Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A little something to look forward to...

I often read books way in advance of their publication date. Sometimes I review them early and sometimes I like to wait til their release week. (Sometimes the publisher specifically requests that I wait; although, that doesn't happen too often.) Here are 3 books that I loved and will be reviewing more extensively in the coming months.

Nothing But Ghosts
Beth Kephart is easily one of the best teen writers out there today. Her gift is in her description. With brilliantly realized and true-to-life characters, Beth Kephart doesn't talk down to teens. Nothing But Ghosts is another beautifully written, literary novel that touches on grief, love, and the mysteries of life.

Being Nikki
This is Meg Cabot's follow-up to Airhead. Airhead was fun, totally off the wall, and completely enjoyable. The same goes for Being Nikki. I just love how Meg Cabot incorporates science fiction with mystery and romance.

Along for the Ride
I discovered Sarah Dessen about two years ago and immediately flew through all of her books. Along for the Ride was no different. Dessen once again focuses on what she writes best—real life with all of it's friend/sibling/boyfriend/parent complications.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder Book Review

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder
(MIRA, Paperback, April 2009)


Opal is a glassmaker who blows magic into her creations. These creations have become famous all over Sitia and are used as messengers for the Council's magicians. Self-doubt plagues Opal though and when she can't produce magic in any other way, she worries that she is a One-Trick-Wonder. When she is sent on a mission to help the Stormdance Clan, Opal learns that her magic does have other manifestations, some of which have horrible consequences and cause her to become the target of an evil magician. With a little help from her friends, Opal must rely on her magic to help her overcome her fears and save Sitia.

Storm Glass contains all the elements that I loved in Maria V. Snyder's Study series—strong heroines, a dash of romance, questionable alliances, exciting magic, and adventure galore. Although she is very different from the Study series' heroine Yelena, Opal shares an insecurity about her magic and a penchant for getting into trouble that made it easy to draw parallels. It was fascinating to learn about glassmaking and Snyder easily breathes magic into that craft. Storm Glass has cameo appearances from some of my favorite Study characters, so fans of Snyder's previous books will enjoy this new series. I will indulge in one my mind, the men in this book don't hold a candle to Valek. (What can I say, he's my literary crush!) Opal's story is riveting though, and this book left me wishing desperately that I could read Sea Glass, the second book in the series. Alas, I'll just have to wait until September when it's published.

Read my reviews of Maria's other books...
Poison Study
Magic Study
Fire Study

Visit Maria's website. She's got some great companion short stories on her website.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti Book Review

Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti
(Viking, Hardcover, July 2009)


Marisa has been in love with Derek for a long time now and the only thing stopping her from telling him is the fact that he has a girlfriend. Nash is Marisa's nerdy next door neighbor and he's in love with her, but she doesn't feel the same way...or does she? And then there is the guy who runs a late night radio show. No one knows who he is, yet he knows just how Marisa is feeling about parents, school, and life. Can she be crushing on a guy she's never even met?

Waiting for You is a poignant look at what high school means for one girl. Marisa is battling with anxiety and depression, parents on the verge of divorce, and the ups and downs of a first relationship. What I enjoyed the most about this book is that it captures the various support systems that we all have—parents and friends—and what happens when these support systems collapse or disappear. Most importantly though, this is a novel about taking charge of your own life. Marisa feels as if she has been waiting her whole life, waiting to fit in, waiting for that special someone. Colasanti deftly shows us that waiting is not always the answer. Sometimes we need to let go of our fears and reach out to people in order to find happiness.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott Book Review

Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott
(HarperTeen, Hardcover, May 2009)


Seventy-five days ago, Amy's best friend Julia died. Amy knows that she is the reason Julia died and the guilt is eating away at her. Her parents were never interested in her and so Amy turned to Julia and binge drinking. Now just weeks after Julia's death, Amy must face a new school year alone. The only think that connects her to Julia are the letters that she writes in a secret journal.

I was completely blown away by Love You Hate You Miss You. Elizabeth Scott's books are all great (read them if you haven't!), but this one really showcases Scott's writing abilities. At turns dark, witty, and heartbreaking, Love You Hate You Miss You tackles some serious issues in a believable voice. The details surrounding Julia's death are divulged slowly and it becomes easy to see why Amy blames herself. Amy's letters to Julia reveal a girl drowning in self-doubts but still strong at her core. Amy is a sarcastic, unsure heroine and her story is captivating from beginning to end.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Girlfriend Material by Melissa Kantor Book Review

Girlfriend Material by Melissa Kantor
(Disney, Hardcover, May 2009)

Kate's vision of a perfect summer involved hanging out at her home in Utah with her best friend. Instead, her mom drags her along to Cape Cod to stay with family friends. Her parents' marriage is crumbling around her and she is forced to hang out with her mom's friends' daughter who obviously hates her. Kate is convinced that her summer is ruined until Adam starts to notice her.

Girlfriend Material was too full of complications for my taste. First, Kate's parents are fighting. Second, Kate doesn't get along with her sister. Third, she's forced to hang out with a girl who used to be like a best friend but now, for some unknown reason, doesn't like her. Fourth, the boy she likes may just be leading her on. Fifth, she has to teach tennis lessons to an ungrateful girl whose dad yells the entire time Kate's teaching the lessons. I could go on but you get my point. This book is well-written and I really wanted to like Kate. She seems like someone who has always been sure of herself until this summer. Unfortunately, her life got in my way. With that many issues, it was hard to believe a completely happy ending would occur. This book could have been about so much more than a girl wondering if she could ever be girlfriend material, but the serious aspects of the book were played down and, at the end, everything was tied together in a pretty pink bow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle Book Review

Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
(Dutton, Hardcover, May 2009)
Carly and her little sister Anna have always been close. They complement each other and, in a world of Southern wealth, they keep each other sane. When Carly comes back from an all-summer outdoor camp, she finds that Anna has changed. Suddenly, Anna is hot and Carly is worried that her down-to-earth sister has disappeared in a flurry of bikinis, short skirts, and crushes. Carly finds herself lost and missing her sister. Will the two find common ground?

Peace, Love and Baby Ducks is a perfect book to take to the beach or to summer camp. It's filled with laughs, boy troubles, peace signs, sisterly foibles, and even a few tears. This book is destined to be passed from friend to friend, from sister to sister. Carly is a lovable heroine whose morals are well-intentioned but may need just a little tweaking. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her and Anna as both grew as women and as sisters. Mixing a lot of laughs with some tough decisions, Lauren Myracle is gifted at bringing humor to serious situations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

stop by, grab a sandwich, fall in love

During the winter, I watch a lot of movies.  There's something so nice about snuggling on the couch when it's cold outside.  So when I went to Blockbuster the other day, I found that I'd watched most of the new releases.  Lucky for me, Ten Inch Hero was a Blockbuster Exclusive and it caught my eye.  This movie is about four friends who work in a hip, surfer town sub shop.  The story mostly centers around Piper, an art student who has moved to California to search for the daughter that she was forced to give up for adoption eight years ago.  Over the course of the movie, all four friends learn a little about love and a lot about friendship.  This is a fun, light-hearted, quirky movie that will capture your heart and your imagination.  What I loved the most about this movie is that the characters feel very real.  Everything they say is something you can actually picture your friends saying.  Each of the actors so totally encompasses their roles that I can't say that I have a favorite; although, keep an eye out for Noah, played by Sean Patrick Flannery (he starred as teenage Indiana Jones in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones). 

Grab some popcorn and curl up with Ten Inch Hero this weekend.  And let me know what you think! 

Monday, April 20, 2009

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare Book Review

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
(Simon Pulse, Hardcover, 2009)


The rogue Shadowhunter Valentine is still on the loose and very close to obtaining all three Mortal Instruments, an action that will give him uncontested powers. Clary and her friends must travel to the City of Glass to somehow protect the third Mortal Instrument, a mirror that has been lost for hundreds of years. Clary is torn by her love for Jace and her duty as a Shadowhunter. When she meets Sebastian, Clary not only finds a way to help her coma-ridden mother but she also lands herself in the middle of a very tangled web of deceit.

Oh, what a fun series! I read the entire three books basically non-stop for several days, only stopping to work and eat. Cassandra Clare sure knows how to pile on the action and suspense. Simon, Jace, Sebastian...poor Clary and her seemingly endless line of bad boyfriend choices. I don't want to give away any spoilers so I'll just touch on two points about this series that I haven't discussed in my earlier reviews of City of Bones and City of Ashes. First, Valentine and his son are some of the best villains that I've encountered in recent memory. Both are polished and their convincing arguments hide dark jealousies and evil intent. I love that the series ended with a hint that maybe not all of Valentine's evil doing was erased. The second thing that I really appreciated about this series was the relationships. There were so many love triangles, I could write a whole paper about the love triangles in this book. "Teenage angst" is an often bandied about phrase and Cassandra Clare isn't afraid to just pile it upon her characters. Of course, the books have their lighthearted moments and the friendships that are formed are vital to fighting Valentine. I just read that Cassandra Clare is starting a companion series, set in the Victorian era and featuring a young warlock who must rely on a Shadowhunter, the warlocks sworn enemies. Definitely can't wait to read those books. Although, I think I'll have to buy each book and set it on a shelf until I have the whole series. I can't imagine having read City of Bones or City of Ashes without being able to finish the entire trilogy at once. Too many nail-biting cliffhangers!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare Book Review

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
(Simon Pulse, Paperback, 2009)

Clary's life has gotten awfully complicated. First, she learns that she is the daughter of a famous Shadowhunter and so must learn how to vanquish demons. Then she rescues her mother from the evil Valentine, only to learn that her mother is in a coma. Worst of all, she just found out that the guy whose kisses make her weak in the knees has a very unsettling past. Valentine is not gone for good though and it is up to Clary and her friends to try to stop him as he searches for the second Mortal Instrument, a sword that was made by angels.

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare continues to amaze me. Clare obviously did her research and convincingly blends Christianity with various other world mythologies to create a unique world view. Her grasp of literature is also amazing. As Clary fights to find her place in this world, she discovers several truths and half truths about angels and demons. Biblical passages are quoted right next to John Milton and William Shakespeare. On the back cover, says that this series is "reminiscent of Harry Potter." I believe I can see where there might be some resemblance. I've read the Harry Potter books many times over and am always finding some new hidden gem of mythology or plot clues. While reading The Mortal Instruments series, I had a similar feeling--I felt as if I could reread it a hundred times and still manage to unearth new meanings and literary references. These books are definitely big on action and suspense, but they also contain that wonderful literary element that is lacking in so many books.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare Book Review

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
(Simon Pulse, Paperback, 2007)

When Clary witnesses a murder and sees the body disappear before her eyes, she thinks she's going crazy. But then her mom is kidnapping under mysterious circumstances and Clary is suddenly confronted with an entire world that she didn't know existed. A world in which vampires, werewolves, and demons are fighting for dominance. Clary learns that she is the descendent of Shadowhunters, a group of humans that were blessed with angel blood and given the task to rid the world of demons. Will Clary be able to understand and accept her inheritance in time to save her mother?

This book, and the entire series, completely captivated me from beginning to end. Clary is a dynamic heroine, filled with equal parts confident control and shy hesitancy. Despite the fact that she knows nothing of the Shadowhunters and their history, she maintains her strong exterior and is equal to the task of fighting for her mother's life. Jace and Simon are definitely some of my favorite romantic leads. Simon is the happy-go-lucky best friend who sticks by Clary through thick and thin. Jace is the guy who challenges her at every step yet he has an unshakeable confidence in her abilities as a Shadowhunter. The action in this novel was well-balanced, not too much to detract from the interesting story but enough to keep me flipping the pages and guessing who would come out on top. One of the hardest things in writing a series is to conclude one book satisfactorily while leaving enough plot lines open to create the next book. City of Bones definitely delivers this. Clary's struggles weren't quite resolved but I was left feeling like this book had a good ending. Of course, I then immediately picked up the next book...

Stay tuned for my reviews of the next two novels in this series, City of Ashes and City of Glass.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Read to Me : A Poetry Friday Post

Read To Me
by Jane Yolen

Read to me riddles and read to me rhymes
Read to me stories of magical times
Read to me tales about castles and kings
Read to me stories of fabulous things
Read to me pirates and read to me knights
Read to me dragons and dragon-book fights
Read to me spaceships and cowboys and then
When you are finished- please read them again.

Today's poem is just a fun little poem about reading. Happy weekend, everyone! :)

To learn more about Poetry Friday, visit Big A little a. This week's Poetry Friday round-up is at Becky's Book Reviews.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We interrupt MY reading...

Oh, BEDA.  I'm slightly miffed at you right now.  You're seriously cutting into my reading time.

Two down, one more to go...I'm on page 119 of 541 of City of Glass by Cassandra Clare.  It's good.  Real good.  As in, it's a strong possibility that I will stay up til 2am so I can finish it tonight.

p.s.  Does this count as a post?  I'm counting it...quickly, of course, so I can go back to reading...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Me, My Elf and I by Heather Swain Book Review

Me, My Elf and I by Heather Swain
(Speak, Paperback, June 2009)


New York City is completely different from Zephyr's home. In Averland, Zephyr and her family are free to roam around the countryside and be their magic elfin selves; in New York City, Zephyr must hide her magic and her heritage. It's not so easy to do because magic is second nature to Zephyr and, like all elves, she's tall and gorgeous. With the help of a few friends, Zephyr begins to fit in. But will the jealous queen bee of her high school force Zephyr to show her true self?

Bonus points for a story written about elves...vampires and werewolves are so passé. Zephyr was a likable character, naive but self-assured. The theme of family was a central focus of the book and Swain did a good job showing that Zephyr's confidence was the result of her upbringing. The concept of an elf family in New York City lost a bit of charm for me, however, due to the thinly veiled influence of Gossip Girl. Bella, the most popular girl in school, declares war on Zephyr and she mainly does it through a very public blog. This blog appears throughout the story, being the main source of school gossip and the driving factor behind some of Zephyr's actions. The originality of Zephyr's heritage was dulled by the unoriginal gossip website. Despite this setback, Me, My Elf and I is an enjoyable story and I'd love to read more about Zephyr's world. Heather Swain has a unique set of characters here and I hope that she writes a second book that further develops this world.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance Book Review

The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance
(Simon Pulse, Paperback, May 2009)

Bethany is content to live her high school live in geekdom. She stays away from "The Guantlet" where the popular crowd hang out and instead spends her time with the NHS crowd. Then Bethany's best friend decides that they need to try out for cheerleading. Bethany thinks it's all a lark until she and Moni actually make the team. Now Bethany is trying to protect her best friend from the school's biggest player and survive the stares and whispers from the popular crowd.

Normally, this book and I would never have found one another, but it's been sitting on my shelf and the GEEK in the title was just begging me to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed this story about a geeky girl who is thrust into the popular crowd, mostly unwillingly. Bethany will do pretty much anything her best friend Moni wants her to do. Not that Bethany is weak, she just understands that friends have to stick together. Each chapter of the book starts with a snippet from the Prairie Stone High Varsity Cheerleading Guide, offering advice on team spirit, sportsmanship, and school pride. I usually find this sort of thing a little gimmicky but, in the case of this book, it was fun. Each exerpt added to the story and flowed well with the chapters' events. Additionally, the minor characters added a lot of flavor and suspense to the story. There's Todd, the ultimate geek who claims that Bethany is his muse and is determined to use her newfound popularity as his route to Student Body President. Moni is priceless. She's got the cutest, geek guy totally in love with her but she's swept off her feet by Prairie Stone High's biggest player. And then there's Jack. Jack is one of the best athletes at Prairie Stone High and Bethany finds herself drawn to his strong, silent character. All in all, this book does a great job of breaking down stereotypes and social groups. In the end, you'll find yourself asking, what's not to like about a geek girl cheerleader?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder Book Review

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder
(Mira, Paperback, 2008)

Yelena is finally beginning to understand her magic and she is no longer in danger of spinning out of control. Her magic is strong, though, and people are whispering that she is a Soulstealer. There hasn't been a Soulstealer for hundreds of years but the last ones were evil men who killed thousands with their magic. Yelena fears her magic and tries to ignore it. On top of everything, she is still banned from Ixia and now the magicians at the Citadel have turned her out. Yelena struggles to accept her magic and find a place in the world.

Maria V. Snyder can certainly maintain the excitement and suspense of a multi-book series! I love that each book in Yelena's series has a satisfying ending, yet leaves open a few things so as to start the next book. Fire Study explores Yelena's magic in greater detail and the conclusions are mind blowing and unsuspected. All of my favorite characters returned for this third (and supposedly last) book in the series...Valek, Ari, Janco, and Yelena's brother, Leif. There were times when it felt as if my heart stopped because of the gut wrenching plot twists. I normally don't like to know the outcome of a book, but I just had to beg my friend to tell me what happened to Valek at one point. I was so caught up in the characters and their futures that it was impossible for me to keep reading without knowing. It's not very often that a book captures me that wholly. If you haven't read this series yet, do so. Maria V. Snyder is a master of fantasy writing.

I'm super excited about Maria's next book, Storm Glass, which is available later this month. Storm Glass tells the story of Opal who was a minor character in the Study series. Tirzah at The Compulsive Reader received an early review copy and, lucky for us, she gave it a great review.