of Paper, just having made myself review them. I will, though, soon (I hope).

I also hope that Caroline will bring forth a review of the many books she has read, too, because I just love reading what she has to say. I'm sure you do, too, don't you? She has a way with words I've yet to master, and I'm hoping she'll grace us here with her presence once more in the near future (and I'll be sure to tell her that either tonight or tomorrow at school).
So thanks for those of you who still read our lovely blog. Thanks for your patience, your loyalty, and most of all, your bookwormness.
Heather, your long lost reviewer.
Also, is anyone else just a tad bit sad that the Paper Towns Countdown has been completed? I mean, I'm happy the wait is over (even though mine was over a little while ago) but really? It's like the end of an era.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. So with single-minded determination, Craig works night and day to ace the entrance exam. Once he does that, he gains admission to this elite school. That’s when everything starts to unravel.

Once Craig starts at the new school he realizes a shocking truth. He is just one of the many brilliant kids who attend the school. In fact, he isn’t even brilliant, he's just average. Craig soon starts to see his once-perfect future crumbling away. He begins to have trouble eating, sleeping doing the routine things that used to be simple everyday activities. He eventually realizes he is clinically depressed.

So begins Craig’s battle with depression- which involves seeing a myriad of specialists, taking medication, and, at his most desperate, checking himself into a psychiatric hospital. There, Criag meets a motley crew of patients- his roommate, who is afraid to leave their room, a girl who has scarred her own face with a pair of scissors, and a transsexual sex addict. But somehow this odd cast of characters start to seem more like real friends to Craig than anyone he has ever known. At the hospital, Craig is finally able to come to terms with the overwhelming pressures that come from the school, his friends and most of all, himself.

The dynamic characters interwoven into every part of this witty novel were themselves witty, interesting, and personal. Craig is the main character, depressed and unstable, and learning hist story was a great way to spend my time, but he wasn't the only one with an intersting history. When he goes to the psychiatic hospital, Craig makes many friends, and they all have heartbreaking pasts and hopeful futures. You want each of them to succeed and this connection to the story sucks you in until you get lost in the map of It's Kind of a Funny Story.



Ned Vizzini's writing is clever and has a unique voice which transcends the gap between writer and character. There's no other novel about a messed up teenager that is this good. He makes something that is as sad as depression, into something heavy with dry wit. No matter how much you think you should be upset, or tearing up, or feeling bad for these people, he can make you crack up at a single action, until you realize you shouldn't feel bad for the people in the psychiatric hospital, you should be laughing along with them.



Ned Vizzini himself spent five days in the same hospital Craig spends his time in. He gives you a look inside the mind of a depressed teen, and all his friends that are likewise screwed up.



5/5 cups of coffee.


♥Heather

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Is it just me...

or does it seem like you go through phases with books? The whole summer, I picked up very few novels that I thought were worth my time (and money), and then even less that I thought deserved much praise.

But then, just a couple weeks ago, I recieved Paper Towns by John Green (review directly below) and my whole reading life turned around. I've read so many spectacular--or at the very least well-written and executed--novels. These include The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright (review in progress), It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (also a review in the near future), and The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima. So now that I'm on a roll, I'm almost fearful of continuing, in case I break the streak. But that still won't stop me. =)

So I've got a questions for all the readers out there:

1) Do you hit periods of highs or lows when reading a continuous supply of books? Times when all you read is bad, or everything you pick up is good?
2) When you do hit those, do you ever think of stopping because you give up trying to find something good? Or because you're afraid the next one will be bad?
3) What have you read recently that's worth mentioning?


♥Heather

Saturday, September 6, 2008

the much-anticipated Paper Towns by John Green


Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life--dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge--he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues--and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

When entering this novel, my expectations were high for a favorite author and vlogger John Green. After reading Steph's review I was even more expectant of a major wow-ing.

And I wasn't completely disappointed. This novel comes in three parts (I was actually just imagining John saying that in my head as he does for his videos) and the first of which is astoundingly resonating. Margo Roth Spiegelman is the most dynamic character ever presented by John or any other author and as she leads Quentin through a whirlwind of adventures throughout this part and the rest of the novel, pieces of her start to form together, creating a whole new person no one ever knew.

I can't deny that Paper Towns shows resemblance to Looking for Alaska, John's first novel, but I can't deny, either that it is a book of it's own and should be judged so. Not only Margo, but every other character in this world has his or her own role (just as is pointed out near the end of the story). Quentin's two best friends are Ben, a tragically confident band geek that can't live up to his own hype, and Radar, a computer whiz who spends all his time editing Omnictionary articles on his handheld. And then you have Quentin himself, a regular high school guy on the bottom of the food chain, whose only friends are in band when he has no apparent talent at all and enjoys boredom.

John Green has yet to put together a cast so familiar of a high school and yet so spectacular as he has now done with Paper Towns.

And while the middle drags a bit, as Quentin follows Margo's trail, John's writing transcends this pause in action as he ponders poetry, metaphors, the human nature, and how we're all connected. He uses his brilliance (because John Green has a brilliant mind) to ask questions that reach far beyond the simple mind-set of a typical YA novel.

I can't tell you if Paper Towns is any better than John's other novels because it sits on a different plane. It doesn't have the same hilarity of An Abundance of Katherines, nor the pain and sadness of Looking for Alaska, but it does have it's own unique in between story of a girl and a boy whose lives run parallel for the longest time and finally intersect one night, leaving them both changed forever.

5 large cups of bookstore coffee.

Heather
To pre-order your own copy of Paper Towns online, you can go to Amazon, Books-A-Million, or Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

just a few and a little


Updates and explanation, that is.


To explain: The whole being AWOL thing isn't because we're giving up on this or reviewing. I've been asked that a few times and I'm just clearing things up. My reasoning for my lack of presence is partially--and ironically--because of summer reading. The books I have to read are tedious, boring, and demand most of my attention. Plus, I fear that if I pick up another book, I'll keep picking up books after that and never get around to giving in to the dark presence that is summer reading. The test(s) are in four days and I'm only half-way through my first book (of two). This is, to say the least, abnormal for me, usually I'm done at least 5 days before the tests. =)


So that's part of the reasoning. My absence is primarily do to that, but I have to give credit also to the fact that I'm slack, lazy, and always procrastinating. I've put off writing my review for How To Build a House by Dana Reinhardt (a fantastic book, btw) for months. Now I've almost forgotten the specifics and my review will probably be lame. Eh, what can you do? Oh, wait, I know. Review a book right after you read it. Alas, this probably will not happen in the near future with school starting and writing other things before certain dates in January and all other busy stuff that may involve getting a job. But I will try.


To update: I'm hoping to keep the contest bar updated better than I have, so please, please, please let me know if you're hosting a contest of any sort or you know about one that isn't already listed in the sidebar. The easiest way for me to recieve the information (prize, how to enter, link to the post about it, link to your blog--I occasionally forget the urls--the end date, and anything else you think I should add in) is through email (plentyofpaper234@aol.com). You can send a message to me on myspace (link to our page in the blog roll), but I prefer email.


Also, the poll feature of our blog is hard to keep up if we don't have anything to ask. If you have a suggestion, please let us know in an email what it is. The last couple months have been late because we haven't been able to think up a question, but we want to keep it going. I think it's interesting to know what our readers think, what they like, and what they read. So please, if you have an idea, suggest it. We would be forevor indebted to you (okay, maybe not forever. There is an expiration date, I'm just not sure how long it'll last).


Thanks so much,

Heather

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Elite by Jennifer Banash


When Casey McCloy steps into The Bramford, she's overwhelmed by the sophistication and elegance of it all. Fresh from the Midwest [a town called Normal, fittingly], she's moved to New York City to live with her grandmother and attend the prestigious Meadowlark Academy. Here, all that matters is who you know. The designer to know is Zac Posen. The girl to know is Madison Macallister: popular, pretty, and platinum blond. She's not just Casey's new classmate and neighbor; she's an icon. So Casey aims to get in with Madison and her gorgeous gal pals from the start. As the reigning queen of coolness, Madison is capable of destroying reputations with one well-timed whisper. Better to be on her good side.

After a haute makeover from her new frenemy Madison, Casey is wearing [some of] the right clothes, saying [on occasion] the right things, and meeting the right people. Including Drew, the boy-about-town Madison thinks belongs to her and her alone...

When I first picked up this book, I was expecting to be awed or disappointed. I wasn't anticipating an odd combination of the both. But, for reviewing purposes, I'll point out both bad and good.

I was disappointed that this was what I expected it to be. The Elite was yet another story of a poor girl from the Midwest in a rich neighborhood in the northeast, going to an elite school that her family had to pull strings for her to even get into, and trying to befriend the richest, most popular, and nastiest girl she can find. Casey was yet another girl who was smart back home, but isn't now that she's moved to a new state, with new classmates, and new rules. She had a crush on the rich frenemy's not-boyfriend, and he liked her back. He was different from all those other guys. She was different from all those other girls. It had all the elements needed to be yet another one of those books--the ones I typically try to avoid. I could have run off a checklist and it would have met if not all then 99% of the criteria to be one of them.

This, I think, was the error. Having such a well-known plot won't bring recognition. I'm sure in a few months or a year, I'd forget I even read this book if it wouldn't be sitting on the top shelf of my bookcase. Even then, it's packed so tightly between more memorable books with more original plot lines that it might slip through the cracks and be lost to my memory forever.

But then, it also had some of the criteria needed for a good book, or at least one with potential, and maybe, I will remember it months or years from now. Jennifer Banash's style of writing was slightly different from the a-typical YA novel, using phrases, even if rare, that brought out the light behind the pages. And the characters have more depth than usual, each of them with a story. You even start to feel something for the girl you want to hate, which is an element key to a good story. If you don't like the characters, you can't like the book. But telling the individual stories of Madison, Sophie, Pheobe, Drew, and Casey, Jennifer Banash made a good decision. I liked to hear about their families, and how they really felt about everything. It made them more real and less of the typical mold that they fit. The only character I didn't think deserved any feeling at all (whether it be hatred or sympathy or something in the middle) was Casey. She was annoyingly self-conscious, a kiss-up, too clueless for her own good, and easily manipulated. I felt like she got what she deserved in Madison's horrid treatment of her. She wasn't anything more than the mold.

The most annoying thing about The Elite, though, was not the plot, was not Casey, and had nothing to do with the actual story. When reading it, I thought it surely must be a well-edited ARC, since the only other option is a poorly-edited finished novel. There were many mistakes I noted, the most obvious of which is the confusion of the school's name. I assume the correct title is Meadowlark, as that is what it's called on the back of the book, Casey says it's Meadow...something, and I counted 17 of those spellings, but I also counted 8 misspellings that name the school Meadlowlark, with an l. That is just one of many errors that I came across. [If you're reading this, Ms. Banash, I would be happy to point out every error that I actually marked so that they can be fixed for the next printing. I feel I have a very successful career as an editor, as I'm a total grammar freak--I've been called a Super Rambo Grammar Nazi, in fact, but don't ask me what that means.]

While there were many aspects of The Elite I didn't enjoy, I still feel like the next book in the series, In Too Deep, is one to look forward to, as most series only get better with time. This novel has potential, I guarantee, and I definitely wouldn't tell someone not to read it. I wouldn't tell anyone to jump up an buy it this instant, either, though. I give the first book in what seems to be a possibly promising series, just a 3.5, nothing too harsh, nothing to kind.

Heather
(a positive review from me can be expected soon, which I'm sure some of you will be waiting for, as my last few reviews have been mostly negative)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hacking Harvard- Robin Wasserman


Eric Roth, Max Kim, and Isaac Schwarzbaum have been hacking for, more or less, their entire lives. Always fairly little things- taking down teachers, bullies, people who deserve it. The trio fervently insists that their misdeeds are not 'pranks', but it's hard to find another word for the things that Max, Eric, and Schwarz do. Jokes, involving break-ins and a lot of computers. Small things.

Until Max is offered a position at a hacking company that pays in stocks. Until his father threatens to cut him off and leave him penniless if he doesn't follow the path that's been laid out for him since his father's college days. Until Max makes a bet. Until the trio embarks on a mission to take down America's most acclaimed, competitive university.

Eric, Max, and Schwarz are hacking into Harvard. They'll play the system, step by step, until the biggest slacker in their school is holding a thick envelope edged in crimson.

Only, Lex, our narrarator, is kind of in the way.

Hacking Harvard is a very good book.

The writing is exceptional. Lex's voice is a very strong one, even in those scenes in which she seems to be nothing more than an omniscient narrarator. That's actually one of the many interesting facets of this novel- it's told in first person, but Lex is absent for the vast majority of the story. The prose is also very elegantly spun, while still managing to be humorous. The writing definitely made me want to read more- all!- of Robin Wasserman's other books.

The concept was so original, too. It was actually the first thing that sold me on this book, the writing being the second.

And third?

The characters.

As a major and long time nerd-lover, a book about three guys who HACK into an Ivy League school is, no lie, seriously appealing to me.
And the three of them were excellent.

Schwarz, the prodigy who is adorable. Not my crush of the novel by a long-shot (he has a Playboy fixtation but is scared of normal girls), but very lovable. He lets Max and Eric and the girl he's crushing on boss him around to no end, and he's a sixteen-year-old Harvard freshman. He promotes many feelings of 'aww'.

Max, the relatively reckless ringleader (Wow, that alliteration was completely unintentional. That is scary), with the out-there schemes and great sense of humor. He's the least nerdy-acting of them all, which proudly defies the whole smart-asian-guy stereotype. (Eric and Schwarz are Jewish).

Finally, there's Eric. Oh, Eric. Eric, the righteous moral compass who wears tee-shirts to advertise his causes and sticks to the Hacker's Code at all costs. He takes Lex to a planetarium on a non-date. He's wonderful.

Lex is cool, too, at least towards the end of the novel.

The only problem with this novel is a bit of under-developement. In the beginning chapters, Max and Eric are both given colorful family situations, but, save for the looming threat of Max's father's financial cut-off and a few appearences by Eric's younger sister, they fade away completely as the novel progresses. There is also the fascinating Alice Morgenthal, who went insane after receiving rejection letters from every college she applied to and had some sort of thing with Eric. Her story is so poignant and interesting, and yet it's totally neglected. I would have loved to see more of her in the novel.

Regardless, this is an awesome book. The ending, in particular, is satisfying without tying everything up in a big red bow. Depsite Lex's early allusions to several children's stories, it's no fairy tale. (thank the lord).

Also, an awesome fact that was, strangely enough, absent in the 'About the Author'? Robin Wasserman WENT TO HARVARD.

Can we say amazing?
We can indeed.

4.5 stars for Hacking Harvard!

-Caroline

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Alpha Dog by Jennifer Ziegler


Seventeen-year old Katie isn’t used to being in control. She lets everybody boss her around. Her mother drives her crazy with her constant criticism and advice, and her boyfriend of two years just destroyed her whole world by dumping her on her birthday. Yeah, he's just such a nice guy, especially since the reason he dumped her is because he was already cheating on her.

It’s just as well that Katie’s headed to a summer program at the University of Texas in Austin–at least there, she can get over Chuck at her own pace. But Austin holds its own challenges–like Christine, a cooler-than-thou roommate whose rocker boyfriend is permanently camped out on the couch. Along with all his rocker band-mates. They never seem to leave, and they're always eating Katie's food.

Christine drags Katie to the city pound to check out a potential pet, being that she totally loves wiener dogs. It’s Katie, though who ends up falling in love with a pair of brown doggie eyes. Before she can think it through, she’s standing out on the curb with her adorable new dog, Seamus.

There’s only one problem: Seamus is a holy terror. He chews up the apartment, barks maniacally, terrorizes their landlady’s cat, and seems destined to keep Elevator Guy, the cutest guy in their building, far away. Soon enough, Katie is being threatened by her landlady to be evicted, and by her roommate, who hates Seamus after he tears up the apartment.

Finally, Katie takes Seamus in for obedience training, where she’s told, “You have to be the alpha dog.”

The alpha dog. The head of the pack. Katie has never wielded much power before, but she finds that being top dog can be addictive. Soon she’s acting the alpha dog in every phase of her life, standing up to Christine and her boyfriend, taking control of her own life and actually talking to and nothing will ever be the same.

I have to say that I fully appreciate winning this copy from the late Page Flipper's blog because, while not my favorite book ever, it was rather entertaining. The writing was clever and captivating--even when the plot and characters weren't. I haven't read Jennifer Ziegler's other novel, How Not To Be Popular, but the concept seemed much more appealing to me when I first heard about either of these books. The concept behind Alpha Dog is a weak plot with morals. That's it. There's nothing about it that may appeal to any reader when first picked up (unless, of course, you are a huge dog-lover) but once you start reading, the writing makes up for that.

Alpha Dog was one of those stories with characters that you don't particularly like, and a plot that isn't the best, but you can't take your head out of. I don't know what it is with characters named Katie but I just have a problem with them (see my review for Perfect You). This specific Katie had too many problems with self-esteem, let people boss her around too much, and made everything a bigger deal than it was.

I'm kind of getting tired of the typical low self-esteem main character of books. I'd like to see something more original (I, myself, am guilty of this, so I don't mean this to be harsh) because most readers, while they may relate to the main character, won't really like her. I don't mean that I would prefer her to be a perfect snob, but Katie just conforms to whatever someone wants her to. She lets Christine take over the apartment, she lets the guys in the band eat her food and sleep on her couch, and she lets her mother treat her like a five-year-old. Not to mention she lets her boyfriend of two years walk all over her and then gets very, very upset when he breaks up with her after cheating.

That is too much of a self-esteem issue.

And I realize that was the center for the plot. Taking charge. Becoming the alpha dog in her own life, but that's what I think made it so weak. If having those issues makes a character weak, they're going to make a plot weak. It was a good message, and a good life lesson, but I don't think it needed to be the main point of the plot.

There were some good parts to Alpha Dog, though! I feel like I need to point those out so as not to put you too down on this book.

Jennifer Ziegler is a great writer. There had to be something to suck me in, right? Well, that was it. Like I said before, I haven't read How Not To Be Popular, so I have not other judging standpoints, but I was impressed with Alpha Dog. She took the opportunity to be a writer when it arose. She's not the best I've read, but this was her first novel. Not every author starts out as great as they can be. And from what I've read of reviews for HNTBP this is the case with her.

There were many times when I thought she found the perfect line, or the best word to fit into a situation.

And then, there was Matt. Matt was the perfect addition to the novel, as I think he saved it from being lost to my memory forever. He had depth, a past, complexity. He, I think, was the most developed character of the whole story--and the most vulnerable. At times, he appeared to be a Knight in Shining Armor, and others, you didn't know what to make of him. But as he moved in next door to Katie and Christine, Katie kept running into him in the elevator. Hence, Elevator Guy.

Unfortunately, this was his name for over half the book. She didn't even know his actual name was Matt until a little over halfway when Christine through a party. And then he was sort of absent for a while, and came back later--and somehow as a big part of the story? I think Jennifer Ziegler worked too hard to try to squeeze him in the end when it should have been effortless to work him into the whole story. He fits with Katie. They have chemistry. Why wait till the end to show it?

Though it may not seem like it, I did enjoy this book. I think that if you're a dog lover, you should definitely pick it up, and if not, then put it on your list for later. You may find you like it--a lot.

3.5 cups of java for this one.

Heather

Friday, July 11, 2008

moving from the sidebar to the center!--Contests Around the Blogosphere!

Our main contest creator is The Story Siren, who at the moment has 3, count 'em, THREE contests going on.

The first is her monthly contest. All you have to do to enter the monthly contests each month is comment on the Author Tales posts every Thursday, simple as that. The second is her COLOSSAL 20,000 hits contest (can you believe it? 20,000 hits!). To see the information for this contest, just go to this post. All you have to do is fill out a survey!

But the third (and the best) is a Mega, ENORMOUS contest to celebrate the new book in the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn. There are tons of prizes for this one, so head on over here. There are tons of ways to gain extra entries, so go on and get started!

The Book Muncher is also having an amazing contest to win three books. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, When It Happens by Susane Colasanti, and This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. One winner will recieve all three of these. To enter, click here.
Do you want to win a copy of The Elite by Jennifer Banash? Well you can either stop by Reviewer X's blog or Harmony Book Reviews, because they're both giving away two copies each! But guess what. Harmony Book Reviews is also giving away two copies of mixed cds of songs that inspired the writing of The Elite. Wanna enter to win at Reviewer X? Then go to this post. To enter at Harmony Book Reviews, go here.

Last but not least is a birthday celebration contest over at And Another Book Read. Tasha is giving away 2, maybe 3 books. Go ahead and enter! It's real easy.

Remember, we're always updating our sidebar with new contests, so check back there frequently. All of these are still there for easy access to links and end dates.

Heather

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

One Small Step by P.B. Kerr (thanks to Chelsea for the book)

It's 1969, and thirteen-year-old Scott is doing all the things that normal boys do--and also flying airplanes with his Air Force flight-instructor father. When Scott successfully crash-lands a training plane (that he wasn't even supposed to be flying), NASA recruits him for their secret space program. NASA is planning a test flight with chimps before the real lunar landing, but when one chimp must be dismissed, they need a quick substitute--and who better than a boy aviator who can fly a jet at age 13? Just as long as he can keep it a secret from his overprotective mother.

Soon Scott is on his way to the NASA training facility, after having weeks worth of tests to make sure he's healthy enough for it. There he discovers just how clever the chimps are--able to control the flight simulators like regular astronauts. They're more like humans than he'd ever have imagined, so why, then, did one of them go crazy? Is there something about his mission and the way they treat the chimps that NASA isn't telling him? If so, he's going to find out.
Before long, he's up in space with two chimps for company, only communicating with them through sign language. He's going to stay in orbit while the two of them go down in the Lunar Module to land on the moon, and then they'll, hopefully, fly back home. But there's something he's not telling NASA, now.
This book was astoundingly well-written, for being told in a thirteen-year-old's perspective. It was almost unbelievable at some points, but then I began thinking...Maybe this is retrospective and he's writing this at an older age. And then, that's completely believable and incredible.
The whole story was simplisticly written, but that is a good thing, since it was already complicated with technical terms. I guess writing a book about NASA comes with a territory, and those technical terms are needed. I even learned a few things I didn't know.
Okay, so I'm not doing a very good job with describing this book or why I liked it, but I can tell you that I did. There was something about it that amazed me. It took me forever to read, because I was so busy when I was, but it never once became a tedious task. I enjoyed picking up this novel and finding out more about space missions, and following Scott as he makes his way to the moon. It was a good book to read before bed.
And I especially enjoyed the way the chapters were titled. First, it starts of counting down from ten, like counting down till blastoff. After that, it started counting the days that he was in space. But I really loved how it counted down. That was very clever.
The only thing I can pinpoint that I didn't like was how the epilogue was like a giant, red, neat Christmas bow, tying up the package. Everything was so resolved and perfectly polished. The whole epilogue felt like the conclusion to an essay. State the thesis. Recount your points. Have a concluding sentence. I've only ever once before encountered an ending to a book that felt that much like the final paragraph of one of my english class essays. And I sure didn't like it then, and I don't like it now. I mean, I don't want a huge cliffhanger, but sticking me inside a perfectly wrapped package and slapping a bow on it keeps me from feeling like the characters were real. It's like, if that's their end, then they don't have actual lives and therefore never really existed. I'd like to think the characters I'm reading about are real people, even if I know it's not true.So basically, I can sum it all up by giving this book a 4 out of 5 cups of coffe. A really extravagant cup of coffee with tons of hard-to-pronounce ingredients that end up being counterproductive as the coffee turns out to be a little below par. That's the kind I'm talking about.
Heather
(sorry about the bad review, I just can't seem to make it good.)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hiatus Tour Contest Winner!

So I know I said I would announce the winner yesterday, but it took longer to tally up the entries than I thought it would. But I finished that up this morning (before the festivities of the fourth begin) and the winner is...

Anilee!!!!

So email us your address Anilee, and we'll try to get your copy of How To Be Bad sent out sometime next week.

If you don't send an email within the next two days, and don't reply to a message we send you (or comment), then we'll pick another winner. But that probably won't happen. Thanks for entering, everybody! We had tons of entries. It was a huge success for our first contest (besides all the glitches, of course).
We'll be having another one soon to win a copy of Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage. I just hope it runs better than this one =).

Off to read on the dock,
Heather

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

and end and a beginning


So, we're wrapping up June a little late, because I hadn't even realized that it was over! It traveled like trouble! (that is something you will understand with the beginning of a new three songs)

So the winner of the "Favorite Algorithm of Worditude Emporium (Bookstore)" poll was Barnes and Noble. There were a few votes scattered here and there, but second place was a tie between Borders (something we don't have around here) and Library. I understand the library. I don't go there often, but usually I don't want to return the books. Unless they're terrible, of course, which they are on occasion. Third place went to Books-A-Million, which is the Emporium I frequent more often than not, because it's closer than my personal favorite which is Barnes and Noble.

So the new poll won't be up for a few more days--until we think of a new one--but the music is going up with this post.

Also, you may have noticed that there are six more reviews today. Those are all the ones we reviewed for the Hiatus Tour (the winner of that announced tomorrow), so if you missed them, scroll on down and read (and comment, too =D, that would be much appreciated).

I'm in the middle of a reading frenzy, so a few reviews should be coming your way soon. Look out! (plus an interview with a favorite author should be here...soon? sometime? in a few weeks? I'm not sure, but it will come!)

Heather

How To Be Bad


Mels, Vicks, and Jesse don't really have much in common. Vicks is the rebel with the dyed-black hair, cursing complex, and boyfriend who has just gone off to college and apparently forgotton her (one text. Stay cool). Jesse is an uber-Christian whose mother has just been diagnosed with cancer: breast cancer, after winning a wet tee-shirt contest. Clearly, a punishment from God. Mel is the new rich girl from Canada who nobody really likes. The only things that these girls are sharing? A weekend, a car, a hotel room, Mel's mom's credit card, and the road trip of their lives.

They will visit landmarks (the world's tiniest police station). They will meet a boy (sexy Marco). They will engage in several illegal activities. They'll fight and bond and get attacked by an alligator and learn, each in their own ways, how to be bad. And at the end of it all, they just might be best friends.


This book is a really great read. I was curious about getting my hands on it becasue of the multiple authors: I'm a huge fan of E. Lockhart's, but I had mixed feelings about Sarah Mlynoski's Bras and Broomsticks and I despise chatspeak far too much to have enjoyed Lauren Myracle's TTYL series. The writing here was excellent, though. The voices were distinct, but they blended together nicely. The styles of the three authors meshed very well.

How To Be Bad is very much a character story, and it's an extremely good one. Jesse, Mel, and Vicks were all believable characters with distinct personalities. I loved how none of them were stereotypical, despite any implications given by their immediate labels. Jesse, for instance, is the Christian girl, but she's also the meanest and cattiest of the trio. One of my favorite things about the book was that each of the characters had tons of their own struggles and problems to worry about, but the story continued to center around the girls as a whole, and their journey together.

Also, it was completely hilarious. All three of the authors worked in plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, even within the most tense parts of the story. There was a lot of verbal comedy, but much of the humor was situational as well.


My only complaint about this book? The drawbacks of carrying around a novel entitled How To Be Bad. Why that gets seven questions per day and my "Free Alan Rickman" tee-shirt gets none is beyond me, but it did. Go figure.


Four cups and a half for How to Be Bad!


Caroline

Masquerade by Melissa De La Cruz


Schuyler Van Alen wants an explanation for the mysterious deaths of young vampires. With her best friend, Oliver, Schuyler travels to Italy in the hope of finding the one man who can help—her grandfather. Meanwhile, back in New York, preparations are feverishly under way for the Four Hundred Ball, an exclusive gala hosted by the city’s wealthy, powerful, and unhuman—a true Blue Blood affair.

But it’s at the after-party, a masquerade ball thrown by the cunning Mimi Force, that the real danger lurks. Hidden behind the masks is a revelation that will forever change the course of a young vampire’s destiny. [description from inside cover]

After taking months to get into the first book in this series, Blue Bloods, I jumped right in to Masquerade. The new plot developments were much more interesting in comparison, and the suspense was built up to extremes. Not only did the characters become more developed and have stronger emotions, but the vampire lore became more developed and had a past. Everything about the Blue Bloods that you couldn’t figure out in the first novel was very well explained in the second.

For example:

Once Schuyler finds her grandfather, he decides she needs to be trained to use her powers—something The Committee is no longer doing with new vampires. In his training, he teaches Schuyler about the four factors of the glom, or mind control. This is just one of the many new introductions to vampire lore in Masquerade.

Despite the lack of many Silver Blood attacks in this novel, it is surprisingly more suspenseful than the first. I was flipping pages fervently as it got later and later into the night—I just couldn’t put it down. The romance between Schuyler and Jack (and Oliver) becomes part of the story, as does the romance between Jack and Mimi, Bliss and a new character, Kingsley, and Charles and Allegra.

If you’ve read the first and are skeptic about the second, I encourage you to go pick it up now. It will not disappoint.

Or even if you haven’t read the series at all, I encourage you to start it—and don’t worry, if you can’t get into Blue Bloods, it ends up turning into a great series.

4 cups of coffee for this one.

Heather

Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz

Schuyler Van Alen is an outcast. She dresses funny. She lives in a creepy old house. She's too shy to talk to anyone except for her best friend Oliver. Oliver is: sweet, skinny, brown hair, dorky glasses. A very intelligent nerd type with good taste in music and movies, who is- you guessed it- hopelessly in love with Schuyler. And get this: she has no idea.

On the night that our story begins, Schuyler is on her way to a club with Oliver when she witnesses a should-have-been suicide: a boy throws himself under a cab, but is perfectly fine when he walks away, just minutes later. As he walks away from the cab, Schuyler recognizes this boy, who is no less than Jack Force, the (blond, charming, and athletic, but deep down, really sensitive) most popular boy in school. He proceeds to actually speak to her. Flirt, even! Schuyler is shocked. Reader is not.

At this point, I was a little bit skeptical. I mean, the author's other titles didn't appeal to me at all, so I couldn't really decide whether or not this book would either. So the generic beginning was a bit of a let-down, and made me even more wary than before. But, other than a certain fixation with semi-colons, Melissa de la Cruz's writing was good, so I continued.

Brilliant decision, on my part.

As it turns out, the love triangle between Schuyler, Oliver, and Jack was where the predictability ended, and where the story shifted into one of the most original takes on vampires I've ever read (second only to Scott Westerfeld's Peeps). Manhattan's elite 'Blue Bloods' have been being reborn since they came over on the Mayflower- the same people in the same place, over and over, for two hundred years- and Schulyer is one of them.

Blue Bloods is a fast-paced page turner, full of interesting twists and suspense. My only complaint is that, as I said before, the characters are kind of typical. Schulyer, Jack, Mimi (Jack's twin sister, the blonde, bitchy popular girl) and Oliver, anyway. Great, but not very unique. Maybe all of de la Cruz's creative energy was spent on the fantastic plot, but more interesting characters would have been good.

All in all, Stephenie Meyer keeps her Queen of the Fictional Vampires crown (Scott being the king), but Blue Bloods is great if you want a new take on the bloodsucking creatures, as well as a quick and thrilling read that will keep you guessing until the end (and after!). The sequel, Masquerade, is even better than the first.

Blue Bloods gets three and a half cups of coffee. :)

Caroline

When It Happens by Susane Colasanti


Sara and Tobey couldn’t be more different as they start their senior year in high school. She is focused on getting into her first-choice college—NYU. She sure has the grades for it, but she’s still stressing out. Tobey, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about college. He just wants to become a famous rock star, win Battle of the Bands, and tour the world with his friends. But this becomes increasingly difficult as he realizes that the other two-thirds of his band are planning on going to college. And where does that leave Tobey?


At the beginning of each year, Sarah and her friends list their goals for the school year. This year, Sarah’s goal is to find true love. And when Dave, a popular guy she’s been crushing on since he moved to their school at the end of last year, asks her out, she’s sure she’s reached her goal. But for some reason, even though she’s going out with Dave, Tobey keeps popping into her head. He’s sweet, has amazing blue eyes, and has great arms from playing guitar and working out.


And it just so happens that one of Tobey’s goals is to make Sara fall in love with him.


This review comes in 5 parts, Part One--Writing Style:


From the start of When It Happens, I loved the writing style of Susane Colasanti. The first chapter was very reminiscent of R. A. Nelson (circa Breathe My Name), in that it was random, relatable, and very much like the inside of a teenager’s mind. She writes like a teenager, using language, actions, and emotions familiar to our every day to tell the story. Tobey, Sara, and all of their friends act like students in high school, like students I’ve met.


Added to that is the fact that Colasanti can write. I mean really write. She can write with so much conviction and emotion that it puts you there in the story, rooting for the relationships, hating the teachers, feeling uncomfortable during awkward moments. This is actually some of the best YA writing I’ve come across in a while, as it doesn’t sound like an adult trying to sound like a teenager. Many can succeed in making the character sound like a teenager, but there’s also that little bit that sounds like an adult pretending to be a teen. Only some, however, can master the art of a full-fledged teenaged narrator (R. A. Nelson, Sarah Dessen, Maureen Johnson, and now Susane Colasanti). Welcome to the ranks of amazing YA authors, Mrs. Colasanti.


Part Two—Character Development:


When It Happens began as if you’d known the characters forever and were just being reintroduced. They didn’t bore you with tedious introductions, but at the same time, you learned the story of every single one of the characters, main and minor. You learned about each girl’s family and history. In just the first chapter you learn so much about Sara’s friends as they tell each other their goals for the year, an annual ritual they do before school starts. Also, the book isn’t just about Sara and Tobey. Their best friends also go through some things. Maggie’s parents separate, and Laila falls for one of Tobey’s friends—no matter how much she denies it, it’s true. All the characters are dynamic and depicted really well.


Part Three—Plot:


The plot of When It Happens is just as believable as the characters. I don’t want to give away anything, but I will tell you this: events like these are sure to happen in real life. Nothing unrealistic or exaggerated happens to these characters. They go through their senior year like any other students, the fall in love like any other teenagers, and they experience some rough times like any other person.


Part Four—Font/Changing POV:


A very unique characteristic of this book is that it was written in both points of view, Sarah’s and Tobey’s. Every other chapter was Sarah, and the rest were Tobey. I, personally, enjoy books that give both sides of the story because then both characters are loud, dynamic, and truthful. You don’t just get an impression of one or the other—you get their whole story.


And the best part about the switching POV? The fonts changed also. This was the coolest idea on behalf of Susane Colasanti or her editors. By making Sarah and Tobey have different fonts, they made it easier to keep up with who was speaking, because once you get into this book, it can be easy to just speed right through and not think about it. The different fonts made it possible to notice. Also, the different fonts added a touch of originality to the story that wasn’t there otherwise.


Part Five—My Opinions:


Personally, I couldn’t get enough of this book. Parts 1-4 can give you the best reasons why—or at least the ones I could pinpoint. Besides those things, there was something else that made me love this book so much, but I can’t figure out exactly what it was. It was just…something. Something incredible. My friends may tell you that I’m obsessed with this book (we actually just had a discussion about this a few nights ago), and maybe I am. I could read this book many times over and never get sick of it. There’s something in the depth of the characters that is alluring, something in the every day plot that is so relatable, and something in the writing that makes it re-readable.


As you can probably tell, this book comes highly recommended from me. 5 caramel macchiato espressos for this spectacular work of fiction.


Heather

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter


After a semester of sneaking out of the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women to see her first boyfriend, Josh, and getting in a massive amount of trouble for it (and for a spy like her, that means a debriefing by the CIA and having Josh’s memory erased), Cammie Morgan is not ready for the new guest at her school. She’s not ready for boys.

No one at the Gallagher Academy , the best spy school in the world, ever suspected that there might be another school out there like theirs…for boys.

As soon as the guests get there, things start to go mysteriously wrong. The school has its first Code Black in years, the boys’ rooms are surprisingly spotless, Mr. Soloman (the Cover Operations teacher) is acting really strange, there’s a mysterious picture in Cammie’s mom’s office, and worst of all, genius Cammie is confused and may be falling for one of the boys.

So why is all this happening? Who are these boys really? And what’s going on behind closed doors at Gallagher?

I have yet to read the first in the Gallagher Girl series, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, but it’s not really necessary—even though it may make Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy a better book.* So I recommend doing the obvious and reading the first one…first. The character development begins slowly but quickly speeds up until you’re introduced to each of the main characters in a small way. There’s, of course, Cammie Morgan (known as Chameleon because of her way of hiding in the shadows, blending in), her mother (also the headmistress of Gallagher), and Cammie’s friends and teachers. The problem is: there are barely any descriptions of them, nothing but names and dialogue. What little description there is creates vapid, unrealistic characters, anyway.

And then the writing itself…uh…? The writing was a self-centered (and spy-centered). Nearly all the words in the entire book (besides dialogue) are Cammie’s thoughts. Personally, I believe that good writing has descriptions about the surroundings and the characters. And it should actually tell you who’s speaking. Sadly, this book had none of the above.

What it did have, was an obtuse amount of parenthesis and inside these parenthesis, there were far too many cheesy afterthoughts to force the reader to remember—as if you’d forgotten—that you were reading a book about spies. For example:

‘She cut me a look that could kill (and will—just as soon as our head scientist, Dr. Fibs, perfects his looks-can-kill technology).’**

Eventually, though, comes a light at the end of the tunnel. Finally we were introduced to Zach, the first character to actually develop into someone with a past, a life—one that didn’t surround everything Cammie did—and strangely enough, he was supposed to be portrayed as the character Cammie knew nothing about.

As the book continues, the writing gets a little better, the plot becomes bearable, and the dialogue more believable.

I give Ally Carter’s Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy just 3 cups of coffee (hazelnut at that, because some people like it, but it’s just not my flavor).

Heather

* maybe that’s why the character development wasn’t there for me, so please excuse that if you thought it was good.

** this was one of the worst throughout the book, not only because it was a terrible play on a popular figure of speech, but also because Ally Carter couldn’t be creative enough to come up with a better name than ‘looks-can-kill technology’???

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen



So my first author infatuation (other than the amazing JK Rowling*) came about some time last December when Caroline and I started discussing one Sarah Dessen’s books and I said I’d like to read it (more specifically This Lullaby**). Jessica, a friend and fellow book-lover jumped in the conversation and said “Oh! I have that book! You want to borrow it?” And, of course, I said yes. So I borrowed This Lullaby. Then, one random day during winter break, Jess walks into my room carrying about five books, three of which are Sarah Dessen books. She just sets them on my bed and says “Here are some more books.” So there’s where the infatuation began. It flooded into January, ran into February, flew into March, and ended up in April for the release of Sarah Dessen’s newest book Lock and Key. Admittedly, this is June, and I read the book over a month ago, but you should be happy this review came at all.

Ask twenty different people the definition of family, and you’ll get twenty different answers. Ruby’s definition of family is slightly askew, and when she’s assigned a project in a new school where she has to find the meaning of family, she discovers that it’s not just you relatives. It’s not just your siblings and parents.

“Ruby, where is your mother?”

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow. She knows that her mother has left, and that there’s no guarantee of her coming back. Ever. But she’s still living there on her own, fending for herself.

Until the landlords stop by and find her living in a mess of a house, with dishes piled in the sink, clothes hanging in the kitchen to dry, and drugs left on the living room table.

That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. Going from dirt-poor, delivering lost luggage as a job, and living in a run down house to living in a rich and luxurious neighborhood, going to a new private school, not having to work at all when your brother-in-law gives you hundreds of dollars a week for spending money, and having a huge bedroom to yourself (with its own bathroom) is a major change. Especially for Ruby who has never been able to experience something like this. Even if it is a dream come true.

But after not having contact with her sister for ten years, it’s weird living with her again. And now she has a new neighbor, Nate, who may just have as many problems as Ruby does. But as soon as she learns to help him out, he’s not willing to accept it. Somehow, in this new world so far from the one she knows, Ruby makes new friends and understands the meaning of family.

After finishing this book, I sat down and thought about all the characters. Ruby is strong and defiant. Nate is kind, funny, and complicated. Jamie is hilarious and sweet. Cora is tough and caring. But each of these characters is real. Every single one of them has a past, a present, and a future. They have stories, emotions, and their own thoughts. I’m a character girl, and Sarah Dessen never fails to satisfy in that department.

Ruby’s story is both tough and wonderful. She goes through hardships before coming to live with Cora that many people couldn’t even imagine, and even once she gets there, to that world of luxury, she has difficult obstacles to face. She may just relapse and end up back in her old habit of drinking and drugs, she may just fall for the boy next door, or she may wind up going to college—something she never thought would happen. Her struggle is depicted very well as the story stretches over almost an entire school year.

This is yet another great book of Sarah Dessen’s. Not my favorite, but it comes in a close fourth. I give it 4.5 cups of delicious coffee.

Heather

* she may be amazing, but we still want Alan back!
** The best of the eight
*** It’s very weird, but it’s like Sarah Dessen knows me. She put a character in Lock and Key name Heather who is strangely like me. She likes coffee, she’s a good student, and she’s blonde. It’s very odd…hmm…

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wrapping it up

The following are all the books we reviewed for our Hiatus Tour (in no particular order):



You may have noticed there are only six. This is because we are slack, and were a bit unorganized with the creating of the contest. There was an issue with getting out the review to Book~Adorer This brings me to my next point: Aella (the Maelstrom) was right in saying that there was a glitch with the process or something and she didn't get the hint or phrase or whatever. So scratch number four on the ways to gain entries into the contest.

Also, we've decided what the prize will be if you win (we still have to count all the entries and draw the winner, but that will be done within the next few days). The prize is a copy of How To Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, and Sarah Mylnowski, which was the last book we reviewed for the Hiatus Tour.

If you've already read this book or own it, you can just send an email to plentyofpaper234@aol.com with the subject line How To Be Bad and let us know that you would like for your entries to not count. If you still want a copy of the book (even if you have read it or own it), the email isn't necessary.

Thanks for you patience with this contest, all of you.

Heather

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Update on Hiatus Tour!!!!!

Hey, guys. We're having issues with email and stuff so there was no post on the 17th, unfortunately. We'll try to have it up when we get back, though.

We'll just forget the clue that leads to today's post and go ahead and tell you who it is.

The post for today, Thursday the 19th can be found at The Page Flipper.

Sorry for the problems, hopefully everything will work out fine, but if you're one of the reviewers and there's something your missing, contact us on myspace, please. I'm pretty sure we're friends with all of you.

Heather

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hiatus Tour (and contest)

Hey guys! It's our first contest! yay!

So here's the basic idea:

Both Caroline and I will be leaving on Sunday to go to a creative writing program for two weeks, which means we won't be here. But don't worry! We're going to be doing a fun special feature/contest called the Hiatus Tour. (Thanks Chelsea for unawarely helping us name this!)

During this tour, we will have a review every other day at different locations around the blogging community--that means seven reviews and seven locations. The days of posting will be the 15th, 17th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, and 27th.

Maybe your asking yourself right now, "But what makes this fun?" Well I'm answering you by saying that we aren't going to tell you where these reviews will be. The only way you'll be able to find them is if you follow the clues at the end of each post that leads to the next location. Got it? Good, here are the rules for entering the contest:

1) You must comment on the post (1 entry).
2) To gain a second entry you can copy/paste the clue from the previous review in the comment. For example: If you read the post on the 17th and followed that clue to the next location on the 19th, you would put the clue from the 17th in your comment on the 19th post. (I realize this is a bit confusing so if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments or send an email to plentyofpaper234@aol.com and we'll try to answer them before we leave)
3) These methods of obtaining entries can be used on all 7 posts in all 7 locations, for a total of 14 entries in the end.
4) At the end of the last post (on the 27th) instead of a clue, there will be a phrase. The first person to copy/paste that phrase into a comment on this post will get an extra two entries.

Note to review hosts: You guys will automatically get two entries since you won't be eligible for comment on your own post or on the next person's post.

The prize for the winner has not yet been decided, but it will be a book and some bookmarks--we're just not sure which book yet, so go ahead an enter. The day we get back we will announce what the winning prize will be and if you already have it and would like to opt out of the drawing, just let us know and we'll take out your entries.

You guys got it? Okay, then. Get started! Here's the first clue:

mysterious, without a name is she,
she provides us with YA updates weekly,
her multi-tasking blog is sure to be fun,
her lair is location number one.


Heather

p.s. Sorry about the cheesy rhyming hints, but it's the best we could do at the last minute *shrug*
p.p.s. Another note to review hosts, if we haven't sent you your review, please email us. We're pretty sure of the ones we haven't gotten sent out, but we want to make sure. Also, the day you're hosting is a secret--even the fact that you are hosting is a sekrit, so don't let anyone know!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Updates

Sorry about the lack of reviews of the late, but we're trying to get a special feature set up for the next two weeks when we'll both be off to a summer program. (A post about that on Friday! It's really exciting!).


But right now, you can check out thepageflipper.com where Chelsea's back to having Monthly Contests instead of Fun Fridays.

And there are a few new contests in the sidebar <--, one of which is a contest to win a book by Tina Ferraro over at Words Speak Volumes so check that out.

The Story Siren is out of town (In Disney World!!! Fun!) so there won't be any reviews by her for the next couple of days, but the Author Tales is still on for Thursday as Regina Scott stops by. Also, you should go to her blog to read the post on all this so you can be filled in on an a contest that is soon to come from her. (Also, she now has a domain, thestorysiren.com)

So that's it for now,
Heather

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Belated Birthday Wishes!



We'd like to send out a Happy Birthday wish to a favorite author, Sarah Dessen, who's birthday was yesterday. Despite repeatedly saying we were going to do this post yesterday, apparantly both of us forgot. But here it is, just a day late. Here are Sarah Dessen's novels:




You can go to her LJ at writergrl.livejournal.com
Her website at sarahdessen.com
Or her myspace at myspace.com/sarahdessen

Go wish her a Happy Belated Birthday!!!!!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Frenemies, by Alexa Young: A review in which Caroline regrets her nasty habit of being honest.

The rule, to be techinical, is that you should never judge a book by it's cover. And you know, if you take that phrase the way you're supposed to, figuratively, it works. Because people aren't always what they look like, and that is what the mysterious they* meant when they started saying that. But when it comes to actual, literal book... a lot of the time, the cover happens to be right. Frenemies, sadly, is an example of this.

If you haven't already read any of the reviews about this book (doubtful), here's the story: Halley and Avalon** have been best friends and fashion mavens ever since they were wearing [insert impressive name here] onesies and spitting up together***. They're inseperable. In fact, as will become clear later on in the book, they are more or less each other's only friends. (But they're popular. They're the most popular girls in school. They're just each other's only friends.) But it all changes when Halley returns from art camp and- eh. ma. gawd. Suddenly, Halley is wearing clothes that (while still being expensive and label-whorific) are the tiniest bit less pretentious than the things that she and Avalon would normally choose. And then, there's the fact that Avalon's chest grew (to a slightly larger A-cup) and Halley keeps making snarky comments about it. And-now- here's the real deal breaker- Halley has a crush on a boy.

Um, hello? Doesn't she know that they've all got cooties?

Soon, Halvalon is no more. They're at war. They're insulting each other, making fun! They're suggesting that there may have actually been something wrong with their friendship in the first place! There is mocking going on, and I'm not talking about the mocking being done by Caroline while reading and trying not to slam her head against the wall. I'm serious! It's like they're both Ben Afflect in this one!**** Although, shockingly enough, none of their greivences are related to being incesscantly referred to as Halvalon. Because, honestly, that would be my first complaint. Halvalon is worst than Brangelina or Tomkat or even Dramione!*****

I don't think I have to tell you that I didn't like this book.

And, before you start with me, it has nothing to do with the fashion name-dropping. I actually have no major issue with fashion name-dropping. In fact, I went through this whole phase once where I was obsessed with it. In that terrifying six month period, I probably read more books about popular rich kids than most popular rich kids will read anything in their lifetime. I even went as far as trying to write my own popular rich kid book. (There was a boarding school involved.) I'm not even joking. I spent an hour a day on the Bergdorf Goodman website. ******

I've read The Clique, Gossip Girl, and It Girl novels- and while I have very few great things to say about any of them, I liked them all better than Frenemies.

I'm not going to go into all of the issues that I had with this book, though I will say that I had issues with almost every facet of it. I will touch on my biggest problem, though, which was the relationship between Halley and Avalon.

I think the reason I hated it so much was that I know what it's like to have that one best friend who knows everything about you, who you've been friends with basically all your life. I know what it's like when that person is the only real friend you have. And it's not suddenly hating each other because of wardrobe choices. I read in one review that this book was unlike anything that Poppy publishes because of Halley and Avalon's friendship, and how deep it runs, and I can't help but laugh at that. Because, like I said, I have read Gossip Girl- and even Blair and Serena, the biggest frenemies of them all, have pretty damn good reasons for ending their lifelong friendship. They do not include new clothes or boob jokes.

There was no backstory about their friendship, either. I mean, if they've been friends all their lives, you'd think that they'd at least have a few fond memories to struggle with. The story starts where the book starts, and it ends when it stops. (Only not, because there will be a sequel.)

On a slightly graver note: I really am sorry to give this book a bad review, because it was so nice of the author to send it to us. And I really wanted to like it. I was all prepared to say that Alexa Young was a super-awesome-amazing writer with an unfortunate publicist. She probably is a super-awesome-amazing writer with an unfortunate storyline. The writing itself wasn't bad. But, as mentioned in the title, I'm dedicated to being honest. And we must be prepared to sacrifice things for our principals. Like, for instance, the luxury of not having people cyber-attack you. (If you do want to cyber-attack somebody, really, I want you to know that I'm actually Heather, pulling an Avalon so that Caroline will be the one punished for the bad review. I just feel to guilty to go through with it.)

1 cup of coffee for Frenemies.

WORD TO YOUR BOOKSHELF*******
Caroline********

* The They that make up all of the cliches. I've always been curious about the They. There have been many rants inspired by They. Especially becasue thinking about They angers me, since it inevetiably leads to getting this really cheesy Hilary Duff song from the Cinderella Story soundtrack I bought when I was eleven stuck in my head.
** Her name was my favorite part of this book. I don't mean this as an insult. I'm saying it seriusly. If everything else was wrong, as it often was, I remembered how much I love the name Avalon and how awesome and creative it is.
***Do babies who wear designer onesies still spit up like normal mortal babies.
****If you don't know waht I'm talking about... where were you in 2004? Clearly, not in the grocery store.
*****Sorry. Had to throw in a Harry Potter dork name. All the celebrity was starting to nauseate me. Of course,the idea of Hermione and Malfoy nauseates me as well, but differently.
******That's my atonement for writing this mean review. Writing something really embarrassing about myself. If you want to read more embarrassing things abou me, check out Steph's contest for How Not To Be Popular. My comment will provide you with ten years of embarrassing stories. (Yes, that is literal.)
*******For those of you who have read Frenemies: What did that mean???
********Or maybe Heather. You never know...

PS: If MJFAN or anyone similarily minded still lurks around, I included the asterixes because there were way too many parenthesis to begin with, and I am html challengd and I have no clue how to do actual footnotes. I am in no way trying to "rip off Maureen Johnson" by using an asterix. Trust me.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Author MeMe! (we just can't get enough, can we?)

So, once again, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do another MeMe. And since it's book-related like the last one, I don't feel too bad putting it up here. (that and we were tagged three times, so I felt obligated).

We/I/Whoever you want it to be were/was tagged by Ambeen (The Ravenous Reader), Jordyn (a new discovery! Man I love meeting new people! haha), and Hope.

Here are the rules (well, they're more like boundaries than actual rules): Link to the person that tagged you (check!), post the rules somewhere in your meme (that's what I'm doing here!), answer the questions (I'm getting to it!), tag six people in your post (picked them already), let the tagees know they’ve been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog (will do), let the tagger know your entry is posted (if I must...).

**********

1. Who’s your all-time favorite author, and why?

Well, that's actually a very difficult question, because I like different authors for different reasons. JK Rowling is an obvious choice because of how she created an entire world from her own mind, with names of creatures, places, and characters that fit perfectly. Maureen Johnson because along with extravagant books such as The Bermudez Triangle and Suite Scarlett (my two favorites), she writes an astoundingly hilarious blog--and that is a very good quality, my dears, that I feel I must attribute to Libba Bray as well. Which reminds me, I enjoy her work because it's written incredibly well, with characters, descriptions, and dialogue that feel real, familiar, and perfectly flawed (that's an oxymoron for you!). Last, I feel I must mention John Green, who has the qualities of both the last two (a funny blog, incredible writing), and he has a brother named Hank (who the eff is Hank?) with which he creates the most fascinating and hilarious videos I've ever seen on youtube. Plus, he is the creator and god of Nerdfighters.

Long-winded enough for you?

2. Who was your first favorite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favorites?

I think my first favorite author was either Roald Dahl, or JK Rowling. I can't be positive, because I've been reading since I was 2 and...a half? Three quarters? Something like that, and can't pinpoint every amazing children's author out there. But as a child, I did completely envelope myself into books like Matilda, Witches, and The BFG, all of which I still believe I own today...somewhere...*goes off to search for them* Well, those, and the Harry Potter series which I didn't start until sometime after the third had already come out, but I remember as being the first time I'd decide 'Hey, here's a great series, here's a great author, here's some of the best written work I've ever read.' So, yes, one of them I still do consider among my favorites. (Don't worry Roald, I still love you, but I don't read you anymore, not really).

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favorite authors, and why?

Most recent is probably either R. A. Nelson, or John Green. I just began my infatuation with John and his books in January, after reading Looking For Alaska and discovery Brotherhood 2.0, so I guess he's the most recent as far as when I first read his books. I first read an R. A. Nelson book (Breathe My Name) in November, I think, so I guess that means he comes before John Green, but I didn't decide he was one of my favorites until I just recently (as in about two or three weeks ago) read Teach Me, so that makes him after John Green, too. They're tied. That's my final decision.

4. If someone asked you who your favorite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?

JK Rowling
Sarah Dessen
Maureen Johnson
John Green
R. A. Nelson
Lemony Snicket
Libba Bray
Jodi Picoult

upon further reflection (my, that mirror is shiny!):

James Patterson
Catherine Ryan Hyde (not sure, because I've only read one of hers, but it was amazing)
Stephenie Meyer
Sara Shepard
E. Lockhart
Elizabeth Scott (just after one, I'm hooked)

So now for the tagging part of this mission...
uno: Tasha (And Another Book Read)
dos: Steph (Reviewer X)
tres: Aella
cuatro: The Opinioned Reader
cinco: Teen Troves
seis: Sam (Words Speak Volumes)

That was really difficult, because everyone's done it already!

So now, I shall commence in the last two parts of the rules.

Heather

EDIT: Reviewer X is having a contest for How NOT to Be Popular!!! Check it out!