8/31/11

Two-Way Street

Author: Lauren Barnholdt
Pages: 288
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads): There are two sides to every breakup. 

This is Jordan and Courtney, totally in love. Sure, they were an unlikely high school couple. But they clicked; it worked. They're even going to the same college, and driving cross-country together for orientation.

Then Jordan dumps Courtney -- for a girl he met on the Internet.

It's too late to change plans, so the road trip is on. Courtney's heartbroken, but figures she can tough it out for a few days. La la la -- this is Courtney pretending not to care.

But in a strange twist, Jordan cares. A lot.

Turns out, he's got a secret or two that he's not telling Courtney. And it has everything to do with why they broke up, why they can't get back together, and how, in spite of it all, this couple is destined for each other.
--- 

My Summary: Courtney has always been your basic straight-cut, goodie-two-shoes kinda girl: she gets good grades, never stays out late, and never associates with people she shouldn't be around (well, except for Blake in the tenth grade...). Jordan, on the other hand, is your typical party-all-night teenage guy. The only thing Courtney and Jordan have in common is a math class, a college acceptance ... and a future.

But when Jordan discovers a secret, things take a turn for the worst. Torn between protecting the only girl he's ever loved and telling her the truth, Jordan does the only thing he can think of: he breaks up with Courtney, telling her he met someone else online.

Which would have been a great way to end a relationship - except Court and Jordan made the mistake of planning to drive to college together before their break-up, and it's too late to change plans. Now, with nothing to do but talk for the next 3 days, Jordan's resigned to get back together with Court no matter what it takes... but will she be able to forgive him for what he's done?

My Thoughts: This novel was just what I needed to get out of my reading funk. It was funny, witty, and the characters were extremely genuine. More than once, I found myself laughing out loud at passages, and the way the author portrayed the way girls and guys plan mind games with one another is embarrassingly accurate. I loved Courtney and Jordan's interactions, and the way the author started the story from both ends - the beginning and right before the conclusion, having them meet in the middle - pulled me into the story and didn't let me go without finishing it. I also really liked the changes in point of view, because we got to see every part of the story from each character's eyes.  

And I really, really hate Court's dad... just had to get that out there.

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to anyone looking for a great summer read, and to fans of the book Amy and Roger's Epic Detour

8/30/11

Falling in Love with English Boys

Author: Melissa Jensen
Pages: 293
Publisher: Speak
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)Sixteen-year-old Catherine Vernon has been stranded in London for the summer-no friends, no ex-boyfriend Adam the Scum (good riddance!), and absolutely nothing to do but blog about her misery to her friends back home. Desperate for something-anything-to do in London while her (s)mother's off researching boring historical things, Cat starts reading the 1815 diary of Katherine Percival her mom gives her-and finds the similarities between their lives to be oddly close. But where Katherine has the whirls of the society, the parties and the gossip over who is engaged to who, Cat's only got some really excellent English chocolate. Then she meets William Percival - the uber-hot descendant of Katherine - and things start looking up . . .
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My Summary: Cat's mom is an expert on all things old and antique, and when she gets called to London to work at the British Museum for a few weeks, she decides to take Cat with her - something Cat is definitely not looking forward to. Why? Because while her mother is busy working, Cat will have nothing to do but sit around in their rented apartment and watch cricket games... or so she thinks. Because Cat's mom has a surprise for her: she's arranged for Will - a gorgeous descendant of the girl who's diary Cat happens to be reading - to be her tour-guide.



Meanwhile, 200 years in the past, Katherine Percival is getting ready to start her Season and find a husband. But she doesn't want to marry someone who only wants her money; the gorgeous Thomas Baker seems to be the answer to all her prayers. But can she escape the arranged marriage her father is planning for her, or is she destined to live without love?


My Thoughts: When I read the premise for this book, all I could think was, "A vacation in London? Hot English boys? AND an old diary?! Count me in!"


First off: the writing is incredibly easy to get into. Cat's voice seemed incredibly genuine, and the plot was never boring or slow. Also, the way that the plots of both stories wove together was awesome - I especially loved Katherine and her mother standing up to Katherine's uppity  father. And I absolutely adored the ending.


Second, I loved how the author developed the characters, especially Cat's mom and Nicholas. At first they were just secondary characters, but as the novel goes on you begin to like them more and more.


Lastly, the blog/diary format was great and really easy to follow.


Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about travel. It's a great, fast read, and great if you like historical fiction.  

8/25/11

Sapphique

Author: Catherine Fisher
Pages: 462
Publisher: Dial
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)The only one who escaped . . . And the one who could destroy them all.

Incarceron, the living prison, has lost one of its inmates to the outside world: Finn’s escaped, only to find that Outside is not at all what he expected. Used to the technologically advanced, if violently harsh, conditions of the prison, Finn is now forced to obey the rules of Protocol, which require all people to live without technology. To Finn, Outside is just a prison of another kind, especially when Claudia, the daughter of the prison’s warden, declares Finn the lost heir to the throne. When another claimant emerges, both Finn’s and Claudia’s very lives hang on Finn convincing the Court of something that even he doesn’t fully believe.

Meanwhile, Finn’s oathbrother Keiro and his friend Attia are still trapped inside Incarceron. They are searching for a magical glove, which legend says Sapphique used to escape. To find it, they must battle the prison itself, because Incarceron wants the glove too.
--- 
My Summary: It's been a few months since Finn escaped from Incarceron, and nothing has gone as planned. The whole Realm is still suspicious of him, and even Claudia is beginning to doubt that the boy she helped rescue isn't really the lost prince Giles, as it becomes apparent that Finn is even more miserable outside the prison than he was inside.


As secret plots against Finn are discovered, Finn, Claudia, and Jared must struggle to prove that Finn is actually Giles and restore order to the crumbling Realm before it is too late.


My Thoughts: This was an amazing novel, although I was a little disappointed by the lack of romance between the main characters. That being said, the rest of the novel was awesome.


Catherine Fisher's writing is impeccable. She manages to weave the world of the Realm and Incarceron around you effortlessly, until you can imagine yourself right next to the characters as the story unfolds. I loved the flip between Attia and Claudia's points of view as well - it added so much dimension to the story and kept you on the edge of your seat. I also loved the development of the prison itself as a character, and the fact that nobody - even Finn - knew who the true prince was.


Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this series to people of all ages, especially if you love historical fiction and dystopians (because this happens to be both). 


8/21/11

Anatomy of a Boyfriend

Author: Daria Snadowsky
Pages: 272
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)Before this all happened, the closest I'd ever come to getting physical with a guy was playing the board game Operation. Okay, so maybe that sounds pathetic, but it's not like there were any guys at my high school who I cared to share more than three words with, let alone my body.

Then I met Wes, a track star senior from across town. Maybe it was his soulful blue eyes, or maybe my hormones just started raging. Either way, I was hooked. And after a while, he was too. I couldn't believe how intense my feelings became, or the fact that I was seeing—and touching—parts of the body I'd only read about in my Gray's Anatomy textbook. You could say Wes and I experienced a lot of firsts together that spring. It was scary. It was fun. It was love.

And then came the fall.
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My Summary: Dominique (Dom) has always known  exactly what she wanted to be: a doctor. And she knew how she was going to get there, too - she'd had her dream school picked out since she was in middle school. Dom's plan never included things like boyfriends and falling in love, but towards the end of senior year, that's all she can think about.

When Dom meets Wes, she knows she wants him to be her first boyfriend. After a few months of being friends, they begin to date, and suddenly the only thing Dom's worried about is being with Wes. But when she and Wes go off to college, they have to deal with the strain that comes with not seeing each other for months. Will their love survive the months apart, or will Dom's freshman year be tainted with memories of heartbreak?

My Thoughts: I've heard a lot of people comparing this novel to Judy Blume's Forever, and having read both novels within a few months of one another, I can definitely see the parallels between the two, this being the most prevalent: Anatomy of a Boyfriend, like Forever, does not glamorize the idea of sex in teen relationships. The author is honest and frank when it comes to teens and those first sexual experiences, and the main character's 'voice' throughout the novel is extremely genuine. 

Snadowsky's writing is great. I felt like she was really in-tune with teens today (even though there are a few mentions of Myspace and emailing). I never felt like I was reading something written by an adult, or like I was being talked down to, and the development of the characters was right-on. Dom and Wes were just regular teens trying to figure out what they were doing, and Amy was hilarious.

 I can honestly say that I enjoyed Anatomy of a Boyfriend more than Forever (I can practically hear the Judy Blume fans getting their pitch-forks together!), and I think that if you read both, you'll understand why.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to teens 15 and up (there are mature themes obviously, but I really do think it's worth it), and especially to teen girls.

8/18/11

Follow Friday!

Hey guys! Welcome to Follow Friday! This week's question:


If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what part would you play in that book?


Hmm.. this one's a bit difficult. I'm one of those people that loves to read about paranormal YA, but if I was actually experiencing it? I think I'd be too freaked out to function half the time!


I can't really see myself in a lot of books, but if I could write myself into a series, it would definitely have to be either The Mortal Instruments series or The Darkest Powers series, because they both blend the paranormal with the world we know and make you think that it could actually be possible for that stuff to exist. I'd definitely love to be a witch or half-demon (DP series), or a Nephilim (because being half-angel would make you feel totally badass, I think). I'm a lot like Tori (DP) and Izzy (MI) personality-wise, so I think I could maybe see myself as one of them.


What about you guys? :)


8/12/11

And the Winner is...

The winner of the sizzling summer giveaway is... (where's that darn drumroll?)

Jennifer C. !

Congrats Jen! I'll be waiting for your email reply, and your copy of The Last Little Blue Envelope should be arriving soon! :P 

Thank you to everyone who entered! I'll be having a fall giveaway soon, so be on the lookout!

8/8/11

North of Beautiful

AuthorJustina Chen Headley
Pages: 373
Publisher: Little Brown Young
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You're the one who asked - and I repeat - "Why not fix your face?"

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.

She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

Written in lively, artful prose, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley has woven together a powerful novel about a fractured family, falling in love, travel, and the meaning of true beauty.
--- 

My Summary: Terra is the kind of girl you love to hate - she has the perfect body, perfect hair, perfect boyfriend, and perfect grades. The only thing not-so-perfect about Terra is her face, and the huge port-wine-stain birthmark that dominants a huge part of her cheek. Terra has grown up with this 'deformity' (in the words of her emotionally and psychologically abusive father), and she's grown used to the stares and the whispers and the disgust she sees on other people's faces. Her only comfort is her art and the fact that within a few months, she'll be done highschool (after only 3 years) and off to a distant college, away from her stiflingly small town and her dictator of a father.

But then her father finds out she's applied and flat-out refuses to pay for anything but the nearby college, and Terra is stuck under her father's thumb yet again. 

Resigned to her fate, Terra concentrates her efforts on 'fixing her face'. Without the support of her father, she and her mother make the 5-hour trek to Seattle to undergo an experimental procedure. On the way home, they literally run into Jacob and his mom - and set off a chain of events that changes Terra's life forever. 

My Thoughts: I have a confession to make: it took me almost a year to get around to reading North of Beautiful. It's not that I didn't want to  - I just kept buying books and pushing it to the back of my to-be-read shelf. After a while, I completely forgot about it... until a few days ago, when I was re-arranging my shelves. I saw it and immediately decided it was time.

First off, I loved the depth of the characters. Each was so well developed, and even the minor characters had a history that helped you understand why they were the way they were. Terra was a believable, relate-able character - even though it infuriated me that she didn't stand up to her father more often. I also adored Jacob - he was real but still someone you wish you could be around (another literary crush... gosh, it's getting hard to keep track).

Second, I loved the way the author addressed the topic of beauty. We always hear that beauty is only skin-deep and that it's what is inside that counts, but we never really take it to heart. In North of Beautiful, we seen just how painful Terra's struggles to make herself 'beautiful' really are as she allows herself to undergo dozens of laser treatments that don't have any affect. I personally loved her epiphany at the end of the novel.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to all teenage girls over the age of 14, and anyone looking for a great read that encompasses romance and travel and becoming who you were meant to be. I'll definitely be looking into the author's other novels!

8/5/11

Follow Friday!


 Hey everyone! Welcome to Follow Friday! I'm not going to explain the rules because you guys know the deal by now, so on with the show! 
(Also, this picture is doing strange things to my post, so I'm going to forgo it for this week).

Question: Talk about the book that most changed or influenced your life (was it a book that turned you from an average to avid reader, did it help you deal with a particularly difficult situation, does it bring you comfort every time you read it?).

I'm one of those people that's gunna say Harry Potter changed my life. But hear me out before you call it cliche, okay?

I picked up the first HP book off the shelf in my first grade class. I was intrigued by it, because seriously, at that age 'chapter books' (novels) are comparable to things like hang-gliding and climbing mountains. But the thing was, I was ready for something new - my older sister had taught me to read before I even started kindergarten 2 years previously, and I was (if you don't mind me saying) a little too advanced in the reading department to read "Green Eggs and Ham" for fun. So I signed out the first Harry Potter book from my class library and started to read.

Sure, I had trouble at first, but once I adapted to the pace and the language, I zipped through that book like there was no tomorrow. By the end of the day, I'd read 40 pages without an ounce of help (a big achievement for a hyper-active 6 year old). By the end of the week, I'd finished the book.

After that, there was no stopping me. Conveniently for me, my birthday was coming up, so I asked for the first 4 HP books. I raced through each one with feverishly, and by the end of the school year, I'd read all 4.

But of course it had to end sometime. I was shocked to learn that the next book in the series didn't come out for almost 2 more years. But I couldn't wait that long! So I distracted myself by reading other novels I'd heard about, and Harry Potter became a distant thought as I began to widen my horizons.

Then I got sick. At first the doctors thought I had a kidney infection or something, but once they ran a few tests, they found that I had contracted type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, which meant that I was going to be in the hospital for a long time. The night we found out, my dad went home to get me clothes and things from home to make me more comfortable, and I told him to grab me "my book". But instead of grabbing the book I'd been reading before I got admitted, my dad had brought all 4 of my HP books. For the next 2 weeks, I passed the time by escaping into the world of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I soaked up all the messages about hope and love and friendship, and I thought to myself, once I get out of here, I'm going to try and make a difference like Harry did.

That's enough outta me :P How about you guys? Which book changed your life the most?


8/2/11

It's Kind of a Funny Story

Author: Ned Vizzini
Pages: 444
Publisher: Mirimax
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Summary (from Goodreads)Ned Vizzini, the talented young author of Be More Chill (the first YA novel selected as a Today show book club pick), crafts another superb study of angst-ridden adolescence in this story of teen depression. Craig Gilner is a gifted 15-year-old boy who works hard to get into a fiercely competitive high school, then crumbles under the intense academic pressure. Blindsided by his inability to excel and terrified by thoughts of suicide, Craig checks into a psychiatric hospital where he finally gets the help he needs. Vizzini, who himself spent a brief time in psychiatric "stir," invests his novel with great emotional honesty. A graceful, skillful, and witty handling of a sensitive issue, this is an important book we heartily recommend for older teens.
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My Summary: Craig used to be your average teenager - hanging out with his friends every weekend, pining after the girl of his dreams, and stressing about school - until The Shift, when his brain turned on him. Now Craig is a mess; he can't eat, can't sleep, can't concentrate on anything without thinking about how he's a complete failure. 


Craig is diagnosed as clinically depressed and given meds to take, but even those don't seem to help. Then one night, when Craig thinks he can't take it anymore, he calls the suicide hotline. They tell him to get to the nearest hospital - and that's just what he does. 


But he didn't expect to be admitted to the adult psychiatric ward ... and he definitely didn't expect to like it there.  


My Thoughts: It's Kind of a Funny Story is probably one of the most honest and frank accounts of teenage-depression that I've ever read. Craig is a real, honest character, and his voice is genuine. There was never a point where it seemed like the book was written by someone who didn't understand the workings of a teenage mind extensively. 


The writing style was great - a little hard to get into at first, but once you get into it, it's a breeze. I also like the flashback style utilized in the beginning, and the way the author blends the elements of the past and the present.


Final Thoughts: I recommend this book to older teens (16 and over) for some sexual content and mentions of drugs and drinking.