Saturday, July 30, 2011


So, I have finished reading all of the books that I need to read for my YA lit class.  (I'm still not finished with all the assignments, but it's a start, right?)  I thought I would just reflect a little on the past 6-7 weeks about what I have learned as far as reading.

First of all, I have to say that there were some books that I was not looking forward to reading, so I'm really glad that I was assigned to read them because I discovered some real jewels this summer.  Born to Run, Playing with Matches and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian were 3 of the top ones.  I also discovered that I really like contemporary realistic fiction. (Dr. Truett, I hope that doesn't give you cardiac arrest!)  I plan to definitely add more of it to my reading lists in the future.  Now, I still love some supernatural fiction, but I can branch out a little as well!

I feel like I also learned a lot about using YA lit in a classroom.  I had given it a little thought before this class, but it's nice to think about all the stuff out there to help young adults cope with issues and also the amount of YA lit that fits nicely next to the traditional canon of literature.  As a librarian, I hope to be able to encourage teachers to use more of it. 

Anyways, I am pleased with the books that I read this summer (with the exceptions of Girl and The Space Between Trees).  I don't think I"ll be able to keep up this pace with reading once school starts back, but I will still be reading and reviewing.  So now we return to our regular programming.  I hope you've all enjoyed this journey with me!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Book:  The Goddess Test
Author:  Aimee Carter
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
Year:  2011
Reason I read it:  This is the 5th book on Greek mythology for my booktalk.
My grade:  A++

Every girl who has taken the test has died.

Now it's Kate's turn.

It's always been just Kate and her mom--and now her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.

If she fails.. (cover and summary from


You know when you’ve read one of those books that you don’t want to put down and when you finally finish it, the characters won’t leave your head?

The Goddess Test is one of those books!  Wow!  What a fantastic read this book was!  I was curious about it and thought that the premise sounded interesting, but the way Ms. Carter wove a story of mystery, romance and mythology all together was amazing.  I could not put this book down.  In fact, we went on Sunday to buy a new car and when my husband asked me to drive it home, I got upset because I wanted to read, not drive the new car! : )

The story was captivating.  I immediately sympathized with Kate, the main character.  Her mother is dying of cancer and she has to leave New York City and move to a little town in the middle of nowhere.  She is so focused on her mother’s illness, she can’t even be a normal teen.

I liked James a lot as well, especially at the beginning.  He seemed like just a nice guy.  Ava was, of course, the typical mean girl and I sort of predicted what would happen with her at the beginning, but after that, the predictability of the story was non-existent!  There were all sorts of twists and turns that were great but I could never have foreseen.  And I ended up liking Ava A LOT!

And then there was Henry.  ::sighs::  Henry was positively swoon-worthy!  If I had known that the god of the dead could be so fabulous, I would have started looking for one a long time ago!  He was a perfect underworld god:  dark hair, dark moods, dark temper, but oh, so captivating!  By the end of the book, I was ready to go through the  tests myself!

I like to see that some interest in Greek mythology is coming back in vogue.  Rick Riordan did a fabulous job with starting the Greek gods spin-offs in Percy Jackson, and Aimee Carter is continuing in his footsteps.  “The Goddess Test” shares its Greek mythology roots with Riordan’s works, but where Percy Jackson is slightly more juvenile and geared to a younger audience, Aimee Carter kicks it up a notch and really takes the idea to a more sophisticated level.  The story is complex and deals with love, death and sacrifice, drawing the reader into the story wholeheartedly. 

Just as a forewarning to those who like to know, there are several allusions to sex in this book, but nothing inappropriate.  Her fade to black is very well done!

This book is probably going to be on my top 5 of the year.  Right now, the only book ahead of it so far is “Unearthly” and it’s because Tucker Avery owns my heart.

But Henry, god of the underworld, can own my soul, if he wants it. : )

There is one drawback to this book.  I now have to wait until February, 2012 to find out what happens next. ::sobs::

This book is definitely an A++ for me!  Aimee Carter aced it, with lots of extra credit to spare! It arrives in stores on April 26th.  You should run, not walk, to get it.  Or perhaps find a centaur to take you.

(Much thanks to Harlequin Teen and for the ARC.)


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Book:  Starcrossed
Author:  Josephine Angelini
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Publication date:  May 31, 2011
Reason I read this book:  For my YA lit booktalk on Greek mythology re-tellings set in modern day.
My grade:  A+

Helen Hamilton has always tried to hide how different she is—no easy feat on an island as small as Nantucket, and only getting harder as she finds herself haunted by hallucinations and vivid nightmares.
It's not until she crosses paths with Lucas Delos at school that Helen's true heritage is finally revealed. Yet even as Lucas helps her awaken to her startling powers, they can never be together—not unless they can break free from the tragic destiny the Three Fates have in store.  (description from

Oh My Gods of Mt. Olympus!  I cannot believe how freaking incredible this book was!  I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot, but this book was insanely good.  I did not want to put it down and I have not been able to stop thinking about it.  I felt so immersed in the book and the story--everything just pulled me right in.  I also have an insane desire to visit Greece now. : )

First, I have to say that I am so happy to see a revived interest in Greek mythology.  As a teacher, I have noticed an appalling lack of knowledge in this area among the students that I teach.  I always loved Greek mythology as a kid and used to spend hours reading my copy of D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Mythology.  In fact, I think that I could spend hours going back through this book as well, so that brought back some really nice memories and feelings.

This book was a nice twist on Greek mythology.  I really wondered how on earth the author was going to pull off a modern re-telling of Helen of Troy, but let me just say that she wove this story flawlessly.  I could not get enough of it.  I read while I was cooking dinner for my kids, while giving my toddler a bath and even snuck in reading time when my students were busy working!  That is how engaging the story and plotline were.  In fact, this story hooked me from the first chapter.

The characters were magnificent.  I loved Helen and Lucas was a wonderful leading many, although I have to say that by the end of the book, I found myself really liking Hector.  Actually, there wasn’t a character that I really disliked, except for the bad guy, of course.

I thought the plot was very well-balanced.  There was a good mixture of romance, suspense, action and magic.  It was nice to get things from different points of view throughout the novel as well.  There were also some nice plot surprises, although I suspected parts of what eventually happened, the author was still able to surprise me with details.  Of course, nothing wrapped up in the end, which had me scrambling to my computer to make certain that there was a sequel.  And yes, there is one.  Thank the gods!

This is a book that I would highly recommend, especially to older teens and adults who liked Percy Jackson.  This one is a little like Percy Jackson for an older audience.  It’s much more sophisticated, but still holds the same appeal.

I have to give out another A+.  This book is fabulous.  Do yourself a favor and go buy a copy as soon as it is released on May 31, 2011.

Thanks to Harper Collins and for allowing me to read and review this novel.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Book:  Darkness Becomes Her
Author:  Kelly Keaton
Publisher:  Simon Pulse
Year:  2011
Reason I read it:  This is book #5 of the modern Greek mythology books for my booktalk in YA lit class.
My grade:  A

Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.

Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.

She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very…different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.

Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

My Review

I love it when I read a book that is so original that I can’t even think of anything else that it’s like.

Darkness Becomes Her is one of those books!!!

Ok, it’s true that dreamy Sebastian sort of reminds me of Derek from Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series.  But it’s just his size and broodiness that made me think of Derek.  Oh, and the swoon worthiness! : )

What other book out there mixes together voodoo, vampires, shapeshifters, witches and Greek gods and monsters and then sets it in a dystopian New Orleans?

No other book does that!  Bravo, Kelly Keaton!  In a genre that is starting to get a little repetitive and predictable, you have written a gripping paranormal tale that has more twists and turns than a roller coaster!

And as if I needed more than Anne Rice to get me to want to visit New Orleans!  This novel just sealed the deal!  Maybe that will be my graduation present to myself when I finish this degree.  I would love to visit the haunts of Lestat, the Mayfair witches and now, the places of New 2!

I don’t even know how to describe this book.  I had a really hard time putting it down, much to the chagrin of my 3 year old.  I just wanted to sit and bury myself in this world.  Each revelation was more and more wondrous, until I just sat and marveled at the fact that someone could have this much imagination and pull this book off successfully.  There was only one thing that I saw coming, but really, I think she MEANT to foreshadow it!

Now, I have seen reviewers complain about the “insta-romance” between Sebastian and Ari.  First of all, there is no immediate declaration of love a la Twilight.  Are they attracted immensely to one another?  Yes.  Do they feel a kindred connection?  Yes.  Is this something that happens every day in the high school where I teach?  YES!!!  Honestly, I think that the people who make these complaints don’t remember what it was like to be a teenager.  I mean, hormones do funny things to your brain.  Kids think they are in love within a couple of days.  Add some danger and 2 extremely attractive teens and you get….voila!  What some people refer to as “insta-romance” but what I refer to as “A Normal Day in the Life of Any High School”.

There is only one complaint I had about this book, and it’s the only thing that kept me from giving it the + on the A.  I felt like Ari and Athena both were a little too badass, for lack of a better word.  Sorry, I just don’t see the Greek goddess of wisdom being like a leather-clad urban fantasy chick.  That didn’t work for me.  But it was such a tiny complaint in the face of the greatness of this story that I was able to push it to the side for the most part. 

I was also pleased and delighted to see that Kelly Keaton is a fellow North Carolinian!  We rock in NC!!
This book was great!  I can’t believe I have to wait until February to get the sequel!  Thank goodness I finally was able to join Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab!  I’m hoping that I will be able to snag an early copy of this sequel.  And I will unashamedly gloat if I manage to get it!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

Book:  Falling Under
Author:  Gwen Hayes
Publisher:  Penguin Group
Year:  2011
Reason I read it:  I had to read 5-6 Greek mythology re-tellings for my booktalk.  This is a re-telling of the Persephone myth. (Yes, I have read 3 of those!)
My grade:  C

Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams.

As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.

And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul. 

My Review

A better title for this book would have been “Falling Under Twilight”.  There were so many scenes that felt pulled right out of “Twilight”. It was so bad in some parts that the author even referenced it in one of the scenes.  Haden is telling Theia that he is dangerous and has tried to stay away from her, isn’t good for her, etc and she responds with “Please tell me that you’re not about to say you’re a vampire and you sparkle….” Or something along those lines.


Now, it is no secret that I hold a devotion to Twilight that rivals the devotion I have for my own children.  But I like Twilight in Twilight, ya know?  I don’t want to read it in another published book.  If you’re going to copy Twilight in your writing, there’s a website for that.  It’s called

I almost put this book to the side after that.  Why didn’t I?  Well, I do like Twilight, so it’s not like I was opposed to that sort of story, but honestly, I just kept going because I’m under a tight deadline for finishing these books.

I’m glad that I kept going.  Why?  Because after a certain point, the book was nothing like Twilight.  In fact, as I kept reading, the book started to become a little creepy and scary.

In the end, I found that I had consumed a martini of a book, shaken, not stirred, that was a combination of Twilight and, oddly enough, Coraline with just a dash of Nancy Holder’s Wicked series thrown in. 

Now, do I think that the author meant for those other things to be in there?  Probably not.  Do I think that this author read Twilight?  Most definitely.

I am curious about the next book in the series now, though.  The book veered away from Twilight enough that I can read the next one in the series.  That is what saved the grade on this book.  Otherwise, I would have been forced to give an automatic F because that’s what you get when you copy other people’s ideas.  ,

In the end, I'm giving this one a C.  I liked the story, but the first half of the book felt almost plagiarized to me.  So I had to take points off for that.  If this were one of my students, that grade would also come with a stern warning about citing your sources!

Note to YA authors:  please steer clear of story lines that mimic Twilight so closely.  Too many people have read it and they will call you on it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Abandon by Meg Cabot

Book:  Abandon
Author:  Meg Cabot
Publisher:  Point
Year:  2011
The reason I read it:  I have to read 5-6 books for a book talk in my class.  My theme is modern re-tellings of Greek mythology.  This is a retelling of the Persephone myth.
My grade:  A

New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.
But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid
Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

My Review

So, when I read a Sarah Dessen book earlier in the summer, I was proven wrong about her.  With Meg Cabot, the same thing happened.  I always thought that her books were some sort of silly, sugary-sweet nothing.

This book was NOT silly or sugary-sweet.  It was awesome!

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t see myself running out to read all the Princess Diaries books or anything.  But I have decided that, with the right subject, Meg Cabot is one heck of a writer!

This re-telling was just brilliant.  I love the way she gave things just enough of a twist to make the story modern but recognizable.

The premise of the story was fabulous.  I like the whole plot with the Furies and I was surprised by so many things when they happened.  I liked the characters a lot, especially Mr. Smith and Alex.  Of course, I loved Pierce and John.  Pierce was so interesting and the whole near-death experience was a very believable plot motif.

I found myself constantly checking the number of pages left as I got closer to the end.  Not because I didn’t want to read them, but because I wanted there to be more of them!  I knew at a certain point that I was going to be left wanting more of the book when it reached the end. 

And I am.  Wanting much more!  Can’t I just have the sequel now??

I really love these Greek mythology re-tellings.  It’s bringing back my childhood when I spent hours reading D’aulaires Greek Mythology and I could tell the story of almost every god and myth.  In fact, I need to go hunt that book out at my parents’ house.

My grade for the book is an A.  I didn’t find one bad thing about it and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the trilogy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Mystery Library: Witches by Stuart A. Kallen

Book:  The Mystery Library:  Witches
Author:  Stuart A. Kallen
Publisher:  Lucent Books
Year:  2000
Why I read it:  I needed to read a non-fiction book for my YA lit class and I’ve had this one to read as part of some research for something I’m writing.
My grade:  B

Throughout history men and women have utilized ancient spiritual practices dating back to the dawn of time. These rituals based in nature and on the astrological calendar have been used for healing, spiritual growth, good, and bad. "Witches" traces the practice of witchcraft from its ancient roots through the persecution of the Middle Ages to Wicca practices in modern times.

My Review

I was not very excited about reading a non-fiction book.  I’m more of a fiction sort of girl.  But I had this book checked out from my school library because I’ve been tossing around some ideas for a novel and I wanted to start reading and researching a little.  So, I figured “what the heck?” and I read it for this assignment.

This book is part of a series that we have at my school called “The Mystery Library”.  There are lots of titles in the series and they all deal with the supernatural.  Some other titles in the series include “Vampires”, “Angels”, “UFOs”, “Unicorns” and other things.

I liked the book.  It didn’t really have a lot of information that I didn’t already know, but for someone who is trying to find out something new, it would be a good starting point.  I did get some good information about specifics in the history of witch persecution and burning in Europe.  For example, I never realized that more witches were burned at the stake in Germany than all the other European countries.

The book dealt with the subject of witches in a very factual and matter-of-fact way.  It looked at the history of witches as ancient healers and midwifes, it talked a lot about the cult of the goddess among ancient peoples and talked about the conversion of witches from helpful to evil in the light of Christianity. 

There was an entire section dedicated to witch persecution of Europe and America.  It gave names, countries, dates and events in this section and I found it to be very informative.

In the last 2 chapters, it discussed modern practitioners of Wicca and some of their beliefs and where they came from.  It also looked at magic and spells and the people who practice various religions that use magic and spells.  There were mentions of shamanism, voodoo and Santeria.  Each religion and practice was presented factually.  The beliefs of the religion and what practioners do were described, not in great detail, but in an overview fashion.

I found this book to be informative and it dealt with what could be a controversial subject in an unbiased way.  The book neither condoned nor condemned the practice.  It simply stated what followers believe and do.

I give this book B. My caveat?  The pictures look very dated.  I think that in the next edition, they need to find pictures that don’t look like they came from the early eighties.  Otherwise, this is a great book for teens who need a good overview of the history of witches.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank

Book:  An Unspeakable Crime:  The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank
Author:  Elaine Marie Alphin
Publisher:  Carolrhoda books
Year:  2010
Reason I read it:  It was a required read for my YA lit class.
My grade:  C+

Was an innocent man wrongly accused of murder? On April 26, 1913, thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan planned to meet friends at a parade in Atlanta, Georgia. But first she stopped at the pencil factory where she worked to pick up her paycheck. Mary never left the building alive. A black watchman found Mary's body brutally beaten and raped. Police arrested the watchman, but they weren't satisfied that he was the killer. Then they paid a visit to Leo Frank, the factory's superintendent, who was both a northerner and a Jew. Spurred on by the media frenzy and prejudices of the time, the detectives made Frank their prime suspect, one whose conviction would soothe the city's anger over the death of a young white girl. The prosecution of Leo Frank was front-page news for two years, and Frank's lynching is still one of the most controversial incidents of the twentieth century. It marks a turning point in the history of racial and religious hatred in America, leading directly to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League and to the rebirth of the modern Ku Klux Klan. Relying on primary source documents and painstaking research, award-winning novelist Elaine Alphin tells the true story of justice undone in America.

My Review

I think that, like most of America, I suffer from an overdose of crime shows.  I kept thinking while I was reading that this would be a fascinating story if I were watching it on Law and Order!  Or even as a real-life crime documentary on Discovery Channel.

As a book, it was sort of hard to stay interested.  The story was great, on a totally horrifying level and it really shows just how easy it is to convict the wrong person in the American justice system.  But I wanted to be able to see everything moving, with shots of the places where things took place and maybe some re-enactments of the events.

Now, at first I thought that perhaps the problem was that it was non-fiction.  But I don’t think that’s true.  After all, “Born to Run” was also non-fiction and much longer but I enjoyed it much better.  Perhaps Christopher McDougall is a better story teller.  I kept finding myself looking up things on the internet when I was reading his book, but not when I was reading this one. 

So, while the story itself is certainly interesting and more than a little disturbing, I find that I feel a little blasé about the actual book.

For this reason, I gave it a C+.  It’s average, maybe at the top of average just because the real story is so compelling, but I think most kids would rather see the Learning Channel documentary version.  Does CSI do historical episodes?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Book: Born to Run
Author: Christopher McDougall
Publisher: Vintage Books
Year: 2011 (Originally published in 2009)
Reason I read it: It was required for my YA lit class. It is also the book that is the required read for all students at Appalachian this year.
My grade: B+

Full of incredible characters, amazing athletic achievements, cutting-edge science, and, most of all, pure inspiration, Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.
Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence. With the help of Caballo Blanco, a mysterious loner who lives among the tribe, the author was able not only to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara but also to find his own inner ultra-athlete, as he trained for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the tribe against an odd band of Americans, including a star ultramarathoner, a beautiful young surfer, and a barefoot wonder.

With a sharp wit and wild exuberance, McDougall takes us from the high-tech science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultrarunners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to the climactic race in the Copper Canyons. Born to Run is that rare book that will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that the secret to happiness is right at your feet, and that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

My Review

I thought I would hate this book. After all, I hate running and I’m not interested in learning anything about it. So I thought.

Instead, I now feel inspired to go buy some of those Vibram Five Finger Shoes like Barefoot Ted and start training for an ultra marathon.


This book was really inspiring and life altering. I really do think I’m going to start running. I really am going to buy some barefoot shoes. With a severe bout of plantar fasciitis taking hold of my feet, this book came at just the right time.

I loved the storytelling style of the author. It kept bugging me because the book reminded me of something. And then it hit me. This book is like “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” for runners! Chris McDougall is Tom Wolfe, but Caballo Blanco is like Ken Kesey and all the runners are like the Merry Pranksters. But, instead of looking to attain nirvana through LSD and the Grateful Dead, they attain nirvana through running!

In addition to the marvelous story about all the runners and the Tarahumara Indians, the book also makes a good case for the scientific basis of running. It was like a strange mixture of biology, biography, anthropology and spirituality.

I’ve even been inspired to re-adopt my vegetarian diet!

So why a B+? There were times when the descriptions of the running and trails just got to be too much. I found myself bogged down in the descriptions. If I were a runner, I probably would have liked them, but as a current non-runner, I really didn’t.

Now, I don’t think this is a YA book. I think there might be specialized populations in a high school that would like this book, but this is not a book to hand to the average 16 year old. In fact, I’m thinking that the average freshman at ASU will not really appreciate this book. The average senior there would be more likely to.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book despite my initial misgivings. I am really glad that I read it. Now, I have to go shop for barefoot shoes on Amazon. Run to the bookstore and get this book. : ) (pun intended!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

Book: Stupid Fast
Author: Geoff Herbach
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Year: 2011
Reason I read it: I need to read books from different genres and this is a sports book.
My grade: A

Fifteen-year-old Felton Reinstein has always been on the smallish side, but in his sophomore year he starts growing...and growing.

During gym one day he smokes the football jocks in a 600-yard race. Felton has never been interested in sports, but there's no doubt-he is "stupid fast." As he juggles his newfound athletic prowess, his mom's sudden depression, an annoying little brother, and his first love, he discovers a shocking secret about his past which explains why he's turning out the way he is.

My Review

“Stupid Fast” was seriously stupid awesome! I really, really liked this book. In fact, I’ve found this summer that I really like books narrated by guys. Especially when a guy wrote them. They’re funny, honest and have more than a smattering of bad language, but they really speak to the reader.

“Stupid Fast” is about 15 year old Felton Reinstein, who finds himself changing almost overnight during the summer of his sophomore year. He ate non-stop and started “sprouting hair everywhere”. When he suddenly runs faster than most of the football team, he attracts the attention of the jocks and the coaches. Before he knows it, he is suddenly a member of the football team!

But things are not so great for poor Felton. His best friend is gone and his mother is experiencing a nervous breakdown, brought on by Felton’s change in appearance. Also, Felton is experiencing his first girlfriend and has no idea how to handle that. While part of his life seems to be coming together, the most vital pieces are falling apart.

The characters in this book were phenomenal. They felt so real. I could feel the angst that Felton was experiencing. I could feel his rage and his inability to sit still. Most importantly, I sympathized with everything he was going through. When some of the jocks turn on him, I can understand his distrust of ALL of them, even though I figured he was wrong.

The other thing I liked about this book was the way it built the mystery around the father, his death and who he was. It kept me turning page after page to solve the mystery of the Reinstein dad, which of course, would be the key to solving the problems of Jerri, Felton and Andrew.

Felton’s mother was a trip! She was a granola-eating, hairy armpit hippie mom who insisted that the kids call her by her name, Jerri. Andrew was a typical annoying little brother. The kid that I liked the most though was Cody. Cody was a jock, but he was also a really nice guy. I’m glad that Felton gave him a chance and I know that he’ll be there for Felton in the future.

I had a hard time putting this book down. The story was totally engaging, the characters were realistic and the book pulled off humor, anger and sadness and made them all feel authentic.

My grade for this book is an A. It’s a great book about a teenage boy experiencing tons of changes in his life.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (revisited)

Book:  Delirium
Author:  Lauren Oliver
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Year:  2011
Reason I read it:  I received this as an ARC earlier in the year.  I am now re-posting this review because it is required in my YA lit class and I need my professor to see my review.
My grade:  A+

(from goodreads.comBefore scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.


I’m still sitting here reeling from the ending to this book.

I’m not sure exactly how to sum up my feelings about “Delirium”.  It was intense—I was sitting on the edge of my seat through most of it, feeling as nervous as the characters and worried about who was watching!  There were times when I was disappointed by the characters, times when I was so angry at people or the situation and times when I felt heartbroken.

But nothing could have prepared me for the ending.  And that was really dumb, because Ms. Oliver did a nice job of foreshadowing it, but I only saw that at the end.  As soon as I finished the last page, I immediately ran to the internet to see if there is a sequel.  Thank goodness, there is a sequel!  In fact, there are 2!!!  Now I just need to figure out how I will survive until 2012.

The premise of this book is so engaging.  The government is curing humans from the malady of love.  At the beginning of each chapter, there is a quote from some religious text or official government document about the dangers of love and why you need to be cured of it.  I liked seeing that at the beginning of each chapter.  It made everything seem more realistic.  It was also nice the way the author twisted books and documents that we are familiar with to make them fit the story.

It’s an interesting concept and the reasoning is compelling.  After all, think of the problems and tragedies created by love.  The famous literary characters who have suffered immeasurable heartache and tragic destiny because of love:  Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Anthony and Cleopatra, Samson and Delilah, poor, mad Ophelia.  All destroyed by the power of love.  It’s definitely food for thought.  Of course, seeing what people become without love was heartbreaking also.  I really liked the way the author described the reactions of the citizens.  

I loved the characters in the book.  Lena grows so much as a person in this book.  It is beautiful to see how she transforms.  I really like Hana and I am hoping that things turn out ok for her and also for Grace.  Alex is, of course, a magnificent character.  But the "cured" characters are interesting also, if only because they are so not interesting!  The juxtaposition between the cured and the uncured characters was fascinating.

This book was an incredible read and I’ve really started out 2011 with a bang!  If this book is any indication of my reading for the rest of the year, then I’m in for a stellar year of reading!

This book is a solid A+!!  Thanks to Harper Collins for giving me a chance to read it!

This book will be available for purchase on February 1, 2011.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Book:  Vixen
Author:  Jillian Larkin
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Year:  2010
The reason I read it:  I had to read one historical fiction novel for my YA lit class.  And I love flappers!
My grade:  B

Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . .

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . .

From debut author Jillian Larkin, VIXEN is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes.

My Review

How do you spell cliffhanger?  V – I – X – E – N!!! 

I’m trying to figure out how I feel about this book.  It was very slow to start and at first I didn’t really care for any of the characters.  They all seemed shallow, rich and spoiled.  Except for Clara, who wasn’t rich, but didn’t seem very nice either.

Of course, they probably seemed that way because that’s what they were!  So I guess that the author really captured that in the characters.  So, it was sort of hard to read at first because I didn’t like any of the characters.

However, once I got more involved in the story, I started to care about them, one by one.  Except for Lorraine.  I never liked her.  I still don’t.

This story became more and more complex as the novel went on and about 2/3 of the way through, Jillian Larkin dropped a BOMBSHELL of a reveal.  Obviously, I’m not going to spoil that, but wow!  Did it ever blow me away!  Now, some of the things I figured out beforehand, but then I got engrossed in the story and forgot about them, so that when they actually happened, I was all “I knew it!”  That was fun.

In fact, the book was quite fun for me.  I forgot how much I loved the Roaring Twenties!  And to see these society girls turn into flappers was loads of fun.  I liked the atmosphere of the speakeasy and the jazz and everything.  I’m glad that I had to read one novel of historical fiction for my class.  I started 2 books on the French Revolution that just didn’t catch me, so I found this one at my local library (in e-book format, so I downloaded it to my Nook at 2 am!!!).  And, can you say beautiful cover??

Now, there were a few instances in the book that felt slightly anachronistic.  Sometimes, I had a hard time believing that even flappers would act the way some of these girls acted.  After all, women weren’t really liberated at this point in time.  Plus, there were some descriptions of things that didn’t seem realistic—I have a hard time with a particular description of a church with a neon cross.  Really?  In the 1920’s? 

By the end of the book, I was really engrossed in the story.  I have to say I was more than a little perturbed when I had to keep putting it down for the 3 year old.  I wanted to read about the big, bad Al Capone gangster, not play with blocks!  (just kidding, sort of.) 
Then, she goes and hits me with this cliffhanger at a time when I can’t just pick up the sequel and read it!  AGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

One caveat:  These are some bad, bad girls!  Lots of sneaking out of the house, lots of drinking and lots of talk about sex.  There's even a murder. I would not recommend this book for a middle school library.  Obviously, it would depend on the kid as to whether or not a middle schooler should read it, but I wouldn't put it out there for just any middle school student.   "Booklist" agreed with me, recommending it for grades 9-12.

Needless to say, I plan on picking up “Ingenue” in August.  I think all of August will be my “sequel catch up” month.  If you are interested in the book series, there is a website called .

I give this book a B.  The story ended up being good, but it’s not an A because it was slow to start and there were moments that didn’t feel right in the time period.  But it’s a darn good read!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Reposting reviews

So, I have several books for my YA lit class that I need to read.  The problem?  I"ve already read them!  Which isn't really a problem, right?  Except that my professor ::waves at Dr. Truett:: needs to see my reviews.  Therefore, I am going to be re-posting reviews for 3 books so that it will be easy for her to see them and give me credit for them!

The best news is that all 3 of them are FABULOUS!  So, it's not really a bad thing to bring them to everone's attention again.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

Book:  The Espressologist
Author:  Kristina Springer
Publisher:  Square Fish
Year:  2009
The reason I read it:  This is my 3rd contemporary realistic for my presentation on chapter 4, Contemporary Realistic Fiction:  From Tragedies to Romance
My grade:  B

What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right? 

With overtones of Jane Austen’s Emma and brimming with humor and heart, this sweet, frothy debut will be savored by readers.

My Review

I seem to be working on a Jane Austen theme here.  This book, like the publisher’s summary says, is slightly reminiscent of “Emma.”  So, when I saw this book a year ago, I knew that I had to read it.  

Much like poor Emma Woodhouse, Jane Taylor is so busy making matches for other people that she can’t see the perfect match sitting right under her nose.  Of course, Jane is a much more successful matchmaker than Miss Woodhouse, but the premise of the story is the same.

I found that “The Espressologist” was surprisingly as satisfying as Ms. Austen’s classic work as well.  I thought this book would be sort of like the coffee drinks it describes.  Honestly, I expected a creamy vanilla bean frapuccino.  You know, lots of cream and sugar without much else and no strong espresso to speak of!
It was really more like a cappuccino.  A little light and frothy on top, but with a couple shots of strong coffee to give it just a little kick! (Yes, I am a coffee addict.  I don’t know how people live without it!)

The story was cute and never too angst-y, although our Jane is a bit of a bad girl, skipping school all the time.  But the characters are fun, even if they don’t have a lot of depth.  The requisite mean girl is there, plus the totally shallow but totally hot guy.  There’s a grumpy boss and a spiteful co-worker, as well as the tried and true best friend.  So, the normal cast is all there.

What makes this book a little above average for me was the actual coffee matchmaking.  It was a lot of fun to see these people show up, watch Jane figure out their personalities based on those drinks and then see them happily matched up.  It was a riot!

Then, to top it all off, the author included recipes for the drinks at the end!

This is a great book if you’re looking for a quick read that’s light on issues and heavy on fun.  I would say it’s a beach read, but really, it makes me want to throw on a hoodie and curl up with a hot cup of coffee and read the night away.

I give this book a B.  I think it’s above the crowd, but it’s not the sort of book that will have me gushing to every person I meet.  Unless I’m in a coffee house, of course.

Sean Griswold's Head

Book:  Sean Griswold’s Head
Author:  Lindsey Leavitt
Publisher:  Bloomsbury
Year:  2011
Reason I read it:  I needed to read another contemporary realistic.  I’ve read a lot of good reviews of this one, so I thought I’d give it a try.
My grade:  A+

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own. 

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.

My Review

This book was sooooooo much more than what I thought it would be!  I mean, I had read the summary, but it was way deeper than that little blurb.  It was also totally and in all ways satisfying!

To begin with, the premise was so funny!  That is what attracted me to this book in the first place.  Poor Payton needs something to focus on so that she can deal with her father’s MS diagnosis.  So, she chooses to focus on the head of the boy who has been sitting in front of her since 3rd grade.  Yes, you guessed it, Sean Griswold.

Of course, the story is so much more in-depth than that.  It is so honest and heartfelt.  My heart ached for Payton, but it also ached for her family, her friend Jac and for Sean.  It even ached for Grady, the goth vampire boy!

The characters were amazing.  They felt 100 percent real!  I know that I teach some of those kids!  I also think the author was right on target with her storyline and how teens deal with some of the heavy duty stuff that comes their way.  I could totally see that story playing out.

I thought this was going to be a fun, light read.  It was fun, but it really delved deeply into some issues.  But it did so in a way that didn’t leave me bawling like I’d just finished a 24 hour marathon of “The Notebook”.  No, it left me feeling good about the story.  There wasn’t a perfect ending, but there was a hope-filled ending.  Because when people care about one another, they find a way to make the best of bad situations and keep on going.

My grade for this book is an A+.  It is an honest, amusing and touching story about a girl coming to terms with her feelings about her dad, her friend and the head that’s been in front of her for seven years! : )

Monday, July 4, 2011

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Book:  Prom and Prejudice
Author:  Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher:  Scholastic
Year:  2011
The reason I read it:  I needed to read a contemporary realistic novel and well, I love Jane Austen
My grade:  A

After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.
Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway?
Will Lizzie’s pride and Will’s prejudice keep them apart? Or are they a prom couple in the making? Whatever the result, Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club, has concocted a very funny, completely stylish delight for any season — prom or otherwise. 

My Review
It is a truth universally acknowledged that “Pride and Prejudice” may be my favorite book ever.

However, it is still, from time to time, in want of an update.

And a brilliant update on this favorite story showed up in the form of “Prom and Prejudice.”

This book was amazing.  I thought that this would be some cute, fluffy read that played on Jane Austen’s classic, but would be nowhere near as satisfying.  Boy, was I wrong!

It was cute and fun, but just like the original, there was a little more substance than just the prom.  This book looked at our current society’s obsession with money and name brand and celebrity.  It was an update that retained the important message of the original:  don’t let your own pride and prejudice stand in the way of forming meaningful relationships.

Elizabeth Eulberg (who, by the way, is Stephenie Meyer’s publicist!) does a spot on job of making this story come to life with a modern premise.  Her Caroline Bingley is just as atrocious as the original, her Mr. Collins is just as annoying and Charlotte is just as practical.  Lydia is horribly embarrassing and Jane is the sweetest girl ever.  Lizzie is spunky and intelligent, despite being blinded by her own prejudices.  Wickham is just as deplorable.

Darcy, of course, is just as dreamy as the original. (Who will forever look like Colin Firth in my mind ::sighs::) And the ending was just perfect.  It was sooooooooo.........Darcy and Lizzie!

Honestly, I wasn’t sure that she could make this work without seeming forced.  But she pulled it off stupendously!  The updated settings and story lines just worked.  She even found a way to make Wickham evil.  His attempt to steal poor Georgiana’s virtue made perfect sense in the 21st century.

I read this for my contemporary realistic book because I wanted to see if the author could make this timeless classic both contemporary and realistic.  In my opinion, she did a bang up job of that.

I have only one caveat here.  Those not familiar with the original novel may find the characters’ modes of speaking a bit off-putting.  Their dialogue had a cadence that was slightly more archaic than most modern day teens.  I loved it because it strongly resembled the original dialogue.  In my own head, I just told myself that all these snobby rich kids had been held to a higher standard of English.  ::shrugs::  It worked for me.  It might not work for you.

My grade is an A.  With, of course, a huge nod to my homegirl Jane. If you, like myself, are a huge Austen fan, go get this book right away!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Book:  Prada and Prejudice
Author:  Mandy Hubbard
Publisher:  Razorbill
Year:  2009
The reason I read it:  This book has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a year.  I had to read a fantasy novel for my class, so this one fit the bill.
My grade:  B

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

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

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

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

My Review

Ok.  One of the reasons that I chose this book is because I figured that it would be a fast read that is also fun, cute and light-hearted.  And since I don’t have a lot of time with 25+ books to read, that’s exactly what I needed.

That’s exactly what I got!

I am a long time Jane Austen fan, so when I saw this title a year ago, I knew that I had to read it.  After all, haven’t we all dreamed of waking up in the middle of “Pride and Prejudice” to find our own Mr. Darcy?  Well, I know that I have……and he always looks like Colin Firth!

But, I digress.  This book was fun.  It was funny.  It was fluffy.  Don’t go into it expecting anything life-changing.  The protagonist has just finished her freshman year of high school.  She’s an honors student, but she is still very naïve and lacking in a lot of common knowledge.  For example, she doesn’t really understand exactly what it was like for women in Regency England.  I have seen some reviews that blast the book for that, but I teach freshman girls and I know that is not a stretch.  Many senior girls still don’t know that.

There is nothing deeply philosophical about this book.  Much of it is total wish fulfillment and silliness.  But sometimes, you just need a book like that.  I left me smiling and feeling pretty happy, and that’s what I like.  It was nice to see Callie learn to love herself, even if she had to travel to 1815 to learn how!

This is a great summer read.  If you want a book that will be quick and make you smile, pick up “Prada and Prejudice”.  Just be prepared to spend some time afterwards looking up pictures of Colin Firth on Google!

My grade for this book?  A solid B.  It’s not a book I will think about forever, but it was fun while it lasted!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

Book:  Spellbound
Author:  Cara Lynn Shultz
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
Year:  2011
Reason I read this book:  I had to choose a supernatural book for my class and I needed to read and review this galley copy.
My grade:  A

What's a girl to do when meeting The One means she's cursed to die a horrible death?
 Life hasn't been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Connor, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she's irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can't stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma's been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.
My Review

My head is reeling from this book! 

Ok, here’s a little back story on my reading of this book.  I requested it from netgalley because it sounded like it might be interesting.  Nothing that got me super excited, but I figured it would be pretty decent.

Then, I got the assignment of 25+ books for my YA lit class.  And the textbook.  And the other class that I’m taking.  So, all of my galleys had to go to the back burner.  I missed posting for one that released during the first part of June and I felt REALLY bad about that.

So, I noticed that this book was releasing this week.  Now, I get to read one supernatural book.  I started feeling really guilty about not getting this book read in time to review it by its release date.  So, needless to say, I decided that I would just go ahead and make it the supernatural book that I needed to read for my class.

Holy Mary!  Thank goodness I decided to that!  This book is captivating.  I hate to say it, but it really kept me, well, spellbound!

Now, the whole idea of soul mates and love at first sight and that sort of mushy stuff is not new to YA books.  Oh no!  It’s the sort of stuff that some of these books are made of!  And, I hate to admit it, I have been sort of getting tired of it.  Just a little.  So I was not thrilled when this book started heading in that direction.

But Cara Lynn Shultz does anything but make that storyline typical!  I love the twists and turns she adds to that plot and the legends and curses and everything!  This book was so much fun! 

The characters were great.  I loved the female protagonist, Emma.  She was spunky and she stood up for herself and lived by her own rules.  Of course, Brendan was dreamy, but he was also a great guy.  For reals.  The secondary characters were great and the mean girls were REALLY mean!

But the way that she built this background story is what pulled me in to this novel.  It was original and imaginative and mind-blowing.

The other nice thing about this book is that it wrapped up at the end.  There are no sequels!  Hooray!

Finally, there was some cool stuff at the end.  There’s an excerpt from the POV of a different character in the book at the end, and there’s also a playlist!  In fact, you can access and purchase the playlist on iTunes at this address:

I am so glad that I decided to make this galley my supernatural read.  It was spectacular.  My grade is an A.

Thanks to and Harlequin Teen for allowing me the opportunity to read this.