Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (34)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin which is due to be released on June 4th.

 Bethany Griffin continues the journey of Araby Worth in Dance of the Red Death—the sequel to her teen novel Masque of the Red Death.

In Dance of the Red Death, Araby’s world is in shambles—betrayal, death, disease, and evil forces surround her. She has no one to trust. But she finds herself and discovers that she will fight for the people she loves, and for her city.

Her revenge will take place at the menacing masked ball, though it could destroy her and everyone she loves…or it could turn her into a hero.

With a nod to Edgar Allan Poe, Bethany Griffin concludes her tragic and mysterious Red Death series with a heroine that young adult readers will never forget.

Really hoping for a lot more Poe references in the conclusion to this pair of books.  I am a sucker for anything Poe related (anyone else watching/obsessing over The Following?) and will read pretty much anything that invokes his sense of mystery and intrigue.

Monday, May 27, 2013

ARC Book Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Title: Dare You To
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: May 28th, 2013
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: 
For regular readers of YA romance, this cover is sure to please.  The models represent the characters well, the scene is hot and steamy and the backdrop and font add a touch of edge and interest.  For me, as an often reluctant YA romance reader, it is a little too run of the mill to match up with the phenomenal writing that I expect from the author of Pushing the Limits.

The Gist:
Beth Risk is constantly trying to save her mother.  When she comes to the rescue once again, she ends up in jail and is bailed out by her uncle on one condition - that she leave her friends and mother behind to come live with him.  Under her uncle's watchful eye, she tries to make a place for her in a town that she thought she had left behind and finds love in the most unlikely of places - with the town's golden boy.  Ryan Stone appears to have it all, but is dealing with a seriously fragmented family and trying to decide if the future that he has worked so hard for is his own dream, or his father's. 


Dare You To had some pretty big shoes to fill.  Katie's last book, Pushing the Limits, easily made my top ten of last year.  While the follow up is enjoyable, it is not nearly as strong as its predecessor.  I found the characters this time around to be harder to connect with.  I liked Beth from the previous novel, but her dogged determination to rescue her mother was hard to watch.  Ryan, however, I really didn't like.  He claims to be a gentleman who insists that men treat women with respect, but from the very first scene he showed that (particularly through his "dares") he is just as capable of demeaning women as the next guy.  My dislike did fade as the book went on, but it made the first half a little difficult to get through. 

I was glad to see that the whole dare thing was put to bed fairly quickly and that it didn't result in the expected cliche (a la She's All That and a thousand other movies).  The connection between Beth and Ryan was HOTTT, though I could have done with a little less on again, off again.  I was also happy to see some depth of Ryan's character once we begin to learn a little more of his family situation.  McGarry really knows what she is doing with character development. Dare You To shows a nice juxtaposition between the "golden boy" and the damaged girl and explores how both of their lives are challenging even though only one appears so from the outside.  Beth begins as the complete badass that we remember from Pushing The Limits but sees some considerable growth by the end.  The scenes with Beth and her mother were heartbreaking, terrifying and made for some real excitement to what is not a particularly action fueled plot.

Dare You To was not a particularly weak book, but it did take me a considerable amount of time to get through.  I am chalking this up to my difficulty connecting with the characters and my inability to immerse myself in a plot that is mainly about the romance between two teenagers.   I would still recommend this as a strong contemporary romance for those students who love that genre. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing, intercourse between teenagers (not graphic)
Violence: Physical Fighting, Child (Teen) Abuse
Inappropriate Language: Ass, Fuck, Dick, Bastard, Whore, Slut
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking, marijuana use, heroin use

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (33)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: Siege and Storm To by Leigh Bardugo which is due to be released on June 4th.

 Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

I know I am defintely not alone in my love for Shadow and Bone so I am sure this one is on a lot of lists for June.  Bring on more Alina!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (32)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: Dare You To by Katie McGarry which is due to be released on May 28th.
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all...

I LOVED LOVED LOVED Pushing the Limits and I am so excited to dive back into Katie McGarry's writing.  I really liked Beth and I think she is the perfect character to headline this next installment.

Monday, May 13, 2013

ARC Book Review: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Title: Openly Straight
Author: Bill Konigsberg
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: 
This cover is ADORABLE.  I love the choice of tiffany blue for the background and the emoticon choices.  I think this one will stand out on a shelf and is unique enough to intrigue potential readers. 

The Gist:
Rafe's entire life has been colored by the fact that he is gay.  He is comfortable with who he is, and is proud of what he is accomplished, but he really wants a chance to see what life would be like without the label.  He gets his opportunity when he transfers to an all-boy boarding school in New England.  Suddenly he is able to fit in with the popular jocks and experience a side of life he never realized he was missing.  As Rafe begins to fall in love with one of his newfound friends he must face the predicament in which he has put himself - a lie allowed him to develop a beautiful relationship and the truth may destroy his love and his friendship.


Openly Straight featured a unique perspective.  Rafe is "out" and in the public eye.  His parents support him, he is an equal rights advocate at his school and even speaks to other youth on what it is like to be a gay teen.  But, he often feels that this label places a barrier between him and his peers.  He plays sports, but doesn't feel like part of the team.  Other students and teachers constantly turn to him to provide "the gay point of view" and, despite his being out and available, he still doesn't have a boyfriend.  With his entry to a new school, he finally has a chance to get rid of the label and remove the barriers - but it means leaving a big part of himself behind.  I loved getting a chance to see the challenges that can be faced by a teen even if he is supported by his family and is part of a (fairly) liberal school.  

This novel featured a lot of fun and unique characters.  Rafe and his friends are smart and witty and their comments and conversations often left me smiling, if not laughing.  These are the types of characters that could easily carry a novel of their own and I often found myself wondering what they were doing when they were not with Rafe.  My absolute favorite scenes were those with his parents.  they were fun and quirky and wonderful examples of supportive parents - which is refreshing in a genre where absentee parents have almost become a cliche.  I was also quite pleased that Openly Straight showed (if not featured) several gay characters and did a great job of breaking stereotypes.

Openly Straight is not a book with a particularly strong plot.  It follows a "will they, won't they" love story that was often sweet and romantic.  Rafe did have a tendency to live in his own head and the introspection slowed the story considerably.  This was really noticeable in the last 1/3rd of the book and resulted in an ending that was much more of a whimper than a bang.  I also wish that it didn't contain quite as much swearing and sexual behavior as this limits me in which students I can recommend the book to.  However, I really enjoyed the unique perspective that this novel provided and I was entertained by the fun cast of characters. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Masturbation, Sex between Teenagers
Violence: None
Inappropriate Language: Lots and Often: ass, shit, dick, shit, faggot, piss, bitch, fuck, retard, whore, slut, prick, cock
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review: Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz

Title: Gone, Gone, Gone
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions: 
Meh. Kinda boring.

The Gist:
In the wake of 9/11 two boys struggle to make sense of the world and each other.  Craig is still in love with his (sort of) ex-boyfriend but, despite himself, is falling for quiet and reserved Lio.  Lio is a cancer survivor and still reeling from the loss of his twin brother.  The boys cling to one another in tragic circumstances and develop an intense relationship that teaches them about longing and love.

Wow.  This one was surprising.  The reviews for this one have been fantastic.  Nearly everyone on my Goodreads list who has read it, has loved it.  And I .... didn't.  I just didn't.  This is my second foray into Hannah Moskowitz's writing and I think it is just not for me.  Her characters are a little too quirky to be real, her plots are a little too plodding to keep me interested and her storylines tend to include elements that make me cringe (though the ones in this particular book were a lot easier to take than in Teeth.  Perhaps, I am too mainstream for this type of writing.  I feel like I need a pair of ironic glasses and some beat up Chuck Taylors just to understand what message Moskowitz is trying to send in her novels.  For example, one character was scared of a sniper, one was not.  We have random killings with no real purpose other than to give the two main characters a reason to skip school and then the snipers are caught (in the last line of the book noless) with no clear effect on the plot.  I know, I know, the message was about love - but it didn't really feel that way.  The two boys just seemed to be playing at love and enjoying a remarkable sense of freedom from parental supervision (what the hell parents?). 

Clearly, this book resonated with a lot of people.  I think that perhaps my time spent teaching ACTUAL teenagers makes me extra cynical when fictional teenagers seem too mature, too precocious and too intense or damaged.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Sex between teenagers
Violence: Sniper shootings (several victims, including children)
Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Shit, Fuck, Slut, Cock, Piss, Jesus Christ, Faggot, Pussy,
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (31)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg which is due to be released on May 28th.

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate breaking down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.

This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate being different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

I am really excited to read a book from such an interesting perspective.  We often read about how difficult it is to be "in the closet" but not about how difficult it can still be to be "out" and in the public eye.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

Title: Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: March 1st, 2013
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: 
The cover is cute, though a bit simplistic for my taste.  I might prefer if it had something in the background, like a mirror that the lipstick was scrawled on...

The Gist: 
Lexi has spent years catering to her 7 year old sister turned pageant princess.  She sews, she primps, she meets the ever-increasing demands of her overbearing mother.  She is known as the girl with the "great personality" and she is ready for a change.  When her best friend challenges her to put some serious effort into her personality, she reluctantly relents, if only to prove that she is a hopeless case.  Armed with perfectly coifed hair and fabulously fake lashes, she receives more attention than she ever dreamed, including one very cute guy - even if it isn't really the guy she wanted.  As her world changes, she begins to doubt which Lexi is the real one: the beautiful girl, or the one with the great personality?

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality was a fun read with a few flaws.  I loved the premise and the glimpse into the world of the sister of a pageant princess.  Lexi had an interesting voice and I loved that she didn't buy into the whole pageant world.  She was a but too whiney for my taste and she constantly lamented her lack of beauty (which was easily solved by a modicum of makeup - really, you're hideous and a touch of concealer fixes everything?  I don't think so.)  I thought the sometimes rocky but always backed by love, relationship between the sisters was pretty realistic.  Even though it was sometimes painful to read about, so was the relationship between the divorced mother and her daughters.  The mother was truly damaged and looking for validation in all the wrong places.  At one point, she made a move so heinous that I was left feeling shocked and betrayed along with Lexi and it amped up my feelings of disgust and re-engaged me with the plot of the novel.  Unlike the familial relationships, I didn't feel any real connection with either of the love interests but, to be fair, I don't think Lexi really did either.  They mostly served as a backdrop against which she could make new discoveries about herself.  Her friends, however, had a lot of unrealized potential.  They were interesting, but fell flat and undeveloped while we followed Lexi through the "popular" world. 

The thing that irked me about this novel was the way in which Lexi preached to pageant parents at the end.  Being in a profession where I, occasionally, come across entitled, know-it-all children, I found her lecturing to be very off-putting.  Her experiences with her sister and mother give her an insight into the beauty and ugliness of the pageant world, but they do not make her an expert on each family's situation not do they give her the right to judge parents who have twice (or more) her life experience.

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality is, ultimately, a cute novel with a good message about self-love that would be enjoyed by most teenage girls.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

12 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Teen gets slapped by parent
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Sunday, May 5, 2013

First Lines: April 2013

The first words you read can often set the tone for the entire story.  I thought it would be fun to keep track of the first lines of the books I read each month and share them with you.  Below are the first lines for all the books I read in April. 

 Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
"I did not arrive at the convent of Saint Mortain some green stripling."

 Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
 "'Sir ?' she repeats.  'How soon do you want it to get there?'"

 The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa
"I smelled blood as soon as I walked into the room."

Speechless by Hannah Harrington
"Keeping secrets isn't my specialty."

 Everybody Sees The Ants by A.S. King
"All I did was ask a stupid question."

The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble
“I found out two things today. One, I think I’m dying. And two, my brother is a perv.”

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg
"Applying butt glue to my sister's backside is, without question, not the first way I'd choose to spend a weekend."

Ok, so this one is going up a bit late.  I have been so busy lately with work that May just snuck up on me. 

So, my favorite line this month was from Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality - it just paints such a fantastic picture while interjecting some humor. 

My least favorite, was probably The Eternity Cure.  That was actually a did-not-finish for me, I just couldn't get back into that world and I didn't really care for the main character. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Title: Everybody Sees the Ants
A.S. King
Publisher: Hachette
Release Date: October 3, 2011
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: 
Love the simplicity of the black and white image with the details of the bullseye and the ant. 

The Gist:
In Lucky Linderman's dreams he treks through the Vietnamese jungle in search of his long lost grandfather.  In reality, he laments his parent's marriage troubles and tries to escape the bully that tortures him.  When a violent episode forces his mother to open her eyes she whisks him away to his uncles where he is finally able to put his situation in perspective. 


Everybody Sees the Ants is not an easy read.  It tells the story of Lucky Linderman, a boy who has been bullied since he was a young child.  The story begins with an incident where Lucky attempts to make a school project about suicide and gets himself and several other boys in trouble.  This begins the an intense period of bullying that is often violent and with a sexual undertone.  The narrative moves back and forth in time from this point and from a further incident that causes Lucky's mother to immediately flee with him to her brother's home.  There is also an element of magical realism that adds humor and whimsy.  Lucky spends his night visiting his grandfather who was lost in Vietnam.  Each night, he attempts to rescue him and, remarkably, brings back souvenirs to prove that his time spent in the jungle is more real than anyone would believe.  Lucky also starts to see ants that observe his story and add hilarious commentary. 

Lucky Linderman (and the ants) have a unique voice that is funny and self-deprecating.  He is an inherently good boy who, even knowing that his actions will lead to further torture, he stands up for those who need it.  My heart went out to him as he suffered the most heinous of acts and watched as the adults around him fail to notice or to take action.  I also found myself getting very angry at the adults in this situation, particularly the apathetic teachers who turn a blind eye to what they must know is happening.  The other characters are all damaged in some way, Lucky's parents and aunt and uncle all escape the problems of their marriages with their own obsessions.  Pre-occupied as they are, they seem incapable of facing the true pain that Lucky is going through.

I found it particularly interesting to read Everybody Sees the Ants at a time when I had just finished Thirteen Reasons Why.  It created an interesting juxtaposition between bullying against girls and bullying against boys.  Thirteen Reasons Why featured rumor and name calling, while Everybody Sees the Ants featured violence and cruelty that was often difficult to read.  It also a thought-provoking connection between bullying and torture.  In the end, Lucky gains a sense of confidence and stands up to his bully.  It all wraps up a little too cleanly for my taste and I think that resolution is slightly unrealistic.  It did take down my enjoyment a notch. 

Many of the other reviews have mentioned that this book wasn't quite as powerful as King's other novel Please Ignore Vera Dietz, so I am adding that to my TBR pile as well. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, talk of Sex
Violence: Bullying, Suicide
Inappropriate Language: Shit, Slut, Pussy, Fuck, Fag
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking, Pill Use

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (30)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble which is due to be released on May 14th. 

“I found out two things today. One, I think I’m dying. And two, my brother is a perv.”

So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her 16-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs— difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead.

Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn’t survive the accident at all. He’s an “A-word.” (She can’t bring herself to utter the truth.) Soon they discover that Jenna isn’t just dying: she’s being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother’s mysterious depression and father’s disappearance.

 I am really looking forward to a quirky turn on the typical guardian angel trope.  I am hoping that, based on the first line of the blurb, it features a fun brother-sister relationship and a little bit of mystery.