Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock Book Review

Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
(Houghton Miffling, Hardcover, October 2009)

D.J. Schwenk knows what it's like to be stressed.  Lately, she's feeling it from all sides.  She's been overseeing her brother's physical therapy after a football accident left him nearly paralyzed.  She's dating her best friend, yet still harboring feelings for her ex.  And she's about to make the biggest decision of her life—whether to accept a basketball scholarship to a small, safe school or to risk everything by going to a big, stadium-packed school to play ball. 

This is definitely my favorite D.J. Schwenk novel yet.  Whereas Dairy Queen set out to break down stereotypes by having D.J. be the only girl on her high school's football team, Front and Center looks at the pressures that come with high school.  D.J. is really good at basketball, but she clams up on the court when the stakes are high.  As D.J. learns to be a leader and find her voice, I was rooting for her to go big and accept a scholarship at a top basketball school.  Readers will have to pick up this book to find out what choice D.J. makes, though. In Front and Center, Catherine Murdock Gilbert delivers a gripping novel that is completely true to D.J.'s voice and that accurately depicts the college decision-making.  I'm only sad that this is the final book in the trilogy...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Announcing Harlequin Teen and 2 Book Reviews

Earlier this summer, Harlequin announced that they would be starting a teen imprint.  I was supremely excited for two reasons.  One, Harlequin is one of the only publishers (if not the only publisher) that has been making money in this recession.  Clearly, they know what people like and they are savvy about their book deals and book marketing.  Two, Harlequin Teen signing on some blockbuster authors, including Gena Showalter, P.C. Cast, Rachel Vincent, and, the author I'm most excited about, Maria V. Snyder.  So far, I've been able to read two of Harlequin Teen's books, My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent and Intertwined by Gena Showalter.  Both are great additions to the fantasy genre and, since I'd never read anything by either author before this, I'll definitely be checking out their adult titles.  See below for my reviews of these two books.  The shortened version?  I ♥ Harlequin Teen.

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
(Harlequin Teen, Paperback, 2009)

Kaylee Cavanaugh can sense when people around her are about to die and, when that happens, she starts screaming uncontrollably.  Kaylee has tried to keep this hidden her whole life.  Then she meets Nash.  Nash doesn't seem to care that she's a bit odd and, more importantly, he has an explanation for her screams.  My Soul to Take is a fresh, exciting paranormal book where the main character aren't vampires or a werewolves.  Instead, Kaylee and Nash are banshee.  Rachel Vincent weaves mythology and mystery into a romantic tale.  I loved that Kaylee is a powerful banshee, seemingly more so than her male counterpart, although the two must work together to save their friends.  Another great character was the grim reaper, Tod.  Hello, love triangles and a fantastic new series.

Intertwined by Gena Showalter
(Harlequin Teen, Hardcover, 2009)

Imagine having someone inside your head, talking all day.  Aden has four souls trapped inside him, constantly telling him what to do.  Not that it's all bad.  Aden's souls each have special abilities that have helped save his life in the past.  But when he meets Mary Ann, he doesn't want to stay away because when she's around, he can't hear the souls inside him.  At first, it was hard for me to keep up with who was speaking in Aden's head.  After a couple chapters, though, it became easy to differentiate between the multiple personalities and I marveled at how Gena Showalter was able to highlight each soul to show how Aden was feeling overwhelmed.  It soon became clear that Aden's task was to set the souls free.  Intertwined features a plot line that I can't get out of my mind and characters that I want to read more about.

If you want to learn more about Harlequin Teen, visit their website and their Facebook page.

Brand-New Emily by Ginger Rue Book Review

Brand-New Emily by Ginger Rue
(Tricycle Press, Hardcover, 2009)

Emily Wood's year at a new middle school isn't starting off so hot.  Somehow she's already made enemies with the popular clique - The Daisies.  Sick of being bullied, Emily decides to make over her image by hiring a top notch public relations firm.  Now, she's wearing the hottest clothes, "dating" a movie star, and hanging out with high schoolers.  The ruse may be working, but Emily soon finds out that being popular is hard work.

Brand-New Emily is a cute, eye-opening look at teen popularity.  It was fascinating to read about the marketing tactics that are used on teens, from how certain clothes become fashionable to how powerful and tricky brand loyalty can be. Emily's transformation to "Em" was well-written and believable.  The plot may sound unbelieveable, but Ginger Rue writes it with humor and a down-to-earth tone that makes the book a page-turner from beginning to end.  I can easily see this being made into a movie.  Add a few years to Emily's age and you have the makings of a modern "Clueless" or "Mean Girls."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Author Is In...

Readergirlz, one of my favorite sites, just announced a new program called readergirlz Author In Residence.  For four months, readergirlz will host one author as their Author In Residence.  Duties include participating in chats, conversing on the readergirlz blog, and serving up some video blogs about the writing life. 

Their first Author In Residence is none other than the fabulous Beth Kephart.  Beth is the author of several books for teens, including one of my all time favorite novels, Undercover, and the heart-filling book The Heart Is Not a Size (March 2010).  If you're not familiar with Beth's books, I recommend visiting her blog.  She posts photos, musings, and writing thoughts almost daily.  Kudos to readergirlz for picking a wonderful author to kick off the new program!  I can't wait to start watching your video blogs, Beth!