Saturday, December 31, 2011

The lists begin........

So, I cannot let the end of the year come and go without making a few lists of my own!  I'll be posting various ones over the next couple of days!  Hope you enjoy!

First, I must say that at one point in time, I only read paranormal/supernatural stuff.  Then I had to take Young Adult lit this past summer.  And Dr. Truett (bless her!) made it her personal mission to move me away from the sci fi/fantasy genre.  And surprise!  I found a lot of contemporary realistic books that I liked.  So in honor of that, here's my first list:

The Books That Made Me Love Contemporary Realistic This Year (in no particular order)

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson 

Oh how I loved this book!  I still think about this book!  I made the playlist for this book on my ipod.  Yes, I have been purchasing every song that Roger had on those playlists in the book.  This books owns me.

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

This was a great contemporary that I read for class this summer.  I had to find a sports related book and I remembered seeing this one on someone's blog.  Boy, am I ever glad I remembered it!  This book was amazing!  The way the author captured the awkwardness of a teenaged boy was unbelievable and right on target. 

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Oh, Ms. Eulberg!  You did what I imagined to be impossible!  You made a contemporary version of Pride and Prejudice that was believable, clever and didn't rely on time travel!  As a huge fan of Jane Austen, I am extremely picky when it comes to "updated retellings" of her story.  This one was beautiful!

Playing with Matches by Brian Katcher

Ok, I must admit that I dreaded reading this book.  The cover is terrible and it sounded depressing.  I was FORCED to read it for my YA lit class (Thanks, Dr. Truett! ::waves::)  Thank goodness or I never would have picked this one up!  I loved this story.  It was a sad story, but it's narrated with such a funny voice, that I never felt overwhelmed with the sadness.  Brian Katcher is a teacher and he catches the male adolescent voice splendidly.  This is one of the books that also converted me to a male-author-narrating-a-male-voice fan.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

I have to admit it.  I thought Sarah Dessen was the bad romance writer of the teen lit world.  I assumed that her books were trite and fluffy little teen girl fantasy romances.  Boy was I wrong!  This book was awesome!  I loved it.  It felt real and it dealt with issues that the teens sitting in my classes deal with and it dealt with them in a superb fashion.  I've been recommending this one over and over.  And I plan to read more Sarah Dessen!

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Obviously a class about teen literature must include at least one book by Laurie Halse Anderson, right?  I wanted to read Speak, but the copyright date was too old for the requirements of my class.  I went to browse in our library at school and found this one.  The tagline in the front is what sold me on choosing it:  "Everyone told me to be a man but no one told me how."  However, that tagline in no way prepared me for the powerful story that this book contained.  I laughed, I cried, I got mad -- this book made me feel ALIVE while reading it. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

There's a reason that this book was won a gazillion awards.  This book is so wonderful I don't even know where to begin.  The pictures were a fabulous addition to the story.  The voice of the narrator is so funny that I found myself laughing and then catching myself because it should have been sad.  If you don't read this book, you are depriving yourself of one of the best literary experiences of your life.  For reals.  I have recommended this book to more people than any other book I've read.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

First off, I am a French teacher.  So not only did I just have to read this book, but as a person who has visited Paris numerous times and lived in the south of France, I have a very critical eye for books set in France.  Swoon!  Ms. Perkins, you made me feel like I was in Paris!  This book not only captured Paris as a setting, but it captured the feelings of first love so beautifully.  Those awkward moments of having a crush on someone and those heart-racing moments of being with that person for the first time.  This book was light and fluffy, but for an adult, it was also oh-so-bittersweet!  To be young and in love and in Paris!

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Libba Bray, you are my new favorite person!  I want to be your BFF and hang out every day drinking coffee and talking snarky crap about the world.

I loved this book.  The satire is amazing.  The snarkiness is incredible.  I thought it was clever and well-written and managed to satirize all the ills of American popular culture.  The story is ridiculous and purposefully so.  This is not a book for everyone, but it you are tired of people raving about the geniusness of American Idol and reality TV and you think current politics are a joke, you will love this book.

Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt

I thought this book was going to be just a fluffy read.  And I was wrong.  This book captures a teen girl's difficulty dealing with a serious diagnosis for her father.  There are also a lot of good, fluffy moments mixed in, but the book does a great job of balancing the serious with the fluff.  I think it captures the teen voice really well also, and it realistically portrays an adolescent reaction to this news.  Most teens are so self-focused that they don't always react the way an adult would and this book portrayed that.  I pulled an all-nighter reading this one because I just couldn't stop.

So, here they are.  The books that converted me!  And now I have a big pile of contemporary realistic books next to all my paranormal books!  Which totally makes the tagline on my blog incorrect, but who cares?  Expect to see more contemporary realistic reviews here on my paranormal book blog! : )

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom

 Book:  Ditched:  A Love Story
Author:  Robin Mellom
Publisher:  Disney-Hyperion
Date:  January 10, 2012
Source:  Publisher and netgalley
My grade:  A+++

High school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her.

Ian, who always passed her the baseball bat handle first.

Ian, who knew exactly when she needed red licorice.

Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom. 

And then ditched her.

Now, as the sun rises over her small town, and with only the help of some opinionated ladies at the 7-Eleven, Justina must piece together — stain by stain on her thrift-store dress — exactly how she ended up dateless. A three-legged Chihuahua was involved. Along with a demolition derby-ready Cadillac. And there was that incident at the tattoo parlor. Plus the flying leap from Brian Sontag's moving car...

But to get the whole story, Justina will have to face the boy who ditched her. And discover if losing out at prom can ultimately lead to true love.

Filled with humor, charm, and romance, Ditched: A Love Story by debut novelist Robin Mellom will have readers dreaming of love on their own prom nights.

My Review

I LOVED this book!  Seriously.  L. O. V. E. D. it!!  This book was like a John Hughes movie put into a book.  And I was a serious John Hughes movie junkie back in the day.  Yes, I saw Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Pretty in Pink all in the movie theatre.  (Yes, that makes me old.  And don’t judge me! )

First, there is the structure of this book.  We start at the end of the night, when poor Justina finds herself in a ditch on the side of the road after prom and we need to figure out how she got there.  A total mystery.  Nothing but a girl in a bad dress with even worse shoes ( and they are dyed to match the dress!!  Total 80’s link there!  Mine were dyed red my junior year.).  Her dress is covered in stains, she has no purse, no phone, nothing but a bunch of stains, a Tinker Bell tattoo and some strange bruises and bite marks.  Yes, bite marks.

So she makes it to the 7-11 down the street and starts telling her story to the store clerk and a sympathetic woman customer.  I loved the way the story was interspersed with the details of what was going on in the convenient store.  And the commentary from the 2 women was laugh out loud funny.

Of course, Justina spins this ridiculously funny yarn of a prom night from hell that just keeps going from bad to worse.  It’s embarrassing, it’s cringe-worthy, it’s sad, it’s infuriating and it’s endearing.  Yes, it’s all of those things.  Sound like Sixteen Candles yet?

Even though it had that John Hughes feel to it, I never felt like the author was ripping off those movies.  Rather, I felt like this was an original plot that captured that awkwardness of the teen years but turned out ok in the end.  Because we all know that Jake Ryan shows up after the wedding to get Samantha, right?

There was no Jake Ryan (swoon!) in this book, but there was Ian Clarke!  He was so wonderful!  Justina keeps referring to him as a Professional Boyfriend and my goodness, is she ever on target!  He is a dream guy!  I just know he’s so cute and so wonderful in that boy next door sort of way.

 (I totally picture David Henrie as Ian Clarke!  A little geeky but totally cute!  And notice the resemblance to Jake Ryan!)

There were the pictures in this book as well.  Hysterical pictures!  Each time she explained one of the stains on the dress, or a bruise, there was an accompanying visual of the dress or her hand or shin to give the reader the exact image of what was being discussed.  It was brilliant.

I cannot rave about this book enough!  It was funny, clever, tender and endearing.  It will resonate with teens and those who have ever been teens.  God, I can remember many of those same moments myself and I still witness them in my classroom!  This book captured the craziness of being a teenager and spun a fantastic story that captured the essence of the teen years in one ridiculous prom night.  It was sheer genius!

My grade for this book is an A+.  Do yourself a favor and pre-order this one.  You will not regret it!  And Hollywood is crazy if they don’t pick this one up for a movie adaptation!

Many thanks to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for allowing me to read and review this book.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Book:  Catching Jordan
Author:  Miranda Kenneally
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Date:  December 1st, 2011
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley
My grade:  B

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team... and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.

My Review

I have to admit that I wasn’t sold on this one to begin with.  I mean, a girl who plays football?  And quarterback, no less?  I wasn’t sure, but I decided to give it a try since I’ve been trying to read more diverse genres.

I ended up liking this book.  The story was engaging.  There was a touch of angst and a lot of fluff and it ended up being a happy, feel-good sort of read.  If you’re looking for a light, fun read, this is a good book to fill that request.

I liked Jordan, the main character and I really enjoyed the boys on the football team.  Like most teenaged boys, they were concerned with football, food and sex.  They were also very funny and reading about Jordan hanging out with all of them was fun.

The relationship with Ty felt a little surface level to me.  I mean, I understand about teen girls and how they might fall in love quickly, but this one gave me whiplash!  And the way these characters just jumped right into a sexual relationship with anyone seemed a little overboard.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that the average teenager is bed-hopping the way these characters were.  But I plan on discussing that with my students to see if it’s accurate!

The plot was fairly predictable, but in the good sort of way.  I knew who she would end up with and that’s how it went down, but the interesting part of the book was seeing how Jordan’s relationship with her father changed and seeing how she dealt with her dream college and playing college-level football. 

Of course, the book wrapped up a little too nicely for real life, but sometimes, you just have to have a little self-indulgence in reading too.  So think of this book as a literary version of a Hershey’s bar.  You know you shouldn’t, but you sure do enjoy it when you do.  It doesn’t last very long and it’s not very filling or substantial, but does it ever taste good while you’re eating it! : )

My grade for this book is B.  It was a guilty little pleasure read that wasn’t too heavy and made me just feel good.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for allowing me to read and review this

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On a Dark Wing by Jordan Dane

Book:  On a Dark Wing
Author:  Jordan Dane
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
Date:  December 27, 2011
Source:  Publisher and Netgalley
My grade:  A-

The choices I had made led to the moment when fate took over. I would learn a lesson I wasn't prepared for. And Death would be my willing teacher.

Five years ago, Abbey Chandler cheated Death. She survived a horrific car accident, but her "lucky" break came at the expense of her mother's life and changed everything. After she crossed paths with Death—by taking the hand of an ethereal boy made of clouds and sky—she would never be normal again.

Now she's the target of Death's ravens and an innocent boy's life is on the line. When Nate Holden—Abbey's secret crush—starts to climb Alaska's Denali, the Angel of Death stalks him because of her.
And Abbey finds out the hard way that Death never forgets.

My Review

Wow!  What a whirlwind of a read!  I would not have said that if you had asked about this book in the first chapter, but it doesn’t take long before you can’t put the book down.  This book had me biting my nails, waiting to see how it would turn out.  I mean, I was hoping for the best, but the author had me convinced that it might not turn out as I hoped.

The beginning of this book is a little confusing.  It takes a while for all the pieces to start coming together, so if you are reading it and it feels a little disjointed or even disorienting, don’t give up!  All the threads and storylines eventually make sense.

I like the way the author narrated this from so many points of view.  Even though Abbey is the main voice, it was interesting to hear from the other characters as well.  I also like this author’s take on Death as a character.  I mean, we’ve seen plenty of angels, fey, werewolves, vampires and witches, but it’s hard to create a sympathetic character from the Grim Reaper!  But Jordan Dane manages to do that.  In the end, I felt my heartstrings tug for Death!

Another thing I like is how Abbey and Tanner are not the most beautiful, perfect kids.  Tanner is in a wheelchair and Abbey is slightly overweight.  The way the author portrays this, it doesn’t feel as if she’s creating token characters.  It feels real and it was refreshing to see not-so-perfect leading characters. 
I liked watching all the characters grow and change as a result of the story.  Even though there was a huge supernatural twist in the form of Death as a character, the novel still had a very contemporary realistic feel to it.  I found that the guy I was rooting for at the beginning was not the guy I rooted for at the end and just like Abbey, I found myself seeing things differently by the end of the book.  It’s really cool to me when I can get inside a character’s head that way.

There is one thing that I'm not crazy about and that is the cover.  Now, I love buff guys with wings as much as the next person, but this cover is a little too "cheesy bodice-ripper romance" for me.  I don't want a cover that would make me embarrassed in public! : )

My grade for this book is an A-.  I took off points because it IS so disjointed at the beginning.  But I’m glad that I stuck with it and read it through to the end.

Thanks to Harlequin Teen and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book to review.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crave by Melissa Darnell

Book:  Crave
Author:  Melissa Darnell
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
Date:  October 25, 2011
Source:  Netgalley
My grade:  B+

Savannah Colbert has never known why she's so hated by the kids of the Clann. Nor can she deny her instinct to get close to Clann golden boy Tristan Coleman. Especially when she recovers from a strange illness and the attraction becomes nearly irresistible. It's as if he's a magnet, pulling her gaze, her thoughts, even her dreams. Her family has warned her to have nothing to do with him, or any members of the Clann. But when Tristan is suddenly everywhere she goes, Savannah fears she's destined to fail.
For years, Tristan has been forbidden to even speak to Savannah Colbert. Then Savannah disappears from school for a week and comes back…different, and suddenly he can't stay away. Boys seem intoxicated just from looking at her. His own family becomes stricter than ever. And Tristan has to fight his own urge to protect her, to be near her no matter the consequences….

My Review
I really enjoyed this book.  I love vampire books and I have since I was little.  I enjoy seeing each author’s take on the vampire myth.  Yes, even vampires that sparkle!  I realized after reading this that I haven’t really read many vampire books this year because I think that publishers are moving away from them.  That’s too bad.

I have read some scathing reviews of this book, but honestly, I don’t see why.  The main character, Savannah, does make some really dumb decisions, but then again, so do most 15 year old girls.  I hate it when people expect high school students in books to act differently from high school students in real life.  I could definitely see every bit of what happened in this book actually happening.  Well, if there were really vampires and witches. : )

I thought that this book was an easy read and that it moved fairly quickly.  I became very engaged in the budding romance and the way they had to creatively have dates and things.  It was an interesting twist on the standard Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lovers theme.  It was obvious that the author is setting us up for the next book in the series, because there was quite a bit of exposition in the novel.  However, I found the relationship that was developing to be compelling enough to keep me reading.  Also, all of Savannah’s physical “developments” were interesting to watch.  It kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what things would manifest themselves next.

My grade for this book is B+.  I enjoyed it.  A little more action would have been nice, but it’s obvious that more is going to happen in the next book.  Ms. Darnell made me care about these characters in this book and that is going to keep me reading the next installment.

Thanks to Harlequin Teen and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Harper Collins Epic Deals for Epic Reads!

Check this out!  Harper Collins is offering all of these books for only $0.99 each!  I bought 7 of them this morning!  And if you have not read Unearthly yet, buy it now at this price.  I LOVED that book.  You can find my review of it here.

One warning.  I did find that the pricing was wrong on B & N for The Poison Diaries.  I just bought it at the Kobo site instead, where it is in epub format, so it's Nook compatible.  You can find out more about this on the Facebook page and you can also enter a sweepstakes to win copies of all the books!  The Facebook page is here.

Treat yourself to a Christmas present.  That's what I did! : )

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Book:  Hallowed
Author:  Cynthia Hand
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Date:  January 17, 2012
Source: netgalley
My grade:  A+

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

Described by Richelle Mead as “utterly captivating,” Unearthly received outstanding reviews, garnered accolades from New York Times bestselling authors, and was named an Indie Next Pick. In this heart-wrenching sequel, Cynthia Hand expertly captures the all-consuming joy of first love—and the agony of loss. This beautifully woven tale will appeal to fans of Lauren Kate, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Aprilynne Pike.

My Review

Oh my goodness!  This book was just as amazing as the first book!  And I have no idea how I am going to review it without including a whole lot of spoilers, so this review may feel a little disjointed.

First, I have to hand it to Cynthia Hand.  Does that woman ever know how to keep throwing in surprises that make perfect sense but you never saw them coming!  It was incredible.  Every time I thought I had something figured out, she would totally shock me with what the reality was!

The plot and the action were just as good as the first book.  There were new characters and old characters seen in a new light.  The story just keeps pulling together in such a way that I can only imagine what the ending will be like.  It’s going to be a thrill ride for sure.

I really can’t say a lot about the plot because there is no way to go into all the details that I loved and hated because it would spoil the story for you and there is no way that I want to spoil it.  I want my readers to experience all those shocking moments first hand! : )

Let me just finish up by saying that if you liked the first book, Unearthly, you are going to like this one as well.  The only thing that could have made this book better would have been more Tucker.  But I can never get enough Tucker!

My grade for this book is A+.  This is one of the best books I’ve read all year!

Huge thanks to Harper Collins and Netgalley for allowing me to read and rev

Monday, December 12, 2011

Passion by Lauren Kate

Book:  Passion
Author:  Lauren Kate
Publisher:  Random House
Date:  June 14, 2011
My grade:  A-

Luce would die for Daniel.

And she has. Over and over again. Throughout time, Luce and Daniel have found each other, only to be painfully torn apart: Luce dead, Daniel left broken and alone. But perhaps it doesn’t need to be that way. . . .

Luce is certain that something—or someone—in a past life can help her in her present one. So she begins the most important journey of this lifetime . . . going back eternities to witness firsthand her romances with Daniel . . . and finally unlock the key to making their love last.

Cam and the legions of angels and Outcasts are desperate to catch Luce, but none are as frantic as Daniel. He chases Luce through their shared pasts, terrified of what might happen if she rewrites history.

Because their romance for the ages could go up in flames . . . forever.
Sweeping across centuries, PASSION is the third novel in the unforgettably epic FALLEN series.

My Review

I don’t really know what to say about this book. I absolutely loved the story once I was finished with the book. However, the book read at a very slow pace. Or rather, I had to read it at a very slow pace. I think that what has made people give this book some poor reviews is that this is a book that requires a lot of thinking and processing as you read.

I think that going back to see Luce and Daniel in all their past lives was amazing. It was also very necessary to understand where they are now. Just like Luce, the reader is sort of blindly jumping through time and trying desperately to make sense of all the situations and figure a way out of them. Unlike Luce, the reader has the luxury of putting the book down and taking a rest from all the thinking!

I’m having a hard time reviewing without spoilers, so let me just say that Lauren Kate has really created some beautiful descriptions and there were times when Daniel’s anguish literally broke my heart! She also throws in some surprises along the way that were fun.

The history of each life was very well done. It’s obvious that she did some research to make everything authentic and as a reader, I really appreciated that.

The cover is something that I just have to mention.  I know, I know....don't judge a book by it's cover and yadda, yadda, yadda.  But just look at that cover!  This series has got some of the best covers out there, bar none!  I absolutely love them!  They are beautiful, but dark and passionate!  Whoever does these covers......keep doing what you are doing!

My grade for this book is probably A-. In the end, I really did love this book. The minus is just because of the sort of slow nature of the book. The story is fantastic and the book is a beautiful way to set up the last book in the series, Rapture. So Lauren Kate, bring it on! I’m ready for whatever surprises you are going to throw my way!