Monday, March 30, 2009

In Your Room by Jordana Fraiberg Book Review

In Your Room by Jordana Fraiberg
(Razorbill, Paperback, 2008)

Charlie and Molly have their perfect summers all planned out. Until their parents decide to swap houses, that is. Molly lives a perfect city life in Los Angeles, filled with shopping, hanging out with her friends, and designing clothes. Charlie has a laid-back life in Boulder, filled with mountain biking, sunny meadows, and backyard barbecues. Now they are living in each other's rooms for 3 whole months and their email correspondence may be the only thing that saves the summer.

Can you describe a book as being cute? Because In Your Room is definitely cute. Not in a condescending way but, rather, in a warm and fuzzy post-reading feeling. Fraiberg deftly handles the heartache and pitfalls of growing up and utterly connects her characters to their two settings. Having been to Los Angeles and Boulder in the last year, I could see that Fraiberg did her research. The two locations could almost be considered characters of the book if you were studying it from a literary standpoint. Boulder was my favorite place of the two because it was fun to see Molly relax and embrace a new side of herself while there. Despite the fact that Molly and Charlie are in two separate cities for the summer, it was no stretch of the imagination to see them falling in love. When I first read the back of the book, I was skeptical. However, the emails and IMs between Molly and Charlie are filled with little details and with feelings about their lives. I can always tell how good a book is by the amount that I can remember as time passes. I read this book in October and it's still fresh in my mind. Jordana Fraiberg is definitely an author to watch out for.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles Book Review

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
(Walker & Co, Paperback, 2009)


Brittany Ellis and Alex Fuentes are as different as two high schoolers can possibly be. Brittany is the captain of the cheerleading squad and Alex is part of a violent gang. When the two get thrown together as chemistry partners, the sparks fly. Perhaps Brittany is more than Miss Popular and Alex is smarter than he lets on. But Alex's gang involvement threatens any change they may have at happiness.

I have to give props to this Romeo & Juliet meets West Side Story plot line. I feel like this is popular in a lot of movies but isn't a common theme in books. (Leave me a comment if you can think of other examples.) The author builds up a lot of tension between Brittany and Alex, and not just romantic tension. Family, friends, gang members, and social status all act to build layers to the characters and complicate their growing relationship. Simone Elkeles had me convinced that Brittany and Alex were good for each other. The Spanish that was sprinkled throughout the novel threw me off a little because I don't speak Spanish. However, it did add a lot of authenticity to the story and it was easy enough to look up the Spanish words. One thing that really struck me is that there was a lot of sass to the novel. Mostly from Alex, which I found to be very funny and endearing. Although Perfect Chemistry is a bit more gritty than Stephenie Meyer's books, I would recommend this to Twilight fans because of the science lab partners bit and because of the romance.

Kissing Booth by Lexie Hill Book Review

Kissing Booth by Lexie Hill
(Scholastic Point, Paperback, 2009)

Lisi is cursed. In elementary school, she ran screaming from a boy who tried to kiss her and ever since then, she's has a solid NBK status. Never Been Kissed. This year, though, Lisi is determined to kiss senior football star Brett Jacobson. Her school throws a spring carnival every year to raise money and Lisi has convinced her friends that their table should be a kissing booth. As the date of the carnival gets closer, Lisi starts to realize that maybe Brett was a jerk and her first kiss crush might have been beside her all along.

Even though the plot line is a bit cliche, this book was fun to read. After all, we have cliches for a reason. Many books are centered around a wallflower girl with her sights set on the popular guy. In the case of this book, it works because of the kissing booth element. Organizing the kissing booth provides Lisi with the opportunity to evaluate her feelings for Brett and to appreciate her true friends. Despite the fun, flirty tone of the book, I was thoroughly disappointed by the big reveal at the end. Lisi comes to her senses when Brett tries to kiss her at the booth and she stands up and announces to her whole school that's she never been kissed and that she lied to everyone and...well, you get the idea. I physically cringed when I got to that part. No one does that in real life. It was so out of character that the ending fell a little flat. If the scene has been done differently, the ending would have been much more enjoyable.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover by Ally Carter Book Review

Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover by Ally Carter
(Disney, Hardcover, June 2009)

Cammie's junior year hasn't even started and already she's been involved in a kidnapping plot. Macey, Cammie's Gallagher Academy friend, is the daughter of the vice presidential candidate and the target of the kidnapping. When it's time for school to start, Cammie can't concentrate on her studies and Macey is haunted by what happened. To make matters worse, it appears as if Macey is still being threatened so Cammie, Bex, and Liz join the campaign trail to help protect her. Can Cammie "The Chameleon" figure out who is behind the kidnapping in time to save her friend or are there some things too big for even a Gallagher Girl to handle?

I've always been a fan of spy movies and it's quite refreshing to see a series based around girl spies. Cammie is a sidewalk artist--she can blend in with any surrounding, hence the nickname "The Chameleon." Each of her friends have their own special talents and it's fun to what type of situation they will get into next. In this new novel in the series, we really see Cammie growing up, and the book starts to hint at more serious plots to come. Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover is particularly relevant this year since we just had a presidential election. Ally Carter shows us a different side of the political process, one that is fraught with threats and espionage. Filled with as much humor, friendship, romance, and Gallagher Academy lore as the previous books, Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover is sure to delight Gallagher Girl fans. Ally offers up classic Gallagher Girl humor and style in this latest installment.

Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover is the perfect book to bring on summer vacation since it releases in June. In the meantime, check out the first two books in the series, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You and Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy. Visit Ally's blog to learn more about Cammie and her friends. Aren't the covers and titles for this series so much fun? I seriously want to be a Gallagher Girl.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman Book Review

Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman
(Viking, Hardcover, April 2009)

Savannah is expecting her summer to be boring. Her two best friends are away and her mom wants her to help look after her younger brother. Then Savannah meets Jackson, a cute surfer boy who is staying with his cousins, and her whole summer changes. Suddenly, she is sneaking around, trying to see Jackson as much as possible. Then Jackson gets in trouble and is sent back home. Savannah feels as if she can't live without him. In fact, she's pretty sure that he is the only reason her asthma hasn't been as severe this summer and she's desperate for him to come back. Was it just a summer fling or is Jackson her one and only?

There were several things that I really enjoyed about this book. I enjoyed the fact that the author didn't shy away from the question of whether teenage love can last. It's a question that Savannah faces and I don't want to give away any plot details but I quite liked the outcome of Savannah's story. It wasn't overdone and Savannah really comes into her own by the end of the novel. Savannah's asthma also becomes a critical part of the story and I felt that Cheryl Renee Herbsman did a good job of using Savannah's coping as a metaphor for growing up.

Although I did think that the message of the book was important and well-written, it was Savannah's voice that ultimately made me give this novel only 2 stars. I'm from the South so I appreciated the work that went into creating her voice. She lives in a small Southern beach town and she talks like a hick. Not an easy thing to keep up for an entire novel. However, Savannah's voice was incongruous with her character. She is supposedly one of the smartest kids in her class, taking AP classes, dreaming of college, and reading voraciously. So, how can someone so gifted have such horrible grammar? Here's a quote from when Savannah is talking about applying for a semester-long college experience:
"I ain't getting my hopes up....But even if I was lucky enough for that to happen, we couldn't never afford it." (pp. 12-13)
Savannah narrates the entire novel so the poor grammar was hard for me to get over. Perhaps if she hadn't been portrayed as such a stellar student it wouldn't have bothered me. Even the age difference between Jackson (18) and Savannah (15) seemed like a minor flaw compared to Savannah's grammar.

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund Review

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
(Speak, Paperback, 2008)

Aurelia is the crown princess of Tyralt and lately there have been several assassination attempts on her life. Robert is her friend from childhood and the son of the king's last spymaster. As everyone in the royal court tries to hide the assassination attempts from Aurelia, Robert steps in and informs Aurelia of the danger. And he vows to protect her. Aurelia is headstrong, however, and Roberts seems to be chasing her as much as helping her.

Aurelia is a fun, old-fashioned court novel filled with romance and danger. I enjoyed reading about the fiesty heroine and her former classmate. In a world where it's impossible to trust anyone, Robert was a loyal and swoon-worthy hero. The thing that intrigued me most about the novel, though, was the kingdom of Tyralt. Tyralt seemed to have bits and pieces of the whole world rolled together - the African desert, the English court, and the wild American west. The novel takes place at court, so we don't see any of Robert's homeland or the desert where Robert's horse is rumored to be descenced. The whole time I was reading, I was hoping that Anne Osterlund would write another novel set in Tyralt so that I could see more of the country. Aurelia is a solid historical romance set in a semi-fantasy world and I hope to read more by the author.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Literary Kitty

I was planning on spending the afternoon writing book reviews.  (Eek, I'm a little behind in that...I have a whole stack of books to review.)  But then some friends called, and it's a beautiful day, and it's always fun to hang out with friends.  There may be some reviews later, but I thought, as a consolation prize, I'd share a funny picture of my cat.  We were playing Scrabble and she decided to lay down in the middle of the board.  So we played on top of her!

Isn't she cute?  Her name is Desi, short for Desdemona, and she loves to lay down on top of board games.  Her favorite game to play is Carcassonne because she bats the little men off the board.  And she's just so adorable that we usually don't stop her.  I think I'll send this picture to the always entertaining website Stuff on My Cat ...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Revelations by Melissa de la Cruz Book Review

Revelations by Melissa de la Cruz
(Hyperion, Hardcover, 2009)


Schuyler Van Alen has always been different. She's pretty but not popular. She's a vampire, but not a full-blood vampire. Even her relationship with fellow vampire Jack must be kept a secret because Jack is promised to another vampire. Underlying all of the social drama is a threat to all vampires--Lucifer and his army of Silver Bloods. In this third book of the Blue Bloods series, friendships are cemented and enemies are revealed.

Melissa de la Cruz's world of vampires is somewhat familiar, yet dazzlingly creative all at the same time. Schuyler's world is privileged, rich and seeped in New York history. But this isn't just a Gossip Girl novel with a few vampires. Intermixed in the story are letters from the original Plymouth colony, telling of the colonists' mysterious connections to Lucifer's fall from Heaven and the race of vampires. Being a history nerd, I loved how Schuyler's story was tangled up in the Plymouth colony. The history twist and the plot flow from book to book in the series feels well thought out and I'm curious to see what happens in the next book of the series, The Van Alen Legacy (Sept 2009). The idea of twins was also intriguing although the Mimi, Jack, and Schuyler triangle is a bit sickening. It was very incestuous in the first book and, thankfully, it seems to tone down a bit as the series goes on. I recommend this book for fans of vampire tales as well as alternative history.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I Am In Need of Music : A Poetry Friday Post

I Am In Need of Music

by Elizabeth Bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

I discovered Elizabeth Bishop while reading Undercover by Beth Kephart .  If you haven't already read Undercover, I highly recommend it.  It's a fabulous book about a girl named Elisa who ghost writes love notes for guys, yet she never has the courage to write one to a guy.  Instead, she composes them in her head.  Elisa is lucky enough to have an English teacher who assigns her students poems by Elizabeth Bishop and who encourages Elisa to find her voice.  We all have a hidden voice just waiting to break free and, for me, Undercover opened up so many voices and worlds.  So, Beth, I offer up this poem to you as a thanks for sharing your voice and in the hopes that your spring is full of the magic of music.

To learn more about Poetry Friday, visit Big A little a . This week's Poetry Friday round-up is at Picture Book of the Day.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott Book Review

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott
(Simon Pulse, Hardcover, 2009)

Hannah's parents have always sort-of been the bane of her existence. Her dad is super famous for having a mansion full of girlfriends (think Hugh Hefner) and, to make matters worse, his whole life is filmed as a reality tv show. Hannah's mom used to be one of those girlfriends, but then she got pregnant and kicked out of the mansion. So now, she does live chats while modeling lingerie. Needless to say, Hannah pretty much tries to be invisible. She's succeeding until her crush starts paying attention to her, her dad wants her to come visit the mansion, and she suddenly can't stop thinking about Finn who is so not her crush.

Like so many of you, I became a fan of Elizabeth Scott when I read bloom. Her books are a nice mix of real life issues and odd scenarios. In Something, Maybe, Hannah wants what most of us want at some point in our lives - to not be noticed. I sympathized with her attempts at invisibility (big, baggy clothes and no make-up) and I laughed over her secret fear that she might turn into her parents and suddenly want to rip a guy's clothes off. Family issues are also often at the heart of Scott's books. No family is perfect, especially Hannah's, but we all have to reconcile how we fit into our family's tapestry. (Feel free to read that as a reference to Harry Potter...) Hannah's discoveries are heartfelt and poignant. Something, Maybe is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen.

Want to learn more about Elizabeth and her books?
Read my interview with Elizabeth from a year ago.
Read my review of Perfect You.
Read my review of Stealing Heaven.

Oh, and this cover totally makes me think of Blake Lively. I think it's the way that the cover model is pursing her lips. What do you think?