From that time on, the world was hers for the reading....

Friday, July 31, 2009

L. J. Smith: The Vampire Diaries -- The Awakening & The Struggle

I don't watch a lot of television, especially during the summer, but I feel like I've seen a million commercials for "The Vampire Diaries" on the CW. I don't know if I'll watch the show, but it caught my attention. I figured a good place to start would be to read the books the show is based on, so I picked up The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle by L. J. Smith at my local library.


Elena: the golden girl, the leader, the one who can have any boy she wants.

Stefan: brooding and mysterious, he seems to be the only one who can resist Elena, even as he struggles to protect her from the horrors that haunt his past.

Damon: sexy, dangerous, and driven by an urge for revenge against Stefan, the brother who betrayed him. Determined to have Elena, he'd kill to possess her.

Collected here in one volume for the first time, volumes one and two of The Vampire Diaries, the tale of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.

Elena is the most popular girl at Robert E. Lee High School. She has lots of friends. She rules the school. She always gets what she wants.

Until she meets the new boy, Stefan. Elena reminds him of someone from his past. He's attracted to her, but he can't subject Elena to the dangers of his world. He tries to ignore her, but, of course, that plan doesn't work. Stefan and Elena seemed destined to be together.

When residents of Fell's Church, VA are brutally murdered, all eyes are on the dark and mysterious Stefan. Because of her connection to Stefan, students start treating Elena like a social leper.

Enter Damon, Stefan's dangerous brother. He wants to kill Stefan and possess Elena.

It's a typical girl meets boy, boy tries not to love girl because he's a vampire, but they fall in love anyway while battling evil story.

Dull and predictable.

I'm old school. I like my vampires to be bloodthirsty and vicious. I don't want them going to high school dances and dating. And I certainly don't want them to walk around in daylight (or, worse, sparkle in the sunshine).

Damon was close to my idea of how a vampire should behave, but he couldn't keep my interest.

To this day, 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King scares the bejeezus out of me.

Stephen King got it right.

I have now officially given up on vampire books. No more!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Janet Evanovich: Finger Lickin' Fifteen

My Mom is a big fan of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. She always encouraged me to give them a try, and I finally gave in last summer. I started with One For The Money and made my way through the entire series. I'm hooked! So it's really no surprise that I insisted on borrowing her copy of Finger Lickin' Fifteen.



Recipe for disaster:
Celebrity chef Stanley Chipotle comes to Trenton to participate in a barbecue cook-off and loses his head—literally.

Throw in some spice:
Bail bonds office worker Lula is witness to the crime, and the only one she'll talk to is Trenton cop, Joe Morelli.

Pump up the heat:
Chipotle's sponsor is offering a million dollar reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the capture of the killers.

Stir the pot:
Lula recruits bounty hunter Stephanie Plum to help her find the killers and collect the moolah.

Add a secret ingredient:
Stephanie Plum's Grandma Mazur. Enough said.

Bring to a boil:
Stephanie Plum is working overtime tracking felons for the bonds office at night and snooping for security expert Carlos Manoso, A.K.A. Ranger, during the day. Can Stephanie hunt down two killers, a traitor, five skips, keep her grandmother out of the sauce, solve Ranger's problems and not jump his bones?

Habanero hot. So good you'll want seconds.

Thanks to a fight with her on-again-off-again boyfriend Joe Morelli-- over peanut butter, of all things-- Stephanie is single and "off men."

And it's not easy with Morelli helping track down celebrity chef Stanley Chipotle's killers-- before they kill Lula.

If that's not enough, Ranger asks Stephanie to help him track down thieves who are finding a way around his security systems and risking his company's reputation.

There's no shortage of men-- and romantic dilemmas-- in her life.

Add Lula's barbecue cook-off scheme, the crazy antics of Grandma Mazur, a flasher, a few blown-up cars, an apartment fire (or two), and you have one wild ride!

If you're looking for serious literature, the Stephanie Plum series is not for you.

If you're looking to have a laugh-out-loud good time, then start reading!

There's nothing wrong with having a little fun!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mandy Hubbard: Prada & Prejudice

Mandy Hubbard is another awesome author I randomly stumbled upon at Live Journal, so, of course, I picked up a copy of Prada & Prejudice when it was published!


To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips...conks her head...and wakes up in the year 1815!

There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily's family, Callie warms to them—particularly to Emily's cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant.

But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex's heart, before her time in the past is up?

More Cabot than Ibbotson, Prada and Prejudice is a high-concept romantic comedy about finding friendship and love in the past in order to have happiness in the present.

Living life on the D-List isn't easy, but at least Callie had her best friend Katie to keep her company. But then Katie moved away, leaving Callie alone on the D-List. She decides a class trip to England might help turn her life around.

It does. Just not the way she expects.

After being ditched by her travel buddy, Callie comes up with a scheme to go to a nightclub with the popular girls. She buys some cool clothes and classic red Prada pumps.

Problem is, Callie is sort of a klutz and isn't used to walking in high heels. She falls, bumps her head, blacks out, and wakes up in Regency England.

Mistaken for the long-lost American friend of Emily, she spends four weeks in her home.

Needless to say, Callie learns a lot about life in the 1800s, commits several social faux pas, and leaves a modern mark on Emily and her family.

More importantly, she gains the confidence needed to change her present-day social status.

I'm a big Jane Austen fan and devour anything by her or inspired by her, so I might be slightly biased. But this book was so much fun to read! I can't wait to see what Mandy Hubbard comes up with next!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ally Carter: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Funds are super-tight this summer, so I'm at the mercy of my public library. They don't have the best selection of new books, so, instead of complaining about that, I'm using this time to read older books. If this tells you anything about my library, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter was shelved with the new books, and I'm the first person to check it out.


Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies.

Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.

The story took a while to get going but, once it did, I couldn't stop reading.

It's a typical start of a new school year, but Cammie's friends aren't typical. They spent the summer in places like Singapore, Cairo, and Johannesburg.

And the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women isn't your typical school. They're encouraged to speak different languages during dinner. They have paper that dissolves when you put it in your mouth (Evapopaer). The halls are filled with secret passageways.

The classes aren't typical either. They are spies in training after all.

One night, Cammie's Covert Operations class is moved outdoors to a fair, where the girls are asked to put their techniques to use. That's when Cammie meets Josh, and the girls embark on their biggest mission yet-- to figure out boys!

What I liked best about Cammie and her friends is that they are smart and resourceful. It was a good example of how you can like boys and care about fashion, but not be a total airhead. I'm excited to see what happens next!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sara Zarr: Sweethearts

Sara Zarr is another author I was introduced to via Live Journal. Her books are always checked out or part of a "wait list" at my library, so I was thrilled to actually find Sweethearts on the shelf during my last book run!


As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another's only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she's lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she's popular, happy, and dating, everything "Jennifer" couldn't be---but she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend.

When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

From the National Book Award nominated author of Story of a Girl, Sweethearts is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts.

Don't judge a book by its cover. That topic keeps coming up in my blog posts. Doesn't the Sweethearts cover look, well, sweet? But it's a not a sweet, carefree story at all. Instead, it's kind of dark.

Jennifer Harris is an unpopular, chubby elementary school girl who is constantly picked on. She has one friend, fellow outcast Cameron Quick. One day, without warning or explanation, Cameron disappears, leaving Jennifer heartbroken and alone.

Jennifer reinvents herself. She's now Jenna Vaughn, a popular high school student with friends and a boyfriend. But she hasn't forgotten her childhood sweetheart and is still tormented by memories of her past.

Suddenly, Cameron is back and throwing Jenna's life into a tailspin.

Told through flashbacks and present day, Jenna relives a tragic day from her childhood, rekindles her friendship with Cameron, and starts to wonder who she really wants to be.

It was a heartbreaking story that took me places I didn't expect to go. Sometimes I felt sad and confused. Other times I felt very uncomfortable. But I couldn't stop reading or caring about these characters.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lauren Barnholdt: Reality Chick

One of the things I love about Live Journal is the many authors who use it to blog. I've stumbled upon authors I don't think I would have heard about otherwise. I do my best to pick up their books at the library. Last week, I decided to grab Reality Chick by
Lauren Barnholdt


All-hour study fests . . . all-night parties . . .

Going away to college means total independence and freedom. Unless of course your freshman year is taped and televised for all the world to watch. On uncensored cable.

Sweet and normal Ally Cavanaugh is one of five freshpeople shacking up on In the House, a reality show filmed on her college campus. (As if school isn't panic-inducing enough!) The cameras stalk her like paparazzi, but they also capture the fun that is new friends, old crushes, and learning to live on your own. Sure, the camera adds ten pounds, but with the freshman fifteen a given anyway, who cares? Ally's got bigger issues — like how her long-distance bf can watch her loopy late-night "episode" with a certain housemate. . . .

Freshman year on film.

It's outrageous.

It's juicy.

And like all good reality TV,

It's impossible to turn off.

Confession: I don't like reality television. In fact, I hate it.

Okay, I watched "The Hills" for a few seasons. But it was just another TV show to me. It's scripted. It's fake. That's not reality.

I used to watch "Newlyweds," but it was part of my job. (The company I worked for was hired to market Jessica Simpson, 98° and, eventually, Nick Lachey-- and, yes, that man is brutally HOT in person!) I always say, "You couldn't pay me to watch that garbage." But, apparently, you can!

Still, when reality TV was officially launched by MTV's "The Real World" in 1992, I thought it was very cool. I loved watching this fishbowl experiment, swooned over Eric, and empathized with Julie (I was once the wide-eyed Southern girl thrown into the mix of a big, bad city). It was fascinating. It was genuine. Every reality show that followed has used the original cast as their prototype and exploited the hell out of it.

Reality Chick included a lot of those stereotypes-- wide-eyed innocent (Ally), manwhore (James), virgin (Simone), hot guy that every girl wants (Drew), and the token gay guy (Grant, who actually doesn't even live in the house but is Ally's best friend from high school).

As Ally, a freshman at Syracuse University, tells her story of reality television stardom, the narrative switches between "Now" and "Then." At first, she feels like she's been "set up" -- the show's attempt to create drama between her and her long-time boyfriend Corey, who is a basketball player at the University of Miami.

And there is drama. Lots of it. Hook-ups. Infidelity. Break-ups. Flirting. Alcohol. Backstabbing. All while the cameras follow Ally's every move.

Unlike reality television, however, some of the characters grow, evolve, and become likable at the end. Especially Ally. She realizes that the show didn't use any material she didn't hand to them and that most of her freshman struggles would have existed without the cameras following her every move.

All in all, a fun read!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

E. Lockhart: The Treasure Map of Boys

I was incredibly fortunate to receive an Advance Reader's Copy of The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart (publication date: July 28), and I was thrilled to see what Ruby Oliver was up to in this incredibly addictive series.


Ruby is back at Tate Prep, and it's her thirty-seventh week in the state of Noboyfriend. Her panic attacks are bad, her love life is even worse, and what's more:

Noel is writing her notes, Jackson is giving her frogs, Gideon is helping her cook, and Finn is making her brownies. Rumors are flying, and Ruby's already-sucky reputation is heading downhill.

Not only that, she's also: running a bake sale, learning the secrets of heavy metal therapy, encountering some seriously smelly feet, defending the rights of pygmy goats, and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances.

In this companion novel to The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book, Ruby struggles to secure some sort of mental health, to understand what constitutes a real friendship, and to find true love—if such a thing exists.

There is no shortage of men in Ruby's life. Past boyfriends, current crushes, and friend-boys are causing her panic attacks to rage out of control in this hilarious follow-up to The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book.

Dr. Z asks Ruby to create a "treasure map" of what she wants for herself-- "positive relationships" with her "peer group." But boy-crazy Ruby turns it into a map of all the boys in her life, which only causes more stress and confusion.

She soon learns that by focusing on boyfriends past and future, she's overlooking the actual treasures in her life-- a family who loves her and wants what's best for her, a crazy dog that brings joy to her life, good friends who love her despite her flaws, and a guy willing to come to her instead of her tracking him down all the time.

Furthermore, she learns that just because she lost her best friends, it doesn't mean she can't make new ones.

A little self-centered, beyond neurotic, but always likable, Ruby learns the meaning of true friendship and happiness in this laugh-out-loud book. I can't help but love her and look forward to finding out what happens next!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

E. Lockhart: The Boy Book

I was on the library's waiting list for about a month, but I was finally able to pick up The Boy Book by E. Lockhart.


Here is how things stand at the beginning of newly-licensed driver Ruby Oliver's junior year at Tate Prep:

Kim: Not speaking. But far away in Tokyo.

Cricket: Not speaking.

Nora: Speaking--sort of. Chatted a couple times this summer when they bumped into each other outside of school--once shopping in the U District, and once in the Elliot Bay Bookstore. But she hadn't called Ruby, or anything.

Noel: Didn't care what anyone thinks.

Meghan: Didn't have any other friends.

Dr. Z: Speaking.

And Jackson. The big one. Not speaking.

But, by Winter Break, a new job, an unlikely but satisfying friend combo, additional entries to The Boy Book and many difficult decisions help Ruby to see that there is, indeed, life outside the Tate Universe.

Ruby's still reeling from the loss of her boyfriend and her best friends, still having panic attacks, and still meeting with her shrink Dr. Z. In other words, Ruby is as neurotic as ever in this fun follow-up to The Boyfriend List.

Each chapter beings with an excerpt from "The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them," a notebook she and her friends Kim, Nora, and Cricket filled with advice on dating and things they learned about boys.

The advice ranges from serious ("Rules for Dating in a Small School"), to hilarious ("Boy-Speak: Introduction to a Foreign Language"), to scandalous ("What to Wear When You Might Be Fooling Around"). Looking through the notebook helps Ruby remember her friendships and what went wrong.

While still processing the past and trying to shake her "social leper" status, Ruby makes new friends (Meghan & Noel), gets a cool job at a local zoo, makes peace with Norah, and starts crushing on a new guy. Unfortunately, the promises made in "The Boy Book" come into play yet again, causing more stress.

I like Ruby as a narrator. Her voice is authentic, sympathetic, and funny.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stephanie Kuehnert: Ballads of Suburbia

Out of the 60+ books I read last year, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert was one of my favorites. So I was thrilled to win an Advanced Reader's Copy of her new book Ballads of Suburbia!


Kara hasn't been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad-boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park....

Amid the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.

You know those Young Adult Fiction books where the heroines are glossy, perfect girlie-girls who obsess over makeup and fashion, have perfect, prince charming boyfriends, and live happily ever after?

This isn't one of those books.

And that's why I loved it.

I'm not going to lie. Ballads of Suburbia is serious. Don't let the use of "ballads" in the title fool you. This isn't a sweet, slow, melodic story about love. It's a fast, hard-rocking, gritty tale of sex, drugs, abuse (at the hands of others, at the hands of yourself), and death.

After moving to the suburbs, Kara and her brother Liam find themselves in the middle of the party hard lifestyle of Scoville Park-- the place where kids who don't fit in with the popular crowd and aren't immersed in sports and clubs hang out after school.

It's through the friends Kara meets at Scoville that Stephanie Kuehnert creates the raw, gritty story of kids surrounded by self-absorbed, absentee parents and a desire to feel loved-- to feel anything-- and simply fit in.

Kara's story is interspersed with the ballads of her friends. The ballads are part of "Stories of Suburbia," a notebook passed around and filled with newspaper clippings about the suburbs and true stories of mistakes made and events that changed lives.

Kuehnert creates real characters with flaws and issues and makes you care deeply about them. Furthermore, she helps you relate to them.

I wasn't anything like Kara and her friends. In fact, I was one of the girls who hung out at cheerleader practice and various after-school activities. But the need to fit it, to feel love? That's universal.

At the end of the day, Kara's demons were still there. Her problems weren't solved. Still, I got a sense of hope. We don't all live happily ever after, but that doesn't mean we aren't happy in our pursuit of understanding, closure, and growth.

Kuehnert gets that. Probably better than most YA Fiction authors.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast: Betrayed

My Mom, who is also reading the House of Night series, insisted that the second book was really good and that I should stick with it. I stayed up late reading Betrayed by P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast, and Mom was right-- things got really exciting!


Fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird has managed to settle in at the House of Night finishing school. She finally feels like she belongs, even gets chosen as the Leader of the Dark Daughters. Best of all, she actually has a boyfriend...or two. Then the unthinkable happens: Human teenagers are being killed, and all the evidence points to the House of Night. While danger stalks the humans from Zoey's old life, she begins to realize that the very powers that make her so unique might also threaten those she loves. Then, when she needs her new friends the most, death strikes the House of Night, and Zoey must find the courage to face a betrayal that could break her heart, her soul, and jeopardize the very fabric of her world. Betrayed, the second book in the House of Night series, is dark and sexy, and thrilling as it is utterly shocking.

This sequel took a while to get going and jumps all over the place.

It begins with parent visitation, moves to Zoey's many teenage lusts (current vamp boyfriend Erik, human ex-boyfriend Heath, and a teacher, Loren Blake, Vampyre Poet Laureate), and follows Zoey as she prepares to take over the Dark Daugters and lead her first Full Moon Ritual.

In addition, football players that Zoey knew before the Change are disappearing, including Heath.

Meanwhile, Aphrodite-- the former Leader of the Dark Daughters and Zoey's sworn enemy-- has fallen from power and is no longer favored by by Neferet, High Priestess of the House of Night. Zoey feels sorry for her and they end up working together to keep tragedy from strking Zoey's loved ones.

Zoey soon fears that maybe she trusts the wrong people, especially when Neferet takes credit for plans to reorganize the Dark Daughters.

And, if all that weren't enough, Zoey has to deal with a very shocking fledgling death.

For so much action, the book dragged until the last 100 pages. I usually skipped the ongoing descriptions and Zoey's never-ending thoughts and went right for the dialogue. If I saw quotations, I read what was said. Otherwise, I really didn't care. Still, at the end, I couldn't put it down-- the fledgling death completely floored me! I was angry, sad, you name it.

Despite, being bored, I honestly want to know what happens next. Maybe the next book won't take so long to get exciting. Hey, it might even give me a little more vamp action, which I still feel is lacking in this witchcraft-centered series.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast: Marked

Someone from the book club I used to tried to attend recommended the House of Night series, so I picked up Marked by P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast.


Enter the dark, magical world of the House of Night, a world very much like our own, except here vampyres have always existed. Sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird has just been Marked as a fledgling vampyre and joins the House of Night, a school where she will train to become an adult vampyre. That is, if she makes it through the Change--and not all of those who are Marked do. It sucks to begin a new life, especially away from her friends, and on top of that, Zoey is no average fledgling. She has been chosen as special by the vampyre Goddess Nyx. Zoey discovers she has amazing powers, but along with her powers come bloodlust and an unfortunate ability to Imprint her human ex-boyfriend. To add to her stress, she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite group, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny--with a little help from her new vampyre friends.

Harry Potter meets Twilight. That's how this book was described to me, and that's exactly what it is-- only not as fast-paced or interesting.

"Just when I thought my day couldn't get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker." With a first sentence like that, well, I was excited. But it all went downhill from there.

The dead guy by Zoey's locker was a vampyre Tracker who Marked her with a crescent moon on the forehead, thus beginning her Change into a vampyre.

She enters the House of Night-- vampyre finishing school-- where she sleeps during the day, takes classes at night, and learns about Changing into a vampyre.

She makes some friends, including her roommate Stevie Rae (an Oklahoma cowgirl) and Damien (gay), makes enemies with the HBIC (Aphrodite), falls for the resident heartthrob (Erik), and embraces her power, which is much stronger than your average fledgling.

It's a nice story of friendship and good overcoming evil. I just found it lacking in the actual vampyre department. The book seemed more centered around witchcraft than vampyres-- casting spells, calling to the spirits, worshiping the elements, having a deep connection to cats. There was some blood drinking, but mostly during rituals.

I hope the second book in the series is more vampyre-centric and fast-paced. I'll give the Casts one more chance to grab (and keep) my attention.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Trailer: Candor


In a town where his father brainwashes everyone, Oscar Banks has found a way to secretly fight the subliminal Messages that turn even the most troubled kids into model citizens. On the outside, he's the perfect Candor teen, and no one knows that he's built an entire business around helping new kids escape before the Messages take hold.

But then Nia Silva moves to town, and Oscar thinks she's perfect exactly the way she is. Soon he must make a choice: let Nia be lost to the brainwashing, or help her stay special and risk himself in the process.

Read the first chapter:

Visit Pam Bachorz at:

Sounds good! I'm off to read the first chapter now.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

E. Lockhart: The Boyfriend List

Despite a massive storm that had the lights flickering all night long, I was able to finish The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart.


Ruby Oliver is 15 and has a shrink. She knows it's unusual, but give her a break--she's had a rough 10 days. 

In the past 10 days she:

lost her boyfriend (#13 on the list),

lost her best friend (Kim),

lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket),

did something suspicious with a boy (#10),

did something advanced with a boy (#15),

had an argument with a boy (#14),

drank her first beer (someone handed it to her),

got caught by her mom (ag!),

had a panic attack (scary),

lost a lacrosse game (she's the goalie),

failed a math test (she'll make it up),

hurt Meghan's feelings (even though they aren't really friends),

became a social outcast (no one to sit with at lunch)

and had graffiti written about her in the girls' bathroom (who knows what was in the boys'!?!).

But don’t worry--Ruby lives to tell the tale. And make more lists.

Ruby goes from having a boyfriend, laughing with good friends, and being somewhat well-liked to being a social leper. In just ten days!

She responds by having panic attacks.

Her parents respond by sending her to a shrink.

Ruby's shrink tells her to make a list of all the "boyfriends, kind-of boyfriends, almost-boyfriends, rumored boyfriends, and wished-he-were boyfriends" she's ever had.

Each boy on the list helps Ruby see how she treats people, how they treat her, and, more importantly, how she got to where she is today. And, at the end, while Ruby certainly didn't deserve to be treated so poorly by the people in her life, the list helps her see how her words and actions, even her home life, played a part in her ultimate fate.

E. Lockhart picked a clever way to tell a story of the high school hierarchy and the world of teen dating, which-- thank God-- I'm not a part of anymore. As I read the book, I saw my friends and boyfriends. I also saw myself.

It's a book about taking responsibility for the way we treat people, but also how we treat ourselves. While she doesn't live happily ever after, you get the feeling Ruby is coping, learning, and growing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Meg Cabot: Avalon High

I was wandering around my local library Monday morning and stumbled upon Avalon High by Meg Cabot. I couldn't believe there was another Meg Cabot book I hadn't read, so I snatched it up and brought it home with me.


Avalon High, I was starting to think, might not be so bad after all.

Maybe it's not where Ellie wants to be, but if you have to start at a new school, Avalon High is typical enough: There's Lance, the jock. Jennifer, the cheerleader. And Will, senior class president, quarterback, and all-around good guy.

But not everyone at Avalon High is who they appear to be . . . not even, as Ellie is about to discover, herself. As a bizarre drama begins to unfold, Ellie has to wonder, what part does she play in all this? Do the coincidences she's piecing together really mean—as in King Arthur's court—that tragedy is fast approaching for her new friends?

Ellie doesn't know if she can do anything to stop the coming trouble. But somehow, she knows she has to try.

"You're so lucky. You get to start over in a whole new school," Ellie's best friend Nancy tells her before her parents pack up and move the family to Annapolis.

Little does Nancy know, Ellie's life in a new town has been predetermined by forces beyond her control. She is, after all, named after Lady Elaine, the Lady of Shalott.

After spending all of her time floating in their pool, Ellie decides, for a change of pace and scenery, to go running in the park with her father. It's there that she first sees Will, Jennifer, and Lance. But Ellie feels like she's met Will before.

What unfolds is a battle of betrayal, love, and good versus evil.

I spent a semester studying King Arthur, so I immediately knew where this story was going. Still, I liked it.

It was a unique Meg Cabot experience. And the inclusion of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott" at the beginning of each chapter only made the reading experience all the more enjoyable for this English major.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Trailer: Prada and Prejudice

So cute! I'm looking forward to reading it.

Patricia Cornwell: Scarpetta

Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell was released December 2008. And that's when I started reading it. It's one of those books that I picked up, put down, picked up again, put down again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. It never held my interest.

I finally finished it early Monday morning.


Leaving behind her private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina, Kay Scarpetta accepts an assignment in New York City, where the NYPD has asked her to examine an injured man on Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric prison ward. The handcuffed and chained patient, Oscar Bane, has specifically asked for her, and when she literally has her gloved hands on him, he begins to talk—and the story he has to tell turns out to be one of the most bizarre she has ever heard.

The injuries, he says, were sustained in the course of a murder . . . that he did not commit. Is Bane a criminally insane stalker who has fixed on Scarpetta? Or is his paranoid tale true, and it is he who is being spied on, followed and stalked by the actual killer? The one thing Scarpetta knows for certain is that a woman has been tortured and murdered—and more violent deaths will follow. Gradually, an inexplicable and horrifying truth emerges: Whoever is committing the crimes knows where his prey is at all times. Is it a person, a government? And what is the connection between the victims?

In the days that follow, Scarpetta; her forensic psychologist husband, Benton Wesley; and her niece, Lucy, who has recently formed her own forensic computer investigation firm in New York, will undertake a harrowing chase through cyberspace and the all-too-real streets of the city -- an odyssey that will take them at once to places they never knew, and much, much too close to home.

I've been reading Patrica Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series for years. Usually, I love these books. Lately, it feels like someone else is writing them. If Cornwell is writing these stories, she's either bored with the characters or hates them completely.

I know I've started hating the characters. Every single one of them. The second Pete Marino raped Scarpetta in the previous book, I knew I'd never be able to look at these characters the same way again.

The murder investigation, as always, was very thorough and interesting. Cornwell never fails to deliver a fantastic investigation. There's no denying that.

Still, the book had 500 pages and didn't get really interesting until the final 25.

I try not to be too negative, so I'm going to leave it at that. There isn't much I can say about this book.

I simply didn't like it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tonya Hurley: Ghostgirl Homecoming

Out now, Ghostgirl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley is a fun sequel!


Heaven couldn't be a phone bank, could it?

Charlotte Usher discovers that the afterlife isn't quite what she pictured when she's forced to intern at a hotline for troubled teens. Before she can officially cross over, she'll have to be a source of guidance for one such teen. The problem is she doesn't have much advice to offer since dying hasn't exactly boosted her confidence level.

But when Hawthorne High's leading, love-to-hate cheerleader Petula and her gothic little sis' Scarlet find themselves suddenly resting-in-peace in comas, Charlotte's opportunity to save them will prove to be the risk of a lifetime-for all of them.

Apparently, the afterlife isn't much different from living.

Disagreements with friends? Check.

Insecurities? Check.

Villains? Check.

A job? Check.



In this book, Charlotte and her Dead Ed classmates are putting their education into practice and trying to prove themselves while working at a teen hotline.

When teens are thinking about something or dealing with issues, the hotline phone rings. Charlotte and her friends then become the voice inside that teen's head helping them through the confusion. Problem is, Charlotte's phone never rings.

And if that's not enough, she's watching her friends have reunions with loved ones and "lives" that just don't include her.

Enter Maddy, a new girl that no one knows anything about. She manipulates Charlotte's emotions to get her to break the rules and question her friendships.

All the while, there's just as much drama with the living. Petula's in a coma-- thanks to a pedicure gone deadly-- and the students at Hawthorne High are mourning, imitating, and backstabbing.

It isn't until Petula's sister-- and Charlotte's best living friend-- Scarlett puts herself in a self-induced coma that her life and the afterlife collide once again. She goes on the search for Charlotte and help for her sister.

In the end, real friendship and unselfishness prevail.

As with the first Ghostgirl, Tonya Hurley creates a world of vivid characters, who not only seem real, but talk like our friends-- complete with snark and references to the latest pop culture scandals.

I hope we'll get to see what happens with Charlotte and her friends-- both living and dead-- as they reach the next destination of their journey.

Tonya Hurley is the visiting author at Book Divas this week (July 6-10)! Stop by to talk about the book and ask the author questions.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tonya Hurley: Ghostgirl

After winning a copy of the sequel from Book Divas, I decided to read Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley. And I really liked it!


Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
And if I should die before I awake,
I pray the popular attend my wake.

Charlotte Usher feels practically invisible at school, and then one day she really is invisible. Even worse: she's dead. And all because she choked on a gummy bear. But being dead doesn't stop Charlotte from wanting to be popular; it just makes her more creative about achieving her goal.

If you thought high school was a matter of life or death, wait till you see just how true that is. In this satirical, yet heartfelt novel, Hurley explores the invisibility we all feel at some times and the lengths we'll go to be seen.

Don't judge a book by its cover. I've always been told that. And, in most cases, you shouldn't.

When I picked up Ghostgirl at the library, I was greeted by a black cover adorned with a plastic coffin-shaped cutout that read "Rest In Popularity." Intriguing.

Even better? The pages inside weren't only filled with super-cute artwork, but also a great story.

Each chapter began with quotes (Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe) and song lyrics (Evanescence, The Smiths), which was enjoyable and gave a better understanding to what the characters were feeling and going through during the story.

Relating to the characters was easy. I was Charlotte. High school was a lonely time, where I felt invisible and wanted more than anything to fit in. I still feel that way sometimes.

Unlike Charlotte, I didn't have to die in the middle of my transformation to fit in to realize there's more to life-- or, in her case, the afterlife-- than being popular. Real friendship and helping others is more gratifying.

Watching Charlotte struggle to find her place in the afterlife is what made this book interesting to me. You can't take popularity with you; you can only take who you really are (even all your unresolved issues, so you might want to start working on those now).

The cast of afterlife characters was vivid, their nicknames a sign of how they died-- usually a result of some vanity or arrogance. There's Piccolo Pam (who died by swallowing her piccolo while showboating during a parade), Metal Mike (who played his car stereo too loud during his driver's test and crashed) and Call Me Kim (who was obsessed with her cell phone, overusing it, causing death by radiation). That's just a few of the characters Charlotte meets in her Dead Ed class-- yes, there's school and homework in the afterlife!

Being dead didn't stop Charlotte from spending time with the living. My favorite part was Charlotte's interaction with the popular cheerleader's sister Scarlett-- part punk rock, part goth, 100% sarcastic. Their ability to switch places and the shenanigans that ensued were entertaining. I enjoyed watching their unlikely friendship grow as Charlotte grew.

All in all, a great book with very likable characters, a sprinkle of pop culture references and language that taught a lesson without being preachy.

When Piccolo Pam tells Charlotte, "Don't worry. Eventually you'll fit in", I couldn't help but feel comforted. And, at the end of the day-- dead or alive-- isn't that all we need? A little comfort and encouragement go a long way.
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