Thursday, February 19, 2009


I'm on hiatus for a little while.
There's a new feauture (for reviews) that I've been working on, that I will try to have implemented once I return. (Unless my random not getting comments is something and you don't want me to...)
See you in a bit.

Cracked Up to Be ~ Courtney Summers review

Cracked Up to Be
St Martin's Griffin
224 Pages
December 23, 2008

Perfect Parker Book 2 Review (following Handcuffs yesterday)

What's the worst thing you've ever done? Not the time you stole a pack of gum from the grocery store or the time you ot mad and told your sister she looked fat. Not even the time you lusted after your best friend's guy. I mean, the worst thing you've ever done?

What if it was something no one else knew about?

Parker Fadley has something like that. Something she's trying to remedy in a few...choice ways. She's on a basic suicide watch at school, has weekly meetings with the counselor, broke up with her perfect boyfriend, and left her Perfect Parker title far, far behind.

Cracked Up to Be is a book that keeps you out of the loop (as to what exactly Parker's secret is) for just about all of the book, but in a way that keeps you wanting to already be on that next page--not in a way hat gets you fed up. Lits bits are given throught the story as to what Parker did in ways that helped the story along, but never revealed too much too soon.

The characters were great (and there wasn't a punk rock best friend like in about 90% of the books I've read lately, so plus there!) and all worked amazingly together. The four main characters were ones that I could really see being friends...even when they kind of weren't and some of them couldn't stand each other ;-)

I've said in blog comments all over the place that Courtney Summers writes (in blogs and books) like on of my best friends (in blogs and fiction writing) so while my absolute, sparkly, unicorn of her writing might have something to do with that...I think it just means they're both made of awesomeness! (Also means it's not completely appropriate for younger young adult readers.)

Blogs upon blogs (and other reviews upon other reviews) have sung the praises of Cracked Up to Be and Courtney Summers, I know...but they're all right! So right in fact, that whenever she writes a new book I'll just have to forget my 'not asking for books' thing if I haven't already by then :D


We Used to Be Friends - Dandy Warhols\
Whiskey Lullaby-Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss
Let it End-Vixtrola

11/10 (I need an 11 tag, for serious)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday

I've been doing my 'Books to Adore' posts (and forgetting to say that Story Siren does Books to Pine For) but I'm going to take a break and join in on WoW and feature a book or two a week...

Might still do Books to Adore, too :)

Waiting on Wednesday 1:

Obama might be a Sox fan, but like Jennifer E Smith, I'm going to have to go for the Cubs every chance I get :) And now she's got a new book coming out (after last year's The Comeback Season about the Cubs). Not only do I love Chicago authors (I miss my city ): and so long as MySpace doesn't lie-at least about this-she's from 20 mins from where I lived) but I also kind of adore books with purdy cards on the cover...

Emma Healy has never fit in with the rest of her family. She's grown used to being the only ordinary one among her rather extraordinary parents and siblings. But when she finds a birth certificate for a twin brother she never knew she had, along with a death certificate dated just two days later, she feels like a part of her has been justified in never feeling quite whole. Suddenly it seems important to visit his grave, to set off in search of her missing half. When her next-door neighbor Peter Finnegan -- who has a quiet affinity for maps and a desperate wish to escape their small town -- ends up coming along for the ride, Emma thinks they can't possibly have anything in common. But as they head from upstate New York toward North Carolina, driving a beat-up and technically stolen car and picking up a stray dog along the way, they find themselves learning more and more about each other. Neither is exactly sure what they're looking for, but with each passing mile, each new day of this journey, they seem to be getting much closer to finding it.

Small towns, stray dogs, road trips, twin brothers you never knew about? And New York? The city I fell in love with even if it's not mine? How could I not love this one?

I'll have to hope I magically (or otherwise) receive a copy!

(Out May 19)

(N.B. and if posts slow down it's because my computer battery doesn't work so I can only use my laptop exactly where and when it can be plugged in--which is not as often as one would think)

Handcuffs ~ Bethany Griffin review

Delacorte Books for Young Readers
320 Pages
December 9, 2008
Handcuffs aka Perfect Parker Book 1 Review (Book 2 coming tomorrow)

I wanted this book for so, so long...and everyone posting it as part of their 'In My Mailbox' wasn't helping me ;) So, I loved the idea of Bethany Griffin's contest for a chance to win a cop--all I had to do was guess the name of the main character's boyfriend. Sounds easy, right? Except Ms Griffin was sneaky and has that name, oh, you know, nowhere. So, I got it wrong.

She was awesome and sent it to me anyway, though.

Parker Prescott has always been the dependable middle child. The one her parents love. 'Has been' being the key words. Two weeks ago she actually broke up with the boyfriend they all wanted her to break up with.

But then came the afternoon with the handcuffs when everything changed. Now she's no longer Perfect Parker.

That's really as much summary as I can give--and as much as really anyone else gives--but there's much, much more to the story than what that all makes it sound like. I came into the story expecting it to be about a goody-goody girl who had some torrid afternoon (of some sort or another) and then everything went boom. But really, everything was much more complex than that (and I can understand why the summaries are what they are; there's not really any other way to say things).

What isn't in my summary though is that Parker has a reputation-that she does quite a bit of living up to-of being an ice princess. A reputation that's fostered, cultivated and nurtured by Marion Hennessey's blog. Marion who used to be her neighbor; Marion who runs her own TMZ and hates Parker now.

And that's an example of why this book was enjoyable. There were several things (the blog, Parker's brother's ADD, etc) that helped the characters work. It wasn't just that Parker had a brother--her brother was a character--and so was her sister--and best friend--and so on.

I thought that the wayt he different characters and subplots ultimately worked themselves out (or not) in a way that brought everything to a conclusion was a nice way of doing things. It wasn't an A, B, C setup, conflict, resolution but seemed to work out more like life would.

The few things that I didn't like about the book: at the end of some chapters there were little bits that didnt' really seem necessary. It almost seemed as if someone wanted them included in the story but they didn't quite fit anywhere? (Or maybe I just missed how they contributed?) The other thing was that ages were mentioned quite a bit, but-to me at least-it was more distracting sometimes because it didn't always seem like they worked out (ex: one chapter was Parker's sister's birthday party-at the start Parker was 13, at the end she was 12; then they were 4 years apart and 2 grades just detracted from my reading a bit).

I hope Bethany Griffin writes more YA books because I enjoy her perspective and the storyline she thought up here :) (And, by the way, reviewing books written by teachers makes me nervous--and causes me to make more mistakes, too.)

Super thank you to Bethany Griffin for the book :-D

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone ~ Stephanie Kuehnert review

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
MTV Books
July 8, 2008
252 Pages

Stephanie Kuehnert's debut novel is another book (like Gamer Girl) that could be seen as something only enjoyable for a certain, select group of readers...but it absolutely is not.

So, yeah, I first paid any attention to this book (a good while before it came out) because of its title, but because of the I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend Ramones song, not the Sleater Kinney one the title actually comes from--I'm not that cool ;P

IWBYJR is the story of Emily Black (and later of her mother, Louisa, too). It's about growing up in a small town in Wisconsin that your mother (and father) ran away from where everyone knows your mother also then ran away from you. It's about girls (Emily and her best friend Regan) drinking too much, doing drugs, having sex. It's about the bands they spend their weekends listening to and their quest to figure out how music fits in their lives; it's about their band. It's about their relationships (with each other and with boys).

IWBYJR is a story of Emily figuring out who she is through the crazy ride of her life from her childhood in Carlisle listening to records with her father to her own bout of running away. Is she right: in the end, will the music really lead her home?

Okay, so I left a lot out of that but I'm not really sure where the line is for 'good summary' and 'spoilery-ness', sorry.

Now, I know I lived in a small town in the Midwest (okay, Illinois/almost Iowa) and I lived right by Chicago and I've been to the Belvidere Oasis, etc so there is a possibility that some of the book worked so well for me because I literally 'know' some of the situations/types of people/general it-ness that happened. I think that it's written well enough that you'll still get what their town was like even if you've never lived anywhere similar, though.

And I did like the mention/inclusion of actual places/things from the area instead of made up laces like some books have done (I really need to start remembering examples) but Q101, Fireside, St. Joseph's, etc for the real-ness.

The book covered a lot of years in several characters lives, but they all developed through that time period (it wasn't that Emily went through her stuff while Regan kind of grew up, each character actually changed as a result of their actions).

And I really can't write reviews of books I like but you really should read this book :)

Only negative bits: A few times some details confused me or didn't seem to add up/continue properly from previous parts of the story and that stopped me from being able to just read it. (And I'm sorry, I read this right before my puppy got sick so I can't tell you exactly what--it was nothing major, just enough that sometimes it detracted from my reading. So:


(this is being tagged adult and young adult because it's classified as both-depends on where you happen to find it.)

and I haven't read this book but I saw it at the bookstore and it does relate, so I thought I'd link it: Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth

Happy Friday the 13th :D

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall ~ Wendy Mass review

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall
Little, Brown Young Readers
256 Pages
November 1, 2008

I forgot this was written in verse when I first checked it out of the library-I just remembered that I had looked at it at B&N but not bought it for some reason. I'm pretty sure this is the first novel written in verse that I've read.

Now, onto the review: Tessa doesn't duck when the dodgeball comes flying at her head in gym class. Instead she thinks about how her thighs look in her gym shorts, Ashlee Simpson lyrics flit through her mind...but she doesn't duck.

She doesn't duck and she wakes up in the mall. Or what looks a lot like the mall where both of her parents work and where she's spent countless hours of her life. Just like A Christmas Carol, she's going to need a guide, of course: enter Nail Boy.

As the story progresses the stores in the 'mall' are used to teach Tessa lessons through different stories of her past. Each chapter title is a store name.

I'm going to be honest right now: I didn't particularly like this book. It wasn't that I exactly disliked it, I just didn't really like Tessa. I understand that she's supposed to be an imperfect character and that the little tales of each chapter are supposed to show her (and us) the wrong decisons she's made in life and why she's who she is, but I just didn't like her.
I thought she was ditzy and kind of stupid and the things she did growing up/through the book became more than 'learn from them' things. She was the kid that if you found out what she was doing not only would you not be friends with her, you'd want to tell on her because she didn't really have a good reason-she was just a bad, jerky kid.

(See, I didn't like her--she wasn't sympathetic for me.)
The choices of the 'events' in the book were interesting, in 13 Reasons Why (but for very different reasons) it's shown how random, seemingly insignificant events can really impact things. There's also one particular thing that I thought fit in the book very well and was also the first time I've seen it in a book yet and I'm glad that it was used (because I believe it fit--but I'll keep it a secret, it's a real world event so if you read it, you'll know).

The other thing I couldn't stand: Nail Boy? Yeah, he had a drill bit in his head. A drill bit looks like a screw so if you want Tessa to not know it's a drill bit, then at least let her call it a screw--but not a nail because a nail is smooth, straight up and down. (And maybe she could have gotten that wrong, but because she could not have, screw would have been a compromise, right?)

So, for the was well written, the stories worked out well and the whole mall as a sort of heaven idea is really interesting....but I just can't get past really not liking the main character.


Bookworm Readers' review (she liked it more)

PhotobucketConversations with My 13-Year-Old Self ~ Pink
After the Afterlife ~ Chad VanGaalen
Lonesome Day ~ Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

By Their Covers

By Their Covers
(aka covers that are almost the same. And Alea has a fantastic, much more plentiful feature Lookalikes that I didn't know about until after I did my first post but she's up to #37, I think, so check it out)

Chasing Jordan
Heidi W.Boehringer & Rest Stop movie/DVD

A horror movie and a book having the same cover just might be a new one--and I think the blood's been sort of erased/uncolored on the leg on the book cover.

Cracked Up to Be Courtney Summers (12-23-08), Dirty Laundry Daniel Ehrenhaft (12-30-08), Leap of Faith Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (07-05-07)

I know the Cracked & Leap covers have probably been noticed before, but I don't know about Dirty Laundry.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Skeleton Creek ~ Patrick Carman review

Skeleton Creek
Scholastic Press
144 Pages
February 10, 2009

Skeleton Creek is a new kind of book-the text we're used to seeing in books, but also links to a website where you can enter passwords and watch short videos relevant to that part of the book. Here's a bit of a summary: Ryan and Sarah are determined to get to the bottom of the weird happenings in their town of Skeleton Creek (including where that name came from). But after a mysterious accident injures Ryan and leaves him housebound, their parents forbid them from seeing each other and they are forced to communicate (and mystery solve) in private. The storyis told Ryan's journal entries and Sarah's videos.

I'll admit that at first I wasn't sure about the idea of combining a traditional book with web videos as part of the storytelling. I know that kids and teens (and boys in particular) are reading less now and using the internet more (and yes I'm aware that I'm using the internet to review books), but the idea of saying, "Hey, read 20 pages of this book and you can watch a video!" gave me a little pause.

I was really surprised, though, just how much I did enjoy the format and the book. While it's listed as being for 9-12 year-olds, I think older readers could enjoy it as well (I know I did). I also think the video integration was done really well so that younger readers really can read the book because except for the last video, the journal entry following each video explains enough in Ryan's reaction that if one did miss the video, they could go on with the story.

What this means is that parents could go through and watch the videos to see if they had a problem with them for their kids (some of them might startle you or be creepy but nothing's violent or bloody or has bad language), and not allow them to watch those specific ones.

I hope I explained that well enough...

The book is in all caps (in a handwriting type font so it's not annoying) except for when other papers are pasted in so it's easier for younger readers to read but the writing finds that great balance between being easily understandable...yet not sounding like it's only for ten-year-olds.

Basically, I think the writing, the style, and presentation of Skeleton Creek are done so that readers of almost any age can read it (maybe with some parental oversight, but still). (I might be wrong and some of the plot points might be too complicated for younger readers but because nothing goes too in depth, I think it's okay.)

*and this fits nowhere because I had to add it in, but I loved that the passwords for the videos were literary-I think that'll encourage kids to possibly check out the respective tales.

My one real complaint is that there's a character named Ranger Bonner and knowing as many 12-year-old boys as I do, well, I can see potential, shall we say 'problems' with that name. I know some others, however, I might loan this to. Now, to wait for book two...

9/10 for this one

PhotobucketDon't Fear the Reaper ~ Blue Oyster Cult
I Wanna Scare Myself ~ Tigger
It Was You ~ Ashley Ballard

Thank you to Patrick Carman for this (arc)book!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gamer Girl ~ Mari Mancusi Review

Gamer Girl
Dutton Juvenile
November 13, 2008
224 Pages

Gamer Girl is a book I first really paid attention to when The Story Siren had Mari Mancusi do an Author Tales post. I'm not sure if I hadn't heard of it before that...or, if I just wasn't interested because I figured 'gamer girl'? Nah, that'll just be good to people who like video games and stuff (Hey, we all have our moments).

But the cover was very appealing (I have a thing for covers) and Melissa Walker featured it in her Cover Stories...feature (I need to not take review-writing-breaks, my vocabulary suffers). So, I gave it a shot when I actually found it in one of my libraries (they're not big on YA books released within the last 6 months). Here's what it is:

Forced, by her parent's divorce, to move--along with her mother and younger sister--into her grandmother's home, Maddy Starr has to leave her old life and school behind. After an unfortunate incident involving her grandmother and her (Maddy's) clothing, she's labelled Freak Girl and school is hell for her.

Maddy's only escape is into the world of Fields of Fantasy, the roleplaying computer game her Dad gave her for her birthday. In FoF she becomes Allora, a beautiful, confident elf...who catches the attention of a handsome knight named Sir Leo.

But while romance is blooming between Sir Leo and Allora, Manga loving/drawing Maddy is still struggling to find her way in her new school. Can she find a way to deal? And would anyone ever choose brunette, skull-tight wearing Maddy over busty, blonde Allora?

(Now you know why I usually let Amazon write the summaries/synopses.)

This novel was really enjoyable to me (someone who doesn't know much of anything really about interactive/roleplaying games or manga) because while it did involve things that I think would have also made it enjoyable for people who did know about those things, it never went to one extreme or the other. When Maddy started playing the game, her setup was described, when she first met Sir Leo he explained some 'etiquette' I guess to her, and what she did in the game was described. The way all of this was done made it not a how-to lesson and just a part of the story that happened to tell you about FoF.

And when it came to the manga, different characters liked different types so one character explaining what they liked about a to a character who liked b, let you know what those were if you had no idea.

There was information given that was interesting and helpful to someone who didn't know about the topic and (from what I've seen in some Amazon reviews) fun for those who do. I think that's a fantastic achievement.

The characters made the book even more enjoyable. Maddy's grandmother seemed almost like a fairytale character to me (I'm not really sure I can explain that but I just feel like she wouldn't have seemed out of place in one of those Grimm Brothers' tales)..not because she's sweet or evil, just... Maddy's sister and parents also had a lot more depth to them than siblings and parents usually have in stories that are focused on a single, teenaged character.

Gamer Girl is a book that I believe teens (and young adults) will enjoy whether they're Gamers or not because it really does not have a weak aspect (characters, plot, writing)*.


*Okay, my one gripe with the book at all was Chad Murray as a character name because all I thought of every time was Chad Michael Murray...

And why can I still not write sensible reviews of books I really like? The more I like a book, the worse the review's written :[

coming soon



I'm finally writing up some reviews...but first I wanted to thank everyone who wished my puppy (and me) well :) She's doing much, much better now--I think she's actually fine except for having the stitches.

We'd taken her to the vet two weeks before and he said it was colitis and gave her antibiotics, but she wasn't getting all better so we called a few times and she was going the next Monday (he was out of town Thus-Mon or something). But that Friday we decided to call our old vet and take her in.

Turns out puppy had the same thing my older dog had in October before she died (the same thing we kept bringing up to was-our-current-vet who said colitis). She had surgery about an hour later (it was something that could put her in shock or destoy her other organs, so..) and was actually much better in just a couple of days. I was just worried because of this random, rare, never-heard-of-it-before-October thing hapening again so I didn't write reviews.

That and a ~70-90 (she lost a lot of weight, some since October but also fast in 2 weeks-but it's coming back) trying to sit on your lap who will hit your computer.

But I should be back now.

A review of Gamer Girl is scheduled to be posted a little before 2pm today and I'll try to write up some more now.

Sorry, also, to everyone who I owe an email..I've been pretty bad about that.
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