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


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Elizabeth Scott: Something, Maybe

I've been wanting to check out Elizabeth Scott's books for a while now, so I was thrilled to see Something, Maybe in the YA section of my library.

Think YOUR parents are embarrassing? Be glad you aren't Hannah.

Her playboy father is in his 70s and famous for his online reality show, which showcases his life with pretty young girls. She hasn't seen him in five years.

Her mom, once part of her father's harem, now hosts Internet chats while wearing lingerie. Worse, she hosts these chats from their home.

Like being seventeen years old isn't hard enough.

Hannah just tries to stay under the radar and distance herself from her parents' over-sexed images, putting little effort into her personal appearance (baggy clothes, hair in a ponytail, and no makeup). Still, she fantasizes about boys and her first kiss. Usually, the star of her fantasies is the super-hunky and seemingly perfect Josh. But soon she finds herself crushing on Finn, who is sort of awkward, incredibly sweet, and the complete opposite of Josh.

Things get a little more complicated when Hannah's father decides he wants to be part of her life again, which puts her in the spotlight and a tug of war with her emotions.

While it isn't hard for the reader to see which boy is Hannah's true love, the story was appealing and sometimes funny. Elizabeth Scott's exploration of the different levels of love was realistic and smart.

I hope I get the chance to read more books by her!

For more information on Elizabeth Scott, visit:
@escottwrites
elizabethwrites.com

Thursday, December 2, 2010

November Book List

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich -- Stephanie's cousin Vinnie has been kidnapped and being held for ransom, so Stephanie, Lula, and Connie go to extremes--some explosive, oftentimes illegal extremes--to rescue him and save Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. He is family, after all. And, oh yeah, her job depends on it. It's a fun book. Evanovich's books always are. But I didn't enjoy it as much as I did the previous Stephanie Plum novels. What makes the books so enjoyable is the shenanigans Stephanie gets into while tracking down her skips, an element that was severely lacking in this book.


By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters -- Daelyn Rice feels worthless. So worthless that she has decided there is no point in living any longer. She logs into a website called Through-the-Light that not only helps her decide the day she's going to commit suicide ("Date of Determination"), but provides her with tips and a how-to manual. But more importantly, the website gives Daelyn a platform to discuss why she feels so bad about her life and reveals to readers a life-long struggle with bullies and abuse that led to her first suicide attempt at age ten and her most recent attempt, which left her in a neck brace and unable to talk. Now she's determined to get it right and begins to break all connections to her life on earth, including getting rid of her possessions. Then she meets Santana, a talkative pest of a boy who just won't leave her alone, which puts a bit of a snag in her plan to make no attachments to the living. I was roaming around the Young Adult Fiction section of the local library when this title caught my attention. I knew what I was getting myself into, but I didn't quite expect to be completely wrecked as I read each page. It absolutely broke my heart. This is a compelling, eye-opening, and important story that I wish was required reading for anyone who has ever bullied someone.


Impossible by Nancy Werlin -- Lucy is seventeen years old and pregnant. But that's not the worst of her problems. She finds her Mom's journal--written while she was pregnant with Lucy--and discovers that generations of women in her family are cursed and must complete three impossible tasks or fall into a state of complete insanity upon the birth of their daughter. Based on the ballad, “Scarborough Fair,” this was a gripping story filled with suspense, fantasy, and romance from beginning to the very nail-biting end. I stumbled upon this book by accident one Saturday afternoon while I was wandering around the library, and I'm so glad I did. What a unique idea for a novel. I can't wait to read the sequel!


Don't Blink by James Patterson -- Nick Daniels is a reporter who has landed an interview with a former New York Yankees player who inexplicably quit playing baseball during the World Series. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that Nick knows will be one of the best stories of his journalistic career. Instead, while conducting the interview at at Lombardo's Steak House, he accidentally ends up in the middle of the biggest news story in New York as his tape recorder captures key evidence in a brutal murder. What unfolds is a trail of dead bodies and a race to solve the crime before he becomes the next victim. This book was a bit gory, but riveting.


Private by James Patterson -- Jack Morgan is a former CIA agent who now runs Private, a famous investigative company with an equally famous clientele. Private is a company respected for its discretion, top-notch forensic team, and state of the art technology. In the midst of investigating an NFL gambling scandal and trying to track down who is murdering teenage girls, his best friend's wife is murdered. Jack decides to focus all of his energy and use every resource possible to solve this crime, which has hit too close to home. The story moved at James Patterson's famous fast pace, but I felt there was too much going on to get involved in any of the subplots or to care about any of the characters.


The Postcard Killers by James Patterson & Liza Marklund -- NYPD detective Jacob Kanon is tracking serial killers. His daughter Kimmy and her boyfriend were the first victims in a string of brutal killings throughout Europe. The only clues are postcards sent to newspapers prior to each of the killings. He teams up with a Swedish reporter named Dessie Larsson who has just received a postcard that he hopes will lead him to the killers before they have time to kill again. James Patterson takes readers on a rapid-fire journey through Europe's famous cathedrals and museums as Jacob and Dessie uncover the twisted past of two relentless killers. As someone who loves to travel, I enjoyed the romp through Europe. This book was definitely a page-turner that kept me up late at night wanting to know what happened next.



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

October Book List

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White - Evie is just a typical teenage girl. Except for the fact that she works for International Paranormal Containment Agency. Oh, and she has the ability to see through a paranormal's glamours, which makes her super rare. Did I mention that her ex-boyfriend is a faerie? And she might be falling for a shape-shifter. Nothing is normal in this paranormal debut by Kiersten White. The story contained the perfect balance of light and dark, good and evil, funny and scary. I laughed. I shrieked. I couldn't stop reading. I could gush about this book forever. I loved it so much that I sent a fan letter to Kiersten raving and begging for a sequel, like, now. The year isn't over yet, but I'm giving my BOOK OF THE YEAR award to Paranormalcy. It was a bleeping fantastic book!


Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella - Even though I get a bit twitchy when people throw money around on unnecessary material things and brand names, I can't help by love the Shopaholic series. In this book, Rebecca's stubborn two-year-old daughter Minnie joins in on the shopping adventures. When a financial crisis strikes, Rebecca is forced to live on a budget, which proves to be difficult when planning an over-the-top extravagant surprise birthday party for her husband Luke and a daughter who is always screaming "Miiiiine!" There were so many laugh out loud moments in this book. It was a sharp addition to the series.


The Karma Club by Jessica Brody - After her boyfriend dumps her and her Mom forces her to go on a weekend-long New Age retreat, Madison Kasparkova decides to take matters into her own hands and starts The Karma Club. Why wait for karma when you can get revenge on those who have done you wrong? The Karma Club is a witty, fun look at the obstacles teenage girls face and the consequences of interfering in the lives of others. I don't know if I believe in karma. I've seen amazingly good people get a lot of crap handed to them. I've seen insanely evil people get a world of riches handed to them. But I do believe in sending as much positivity into the world as possible, regardless of the hand you've been dealt in life. Jessica Brody does an excellent job of exploring the topic. The story was thought-provoking and the characters, especially Madison, were charming.


You Wish by Mandy Hubbard - Kayla wakes up the morning after her sixteenth birthday party to find wishes from birthdays past coming true. There's a life-size My Little Pony galloping around her back yard, gum balls everywhere, and so many other strange things happening. As Kayla tries to piece together all fifteen of her previous wishes, she realizes that one of them is to kiss Ben, her best friend Nicole's boyfriend. Afraid of ruining their friendship, Kayla tries to find a way to stop her wishes from coming true. Along the way, she ends up learning about herself and finding joy in unexpected places. Mandy Hubbard is a fun writer. You Wish is a fun book.


Fang by James Patterson - While in Africa, Max and her flock meet a doctor obsessed with using genetics to insure survival of the weakest. He's creepy and his intentions aren't that noble. They also meet Dylan, a bird kid just like them. The flock is also dealing with Max and Fang's relationship, which is changing the group dynamic. Tension and suspense move the story along to a climactic life or death ending. I'm a big fan of the Maximum Ride series. The books teach the importance of taking care of our planet and being socially aware without being too preachy.The characters are also incredibly lovable and sympathetic. I always look forward to reading about their latest adventures.



Friday, October 1, 2010

September Book List

9th Judgment by James Patterson - In this installment of the Women's Murder Club series, Detective Lindsay Boxer is trying to capture a vicious killer who is gunning down mothers and their young children in public. With no witnesses and cryptic messages from the killer as her only evidence, she's in a race to save lives. James Patterson is one of my favorite authors because his books are fast-paced-edge-of-your-seat thrillers. The chapters are concise, which I envy. (I want the ability to write like that.) This was the most exciting book of the series.


Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - I adore the Hunger Games series, so it was bittersweet to read this final book. No one is safe. The districts are at war. And Katniss is, once again, the center of vicious games (sometimes mental, always violent) and President Snow's wrath. It wasn't as mesmerizing as The Hunger Games and Catching Fire and the ending was predictable, but I marveled at Suzanne Collins' imagination and storytelling skills. Katniss will always be one of my favorite YA Fiction heroines.

Worst Case by James Patterson - Children of the rich and privileged are being kidnapped by a vigilante with an ax to grind with society. Joined by FBI specialist Emily Parker and connected to the kidnapper via taunting phone calls, NYC Detective Michael Bennett is fighting to bring the kids home before the worst can happen. Fast-paced (as usual) and riveting, I couldn't put this book down. My only complaint was that the kidnapper used a ransom collection tactic exactly like one used in 9th Judgment. For a second, I was confused about which book I was reading.

Much Ado About Anne by Heather Vogel Frederick - I'm far too old to read The Mother-Daughter Book Club series, but I can't help but love it. Each chapter is told in the alternating voices of Emma, Jess, Cassidy, and Megan, real girls who are genuine, intelligent, and feisty. In this installment of the series, the book club is reading the novels of Lucy Maud Montgomery. Heather Vogel Frederick does a great job of using the Green Gables series and characters to convey and solve the problems of modern day girls. It was a treat to read. I wish I had a book club as cool as this one.

Dear Pen Pal by Heather Vogel Frederick - Another great Mother-Daughter Book Club novel. In this one, the girls are reading Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster, which unites them with another book club via snail mail. At first, the girls aren't exactly thrilled about their new pen pals, but the interactions add another level of learning and friendship to the story. It was a quick, heartwarming read.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August Book List

The Deathday Letter by Shaun Hutchinson - In Ollie's world, you're notified of your death 24 hours ahead of time via a deathday letter. So, when he receives his, he's a ball of emotions. The book follows his journey through the final 24 hours of his life--what he does, whom he does it with, his thoughts, his emotions, and his dreams. The story was intense, captivating, and sometimes humorous. But it also broke my heart. Shaun Hutchinson is a very perceptive writer, and I was absolutely floored by this debut.

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell - I'm a huge fan of "Sex And The City." Love, love, love it! I think Carrie Bradshaw (and Sarah Jessica Parker) is fab. So I loved the idea of reading about what she was like in high school. It was interesting to read about her home life, her friends and boyfriends, as well as what made her decide to become a writer. The book stayed true to Carrie's personality and fashion sense. And I couldn't help but picture Sarah Jessica Parker circa "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" as I read. The ending put the biggest smile on my face. I loved it.

Talking To Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield - I'm not a fan of Rolling Stone magazine, but I always pick it up and look for Rob Sheffield's bylines. I find his writing entertaining, funny, and so very real. I don't buy books often, but if I have extra money I try to pick up those by my favorite authors. Ever since I read Love Is A Mix Tape back in 2007, Rob Sheffield has been on that list. In this memoir, he shares coming of age stories--most about trying to understand girls--using music and pop culture references as the backdrop. It was such a great read. I especially loved the chapter about cassingles.



Monday, August 2, 2010

Must Read: The Half-Life of Planets

I was so surprised to hear that Emily Frankly has a new book out! She's one of my favorite authors, so I don't know how this slipped past me. I missed book signings and everything. Bummer. But I'm very excited to read The Half-Life of Planets (co-written with Brendan Halpin).

Synopsis:
Lianna is an aspiring planetary scientist...and also a kissing expert. She's got a lot of experience. Maybe too much. So this summer she decides to conduct an experiment: She's going to give up the kissing part. It shouldn't be too hard for her--after all, none of her kissing partners so far have been worth the lip time. That is, until Hank comes along.

Hank has never been kissed. He's smart and funny--sometimes without intending to be--and a little socially challenged. Hank's got Asperger's syndrome. This means he knows nearly every track that Kirsty Maccoll has ever appeared on, but not when to shut up about it. Despite his loquaciousness, he also doesn't know when to say the things he should. Things like, I don't have a father, I want to hold your hand, I want to kiss you.

It would appear that Hank and Liana are in for an interesting summer--if the planets align correctly.


For more information on Emily Franklin, visit:
emilyfranklin.com

For more information Brendan Halpin, visit:
@bhalpin
brendanhalpin.com

Friday, July 23, 2010

Allan Richard Shickman: Zan-Gah

Thanks to the kind folks at Earthshaker Books, I have a signed copy of Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure by Allan Richard Shickman. I had never read a book set in prehistoric times, so I was intrigued.

Synopsis:
"She began to move warily in a circle as the men tightened the trap, and as they got closer the lioness began to stride and prowl in a circle so small that she almost seemed to be chasing her tail. But she was watching, watching while she turned and snarled, for a weakness in the ever-tightening ring of her pursuers. Then, at the moment the attack finally was sounded--when the men, putting down their drums and torches, charged on the run with their spears--the lioness saw what she was looking for. One of her enemies was smaller, weaker than the rest. There was a point in the strengthening line that could be broken! Thought merged with furious action and the beast, with a mighty bound of astonishing swiftness, darted toward Zan. Five hundred pounds of snarling fury sprang directly at him with claws bared and fanged mouth open!"

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure has hardly started. A bad conscience and concern for Dael, his missing brother, cause Zan to begin a search which will lead him to captivity, conflict, love, and victory. In a time of war, the hero goes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood, and a role of leadership among his people.

It's about survival, discovery, a long search, and a good fight.


It doesn't take long for the action to get started. And, once it does, the reader doesn't get a chance to come up for air.

The story begins with Zan-Gah's tribe battling a vicious lioness and what follows is a gripping, action-packed journey through dangerous terrains, encounters with angry rival tribes, and a brave attempt to endure in the most primitive of conditions.

This book was unique and like nothing I've ever read. Allan Richard Shickman is such a descriptive writer that it was easy to picture the barren landscapes and feel Zan-Gah's curiosity and fear.

Some of the violence was a bit hard to take but necessary to understand how tribes captured food, handled danger, and survived in prehistoric times.

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure was both educational and captivating. I'm definitely going to recommend it to my thrill-seeking little cousins. I know they'll enjoy the Zan-Gah's adventures and bravery.

For more information, visit:
www.zan-gah.com

Rhonda Stapleton: Flirting with Disaster

In February, after reading so many positive reviews, I picked up Stupid Cupid by Rhonda Stapleton. I enjoyed it and added the next book in the series, Flirting with Disaster, to my "must read" list.

Synopsis:
Felicity is a total romantic. That's why she follows her heart--not the rules--in her job as a cupid. But when Felicity turns her matchmaking magic on her best friend, Andy, it's Andy who breaks their golden rule: friends always come first. Andy is so wrapped up in her new guy that she's ditching everyone else. How can Felicity stop her BFF from letting a BF come between them?

Meanwhile, Felicity decides to get over her crush on Derek by setting him up with someone else--but in her impulsive haste, she accidentally matches him with the whole school, and now everyone is in love with him. The entire student body is headed toward heartbreak, just weeks before prom. Does Felicity have what it takes to make everyone's heart happy? Including her own?


Love is unpredictable. Even when it's initiated by modern day cupids equipped with cute, hot pink, tricked out PDAs. That's just one of the many lessons Felicity learns in Flirting With Disaster. Mix in best friend drama, a school-wide obsession, a possible love match for Felicity herself, and you've got the recipe for a super-fun sequel.

I really love this series, especially Felicity. Despite the zany mix-ups, her refusal to read her job's instruction manual, and her hopeless romantic tendencies, she has a good heart and the best of intentions. Even better, she's easy to relate to and root for.

I understood her heartbreak over losing her best friend Andy to a boy.

I felt bad for her when the love matches didn't work out.

(Note: If there are any modern day cupids trying to make things happen for me, I apologize for all of the job-related stress I must be causing you.)

I was excited for her when she started interacting with Derek.

She felt like a friend. And I always want good things to happen for my friends.

There's a surprise twist at the end that I really didn't see coming. I've already requested the third book in the series, Pucker Up, from my library because I MUST know what happens next.

Rhonda Stapleton created a witty, entertaining story that doesn't feel forced. Her sense of humor is evident on every page. I definitely think you should check out this series.

For more information on Rhonda Stapleton, visit:
@rhondastapleton
rhondastapleton.com

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Maureen Johnson: Scarlett Fever

I'm a big fan of Maureen Johnson. Her Twitter is entertaining. She writes amazing books. She's one of my writing heroes. I thought Suite Scarlett was a fun book, so I was excited to read the sequel, Scarlett Fever!

Synopsis:
Ever since Mrs. Amberson, the former-aspiring-actress-turned-agent, entered Scarlett Martin's life, nothing has been the same.

She's still in charge of the Empire Suite in her family's hotel, but she's now also Mrs. Amberson's assistant, running around town for her star client, Chelsea - a Broadway star Scarlett's age with a knack for making her feel insignificant.

Scarlett's also trying to juggle sophomore year classes, her lab partner who is being just a little TOO nice, and getting over the boy who broke her heart.

In the midst of all this, her parents drop a bombshell that threatens to change her New York life forever...


Scarlett Fever picks up a few weeks after the first book ends, so it doesn't take long to get going. In fact, with Scarlett juggling school, helping her family, nursing a broken heart, and working for the very eccentric Mrs. Amberson, her frenzied life makes for a fast-paced book that I wanted to devour in one sitting. But I decided to pace myself and soak up the story, which Maureen Johnson filled with whimsical characters and lively adventures.

The Martin family, as always, was very lovable. Their struggles to take care of their family and maintain a cash-strapped hotel in a city filled with some of richest people in the world was realistic without being too preachy. I always root for the scrappy underdog, especially when they're as charismatic and well-deserving of good things as the Martins are. I'd love to be a guest at the Hopewell Hotel.

Some things were predictable, like the storyline revolving around Spencer's big acting break. But the way it was written was side-splitting funny.

And, while it was a bit under-whelming, I was glad to see Marlene's storyline extended. Her suspiciously nice behavior caught me--and Scarlett--off guard.

Lola's role in the book was heartbreaking, but quietly so. I think it's fascinating that in the midst of such a raucous world, there's a vulnerable, drama-free character who manages to stir up controversy and shock everyone.

One of the things Maureen Johnson rocks at doing is developing complex characters, and the introduction of Broadway star Chelsea, Scarlett's lab partner Max, school friends, and even a neurotic dog named Murray, was no exception. I enjoyed the interactions and the way Scarlett could land smack-dab in the middle of any plot and not feel out of place or forced there.

Even better, it was great to see a female protagonist deal with a breakup and her feelings for a boy without coming off as silly. Sure, she was a little obsessive (How many times can you watch a single YouTube video?), but she had a life and friends outside of Eric.

I think you'd have to read Suite Scarlett to understand what's going on in this book, but it's worth it. Both are great reads. In fact, Scarlett Fever far exceeded my expectations and was even more charming and hilarious than its predecessor. That's rare.

In short, I loved this book. The cliffhanger ending left me pouting and wanting more.

For more information on Maureen Johnson, visit:
@maureenjohnson
maureenjohnsonbooks.com

Must Read: Crescendo

One of my favorite books of 2009 was Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. I'm really looking forward to the sequel, Crescendo (October 19 / Simon & Schuster)!

Synopsis:
Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?


For more information on Becca Fitzpatrick, visit:
@becfitzpatrick
beccafitzpatrick.com



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Claire Cook: The Wildwater Walking Club

I love to walk! But I usually do it alone, so it's hard to get motivated. True story alert: On July 3, I received a shiny, new pedometer, which I promptly attached to my waistband as I walked to the park to take part in the city's 4th of July festivities. When I got there, I was excited to see that I had walked almost 3,000 steps! Now that's motivation! Unfortunately, I lost the pedometer. Along with it, my motivation. I thought reading The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook might help me get a little of that motivation back.

Synopsis:
Just put one foot in front of the other. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But when Noreen Kelly takes a buyout from her job of eighteen years and gets dumped by her boyfriend in one fell swoop, she finds it hard to know what that next step is-never mind take it. At first Noreen thinks maybe her redundancy package could be an opportunity, a chance to figure out what to do with the rest of her life while her company foots the bill. Sure, she may have gotten high to "Witchy Woman" and grooved to "Sweet Baby James" back when James Taylor had hair, but she isn't ready for her AARP card. Not yet.

But it's the first time in a great many years that Noreen has time to herself-and she has no idea what to do with it. When she realizes that she's mistaken her resume for her personality, Noreen knows that she has to get moving, so she puts on a new pair of sneakers and a seriously outdated pair of exercise pants, and walks. She doesn't get very far at first-just to the end of her street, Wildwater Way-but she perseveres, and when she's joined by her neighbors Tess and Rosie, Noreen realizes that walking is not an extreme sport. It can actually be fun.

As the Wildwater women walk and talk, and talk and walk, they tally their steps, share their secrets, and learn what women everywhere are finding out-that time flies and getting fit is actually fun when you're walking with friends. Throw in a road trip to Seattle for a lavender festival, a career-coaching group that looks like a bad sequel to The Breakfast Club, a clothesline controversy that could only happen in the 'burbs, plenty of romantic twists and turns, and a quirky multigenerational cast of supporting characters, and the result is an experience that's heartfelt, exuberant, and above all, real.


Sometimes it's important to take a moment to appreciate the simple, quiet things that life has to offer. Usually in that moment you find what's really important to you. And that's what Claire Cook's books do for me--offer up a little perspective through straightforward, engaging storytelling and genuine characters.

The core of The Wildwater Walking Club is friendship. Noreen, Tess, and Rosie have very different lives and personalities, but they complement each other wonderfully. Watching their friendship blossom was heartwarming.

As they walk, the characters' personal struggles are revealed--sometimes willingly, sometimes by accident. Following each character on her journey of self discovery was encouraging. Watching them find ways to move forward was inspirational.

I wish I knew people like Noreen, Tess, and Rosie. They'd be great friends and walking buddies.

(And the lavender recipes sprinkled throughout the book were a nice surprise--I might try some of them!)

I enjoyed this story. It made me want to make changes, taught me that it's never too late to find your way, and reminded me how important it is--not just for physical health, but mental health as well--to lace up my sneakers and walk.


For more information, visit Claire Cook at:
@ClaireCookbooks
clairecook.com

Lauren Conrad: Sweet Little Lies

If you're a long-time reader, you'll remember my review of L.A. Candy and a revelation that "The Hills" was a guilty pleasure of mine. So, of course, I couldn't resist reading Sweet Little Lies, the second book in Lauren Conrad's series.

Synopsis:
How Sweet it is?

Jane Roberts was the average girl next door until she and her best friend, Scarlett Harp, landed their own reality show, L.A. Candy. Now the girls have an all-access pass to Hollywood's hottest everything. But there's more to life on camera than just parties and shopping. . . .

When racy photos of Jane are leaked to the press, she finds herself at the center of a tabloid scandal. She turns to her co-star Madison Parker for help, unaware that Madison is scheming behind the scenes. She might be Jane's shoulder to cry on, but does Madison really have Jane's back?

Scarlett's working on a scandal of her own. She's fallen for someone who's strictly off-limits--which means Scarlett has a big secret to keep . . . from the L.A. Candy cameras, the paparazzi staking out her apartment, even from her best friend.

Of course, nothing stays secret for long for the stars of the newest hit TV series, and all this drama couldn't be better for ratings. But can Jane survive another season in the spotlight?

In television star Lauren Conrad's dishy, entertaining novel about young Hollywood, the lies are only as sweet as the people telling them.


What can I say? As is the case with all guilty pleasures, I'm inexplicably hooked.

I thought Sweet Little Lies was so much better than L.A. Candy.

The story moved at a fast pace, thanks to a plot filled with scandal, subterfuge, and spectacle.

The characters had more layers, especially Jane, who--thanks to a backstabbing, fame-starved co-star and a media scandal--transformed from a wide-eyed novice to a savvy TV star with an agent.

And the overall writing was better.

Like L.A.. Candy, I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at how reality shows are filmed and ultimately staged (texts and instant messages from the producers suggesting dialogue and topics of conversation played a big part in each "scene" and how the "characters" interacted). In fact, right after I read this book, I watched bits and pieces of a "Hills" marathon on MTV and found myself noticing that the "characters" seemed to have an obsession with text messages and looking at their computer screens. So funny! Why didn't I catch that before? It brought a whole new level of enjoyment to the show.

Even if you aren't a fan of "The Hills," I think you'd enjoy Sweet Little Lies. It's a fun, easy read filled with enough antics, rumors, and mud slinging to rival even the dishiest tabloid.

I know I'm definitely excited for Sugar and Spice (scheduled for publication on October 5) so I can find out what happens next!


For more information on Lauren Conrad, visit:
@LaurenConrad
laurenconrad.com

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Suzanne Young: The Naughty List

If I could describe The Naughty List in one word, it would be effervescent. Suzanne Young created a story and characters that were frothy and fun.

Synopsis:
As if being a purrfect cheerleader isn't enough responsibility! Tessa Crimson's the sweet and spunky leader of the SOS (Society of Smitten Kittens), a cheer squad-turned-spy society dedicated to bringing dastardly boyfriends to justice, one cheater at a time. Boyfriend-busting wouldn't be so bad . . . except that so far, every suspect on the Naughty List has been proven 100% guilty!

When Tessa's own boyfriend shows up on the List, she turns her sleuthing skills on him. Is Aiden just as naughty as all the rest, or will Tessa's sneaky ways end in catastrophe?

The Naughty List. Is your boyfriend on it?


Tessa and the Society of Smitten Kittens tore down all of the "airhead" cheerleader stereotypes by running a top secret, but well-established non-profit organization and setting up some dangerous and intricate covert operations to track down cheating boyfriends. The memos and letters to their clients were so entertaining that I wish I could view the photos and videos they obtained as evidence.

It was also nice to see the girls working together, caring about others, and not being catty or mean just because they were popular cheerleaders. Girl power!

My only complaint was that Tessa's personality sometimes grated on my nerves. No one is that perky and perfect all the time--not even cheerleaders. And while I enjoyed reading a YA book that wasn't littered with swearing, Tessa's good-girl image didn't quite gel with the purely sexual relationship she had with her boyfriend and the fact that she spied on (cheating) couples (sometimes) having sex. I'd love to see more of her personality explored and revealed.

I'd also love to see more high-tech investigations. They were, by far, the most entertaining aspect of the story.

All in all, I enjoyed the book and am curious to see what happens next.


For more information on Suzanne Young, visit:
@suzanne_young
suzanne-young.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Claire Cook: Summer Blowout

Every summer I dream of lounging on the beach and reading paperback novel after paperback novel. Every summer I'm stuck at home for one reason or another (no vacation time, no money, you name it). Instead, I head to my local library and look for books I'd imagine myself reading on the beach, bring them home with me, and pretend. Claire Cook's books always fit the bill, so I recently checked out Summer Blowout.

Synopsis:
Bella Shaughnessy is addicted to lipstick with names like My Chihuahua Bites and Kiss My Lips-an occupational hazard, since she works at Salon de Paolo, her family-run beauty salon, along with her four half-brothers and sisters. The owner is her father, Lucky Shaughnessy, a gregarious, three-times divorced charmer with Donald Trump hair who is obsessed with all things Italian. After Bella's own marriage flames out spectacularly when her half-sister runs off with her husband, Bella decides she has seen enough of the damage love can do. She makes a vow: no more men. But then Bella meets a cute entrepreneur, and despite their bickering, they can't seem to stay away from each other. A small, well-tressed dog also finds her way into Bella's life, and her heart, and she decides to chance that, too. When the whole clan heads to Atlanta for a big Southern wedding, sparks fly - in a summer blowout no one will ever forget.

Bella was a quirky, fun narrator.

Her family was delightfully rambunctious.

That's what I love about Claire Cook's books--the characters are everyday people that I can relate to. They have flaws and issues. They argue. They feel lost and confused. Their hearts break. Still, they find their way back, through forgiveness, perseverance, a little help from family, and, sometimes, reinvention.

But Summer Blowout isn't heavy-handed thanks to hilarious dialogue and madcap family adventures. I often found myself laughing out loud.

I also loved all the make-up tips!

So I didn't make it to the beach this summer, but I felt like I got to spend a few hours there with crazy-fun friends.


For more information, visit Claire Cook at:
@ClaireCookbooks
clairecook.com

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Minrose Gwin: The Queen of Palmyra

In April, I was given the chance to receive an Advance Reader's Copy of The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin. That's quite an honor for a small, unknown blog like mine. The story sounded interesting, so I jumped at the chance.

Synopsis:
"I need you to understand how ordinary it all was. . . ."

In the turbulent southern summer of 1963, Millwood's white population steers clear of "Shake Rag," the black section of town. Young Florence Forrest is one of the few who crosses the line. The daughter of a burial insurance salesman with dark secrets and the town's "cake lady," whose backcountry bootleg runs lead further and further away from a brutal marriage, Florence attaches herself to her grandparents' longtime maid, Zenie Johnson. Named for Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, Zenie treats the unwanted girl as just another chore, while telling her stories of the legendary queen's courage and cunning.

The more time Florence spends in Shake Rag, the more she recognizes how completely race divides her town, and her story, far from ordinary, bears witness to the truth and brutality of her times--a truth brought to a shattering conclusion when Zenie's vibrant college-student niece, Eva Greene, arrives that fateful Mississippi summer.


I started reading the novel in April, and I just finished it last night. That's not to say it was a bad book. Quite the opposite, actually. It was good. Really good. But the story was so painfully sad and left my heart broken. When it wasn't doing that, it left me infuriated, wanting to scream.

Florence's daily life was A LOT to digest. She's very strong because she has to be. But she's also innocent and vulnerable because she's only eleven years old. Reading her adult narrative and her eleven-year-old narrative added an extra layer to the book and helped me understand her reactions to and thoughts about the various tragedies in her life. Regardless of her age, I wanted to hug her and tell her that everything would be okay. Even if I wasn't so sure that would be the case.

The Queen of Palmyra was gripping, but it was also poetic. Minrose Gwin's words were so descriptive, so very vivid, that I could feel the summer heat, smell cakes as they were baking, and feel the sadness and fear the characters felt as if it were my own.

With a debut novel this powerful and beautifully written, I'm really intrigued to see what Minrose Gwin comes up with next.


For more information on Minrose Gwin, visit:
minrosegwin.com

Monday, July 12, 2010

E. Lockhart: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

I heard so many good things about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart that I knew I had to read it. Luckily, my library had it. Score!

Synopsis:
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father's "bunny rabbit."
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take "no" for an answer.
Especially when "no" means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew's lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.


This is my kind of YA Fiction. I'd describe it as "Veronica Mars" meets "The Skulls," a story about fighting the system and rocking against stereotypes. It is intelligent and bold.

Frankie Landau-Banks is my kind of YA heroine. She doesn't fret over her appearance, the latest accessories, or must-have fashions. She's not content being some hot guy's arm candy. Frankie is smart and very resourceful.

The story is very fast-paced. Frankie's exploits are brilliant and funny.

I loved this book. I love E. Lockhart for creating a delightful character who isn't afraid to speak her mind and risk her social status.


For more information, visit E. Lockhart at:
@elockhart
e-lockhart.com

Friday, July 9, 2010

Stephenie Meyer: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

My Mom likes vampire books, so I picked up Twilight as a gift for her not long after it was published. Back then, Robert Pattinson was just Cedric Diggory, Kristen Stewart had blown my mind in her brilliant portrayal of Melinda Sordino in the movie adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson's novel Speak, and Taylor Lautner was Sharkboy. It was simply Twilight, not The Twilight Saga. Mom read without the prejudice of the Hollywood over-hype machine and liked it. So, as each book in the series was published, I bought them for her. One weekend I was bored and decided to give the series a try. I liked the first two books. Everything after was over-the-top tragically awful. Still, I was curious about The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer--mostly because I had absolutely no memory of Bree Tanner in Eclipse.



Synopsis:
Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes, and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for blood...life before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has a few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw attention to yourself, and above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.

Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, whom they know only as her. As they come to realize that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides and decide whom to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth?


If you like the Twilight books, you'll like this.

I, however, did not.

What bothered me most was the lack of chapters. There wasn't a single break in the entire story.

More bothersome? Even after reading the book, I still had no memory of Bree Tanner. But I did love Jane and the Volturi. They're so evil, you know, live vampires are supposed to be.

I'll give Stephenie Meyer credit for creating such a vivid backstory for such a minor character, but it just wasn't my thing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gayle Forman: If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is one of those books that The Wall Street Journal wrecked for me last year by writing about the ending without giving a spoiler alert, so I put off reading it. I finally gave in. And I'm happy I did!

Synopsis:
On a day that started like any other...

Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the one decision she has left--the most important decision she'll ever make.


Mia's narration, as she watches friends and family respond to the tragedy, is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which is to say it is poignant and absolutely heartbreaking. However, there's a touch of humor and hope as Mia flashes back to memories of her parents, her boyfriend Adam, best friend Kim, and playing the cello.

As I was reading this novel, I remember thinking it was too short. How could Mia reach such a crucial decision in so few pages? But the length of the book was yet another indicator of just how fast things can change. And it made me appreciate the writing abilities of Gayle Forman even more. Words weren't wasted on irrelevant details. Every mood, smell, and sound was captured perfectly. Even better, the characters were real, vivid, and carefully developed.

I'm glad I didn't let the poor choice of a journalist keep me from reading If I Stay. Mia's story will stay with me for a long time.

According to Gayle's blog, Where She Went, a sequel that takes place three years later and is told through Adam's point of view, is scheduled for publication in spring of 2011.


For more information on Gayle Forman, visit:
@gayleforman
gayleforman.com

New Covers: Ruby Oliver Series

The first three books in E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver series will hit shelves later this month in paperback with brand new covers!

Old covers:



New covers:



The fourth book Real Live Boyfriends is scheduled for publication on December 28.

The new covers look great.

The old covers were quirky and fun.

I always get bummed when the covers change during a series. I like matching sets, so I'm left with two choices--deal with the clashing OR not buy the book at all. We'll see....

But yay for another Ruby book!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Must Read: Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White has been on my "to read" list for the fall since I heard people buzzing about it on Twitter. I was beyond excited when Kiersten announced that the release date has been bumped up to August 31!

Synopsis:
Evie's always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours.

But Evie's about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.


For more information, visit Kiersten White at:
@kierstenwhite
kierstenwhite.com

Three Books From Lauren Barnholdt!

Lauren Barnholdt has been busy! She has THREE YA books coming out this summer!

One Night That Changes Everything will be out July 6.

Synopsis:
Four dares - Two secrets - One night

Eliza is in a full-blown panic. Her notebook has been stolen--the one that lists everything she wants but is afraid to go after. And the absolute worst person in the world has it: her ex-boyfriend, Cooper.

Like it's not enough Cooper was lying to Eliza for their entire relationship, now he and his friends are blackmailing her. They're giving her just one night to complete the most humiliating tasks on her list or they'll post her secrets online--including the ones that aren't just about her.

Eliza's sure of only one thing: she isn't going down without a fight. Cooper may have what's left of her dignity, but she's not the only one with something to hide...


The re-release of Reality Chick (see my three-hearts review HERE) under a new name--Watch Me--will also be out on July 6.

Synopsis:
Ally has everything under control. She's about to move into a house full of strangers and have her life broadcast to the world, but as long as she still has her long-distance boyfriend, Corey, nothing can go wrong. Nothing, that is, until Ally starts spending time with her housemate Drew, the hot and sensitive guy who always seems to be around when she needs someone the most.

As suspicions and lies start pulling Ally and Corey apart, she's not sure if she can trust anyone, not even herself. Ally is about to learn the hard way that life is what happens when everyone is looking, and it doesn't always capture her good side?.


Finally, Aces Up will be out on August 10.

Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old high school senior Shannon Card needs money. And lots of it. She's been admitted to Wellesley, but her dad just lost his job, and somehow she has to come up with a year of tuition herself. But Shannon's dream of making big bucks waitressing at the local casino, the Collosio, disappears faster than a gambler's lucky streak. Her boss is a tyrant, her coworker is nuts, and her chances of balancing a tray full of drinks while wearing high-heeled shoes are slim to none. Worse, time is running out, and Shannon hasn't made even half the money she'd hoped.

When Shannon receives a mysterious invitation to join Aces Up, a secret network of highly talented college poker players, at first she thinks No way. She has enough to worry about: keeping her job, winning the coveted math scholarship at school, and tutoring her secret crush, Max. But when Shannon musters up the nerve to kiss Max and he doesn't react at all, the allure of Aces Up and its sexy eighteen-year-old leader, Cole, is suddenly too powerful to ignore.

Soon Shannon's caught up in a web of lies and deceit that makes worrying about tuition money or a high school crush seem like kid stuff. Still, when the money's this good, is the fear of getting caught reason enough to fold?


For more information on Lauren Barnholdt, visit:
@laurenbarnholdt
laurenbarnholdtsummer.com

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One Year Blogoversary

I started this blog one year ago today.

I had hit rock-bottom and needed something to help me climb my way back up to the land of the living. I found Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher on the shelves at my local library and, as my user name suggests, it had a major impact on my life. The story hit so close to home that I couldn't even bring myself to review it. Some things are just too personal.

In short, that book saved my life. This blog gave me a purpose every day.

And what a year it's been!

I've stumbled upon so many amazing authors--old and new--that I know I never would have heard of if it hadn't been for my interest in book blogging.

I found myself having conversations with actual authors, which is something I never thought would happen. Authors are rock stars to me!

I couldn't let today pass without thanking:

~ Stephanie Kuehnert () and Crissa-Jean Chappell () for being the first authors to read my blog and comment.

~ Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus for their fun Friday Five interview.

~ Jay Asher for writing Thirteen Reasons Why.

~ My 12th grade English teacher Mrs. Stratton for fostering my love of books.

~ My friend Bobby from St. Louis for being as enthusiastic about books as I am and filling pages of hand-written snail mail with reviews and suggestions.

~ Susane Colasanti () for unabashedly loving John Mayer as much as I do and including this lyrics in her amazing books.

~ Kay Cassidy for being an unstoppable force of kindness and positive thoughts.

~ The Westfield Athenaeum for keeping my "to read" pile stacked high.

~ The many authors who wrote, revised, and poured their heart and souls into the books I read and reviewed. Your imagination helped me escape and go on many adventures during a time when I needed to the most.

I fly under the radar without many readers or comments, but I'm grateful for every one and absolutely love the book blogging world.

Here's to another year!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Carrie Ryan: The Dead-Tossed Waves

The biggest surprise--and most excellent book--I encountered last year was The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. I mean, it absolutely captivated me from beginning to end. So, of course, I found myself counting down the days until I could read The Dead-Tossed Waves!

Synopsis:
Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She's content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry's mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother's past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

It didn't take more than a chapter for me to fully immerse myself in Gabry's world.

There are many parallels--characters losing loved ones to Mudo (zombie-like humans thirsty for blood and a need to infect everyone), exploring the Forest of Hands and Teeth (looking for answers and safety while dodging the Mudo and other dangers), and falling in love (coping with a painful love triangle)--but The Dead-Tossed Waves is unique in its narration and initial seaside location.

What I loved the most was how the characters and stories from both books were tied together so perfectly. A lot of the questions I had as I read The Forest of Hands and Teeth were answered. But, like good writers should, Carrie Ryan had me asking even more questions and wanting to know everything.

The new setting and characters open the reader up to a different side of the post-apocalyptic world, but the always-looming Mudo make it just as frightening (maybe more)! I was looking over my shoulder as I read and trying to talk the characters through the Forest.

This book did not disappoint. In fact, I expected it to be amazing, and it exceeded all of my expectations. Once again, Carrie Ryan created a downright terrifying world filled with uncertainties, horror, and maybe even a little hope. She told a mesmerizing story that left me in awe of her imagination and writing talent.

I am literally on the edge of my seat waiting for The Dark and Hollow Places, the third book in the series, which is scheduled for publication in Spring 2011.

For more information, visit Carrie Ryan at:
@carrieryan
carrieryan.com

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kimberly Derting: The Body Finder

I love a good murder mystery, so I was excited to read The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting.

Synopsis:
Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies--or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer--and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.


With such an interesting premise and a main character whose senses can help find the bodies of murder victims (whether she likes it or not), I had very high hopes for this book.

Some parts were interesting. Having chapters narrated by the serial killer interspersed throughout the book added a spine-tingling touch. And I couldn't help but feel sorry for Violet as she stumbled upon corpses and struggled with her "power." When she got close to the killer, my heart raced and I worried for her.

However, the book was a major letdown as it focused too much on the relationship between Violet and her best friend Jay. The story was bogged down by endless descriptions of their "breathless" and "exhausting" make out sessions that left Violet "craving more."

Still, Kimberly Derting has a great imagination and I would not hesitate to give her next book a chance.


For more information, visit Kimberly Derting at:
@kimberlyderting
kimberlyderting.com

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lindsey Leavitt: Princess for Hire

At the beginning of the year, I won a contest. My prize? Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt ()! I was very excited because this book ranked very high on my "to read" list.

Synopsis:
When an immaculately dressed woman steps out of an iridescent bubble and asks you if you'd like to become a substitute princess, do you

a) run
b) faint
c) say Yes!

For Desi Bascomb, who's been longing for a bit of glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C--that is, once she can stop pinching herself. As her new agent Meredith explains, Desi has a rare magical ability: when she applies the ancient Egyptian formula "Royal Rouge," she can transform temporarily into the exact lookalike of any princess who needs her subbing services. Dream come true, right?

Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras. Like, what do you do when a bullying older sister puts you on a heinous crash diet? Or when the tribal villagers gather to watch you perform a ceremonial dance you don't know? Or when a princess's conflicted sweetheart shows up to break things off--and you know she would want you to change his mind?

In this hilarious, winning debut, one girl's dream of glamour transforms into something bigger: the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact Desi makes, one royal fiasco at a time.


I thought Lindsey Leavitt came up with a really interesting premise for her debut. Seriously. What little girl hasn't pretended to be a princess? Or fantasized about replacing her ho-hum daily existence with something more exciting and glamorous? I know I have, which made "Princess For Hire" a delectable treat from beginning to end.

I thought the characters were marvelously entertaining, especially Desi's no-nonsense princess agent Meredith. She's tough on the outside, but has a soft spot or Desi and really wants what's best for her and all of the princesses involved.

Desi is a typical girl dealing with boy trouble, bullies, and daily humiliation. This not only makes her sympathetic, but also easy to relate to. I enjoyed reading the shenanigans she got herself into as she subbed for various princesses. Some of her faux pas were laugh out loud funny.

I was also impressed by the character development. The story alternated between Desi's princess adventures and her home life in Idaho, which not only shines a spotlight on how very different the two worlds are, but also helps Desi come to a better understanding of each lifestyle, turning mistakes into valuable lessons. Being a princess isn't all about a life of luxury, makeovers, and popularity, it's also about having a heart and caring for others. And Desi has a gigantic beating heart.

As the cover suggests, Princess For Hire is girly and pink and fun. It was a quick read and a delightful escape. I really liked it and look forward to Desi's future princess adventures.


For more information, visit Lindsey Leavitt at:
@lindsey_leavitt
lindseyleavitt.com

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rachel Hawkins: Hex Hall

Ever since my first viewing of "The Wizard of Oz" at age four, witches have fascinated me. When I started hearing about Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, I knew I had to read it.

Synopsis:
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father-an elusive European warlock-only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.


Going to school with witches, faeries, shapeshifters, and vampires sounds like an adventure. I mean, could you imagine eating lunch with a shapeshifter? Taking a class taught by a vampire? Having a witch (literally) as your worst enemy? The mind boggles.

Going to school with witches, faeries, shapeshifters, and vampires in need of a little discipline for magic gone awry sounds like a hazardous undertaking. But also kind of fun.

And that's just what Rachel Hawkins delivered in her debut--a lot of fun in the form of a magical, unique world housed within the walls of Hecate Hall (Hex Hall). Her sense of humor was also a nice touch.

The characters were unique, and the heroine, Sophie, is very likable--vulnerable, but also resilient and perceptive. More importantly, she's a loyal friend.

The story was chock full of tension, murder, romance, and "Mean Girls" antics, which moved the plot along at a quick pace. I couldn't stop reading and needed to know what was going to happen next. There were several twists and turns, which kept the ending from being too predictable.

I'm eager to see what happens in the sequel Demonglass, which is scheduled for publication in March 2011.


For more information, visit Rachel Hawkins at:
@LadyHawkins
rachel-hawkins.com

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Birthday -- Jeri Smith-Ready: Shade

Not too long ago, one of my favorite authors, Stephanie Kuehnert, raved about a book called Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready. Music. Ghosts. It sounded like the perfect book for me, so I immediately put it on my "to read" list. Today is the official publication day, and I hope my library gets it soon!

Happy Book Birthday Jeri!

Synopsis:

Love ties them together. Death can't tear them apart.

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart?and clues to the secret of the Shift.


Check out the trailer here:





For more information, visit Jeri Smith-Ready at:
@jsmithready
jerismithready.com

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ally Carter: Heist Society

I'm a big fan of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series. The fourth book in the series will not be published until June, so I'm glad Ally wrote Heist Society to keep readers occupied while we wait.

Synopsis:
When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre . . . to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria . . . to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own -- scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster’s priceless art collection has been stolen and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled off this job, and Kat’s father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and, hopefully, just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s (very crooked) history -- and with any luck, steal her life back along the way.


The story was very "Ocean's 11" meets "The Bourne Identity" meets "The Italian Job," which is to say it was filled with travel, quirky characters, and adventure. I loved those movies. I loved reading Heist Society.

I probably said this in every single Gallagher Girls review, but what I love about Ally Carter is her ability to write strong, smart female characters. Sure, they love fashion and boys, but it doesn't define them. Katarina Bishop is a shining example of that--clever, brave, and downright resourceful.

The plot was fresh and fast-paced, the characters were interesting, and the ending wasn't at all predictable.

If you're like me and love to travel or wander around museums, but can't afford a summer vacation--or maybe you just want a break from all the vampire/paranormal stories taking over YA Fiction--Heist Society is the perfect escape.


For more information, visit Ally Carter at:
@OfficiallyAlly
allycarter.com
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