Sunday, June 28, 2009

Isabelle's Boyfriend by Caroline Hickey Book Review

Isabelle's Boyfriend by Caroline Hickey
(Roaring Brook Press, Hardcover, 2008)


While walking her dog one snowy day, Taryn meets the perfect guy. Epp is cute, he flirts with her, and he even likes her dog. The only problem is that he has a girlfriend. When Taryn's best friend comes up with a plan for her to win over Epp's affections, Taryn uneasily goes along with it. Before she knows it, she's up to her neck in lies, double dates, and misunderstandings. Is Epp really worth all this trouble?

Although this book is set in the winter, it made a great summer afternoon read. It was well written, fast paced and full of drama. Taryn is a likable character, just dipping her feet into crushes and dating. Family and friendship issues make this book a thoughtful read, and Taryn's attitude towards relationships and drinking makes it a clean read as well. Isabelle (Epp's girlfriend) is a three-dimensional character with faults and strengths, and there isn't that annoying scene where, in an overdone and unrealistic way, everyone finds out Taryn has lied. Not to say that Taryn gets off scott free, but the "big reveal" is done in a classy, true to real life way. Kudos to Caroline Hickey for twisting the old love triangle into something new and interesting.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart Book Review

Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart
(Harper Teen, Hardcover, 2009)


Katie used to have a perfect life. Then her mother died and ever since then Katie can't seem to fix the whole in her life and in her heart. Her father restores paintings but he can't restore her mother and so the two drift alone in a giant house, unable to talk about the past and unable to look forward. Katie's summer job, however, proves to be just the push that she needs to begin her life again. She spends her summer days working the gardens for an eccentric old lady, a lady that she has never seen and who is so completely shrouded in mystery that Katie can't help but dig into the past for some answers.

I immediately liked Katie. She's got a sassy voice, tinged with a bit of vulnerability. The combination was impossible to resist. As with all of Beth Kephart's books, the writing is lyrical and each sentence is a present in itself. Katie's house and the gardens where she works come alive and I could easily slip into her shoes, even though so much of her life is different from my own. Katie learns that we are all haunted by ghosts but that it doesn't have to define us. Nothing But Ghosts isn't necessarily a book with a lesson, yet it does leave us with the satisfaction of having learned from Katie.

The mystery and the unexpected friendships in this book were what I enjoyed the most. Katie's quest to discover more about Miss Martine is exciting and full of twists and surprises, and includes some help from the oh-so-chic librarian, Ms. McDermott, and Danny, the cute boy who works with her at the gardens. I loved the ending as well. It does what all books should do, provide hope for the character's future while not telling us every single thing that will happen in that future. Katie is a living character in my mind, someone that I might meet on the street or in a library one day. And there are so many other details, so many wonderful layers to this book—the glass bottles, the bird at the window, the paintings—I couldn't possibly write all of them down in this review. Just trust me and get your hands on a copy as soon as you can.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fire by Kristin Cashore Book Review

Fire by Kristin Cashore
(Dial, Hardcover, October 2009)


In Fire's world, there are monsters...and she is one of them. Breathtakingly beautiful, Fire is able to control people's minds. It's not a power that she embraces, however. Raised by her monster father and made to witness the horrible results of his mind controlling, she denies her heritage and hides her gorgeous red hair and her talents. Until she meets Prince Brigan. Fire cannot access his mind and, despite the fact that Brigan seems to loathe the sight of her, Fire admires his strength and is willing to use her powers if it means saving his life.

Kristin Cashore is the author of one of my favorite books from earlier this year, Graceling. Fire takes place in a neighboring land and once again deals with outcasts, strong women, and political intrigue. Cashore deftly blends heart stopping action with multi-faceted characters and the result is some of the best fantasy being written today. Emotionally abused as a child, Fire must deal with her own past in order to accept her future. Much like Katsa in Graceling, Fire learns that being different--being a monster--is not all bad. And can we all just take a moment to swoon over Cashore's heros?! If you liked Po, Brigan is sure to sweep you off your feet!

Kristin also has a wonderful blog called This Is My Secret. Check it out while you wait for Fire to hit bookshelves in October.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Being Nikki by Meg Cabot Book Review

Being Nikki by Meg Cabot
(Scholastic Point, Hardcover, May 2009)


**Warning: If you haven't read the first book in this trilogy, Airhead, then you may want to read it first. This review contains spoilers for Airhead.**

Em Watts used to be a plain girl, one who preferred playing video games over flirting with boys. Then a horrible accident happened and, suddenly, Em found herself in the body of a supermodel, a girl who had boys falling all over her. The trouble is that Em really isn't supermodel material and her new life is not so wonderful. She can't tell the boy that she likes who she really is, she hardly ever sees her family and, worst of all, she's convinced that the company that transplanted her brain into supermodel Nikki's body will stop at nothing to keep the surgery a secret.

Normally, I stay away from science fiction. It's just not really my thing. I'm more of a real life or fantasy type of girl. But I'll read anything that Meg Cabot writes. Last year, I read (and reviewed!) Airhead, which is the first book in this trilogy, and I was completely hooked. Em Watts is a smart, sarcastic, totally believable heroine who is making the best of a bad situation. There's something so funny about watching her try to navigate the world of a shallow, selfish supermodel. Being Nikki continues Em's story, although now we discover that she has a brother on a mission to find their lost mother. Well, Nikki has a brother but since Em's brain is in Nikki's body, then we'll say that Steven is Em's brother. (I promise it's not at all confusing when you read the book!) Things also heat up between Em and Christopher, with a particular scene that will both frustrate you and make you cheer for Em all at once. Because this book is the second in a planned trilogy, many story lines are left unfinished. However, a major revelation at the end will leave the reader reeling and wishing for a copy of Runaway, the final novel in the series.