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Updated: 2017-08-13T14:40:03.491-07:00


Review: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares


Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
4.5 stars

Reasons for reading: 2011 YA Reading Challenge, I loved the authors' other 2 collaborations

Description: "Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?"

First lines: "Imagine this: You're in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author's books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook.

What do you do?

The choice, I think, is obvious:

You take down the red notebook and open it.

And then you do whatever it tells you to do."

My thoughts: I'm so behind with reviews! I love all of the Levithan/Cohn books and was excited to see another one. I loved the Christmassy-ness of it and the device of the scavenger hunt. I probably wouldn't be brave enough to follow the notebook's instructions, but I'm glad Dash was! Lily was so excellently Lily-ish - I'd like to know her - and yet she also grows up a lot in the book and develops into a more mature but still Lily-ish Lily. Dash was great in his own way, even if he was, as Lily's relatives described him, brooding. There are so many weird little touches, from a missing majorette boot to a Dash-Muppet. The book is also a love letter to New York during the holiday season, which I'd love to experience someday. That's about all for this one - read it! (Or save it until Christmas, that would be even better.)

Review: Zombies vs Unicorns


Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
3.25 stars

Description: "It's a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths--for good and evil--of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?"

My thoughts: I'm definitely on Team Unicorn!! I'm not a big short story fan, but I enjoyed these overall and  enjoyed the ones by my favourite authors - Cabot and Johnson - the most. Maureen Johnson was on Team Zombie, but her story was so bizarrely funny, with such a thinly-veiled version of Angelina Jolie, that I won't hold it against her. And Meg Cabot's story features a unicorn called Princess Prettypants - what more do you need?

Review: Real Live Boyfriends


Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart
4 stars

First line: "A definition: A real live boyfriend does not contribute to your angst."

Description: Ruby Oliver is in love. Or it would be love, if Noel, her real live boyfriend, would call her back. But Noel seems to have turned into a pod-robot lobotomy patient, and Ruby can’t figure out why.Not only is her romantic life a shambles:
Her dad is eating nothing but Cheetos,
Her mother’s got a piglet head in the refrigerator,
Hutch has gone to Paris to play baguette air guitar,
Gideon shows up shirtless,
And the pygmy goat Robespierre is no help whatsoever.

Will Ruby ever control her panic attacks?
Will she ever understand boys?
Will she ever stop making lists? (No to that last one.)

Roo has lost most of her friends. She’s lost her true love, more than once. She’s lost her grandmother, her job, her reputation, and possibly her mind. But she’s never lost her sense of humor. The Ruby Oliver books are the record of her survival."

My thoughts: Just a quickie - another fun book in this series. I think it's the last one, which is good, as I wouldn't want to succumb to series fatigue since I so enjoy Ruby. I do think her mother should have some actual psychotherapy ordered by family services, as she is more of a child than Ruby is, and her dad isn't much help. The crazy mom provides some definite interest in the series, but I find her pretty horrid - it's amazing Roo isn't even more screwed up than she is with that freakshow raising her.

I hope that Ruby goes on to find actual, non-angst-inducing love, does well in college, and lives a fabulous life. And that E. Lockhart gives us another wonderful, funny series to enjoy soon!

Review: Revolution


Apologies, I have literally formatted this 5 times and it still won't work, I give up! Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly 3.25 stars Reasons for reading: I enjoy Donnelly's books; YA Reading Challenge Description: "BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break. PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape. Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present." My thoughts: Donnelly really has a gift for historical fiction and this is another well-researched, well-written book. I did find it a bit too long - maybe some of Andi's angst could have been cut out while still giving us what we need to understand her. And that pain and depression is very poignant, I really felt for Andi. I could just maybe have heard a bit less about it. The device of going back and forth between Andi and Alex was well-done - I was right there with Andi wanting to know what had happened to Alex and the little prince. But, as with Andi, I also could have done with a bit less of Alex's struggle out of poverty and burning desire to become an actress and then her quest to be there for Louis-Charles during his imprisonment. The idea was great, but I found it was repeated a few too many times for me. There was a little bit too much...almost magic realism for me. The guy responsible for Truman's death is basically named Robespierre and I fell out of the story somewhat when "the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present." Was it a dream sequence? Did she hit her head? Was it magic? It was a bit too much of a gimmick for me. But while those scenes weren't my favourites, Donnelly's descriptions of the filthy, smelly, violent Paris of Robespierre's day overlaid with Andi's knowledge of present-day Paris really work well and have clearly been thoroughly researched, as has everything from the music to the history for this novel. While I'm not all that well-versed in music, I did think the musical history sections, with connections between composers like Handel and Radiohead, were interesting. I've just checked and discovered that the subject of Andi's thesis, Amadé Malherbeau, does not exist, which makes sense given that he had to fit into the story, but seems a bit of a shame when the book contains so many facts about the Revolution and Prince Louis-Charles. Donnelly also has a sense of humour, which is great. Andi's friend Vijay is constantly being interrupted by his hen-pecking mother who feels he should spend every waking moment on his political science thesis, rather than wasting it talking to Andi. And I wonder if Donnelly went to the archives in Paris, as Andi does - as there are some very funny, spot-on-seeming descriptions of the hoops one must jump through to gain access to the materials. Overall, I found Andi's journey from suicidal depression to a functioning life in Paris and Alex's story of the horrors of the Revolution to be worth reading, despite my reservations.[...]

Review: Somebody Everybody Listens To


Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee
4 stars

Reasons for reading: I loved her first book; Southern Literature Challenge

Description: "Retta Lee Jones is blessed with a beautiful voice and has big dreams of leaving her tiny Tennessee hometown. With a beaten down car, a pocketful of hard-earned waitressing money, and stars in her eyes, Retta sets out to make it big in Nashville. But the road to success isn’t a smooth one in a town filled with dreamers, and Retta begins to have doubts: can she make her mark while staying true to herslf?"

First line: "Even on graduation day, the Starling High School gymnasium smelled just like it always did – a combination of old sweat and dust masked somewhat by cherry-scented disinfectant and floor polish."

My thoughts: I'm so behind in writing this, I read it at the beginning of the year! But I really enjoyed this book - it was really refreshing to read a YA novel about a real-seeming person, not one that was all about rich kids or yet another paranormal romance. And I liked the small-town Tennessee and Nashville settings (most Southern YA I've read lately has been in the lush, gothic vein - not that there's anything wrong with that - but again, not very realistic). Supplee must have spent time in Nashville, because she provides great descriptions of the city, particularly Music Row. Each chapter is named for a country song and a brief bio of the singer, including their struggles to get to Nashville, is included, which was a fun touch, and it includes both classic country stars and newcomers like Carrie Underwood, which is good for a YA novel.

Retta is a likeable character and I admired her determination to get to Nashville, even when just about every kind of bad luck befalls her and she even has to turn back at one point. She makes mistakes along the way, but she's talented and good-hearted. I liked that it wasn't a rags-to-riches tale, she doesn't suddenly skyrocket to number one on the charts or anything. Much better than that, it's a story about being brave enough to follow your dreams and to work hard to achieve them.

Review: The Perfect Love Song


The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry
2 stars

Reason for reading: Okra Picks Challenge

Description: "Jimmy Sullivan has been living on the road with his brother, Jack, and his band The Unknown Souls. Without a place to call home, Jimmy and Jack lead a nomadic life filled with music and anonymous cities. When they return to a place Jimmy never wants to see again—their old hometown of Seaboro, South Carolina—he falls in love with Charlotte Carrington.

With his soul now filled with hope, Jimmy writes his first love song. When he performs it at a holiday concert to a standing ovation, the lyrics are dubbed the “Perfect Love Song,” so much so that Jimmy finds himself going on tour with famous country music stars, catapulted into a world where the trappings of fame and fortune reign supreme.

All too soon, the hope that had once inspired Jimmy to write such beautiful, genuine lyrics is overshadowed by what the song can do for him and his career. In his thirst for recognition, he agrees to miss Jack’s wedding in Ireland to sing at a Christmas Eve concert. And his ties to Charlotte seem to be ever so quickly slipping away.

Alone in New York City on Christmas Eve, Jimmy finally sees—with the help of a Christmas miracle or two—that his material gains are nothing compared to love, that he is losing all that really matters in his life. Is it too late to find his way to Ireland, to his brother, and to love?"

My thoughts: I agree with this review from Publisher's Weekly "This wallows in the pitfalls of intrusive narration, simplistic storytelling, and overly moralistic asides, and is stocked with characters with all the staying power of a snowflake in July."

This just didn't work for me at all. I felt like I'd missed getting to know the characters and their background somehow and I wasn't surprised to find out in the notes at the end that they were featured in one of the author's other books. Maybe if you'd gotten to know and love them there this book would be fun, but for me it wasn't. Why Kara was so devoted to Maeve Mahoney that she basically dedicates her wedding to the old woman wasn't very clear (presumably it was featured largely in the other book, but it's only mentioned in passing here), the narrator (who I guess is the ghost of Maeve?) is definitely intrusive and there are all kinds of sappy aphorisms throughout. Jimmy is a jerk. It has all of the bad stuff about Christmas movies - sappiness, "Christmas miracles" and someone's bad attitude being transformed on Christmas Eve. Definitely a Christmas turkey.

Review: Love, Charleston


Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart

3 stars

Reason for reading: Okra Picks Challenge

"Charleston's Anne Brumley has long dreamed of love while ringing the bells at St. Michael's, but those dreams are beginning to fade. Her sister Alisha and cousin Della encourage the thirty-six year old to move somewhere new for a fresh start.

Widower Roy Summerall has happily ministered to the country folks of Church of the Good Shepherd for years. So why would the Lord call him and his daughter away to Charleston--the city that Roy remembers from his childhood as pretentious and superficial? Surely the refined congregation of St. Michael's won't accept a reverend with a red neck and a simple faith.

Meanwhile, Anne's sister, Alisha, struggles with her husband's ambition, which seems to be taking him further from their dreams of a happy family. And Cousin Della's former fiance has returned to Charleston, making her wonder if she chose the wrong path when she married her gifted but unemployed-artist husband.

Family, friendship, and faith converge in a beautiful story about how God's transforming love works in the Holy City of Charleston."

My thoughts: I hadn't realized this was Christian fiction when I added it to my to-read list. Not that I have anything against the genre, I just don't have any real interest in it at all. Most of the book was pretty darn depressing - Roy's wife died of cancer, Alisha and her baby almost die and then she suffers from terrible post-partum depression and her husband is a jerk, and Della almost has an affair. While it's tagged as being a love story between Anne and Roy, Anne is away in England for a large part of the book and it honestly seemed a bit of a pairing of convenience - she's an old maid bell-ringer, he's a widowed minsiter, they should get together. I always love books set in Charleston, so that helped. But I particularly thought the last pages where Della, an author, ponders over whether it's a happy ending was a bit too meta for me. I'd probably recommend this author to someone looking for Christian women's fiction or a non-sexy romance, but it wasn't my cup of sweet tea.

Review: Evermore


Evermore by Alyson Noel
2.5 stars

Reasons for reading: YA Reading Challenge, it's really popular at my library, I've enjoyed some of the author's other books

Description: "Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras, hear people’s thoughts, and know a person’s life story by touch. Going out of her way to shield herself from human contact to suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste . . .

Ever sees Damen and feels an instant recognition. He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets. Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking—and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head. She doesn’t know who he really is—or what he is. Damen equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies."

My thoughts: This really didn't do it for me at all, though I seem to be in the minority. Teens love it and it got really good reviews. It just seemed so much like all the other vampire-type (now I see that Fallen Angels are taking over) books - sad teen girl and impossibly handsome and perfect immortal guy. I didn't find the explanation of how Damen came to be immortal very satisfying and I didn't understand how Ever was an immortal, too, when she's apparently died dozens of times throughout history. How does Damen keep finding her? The writing isn't bad and Ever is a well-drawn character - her crushing guilt over her family's death and the suffering caused by being able to hear people's thoughts really come through. There are a couple of near-death, heavy-duty-action scenes. And of course smoldering romance with Damen as well as the I hate you-I love you whirlwind every teen girl in love with a supernatural being needs. The addition of the ghost of Ever's little sister, Riley, is a good touch and gives Ever a thread to hang on to in her otherwise sad life. And I liked that Ever could see how people were feeling through their auras. So, I can absolutely see why teens love the series, but it really didn't do it for me.

Review: Virals


Virals by Kathy Reichs
3.5 stars

Reason for reading: Okra Picks Challenge

Description: "Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever. As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot--if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent. Fortunately, they are now more than friends--they're a pack. They are Virals."

First line: "A gunshot is the loudest sound in the universe."

My thoughts: I'm so behind, I actually read this last month! I've never read Kathy Reichs before, but have seen Bones, so I was glad to get the chance to read one of her books, even if it wasn't about Temperance. How Temperance and Tory were related was a bit confusing, Tory is something like her great-niece and Tory had only met her once or twice, though several characters point out how alike they are. Perhaps Tempe will show up in later books.

The story reminded me a fair bit of James Patterson's Maximum Ride books, with kids being turned into animal mutations by evil people. I liked the South Carolina setting - it was cool that it was set not only in Charleston but also on the outer-lying islands. The descriptions of the city and its landmarks as well as the islands and their beaches, make it obvious why it was chosen as an Okra Pick. The book didn't totally blow me away, but I'd recommend it to younger teen readers looking for adventure. It was an action-packed story and Tory is a feisty, super-intelligent (maybe a bit too crazy-smart, really, although I suppose that's another way she's like her great-aunt), dog-loving heroine.

Review: Mini Shopaholic


Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

4 stars

Reasons for reading: I like the series!

Description: "Becky Brandon thought motherhood would be a breeze and that having a daughter was a dream come true: a shopping friend for life! But it’s trickier than she thought. Two-year-old Minnie has a quite different approach to shopping.Minnie creates havoc everywhere she goes, from Harrods to her own christening. Her favorite word is “Mine!” and she’s even trying to get into eBay! On top of everything else, Becky and Luke are still living with her parents (the deal on house #4 has fallen through), when suddenly there’s a huge financial crisis. With people having to “cut back,” Becky decides to throw a surprise party for Luke to cheer everyone up. But when costs start to spiral out of control, she must decide whether to accept help from an unexpected source—and therefore run the risk of hurting the person she loves. Will Becky be able to pull off the celebration of the year? Will she and Luke ever find a home of their own? Will Minnie ever learn to behave? And . . . most important . . . will Becky’s secret wishes ever come true?"

My thoughts: What is there to say? Fans know what to expect, and we get it. Even though I do often find Becky really annoying and the rest of the characters are getting pretty stock, it's still a fun series. And I suppose part of the reason they feel like stock characters is that we've gotten to know them -Becky's caring but often shrill drama queen mum, her dour eco-freak sister Jess, etc. And Becky has a good heart, that's why I stick with her. She's really shallow in a lot of ways, but she's really caring and when she really puts her mind to things, even if she makes a terrible mess, she follows through. Minnie is cute, if sometimes exasperating like all toddlers, is a chip off the old credit card, in addition to "Miiiiiiiiine!" she also frequently says "Starbucks, muffin" and "Visa?" Becky gets into some rather hilarious scrapes once again and trying to keep the party a secret nearly kills her. But in the end, she might just suprise us all...

Books read in 2010


So, I read 107 books last year, 3 more than 2009. I didn't do very well with reviewing this year, I'll have to step it up in 2011.Adult Books1. Full of Grace2. Black Powder War3. Little White Lies4. Empire of Ivory5. The Other Queen 6. Heart and Soul7. Summer Blowout8. Passion 9. Big Cherry Holler 10. Olive Kitteridge 11. A Reliable Wife 12. Dear Fatty13. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie14. Under Orders15. Roses 16. Black Hills 17. Victory of Eagles 18. The Year of the Flood19. Jane Bites back20. Pretty in Ink 21. Death Masks22. Shoot to Thrill23. The Red Leather Diary24. Take a Chance on Me25. 16 Lighthouse Road 26. I Take This Man 27. Bitter is the New Black28. gods in Alabama29. Fly me to the Moon30. Shem Creek 31. Island of the Sequined Love Nun32. Juliet, Naked33. Men and Dogs34. Blood Rites35. The Man of my Dreams 36. Dead Beat37. Proven Guilty38. White Night39. Stalking Susan 40. Dating Game41. Small Favor42. Wild Ride 43. Turn Coat44. All is Vanity45. Changes46. Summer at Tiffany 47. Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime48. Three Girls and Their Brother49. You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up50. Still Life 51. Star Island52. Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar53. Big Red Tequila54. Some Like it Hot-Buttered55. All You Need is Love 56. Her Royal Spyness 57. The Outcast58. South of Broad59. Keep Your Mouth Shut & Wear Beige 60. Room 61. The Art of Racing in the Rain62. The Bikini Car Wash63. This Time Together64. Manhunting65. Tongues of Serpents66. A Vintage AffairChildren's and YA Books1. Zombie Blondes2. Splendor: a Luxe novel3. Rampant4. The Key to the Golden Firebird 5. The Hunger Games6. Revelations: a Blue Bloods novel7. Dragonbreath8. The Cupcake Queen 9. Catching Fire10. Getting the Girl 11. Son of the Mob12. Don't Judge a Girl by her Cover 13. Amazing Maurice...Educated Rodents 14. A Northern Light 15. Scarlett Fever 16. School's Out - Forever 17. How Not To Be Popular18. Specials19. The Espressologist20. Will Grayson, Will Grayson21. Hearts at Stake22. The Treasure Map of Boys 23. What I Saw and How I Lied 24. Very LeFreak 25. Secret Society26. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour27. Ruined 28. The Dark Divine29. Mockingjay30. When You Reach Me 31. Front and Center 32. Airborn 33. Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters 34. Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning 35. Pretty Dead 36. Bright Young Things 37. Virals38. Hush, Hush39. My Life, the Musical 40. The Fortunes of Indigo Skye 41. The Kid Table [...]

2011 YA Reading Challenge



Even though I didn't quite complete it in 2010, I'm going to try again. This challenge is being newly-hosted by Jamie, so thanks to her for taking it on!

Here's what I have so far for my "Fun Size" level of 20 books.

1. Evermore by Alyson Noel
2. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
3. Loser/Queen by Jodi Lynn Anderson

4. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
5. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
6. Siren by Tricia Rayburn
7. Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund
8. Zombies vs Unicorns by Holly Black
9 Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst
10. The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
11. Matched by Ally Condie
12. Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde
13. Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart


Southern Literature Challenge



Hooray, I love Southern lit!

I'm going to participate in Level 4: Y'all come back now, y'hear! Read 4 books

Here they are!

1. Somebody Everybody Listens to by Suzanne Supplee
2. Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
3. The House on Tradd Street by Karen White
4. Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty

2011 Debut Author Challenge


Details are here.

The goal is to read at least 12 books by authors making their YA debut in 2011. Here's the start of my list (subject to change!):

1. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
2. Timeless by Alexandra Monir
3. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
4. Wither by Lauren De Stefano
5. Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Colourful Reading Challenge Wrap-Up


Colourful Reading Challenge

Thanks to Rebecca for hosting it! It was a fun way to get some books off the TBR list.

Here's my list:
1. Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
2. The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson
3. Black Hills by Nora Roberts
4. The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti
5. Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige by Cathleen Gilles Seidel
6. Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth
7. The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
8. Little White Lies by Gemma Townley
9. Revelations: a Blue Bloods novel by Melissa de la Cruz

My favourite was Empire of Ivory, because I love the series. I also really liked Black Hills and The Fortunes of Indigo Skye. While not my favourite by Maureen Johnson, The Key to the Golden Firebird was also good. The rest were pretty much average. I'd say my least favourite was Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning - it wasn't bad, it just felt like I'd read it all before.

2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge Wrap-Up


Well, I didn't get this one quite finished. I aimed for 25 books and got to 23, with a couple of last-minute challenge overlaps and one that I finished a day late. Didn't get them all reviewed, either, though I may catch those up. Unfortunately, like a lot of other challenges I was involved in this year, this one seemed to peter out on the challenge blog and it seemed like no-one was really coordinating it any more, which was a bummer. Still, it was fun and a good way to squeeze in my required YA reading!My favourite books were The Hunger Games and Amy and Roger's Epic Detour. I think my least favourite was the Dark Divine or maybe My Life: The Musical. 1. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick2. Ruined by Paula Morris3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 4. Splendor: a Luxe novel by Anna Godbersen 5. The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore (finished a day late!)6. Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn7. Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman8. School's Out Forever by James Patterson9. Specials by Scott Westerfeld10. My Life: The Musical by Maryrose Wood11. Fire by Kristin Cashore12. Pretty Dead by Francesa Lia Block13. Getting the Girl by Susan Juby14. Secret Society by Tom Dolby15. Rampant by Diana Peterfreund 16. The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti17. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen18. Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford19. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan20. Dark Divine by Bree Despain 21. Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock22. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson 23. The Kid Table by Andrea Seigel[...]

Review: The Fortunes of Indigo Skye


The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti
4 stars

Reasons for reading: I've enjoyed some of Caletti's other books; Colourful Reading Challenge

Description: "Eighteen-year-old Indigo Skye feels like she has it all - a waitress job she loves, an adorable refrigerator-delivery-guy boyfriend, and a home life that's slightly crazed but rich in love. Until a mysterious man at the restaurant leaves her a 2.5 million-dollar tip, and her life as she knew it is transformed.

At first its amazing: a hot new car, enormous flat-screen TV, and presents for everyone she cares about. She laughs off the warnings that money changes people, that they come to rely on what they have instead of who they are. Because it won't happen...not to her. Or will it? What do you do when you can buy anything your heart desires -- but what your heart desires can't be bought?

This is the story of a girl who gets rich, gets lost, and ultimately finds her way back - if not to where she started, then to where she can start again."

First lines: "You can tell a lot about people from what they order for breakfast. Take Nick Harrison, for example. People talk about him killing his wife after she fell down a flight of stairs two years ago, but I know it's not true. Someone who killed his wife would order fried eggs, bacon, sausage -- something strong and meaty."

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book - Caletti writes wonderfully. Indigo is very likeable and Caletti has some great turns of phrase like "spring delicious." Of course Indigo does have to become horrid to learn that money doesn't buy happiness, but that's par for the course for this kind of story. I really liked that Indigo truly enjoyed being a waitress because she got to serve people comforting foods and help them through their day just a bit. She made lots of good observations about what's important in life and what money can do to people, particularly when it gives them power over others. Her little sister Bex's desire to help tsunami victims and her twin brother's obviously doomed relationship with his boss' daughter made them endearing secondary characters and Indigo's boyfriend Trevor is a true gem. Indigo's journey, while not overly surprising, feels genuine and her affection and concern for others (except for the brief lapse into obligatory bitchiness), as well as her sense of humour, made her a joy to read about.

Review: Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning


Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth
3 stars

Reasons for reading: sounded good, Colourful Reading Challenge

Description: "Spunky, headstrong Violet Raines is happy with things just the way they are in her sleepy backwoods Florida town. She loves going to the fish fry with her best friend, Lottie, and collecting BrainFreeze cups with her good friend Eddie. She loves squeezing into the open trunk of the old cypress tree, looking for alligators in the river, and witnessing lighting storms on a warm summer day.

But Violet’s world is turned upside down when Melissa moves to town from big city Detroit. All of a sudden Violet’s supposed to want to wear makeup, and watch soap operas, and play Truth or Dare! It’ll take the help of Violet’s friends, her Momma, a few run-ins with lightning, and maybe even Melissa, for Violet to realize that growing up doesn’t have to mean changing who you are."

First line: "When Eddie B. dared me to walk the net bridge over the Elijah Hatchett River where we'd seen an alligator and another kid got bit by a coral snake, I wasn't scared - I just didn't feel like doing it right then."

My thoughts: My verdict is that this is a good read for preteens but for an old person like me it was pretty much a read-this-all-before book. It's the usual girl coming-of-age stuff, trying on make-up and bras, a mean (ish) girl, worrying about losing a friend, starting to notice boys, etc. I did like the rural, Southern setting, it gave it a bit of an old-fashioned feel. Violet was spunky but typical for this type of book, fairly self-centered and not wanting to grow up.

Review: My Life, the Musical


My Life: The Musical by Maryrose Wood
3 stars

Reasons for reading: musical term for What's in a Name Challenge; YA Challenge

Description: "To best friends and devoted theater fans Emily and Philip, Aurora is no ordinary Broadway musical. Their love for the hit show (whose reclusive author has never been named) is nothing short of an obsession. Thanks to a secret loan from Emily’s grandma Rose, seeing the Saturday matinee has become a weekly ritual that makes real life seem dull and drab by comparison. But when the theater chat rooms start buzzing with crazy rumors that Aurora might close, Emily and Philip find themselves grappling with some truly show-stopping questions. What, exactly, is the “one sure thing” in show business? How will they pay back the money they owe Grandma Rose? And why hasn’t Philip asked Emily out on a real date? As they go to hilarious lengths to indulge their passion for Aurora, Emily and Philip must face the fact that all shows close sooner or later. But first they’ll put their friendship to the ultimate test, solve Broadway’s biggest mystery–and spend one unforgettable night at the theater."

My thoughts: Being a big fan of musicals, I wanted to like this one more than I did. I can't pinpoint what made it less enjoyable for me, exactly. Maybe I'm just too old, but I found Emily's constant lying to her parents and the easy way she took money from her rather dotty grandmother (both by being given it and by actually stealing it) pretty hard to take. The grandmother's constant refrain that Zero Mostel was the best Tevye ever started off cute but got annoying after about the 10th time. And I think the pace was supposed to resemble a musical, but I just found that too much happened quickly and (I have to admit, like every good musical) things were summed it very quickly and neatly at the end. Philip's encyclopedia-like knowledge of musicals was fun, but it really jarred with me that he hadn't seen The Producers. Why not? He'd seen every other musical, film and stage versions, from the past 50 years. And the cliche thing about whether a boy fan of musicals is gay or not was a bit tired. It also seemed odd that theatre freaks like Emily and Philip weren't in the Drama Club, but I guess they spent all their free time at Aurora.

It's not that it wasn't enjoyable, it just left me a bit cold. Probably teens who identify more with immediate-gratification Emily would like it more than I did.

What's in a Name? Challenge 3: Wrap-Up



Thanks to Beth F for hosting this challenge! It was fun, as usual! I got it finished just in the nick of time.

Here are the books I read:

1. Food: Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani

2. Body of water: Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank

3. Person's title: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

4. Plant: Roses by Leila Meacham

5. Place name: gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

6. Music term: My Life: the Musical by Maryrose Wood

My favourite was gods in Alabama, which I had been meaning to read for ages, so I'm glad this challenge gave me a reason! I think my least favourite was The Other Queen because it was so repetitive.

Not a review: Christmas Cookie Club



I totally agree with this comment from Publisher's Weekly "Pearlman's effort tries hard not to be that lump of coal that it really is."

I was really looking forward to my annual Christmas story, but apparently it's not meant to be this year. I couldn't get past chapter 2. I liked the first couple of pages, where Marnie describes herself as the chief "cookie bitch" and outlines the strict rules for membership in the Christmas Cookie Club. But then we learn that:
- Marnie's first husband died of cancer when he was just 35
- her second husband was a serial cheater and she left him before her younger daughter was even born, making her a struggling single mother
- her eldest daughter is currently pregnant for the 4th time, having suffered 2 miscarriages and having to bring a stillborn baby to term and give birth to it (she describes it as "rotting inside her" and the baby is terribly deformed) - as the book opens they're waiting for test results to see if this latest baby will also be the victim of genetic defects

Wow, I feel full of the holiday spirit. There's then a bizarre 2-page essay on the history of flour before we get to meet Marnie's friend Charlene. Okay, I thought, here comes the comic relief of the wacky best friend. Nope. Charlene:
- has been divorced 3 times, including from one man who beat her
- she was also a struggling single mother to 3 kids to Marnie's 2
- her eldest son has just died, having fallen from an I-beam and been impaled on a spike of rebar
- this has caused her younger son to fall into depression and alcoholism

I was expecting the next friend to show up to have been blinded by household cleaning products and have just had her seeing-eye dog run over.

That was it for me, I don't care how good the cookies are.

(To be fair, the book may very well improve, but it was just way too much sorrow for me, especially on Christmas Eve eve.)

Review: Bright Young Things


Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen3.75 starsReasons for reading: I loved the Luxe series; YA ChallengeDescription: "The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star. . . .Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.The only person Cordelia can trust is ­Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the ­illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall—together and apart."First line: "It's easy to forget now, how effervescent and free we all felt that summer."My thoughts: Another hit from Anna Godbersen! I wasn't quite as swept up in it as I was the Luxe, but she still knows how to write good historical fiction. Her Jazz Age details are well researched, particularly the clothing descriptions. I didn't find the characters as well-defined as the Luxe ones - they have some personality, but not as much as, for example, the deliciously villainous Penelope Hayes in the first series. I liked feisty Cordelia the best, Letty seemed a bit too precious and naive. But Astrid sums up the F. Scott Fitzgerald-ness of the period the best, with her spoiled socialite life of parties and frivolity, while fears about losing Charlie and her income lurk underneath.I felt that you could see a lot of what was coming, loud and clear (imagine, a sleazy Broadway producer isn't actually interested in Letty's singing voice!). This was probably at least somewhat intentional, but having almost every single plot point so telegraphed took some of the fun out of the story. I would have liked a few more surprises.There is a bit of suspense from Godbersen's usual tell-it-in-the-prologue-but-not-quite thing:". . . one would be famous, one would be married, and one would be dead" since I'm sure the descriptions won't match the girl you'd assume they would. I'll definitely be reading the sequel, I hope there are more surprises and more character development.[...]

Review: Pretty Dead


Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block
3.25 stars

Reasons for reading: I've liked her other books, cool cover, YA Challenge

"Even if I wanted to die for someone, it wouldn't be that easy. They just keep dying for me.

Something is happening to Charlotte Emerson. Like the fires that are ravaging the hills of L.A., it consumes her from the inside out. Something to do with the tear in her enviably perfect nails. The way she feels when she's with the brooding, magnetic Jared. The blood rushing once again to her cheeks and throughout her veins. For Charlotte is a vampire, witness to almost a century's worth of death and destruction. But not since she was a human girl has mortality touched her.
Until now."

First line: "Teenage girls are powerful creatures."

My thoughts: Another lushly written book by Block. It's not much more than a novella, but her seductive writing and the fact that it's different from today's Twilight schlock vampire lore makes it worthwhile. It is for an older teen and adult audience, as her books tend to be, it's not for tweens.

I was a bit creeped out by the possibly inappropriate relationship between Charlotte and her twin brother (although I could have been reading that in where it didn't belong). And while the ending was interesting and a bit of a twist, I wasn't entirely sold - there were some holes in how it happened, I thought.

My favourite part was the section where Charlotte writes about her century of life for Jared, describing the sights and sounds of every era, from the 20's up until the 80's. I thought she captured the events very well. I also enjoyed the description of Charlotte's house full of "beautiful old things" that she's collected like vintage couture and perfume bottles.

A quick read, a nice change from the usual vampire stuff, and full of poetic prose.

Review: Front and Center


Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
4.5 stars

Reasons for reading: I love this series!; YA Challenge

Description: "After five months of sheer absolute craziness I was going back to being plain old background D.J. In photographs of course I’m always in the background . . .

But it turns out other folks have big plans for D.J. Like her coach. College scouts. All the town hoops fans. A certain Red Bend High School junior who’s keen for romance and karaoke. Not to mention Brian Nelson, who she should not be thinking about! Who she is done with, thank you very much. But who keeps showing up anyway . . .

Readers first fell in love with straight-talking D. J. Schwenk in Dairy Queen; they followed her ups and downs both on and off the court in The Off Season. Now D. J.steps out from behind the free-throw line in this final installment of the Dairy Queen trilogy."

First lines: "Here are ten words I never thought I'd be saying . . . Well, okay, sure. I say these words all the time. It's not like school and good and to are the kind of words you can avoid even if you wanted to. It's just that I've never said them in this particular order."

My thoughts: Ah, D.J.! Thr first lines show that she's still her awkward, lovable, tongue-tied self. I felt that this was a good ending to the trilogy. Part of me wishes there would be more D.J. books, because I love reading about her, but the smart part knows that 3 books is good, I wouldn't want to suffer from series fatigue and end up not liking her as much. In this book, D.J.'s self-esteem finally gets to where it should be, after a long battle with herself. D.J. has to start thinking about college. Everyone but D.J. knows her basketball skills are scholarship worthy - for D.J., the idea of playing in front of thousands of screaming fans is terrifying. So maybe she should go to a very small college where her skills will be very much in demand, but the games won't be so demanding?

And that Brian Nelson keeps popping up. Even though D.J. has a perfectly nice boyfriend now, who lives in her town, goes to her school, and isn't afraid to be seen with her in public. But...he doesn't make her feel the way Brian does. Again, she has to choose safety or throwing caution to the wind and going for it.

While I'll really miss D.J., I think it was a good idea to end as a trilogy - always leave 'em wanting more. I was satisfied with the way the series ended and feel confident that D.J. will go far in life!

Review: Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters


Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford3.75 starsReasons for reading: sounded good when I read reviews for purchasing it for the library, Young Adult ChallengeFirst lines: "The Sullivan family's Christmas began in the traditional way that year. All six children gathered at the top of the stairs in order, from youngest to oldest, and waited for the signal from Daddy-o that it was safe to come downstairs and inspect the work of Santa."Description (from Booklist): "On Christmas Day, the scion of the Sullivan family, Almighty, announces one of her grandchildren has offended her. Unless she receives a proper confession by New Year’s Day, Norrie, Jane, Sassy, their brothers, and their parents will be ripped from Almighty’s will and left destitute. Oh dear. So begins a cleverly plotted romp divided into three parts—the confession letters of each sister. Bunched together in age—18, 16, and 15—the girls have much in common, including a cheerful disdain for their parents, a healthy fear of Almighty, and the uneasy knowledge that their life of privilege isn’t how the rest of the world lives. The letters themselves are both thoughtful and funny, and if the voices of the three sisters sometimes sound alike, their confessions amply show the reasons Almighty might be angry, as one sister skips out on her cotillion to follow her heart, another blogs about her family’s evil road to power, and the third regrets killing Almighty’s fifth husband."My thoughts: These interconnected stories kept me wondering which "crime" Almighty was angry about and wanting to get to know each Sullivan sister. As several reviews point out, it's nice to see a novel about wealthy girls who aren't bitchy, mean, label-whores. These girls are pretty normal (as normal as you can be in a rich family of 6 kids where the parents only vaguely seem to be aware that they're parents). My favourite sister was Norrie, who falls in love with an older man at her speed reading class and just can't make herself fit with the society boy her grandmother has picked out. Jane and her rather bratty blog about her "evil family" probably had the strongest voice and her bit of rebellion fit with her age and privileged upbringing. Sassy was sweet and a bit dumb, but I found her story, revolving around thinking she's immortal because she keeps getting hit by cars and not getting hurt, didn't really fit the tone of the other two mainstream stories, although it's basically the one that ties everything together. While I wasn't 100% on board with the ending, it did have a bit of a twist, which I appreciated. The adults in the story are fairly well-drawn and pretty unusual. Daddy-o and Ginger (they can't stand the thought of actually just being called mom and dad) seem largely unaware of their children's behaviour, although Daddy-o is probably more with-it than he appears. Dramatic, fragile Ginger has furnished the house with fainting couches because she often finds it hard to remain upright. Almighty is a force to be reckoned with, a matriarch to the nth degree. She seems very cold and doesn't thaw much, although she does come to see the girls as more than just either irritants or extensions of her family name. The settings, both the family's enormous old house with its Tower Room and the location of Baltimore rather than NYC or LA add some interesting elements.The Christmassy setting was a nice bonus[...]