Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

I loved the Twilight series. But aghh, I just don't love science fiction. I tried, Stephenie, I tried. I just couldn't do it. Sci-fi isn't my thing. The plot really moves and the characters are interesting. The whole concept is interesting. But I knew that I had to pass my copy along to a more deserving fan...someone like Sookie. She posted a comment on my blog awhile back about how much she'd been wanting to read The Host so after I read my ARC, I passed it along to her.

Head on over to Sookie's blog, Over My Head, for her review. It's a really great review. And listen to what she says! "Genres aside--I think I love this book EVEN MORE than the Twilight series (heresy! I know!). "

Glad you liked it, Sookie! :-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr Book Review

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
(Hardcover, Little Brown)

Jennifer and Cameron were best friends when they were little kids. In fact, they were each other's only friend. Then one day Cameron disappears and Jennifer's mom tells her that he died. Lost, grieving, and alone, Jennifer does the only thing she knows how to do to survive. She changes. Chubby, shy Jennifer becomes popular, beautiful Jenna. Jenna is doing fine, living on cruise control, until Cameron reappears on her 17th birthday.

Jenna is a painful character to read about at the beginning of Sweethearts. She's remade herself into a cute, popular girl but she's afraid that at any moment someone will discover who she used to be and she'll be alone and friendless just as she was after Cameron left. Outwardly, she has made friends yet she never completely trusts them. When Cameron returns, Jenna's world is thrown upside down. This was a very bittersweet book for me to read. I couldn't believe that Jenna's mom lied to her. Her mom explains that she did it to protect Jenna, but how could you do that to a kid? Don't get me wrong, it's believable in the's just heartbreaking to read about. Sara Zarr breaks the mold with Jenna's stepfather, however. He is kind, loving, and genuinely cares about what Jenna is feeling. He's not the evil stepparent figure that most authors write about.

The thing that stands out most for me was the ending. It's a perfect ending and completely fits with the story. In fact, the beginning of Chapter 27 has some great quotes about the many ways in which people shape our lives. But, it wasn't the ending that I wanted the first time I read it. The night I finished the book, I even dreamed alternate endings! All night long - five different endings. In one, I dreamed about Cameron and Jenna all grown up. Weird. Despite these dreams, the ending is good and it feels right. Think Sarah Dessen minus the kiss at the end.

Sweethearts is a touching story about the friendships that we make when we are kids and the lasting impact they have on our lives. It's also a story about the fragility of children - our peers and parents also shape our lives and not always in the best ways. Most importantly, Sara Zarr reveals that endings are not really endings, that sometimes an ending is the best beginning (as evidenced by my dream montage).

And I'm not the only one that liked this book. Publisher's Weekly gave it a starred review! Here's an excerpt from their review:

This book about a former misfit who must face her troubled childhood is dark and engrossing, thanks to Zarr's full-bodied characters and creative storytelling....Other realistically flawed characters, from a mother who must learn truly to help her daughter to Cameron himself, round out this complex and bittersweet story of friendship and the meaning of "unfinished business."
Zarr is also the author of Story of a Girl, a book that I haven't reviewed for this site but also highly recommend.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Bass Ackwards & Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain Book Review

Bass Ackwards & Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
(Paperback, Little Brown)


Summer after high school graduation. Four friends college-bound. Until one makes a shocking announcement. In less than a week, three of the four have decided not to go to college and all four are pursuing their dreams. Bass Ackwards & Belly Up is told from the point of view of four girls who decide that college isn't necessarily the best place for them to be. Harper decides to live in her parent's basement and write the great American novel. Kate doesn't know what she wants, but she's going to travel to Europe to see if she can find it. Sophie heads to Hollywood to be an actress. Becca decides that college is exactly where she wants to be, especially because she has a place on the ski team with a world famous coach.

At first, it was hard for me to follow the different stories. I kept getting the girls mixed up. But after awhile, the narratives were easier to follow because each girl was so different. I really liked the premise of the book - that college isn't necessarily the best place to go right after high school. The four girls head in opposite directions of the country (and the world), but they stay in touch and continue to help each other pursue their dreams. The ending of the book was a bit unsatisfying. The only girl that had found her dream was Becca, the one who went to college. The other three girls definitely learned valuable lessons, but they hadn't gotten where they wanted to be yet. Kind of frustrating. But hopefully that will be rectified in the sequel, Footfree and Fancyloose, due out in April. One other small thing that bothered me - the cover only has three girls on it even though the book is clearly about four.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen Book Review

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
(Hardcover, Bantam)


In Bascom, North Carolina, every family has certain roles to play. The Clarks use their beauty as their shield (and thus they always marry well). The Hopkins' boys are young in age but always old at heart. And the Wayverlys, they are always a bit unusual, each endowed with strange gifts that hint at magic. Garden Spells tells the story of two Wayverly sisters, Claire and Sydney, who never seemed to get along as kids but have been thrown back together as adults. Sydney and her daughter, Bay, are on the run from Bay's abusive father and so they seek shelter with Claire. Magic, small town gossip, and romance all weave together to create an irresistible tale.

Garden Spells is a beautifully written, entertaining read. I loved the magical elements of the story and the tension and affection between the sisters. Claire is a recluse, afraid to make connections with people because they always leave. Sydney is a wanderer, always leaving so that people can't leave her first. Tying the story together are the minor characters - Bay, the daughter who magically knows where everything and everyone belongs, Evanelle, the aunt who has urges to give people items that will later come in very handy, and the apple tree in the backyard. You may be wondering why I consider an apple tree to be a character. Well, this is no ordinary apple tree and that's all I'll say. I haven't actually reviewed many books for this site about small town life, which is strange because that is one of my favorite settings for books. Small towns always bring out such great characters. I didn't touch much on the romantic elements but they are definitely present. Claire actually accidentally sets things on fire when she thinks about her new neighbor, Tyler. Definite romantic elements, but the heart of the story is about family and sisterhood.

This book comes out in paperback in April and I would recommend putting it on your wishlist if you're looking for a fun book to read in the spring. The author has another book coming out in May called The Sugar Queen. Here's a great excerpt that my mom found:
"Books can be possessive, can't they? You're walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you, like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. Sometimes what's inside will change your life, but sometimes you don't even have to read it. Sometimes it's a comfort just to have a book around."
I loved this quote and I can't wait to read the rest of the book! One last thing, the covers of both are beautiful. I definitely have a thing for nice covers.