Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hold Still ~ Nina LaCour review

Hold Still
Dutton Juvenile
October 20, 2009
(paperback out October 5, 2010-w/ a gorgeous cover)
304 pages
Buy @ Amazon

After her best friend Ingrid commits suicide, Caitlin isn't sure how life can go on. Refusing to go to therapy and feeling alone in the world now, Hold Still follows Caitlin as she begins trudging her way through the world.

After finding Ingrid's journal, a tale not only of Ingrid's descent but also something that might just help Caitilin, meeting someone who could be a new friend, and discovering that she can talk to people--that they're also grieving Ingrid's death (maybe not in the same way, but in some way), Caitlin beings to heal.

Hold Still is a beautifully written book told using a narrative that follows Caitilin through her struggle to recover and find a new life and with journal entries (sometimes in the form of letters) and drawings from Ingrid. From the very first page I felt a connection to Caitlin and the pain she was in. A part of this might have been that I read this very soon (within a month or so) of a friend of mine dying, but I also believe it was a testament to Nina LaCour's strong talent. My friend did not die from suicide but I was still very much able to understand what Caitlin was going through and her need for a 'why.' I can only imagine that understanding/connection would be even stronger for someone who has lost someone to suicide.

That the reader can identify with both Ingrid and Caitlin's pain in Hold Still and understand where both characters are coming from says a lot about what a strongly written book it is--and how painful it can be to read. LaCour's book really shows the lasting pain felt by those that are 'left behind' when someone takes their own life. It's told over the course of about a year so it's not a quick fix, nor does it leave the characters hanging, it truly moves Caitlin through the process of her best friend suddenly dying and also gradually lets the reader know why/how Ingrid was so depressed that she did commit suicide.

(I didn't review this sooner because I really wanted to include this quote--it's from pg. 185 so if you want to skip it you can--but I think it's both beautiful and shows Ingrid's depression: "...But now not even the laughing feels good." I think the quote (and the rest of the sentence/few around it, really encapsulate Ingrid's pain so, so well that you can truly feel it right there. [I had to get the book from the library and then find the quote--and I was a slowpoke.])

It's a book that support/counseling groups should, I believe, consider using because there's not one bit of it that seems to blame anyone for anything. It's not flowery by any means and it's not an after school special but it's real and it's painful and it's true.

I sincerely hope Nina LaCour writes another book because this one was gorgeous (and not just aesthetically).


Monday, August 30, 2010

News & In My Mailbox Monday

Pretty soon after I posted last week's books, I received:

Romeo & Juliet & Vampires adapted from William Shakespeare by Claudia Gabel

which was for review and from Harper

I'm going to have a review of it up on Friday--but also an interview with the author and a contest where you (well US yous) can win a copy--YAY, right?

So, come back on Friday!

**It's also just the first of some contests I'm having in September**

Cofessions of a First Daughter ~ Cassidy Calloway review

Confessions of a First Daughter
224 pages
September 1, 2009
Buy @ Amazon

Morgan Abbott is trying to make her way through high school, unscathed. Of course, her mother being President of the United States is making that a little bit harder. While political ambition seems to run in the family--to an extent!--with Morgan running for class president, so do the troubles that come with being President. Morgan's nemesis/opponent Brittany is painting Morgan as a 'better than you' girl who shouldn't be President because she has all the perks of being First Daughter.

Soon, though, the Presidential limo that takes Morgan to school and her boyfriend who's pushing her to go further, sexually, than she wants to aren't her only problems. With less than stellar grades, Morgan's only reprieve is with drama and the school play but soon even that's threatened. When the tabloids begin to pick up on her wacky behavior--finally ignoring her mother's request to leave Morgan alone, her life is in upheaval.

Morgan even gets a new secret service agent to protect her. Only this agent is all business, barely older than Morgan herself . . . and kind of cute if Morgan's willing to admit it. Which she's not, thank you!

This is the super cute story of a girl who doesn't become a super poised, genius incapable of making mistakes/all the right decisions just because her mother is the President. I really do love Morgan. And that she's not perfect.

Her family is really endearing, too. It's easy to see how much they love each other and I loved that they were still incorporated into the story as a family even though they were the First Family. The politics and the family were both included and both very strong when it came to her relationship with her mother (and her father).

The secondary characters, including Agent Max Jackson, her boyfriend Konner, and her best friend Hannah all added a lot to the story and were a lot of fun and well developed.

The political parts of the story were well written and seemed to have been very well thought out if not researched and didn't seem like they were put in as filler or to make the story work but were really part of the story.

I loved having Max/Agent Jackson as part of the story. It was a unique twist to have a young secret service agent protecting Morgan but also one that was still professional.

There were a few times I would have liked to see a little bit more progression in a certain relationship. Sometimes it seemed like something was happening not quite suddenly, but also not not suddenly. That's really the only negative I have, though and I really look forward to reading the sequel Secrets of a First Daughter which is out on the 14th (and my review should be up a few days before that).


Friday, August 27, 2010

Butterfly ~ Sonya Hartnett review

Somehow with thinking Sunday was Saturday, Monday was Tuesday and Tuesday had been Wednesday, I didn't get this review posted this week . . . oops! (I was very off on my days the beginning of this week, I even hurried to finish my book on Tuesday--the actual one, that didn't, it turns out, have to be back until Wednesday. And Monday I was mad I couldn't find my cute 'vote' shirt on the voting day in some states--I only like to wear it on voting days somewhere.)

240 pages
August 24, 2010
Buy @Amazon

With her fourteenth birthday fast uproaching and a new school year also starting, Plum is just sure her life is going to change. She's sure she's going to go from the slightly chubby girl child she's been for years to an elegant young woman in the blink of an eye.

Plum, a girl who keeps a briefcase full of treasures hidden under her bed, is desperate to be grown up--much like just about every fourteen-year-old girl. Growing up in Australia with her mother, father and two older brothers Justin and Cydar, Plum has a group of friends at school to whom she's not very close. She hates her family treating her like a baby but still enjoys having her older (past high school age) brothers living at home and spending time with them.

Her older--in her 30s--next door neighbor Maureen becomes Plum's friend and helps Pearl to become more 'glamorous' and older acting, while also introducing her young child as another character in the story.

As Plum moves towards her birthday and through the first bit of her new year of school, she'll find that growing up is instantaneous or glamorous and it certainly isn't everything she thought. There will be pain ahead for Plum as she moves from childhood into being a teen and her family, neighbors and friends will be a part of her transformation.

Butterfly is told in the third person but by almost constantly using Plum's name instead of 'she' so it feels more like something similar to The Truman Story than a standard novel. It feels like you're observing Plum go through everything, that she's being observed by someone who's narrating. There are parts focused on Justin and Maureen that are told in the same way that give off a little bit of the same 'observed' feeling, but not as much. It's a really interesting way to have a novel written and I quite enjoyed it.

I think anyone who has ever been fourteen will easily identify with Plum-even if our lives were different. Based just on the way that Plum feels that, of course, things are going to have to change for the better: that she'll have to get skinnier, prettier, more grown up, something. There's a point in middle school/junior high when it seems like everyone is awkward in at least some way for some time and it feel like you're never going to be that cool teenager, Sonya Hartnett really captures that perfectly with Plum in Butterfly.

Plum's friends were also great. Not in that they were great friends, but they were such typical middle school girls. They were not good friends to Pearl and they just about always picking on each other or hard on each other the way that it seems like girls that age are (at least in retrospect).

This was set in the late 70s/80s based on the pop culture references but due to the lack of really dating ones it really could have been set just about any time. And because the relationships were all timeless, none of them felt dated, either.

I really enjoyed reading this book and think it's one that easily works for older teens and adults.

(I realise my summary doesn't have much in it but a lot of the events mentioned in summaries like the one on Amazon don't happen until much later in the book so I chose not to mention them in mine.)


Thank you to Library Thing's Early Reviewers for this book

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Subway Girl by P.J. Converse

Here's the summary from Goodreads:

From the moment he sees Amy on a Hong Kong subway, Simon wants to talk to her. But when he finally works up the courage, he finds out he can’t. Because Amy doesn’t speak Chinese, and Simon is failing English. But despite their language barrier, Amy and Simon connect, and they discover they understand each other.

In this stunning first novel about class differences, cultural arrogance, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, sexual double standards, and love and friendship, two vulnerable teens carve out a relationship even though each seems way beyond the reach of the other.

It seems like this novel is going to look at just about every teen issue it could--but in a great way! I love that the language barrier is going to be there, too but not a make or break thing.

I'd love to read this book and see how the two work things out (and how their relationship develops) despite-and because of-their differences. And what they end up having in common, of course, too.

So many commercials or songs, etc start with people seeing each other on a train and wondering who the other person is and/or thinking they're perfect for each other and this book actually explores that idea with a few hurdles along the way. Sounds intriguing doesn't it?

and here's a link to Amazon where you can pre-order it. (it's out March 15, 2011)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thursday 13

For today's Thursday 13, I've selected 13 books that are successive books in their series that I hope are as good or better than the earlier/first books in the series. I liked. really liked or LOVED the first book(s) in the series and look forward to these:

1) Every Which Way But Dead (Hollows #3) by Kim Harrison
2) Queen of Babble in the Big City (#2) by Meg Cabot
3) Rogue (Shifters #2) by Rachel Vincent
4) One Foot in the Grave (Night Huntress #2) by Jeaniene Frost
5) Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2) by Richelle Mead
6) Gorgeous by Rachel Vail (review of Lucky soon)
7) Deadly Little Lies (Touch #2) by Laurie Faria Stolarz
8) The Chaos (Numbers #2) by Rachel Ward
9) Perchance to Dream (Théâtre Illuminata, #2) by Lisa Mantchev
10) Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry #2) by Simone Elkeles
11) Torment (Fallen #2) by Lauren Kate
12) Hexbound (Dark Elite #2) by Chloe Neill
13) Blood Feud & Out for Blood (Drake Chronicles #2 & 3) by Alyxandra Harvey (review of Hearts at Stake super soon, too)

Strange Angels ~ Lili St Crow review

Strange Angels (Strange Angels #1)
304 pages
May 14, 2009

Summary: Imagine if Supernatural's Sam and Dean Winchester were one combined into one person; and that one person were a girl. If you can do that, you'll have a pretty good basis for Dru Anderson the main character in Strange Angels. Strange Angels is the first book in Lili St Crow's (Lilith Saintcrow) YA series.

Apart from some time spent with her superstitious, magic practicing-now deceased- grandmother, Dru's whole life since her mother's death has been spent traipsing around the country with her father, a demon hunter. A different state, different town, different house, different school every few months at least means Dru (now in the Dakotas) has her routine down pat and knows what to expect when her father's out on a hunt.

But Dru also has what her grandmother called the 'touch' that allows her to see and sense things about the supernatural world (the Real World) that other humans can't. Asleep one night while her father's still out, Dru wakes up to find she's drawn a strange picture in her sleep and her father's still not back--something he's never before done.

When he does eventually return, it's as a zombie and Dru's forced to painfully revert to her years of training to save herself from her own father.

Now, truly alone except for a boy named Graves she's befriended at school and with horrible and dangerous things after her--including the sucker named Sergei her father'd been after that night--Dru has to rely on herself and her training to save her own life and Graves'. With her father's journal and her drawing as a guide Dru's has to find out how to kill the things after them and get herself out of town--but to where?

Review: Strange Angels really did seem to borrow a lot from Supernatural (*and spoilers if you haven't seen much of Supernatural*) from going around the country, school to school while the dad chased demons after the mom died; the lack of other relatives to be of assistance or just a part of the story; the dad dying after being 'possessed' and the offspring having to take up the fight then. I really like Supernatural, though, so I didn't see it as a problem and it was only the large themes not specific storylines so it didn't feel like a copy.

One thing I do feel I really need to mention is that early on in the book Dru seemed to take issue with Graves being half Asian. There was a chapter or two when it seemed the only way she was capable of describing him was with basically racist sentiments about him being a 'half breed' (which was in there about 15 times) and " At least he hadn’t drawn the really slit-eyed card a lot of half-breeds have to play, where they look like they’re squinting to beat Clint Eastwood the whole time." (pg. 17)

Dru also had a mouth on her that while it maybe wouldn't make a sailor blush, would definitely make Strange Angels the TV version a premium channel show (both due to its frequency and word choice). Owing to that, I'm not sure if the little interlude of racism was supposed to show her brash, I-don't-care-what-society-thinks-and-I-have-no-tact attitude (she never said anything out loud, it was all her thoughts) and her unsteady upbringing. Or if it was just a weird useless thing that St Crow felt needed to be a part of Dru Anderson.

If you can move past the rather racist bit, Strange Angels is an enjoyable story. The world building is done very well for the first book in a series. The lore is a little bit different from other paranormal tales but close enough that nothing seems far fetched or doesn't make sense. I really look forward to seeing where all of the storylines started in this first book go in the next ones.

It was also really scary (perhaps some was because I listened to the audio at night?). It was great to read a book about things that go bump in the night (sometimes day) and have it actually be creepy.

Book 1:Strange Angels
Book 2: Betrayals
Book 3: Jealousy

Rating: 8/10 (the 'half-breed' stuff bothered me & seemed unnecessary)

*I listened to the audio version of this book

Monday, August 23, 2010

Early to Death, Early to Rise ~ Kim Harrison review

Early to Death, Early to Rise (Madison Avery #2)
May 25, 2010
240 pages
Buy @ Amazon

** Spoilers in this summary/review if you haven't read the first book featuring Madison Avery, Once Dead Twice Shy **
Summary: Now the dark timekeeper, Madison is in charge (sort of) of the dark reapers. She's still working to learn how to use her amulet and her 'powers,' Ron, the light timekeeper still wants to get her, she still needs to find her body, and she still doesn't subscribe to the dark reaper/timekeeper belief in fate over choice.

Barnabas is in charge of her training and Nikita is 'living' with Madison under the guise of being a Scandinavian exchange student. Hopefully they won't cause too much trouble because no one's told her father about that. He still doesn't know that Madison's dead, though, so Nikita isn't the biggest secret Madison's keeping.

Madison tries to stop unnecessary scything's by bringing choice into the equation even though that's a light belief and fate is what she's supposed to subscribe to.

The plot of this book follows an evil computer hacker that Nikita, Barnabas, and Madison must stop--one way or another.

Review: Just like in the first book there's a lot of rules in this 'world' and it can get confusing at times. It was hard to remember from the first book who believed exactly what and exactly why. I think there was an itty little bit of a refresher, but I also spent a while working things out, so that might have been me working it through.

I think if you remember none of the first book or didn't read it you'd be lost, but not by a whole lot because there's not a lot of recap for people who did read the first book anyway. Reading the books close together would probably work best.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the first book was that Madison had a parent who was actually relevant to the story and not just a piece of furniture or there so that Children's Services didn't show up. Her dad was a lot less present in this book, though and while it wasn't awkward, I did miss the relationship.

The major story of Early to Death was about a computer hacker 'mark' but I spent almost the whole time thinking there was going to be something bigger. I can't pinpoint why, but that storyline just didn't feel like a central plot line for a whole book.

Between the lack of a recap for the rather complex world built in the first book and the underwhelming central storyline, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I did the first (I really, really loved that one) but I'm not at all sorry I read it.

These books are a quick, fun read and I really like the characters, as well. I'm definitely going to read the third book when it comes out but I might reread the first two in preparation.

Book 2: Early to Death, Early to Rise

Rating: 7/10

on a side note, she doesn't look like Rumer Willis on the cover anymore (I thought she did on the first book)

In My Mailbox Monday

Books I received this week in the mail . . .

for review:
Getting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery by Susan Juby (paperback: out Sept 7)
As You Wish by Jackson Pearce (paperback; out August 31)
Secrets of a First Daughter by Cassidy Calloway (out Sept 14; sequel to Confessions of a First Daughter)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Princess for Hire ~ Lindsey Leavitt review

Princess for Hire
Disney Hyperion CH
256 pages
March 16, 2010
Buy @ Amazon

Desi Bascomb is a fifteen-year-old living in boring Sproutsville, Idaho and working at Pets Charming. Instead of playing with cute puppies or kittens all day, Desi dresses up in a groundhog costume to help promote the store. Her work look doesn't exactly help her social standing which has taken a tumble since a particularly interesting falling out with her ex-BFF Celeste (read to find out about it).

Desi's just hoping for something to make her life more like Audrey Hepburn movie when she spies an interesting ad in the newspaper. Suddenly there's someone else in her bathroom. Desi's relaxing bubble bath is less relaxing and more confusing when Meredith, her green haired godmother of sorts shows up with some news. Turns out Desi has an ability that--with a little help--allows her to be a substitute for princesses who need a little break.

Soon, Desi's filling in for royal girls around the world and finding out that there's more to it than the fancy dresses and glamour that she expected.

The first installment in Linsdey Leavitt's new series is a whole lot of fun. Desi is a great main character who really is like no other character I can think of--but also not so different that it's annoying or weird. She's a quirky girl who doesn't like being like everyone else or following all of the rules, but still worries about how her social life. She's very well developed and it's her unique traits that really make her able to be a main character that is temporarily pretending to be other characters. The same is true of Meredith, as well and I really look forward to learning more about them in future books.

While Princess for Hire is a book that could almost be read by middle grade readers (it reads easily like that and doesn't contain the language or sex that would be a problem) it also works extremely well for the target YA readers and even adult readers.

There were times when some of the princesses' lives seemed almost. . . simply imagined, but I think it actually worked the longer I thought about it. What Desi did each time and how things worked for her, etc seemed to be the focus and everything was written very well for that.

Princess for Hire
was not a very complicated book but it was super, super fun and cute and it was also one I found myself thinking about after it was over--which I always find to be an indicator of a great book (at least when they're good thoughts which these were!).

I definitely can't wait for more of the Princess for Hire books or from Lindsey Leavitt.


(This is a YA book but I'm tagging it MG too because I think MG readers could def. read it)

Thursday 13

Here's another week of Thursday 13 . . .

13 Books I Should (and likely will) be reviewing soon:
  1. Beautiful by Amy Lynn Reed
  2. Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt
  3. Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
  4. Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett
  5. ghostgirl: Lovesick by Tonya Hurley
  6. Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill
  7. some of the Pretty Little Liars books (didn't want them to take up 5 or so of the 13)
  8. Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
  9. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore (part of Daily Show & Colbert Report Challenge that will be updated soon)
  10. Strange Angels by Lili St Crow
  11. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  12. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
  13. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

That's only some of them--there are a few others that should be coming up, too :)

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