Friday, February 14, 2014

Giant catch-up post #1

I think that everyone knows by now that I am really, really behind on reviews for this blog.  I have been reading, I'm just having a hard time sitting down to write reviews.  Mostly because my 6 year old has decided to re-grow her umbilical cord.  But anyway........

What I want to do for a couple of days is give you some very short reviews of some of the books I've been reading that I really enjoyed.  So, without further ado, here is the first one:

Books that you should read right away

It’s Rainbow Rowell.  I don’t really need to say anything else, but if you have not read this book, drop everything that you’re doing, feed your kids cereal for dinner and sit down and read this book.  I really liked Eleanor and Park, but I ADORED Fangirl.  One of my favorite reads of 2013, this book needs to go on your bucket list, people!

Marni Bates has won me over!  This little set of novels, the Smith High series, was just great!  You can read one without reading the others, but it’s nice to read them all in order.  I didn’t really think I would like Notable because it was about Chelsea, the mean girl.  But this may have been my favorite one!  It had this crazy story line that reminded me a lot of Bridget Jones:  The Edge of Reason.  Plus, this light-hearted fun novel is what saved me from my Allegiant depression.  Just sayin’………

This is one of the loveliest books I’ve ever read.  Ever.  It is a re-telling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and I love the way the author was able to capture the feeling of an Austen novel while still making the story her own.  I could not put this book down.  It was a beautiful, heart-wrenching story that made me smile and cry and it dealt with all those topics Austen addresses so well like class and prejudice.  Just go read it, ‘kay?

This book did not have some grand plot, but what it did have is a truthful and sometimes heart-wrenching look at growing up and first love.  There were some bad reviews for this one, but personally, I think that Lauren Myracle beautifully captured that rush and naiveté of first love.  I felt the butterflies in my stomach with Wren!  The characters were immature at times, but that’s what 18 year olds are like, right?   I sure was.  I just thought this book was very touching.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wild Cards are now my favorite type......

Book:  Wild Cards
Author:  Simone Elkeles
Publisher:  Walker Books for Young Readers (Bloomsbury)
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley
Date:  Now available
My grade:  A+ with extra credit for swoon

After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?
Initial reaction
I am now and forever a Simone Elkeles believer!!

Cover story
Everyone who reads this blog knows how I feel about kissing covers.  Blech!  I like the colors and I like the models, but I hate the kissing pose.  If I were reading a real copy of this book, I would have to put War and Peace or something on the outside of it.  Just sayin’……

What’s the Story?

So, Derek is sort of a bad boy sort and gets kicked out of his private school.  His dad is in the Navy and is currently on a submarine.  So Derek is stuck with his very ditzy, very young and apparently newly pregnant stepmom.  Who has decided to go back home to Chicago.  What she fails to tell Derek is that she has been estranged from her father for about 10 years and she left behind a younger sister who is now Derek’s age.  See where this is going?

I’m not sure how she did it, but Simone Elkeles made me feel something for every damn character in this book.  I even felt some pain for the distant father and the snooty grandmother.  For reals.  Any author that can make you sympathize with every character in the book is gooooooood.  And believe me when I tell you that Simone Elkeles is good!

At first I was afraid that this was going to be a Catching Jordan 2.0, but it wasn’t like that at all.  For one thing, there are many more issues being dealt with in this novel.  Deaths of parents, people running away, broken relationships.  This book was a lot more serious.  Yet, I never felt bogged down in angst or anything.  It was just enough serious stuff to make for good tension in the novel without feeling like I was reading a tragedy.  Or a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Now, let’s face it.  One of the reasons people love Simone Elkeles is because girlfriend knows how to write steamy.  Holy cold showers!  This one was steamy.  I think I could actually see steam rising from my Nook as I read it!  It wasn’t as explicit as an adult romance novel, but I would definitely steer older teens to this one.  I’m pretty sure this is one of the reasons that Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction have become hot items in my library since they first came in to my library a few weeks ago.  Yeah, Simone Elkeles has it going on in the romance department.

But this story was so multi-faceted with all the different family and relationship dynamics going on that it would have been fabulous even without the hottie bad boy. (But don’t ever take out the hottie bad boy please, Simone, kay?)  It’s always wonderful to see families heal and reconnect and I was in love with the whole family by the time this was finished.

There was also a really cool twist at the end that I loved and even though the ending seemed a little far-fetched, it wasn’t nearly as much of a stretch as say, a half-vampire mutant baby, so I was ok with it.  By that point, I just wanted to see some happily ever afters, ya know?

I loved this book and I think I’m going to have to follow the advice of the girls who come into my library and check out Elkeles’ first series of books.  But I should probably go buy a small fire extinguisher first.

The Soundtrack

Poison and Wine by The Civil Wars

Beautiful Disaster by Jon McLaughlin

Better Man by James Morrison

Come Home by One Republic ft. Sara Bareilles

Kiss Me by Ed Sheeran

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is an A+.  I’m going to go all fangirl now whenever I see a new Simone Elkeles novel!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

This Book Stole Another Little Piece of My Heart

Book:  Another Little Piece of My Heart
Author:  Tracey Martin
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley
Date:  Available now
My grade:  A+

What if your devastating break-up became this summer’s hit single? In this rock-and-roll retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, music can either bring you together or tear you apart.

At her dying mother’s request, Claire dumps Jared, the only boy she’s ever loved. Left with a broken family and a broken heart, Claire is furious when she discovers that her biggest regret became Jared’s big break. While Jared is catapulted into rock-star status, another piece of Claire’s heart crumbles every time his song plays on the radio.

The summer after her senior year, it’s been months since the big break-up, and Claire is just trying to keep her head down and make it through a tense trip to the beach with her family. But when Jared shows up, and old feelings reignite, can Claire and Jared let go of the past? Or will they be stuck singing the same old refrain?

Initial reaction
Can I just pretend I haven’t read this so I can start all over from the beginning and experience it again for the first time????

Cover story
It’s ok.  I don’t love it or hate it.  I DID however, like the title!  In fact, this Janis Joplin song is what caught my eye on this one.  I love Janis and I like the way the author used the title from a sixties musician when it was a story about kids who are musicians that like sixties music…  Talk about your run-on sentence.  But still.  The title worked in so many ways for this one.  I think a nice psychedelic cover would have been cool also, but what do I know?  I don’t get paid the big bucks to make these covers……

What’s the story?
The first thing that attracted me to this book was the Janis Joplin title.  But when I read the description and saw that it was a Jane Austen retelling, I was sold!  This is loosely based on Persuasion, Jane Austen’s final completed novel.

I loved this book.  I seriously loved it.  I read it over a week ago and I still keep thinking about it.  So here’s the story:  Claire is sort of the black sheep of her family. (Totally identified with that one!)  Her parents are very wealthy and they run in some high class society circles.  Claire, however, does not buy into all of that.  She makes friends with Jared, whose mom is divorced and they live in a small house and they are not wealthy.  Eventually, Claire and Jared start dating.  They bond over music (The Beatles!!!) and he teaches her how to play guitar.  But Claire’s parents keep pressuring her.  And when Claire’s mother is dying of cancer, Claire gives in and breaks up with Jared to make her dying mother happy.  He takes off for the summer and the next time she hears from him, it is through a hit song on the radio.  One that he wrote.  About a rich girl who broke his heart because she thought she was better than him.

Great setup, right?  And it was well-executed.  I felt Claire’s pain acutely in the beginning of the novel.  And when she runs into him unexpectedly in New Hampshire after graduation, things really start to get fun!  Now the tables have turned and Claire’s family is in financial trouble while Jared is making tons of money on his heartbreak song.  What follows is a hilarious, if sometimes frustrating, comedy of manners with lots of near-misses and dumb decisions until everything comes together at the end.

Now, I know that there are going to be people who will give this a negative review because they will be upset that Claire and Jared didn’t just come right out and talk to each other.  Do you remember when you were a teenager?  Or not even just a teenager?  When you had been hurt by someone you love?  Did you open yourself up and spill all the truth or did you play around the edges?  Because that’s what a lot of us do.  It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and give advice, but I can remember well doing exactly what Claire and Jared do.  And it must be pretty commonplace or else there wouldn’t be so, so many stories that make use of this trope.  Even the Bard uses it.  Just think of all the misconceptions and issues that arise in Much Ado About Nothing because of people not being straightforward!  So to the naysayers, I just want to point out that if it was okay with Shakespeare, I think it’s ok with me. : )

On a side note, I have not been able to find this book as an actual book, only as an e-book.  Am I missing something here?  Because that is very disappointing!  I want this book for my library, dammit!

In spite of my occasional frustration with the characters, I loved this book.  It was a cute, sweet little story that was so much fun to read!  The characters reminded me a lot of myself and my friends in high school, so that made it even better.  If you like music and you like Jane Austen and you like comedies of manners, you can’t go wrong with Another Little Piece of My Heart. Just be prepared because this book left me with a raging book hangover and it was hard to extract myself from the story!

The Soundtrack

Well, Janis Joplin, duh!  What’s really cool is that Tracey Martin put her own soundtrack at the end of the book!  I’m only taking a couple of her songs though.

Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin

Piece of My Heart by Erma Franklin (Aretha’s sister who actually performed the original of this song!)

Thinking of You by Katy Perry

You’re the First, the Last, My Everything by Joshua Radin

1234 by The Plain White T’s

Love Comes Tumbling Down by Matt Nathanson

Here, There and Everywhere by The Beatles

The Final Grade

My final grade for this one is an A+.  I loved this book. I can’t stop thinking about the story and I think this may be one of my favorites for the year.