Monday, March 29, 2010

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Release Date: January 5, 2010
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 256
Overall: 5

How do review a novel that has blown you away and left you totally speechless? I don’t know how much of a typical review this one will be, because there is so much that I want to say, but can’t because I refuse to give away anything in this true work of art.

Anyone who’s seen Mean Girls or has ever been in high school knows that the social hierarchy that high school entails can be hard to navigate, much less climb. But no matter how hard it is to climb the social ladder, the fall is way harder, and hurts so much more. Regina Afton is one of those girls; she’s the Cady in Some Girls Are, although she makes Cady seem like a total angel.

There’s no doubt about it that Regina is a total bitch, I mean in every letter of the definition, she’s mean, hateful, vindictive, but I found myself feeling sorry for her, sympathizing with her. Regina used to be part of the “Fearsome Fivesome,” which is a clique of five girls in the school that are not only admired, but are also feared by almost every student in the school. But once rumors of Regina and Anna’s, her best friend/leader of the “pack”, boyfriend start flying around, that’s the end of Regina’s life as she knew it before.

The now “Fearsome Foursome” not only freeze Regina out, but they also take it upon themselves to make her life a living hell, actually that’s putting it lightly. But there’s the handsome, yet misunderstood, Michael that Regina starts to become friends (of some sort) with. He’s cute, he listens, he helps her, he even hates her, but by getting to know her, he starts to soften, and so does Regina. But is it enough to only have one person to lean on? Can she even make it out of her senior year alive?

First and foremost, I must bow to the wonderful Courtney Summers. She managed to create a story that I loved and hated at the same time, and characters I felt the same way about. None of the other reviews I’ve read prepared me for the story I found myself faced with. There were so many moments in Some Girls Are that I had to actually set the book down and just sat there with my hand over my mouth and my eyes wide in horror and terror for these characters. And there were times when I just wanted to jump for joy and scream “WOOHOO!”

Out of all the books I’ve read, this is the one that seemed to mess with me the most. Courtney is one of the most talented and gifted authors I’ve read in so long. Her style, her snark, and her way of manipulating the way I thought of people and the way they are, it’s all part of something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced within a novel. I always thought the way people are was black and white; they were either good or bad; bitches or nonbitches (I know it’s not technically a word, but for the purposes of this review and because of the amazingness that is Courtney Summers, it is now), but I’ve now seen that some people fall into this gray area. This gray area now makes me have to reevaluate all those girls in high school and in life that I couldn’t stand to even look at because their bitchiness radiated off of them in waves. Do they deserve a shot or a second chance? Regardless of how they act, is that just a façade for self-preservation?

Yes, I now see there is that gray area, but that doesn’t change the fact that some of the characters Courtney created were so despicable and nauseatingly hateful that nothing could have redeemed them. Courtney took the worst attributes of Regina George, a dash of Heather Chandler, a pinch Courtney Shane, and teaspoon of Chris Hargensen and mixed them into a cauldron with her wand when she created Anna and her wannabe puppy, Kara.

The saving grace in all this hatefulness in Michael, it was easy to see the attraction too and hard to see how he was such an outcast. He’s cute, sensitive, a good listener, he doesn’t care what others really think, and he’s quite possibly the sweetest guy…ever. You couldn’t have cut the tension between these two with a blow torch, and yet all I wanted was to see the next time they were together. I wanted so bad to smack Michael and just be like “Look, I know you hate her and all and she’s a bitch, but KISS HER!!!”

There are not enough words in the English language, or any other language for that matter, to describe how much I absolutely loved Some Girls Are. Courtney is a rare breed of author and I can’t wait to read anything she puts out there, and with a talent like that, she better put out a lot! (Kidding…sort of, not really).

Some Girls Are is a truly amazing novel, and a story that is actually fairly believable. Now, some of the things these girls do are dramatized and at times a bit improbable, but all in the entire story in itself and the message it contains is very real. It really shows how fickle high school can be, and how evil girls really can be when you’ve wronged them, no matter if its truth or rumor. Courtney has given us a novel that will not only make you think, but it will also change you, at least it did me and for that, I must thank her…and ever so sweetly demand her next book, like…now.

And given everything else I could say about Some Girls Are, I think Michael said it best:
“I think…” he trails off. “I think some girls are just…fucked up.” (Page 189, Some Girls Are, ARC).
And that statement applies to the story, high school, and just people and life in general.

Plot: 5

Writing: 5

Characters: 5

Ending: 5

Cover: 5

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I received this book as part of Around the World Tours.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw

Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw
Release Date: May 1, 2010*
Publisher: Amulet Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 272
Overall: 5

There’s always going to be those stories that capture your heart. Whether it’s something that is heartbreaking and sticks with you, or something that is so pure and enticing that your heart envelops it; one way or another your heart becomes involved with the words and the characters inside. Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw is not only one of those stories, it’s the latter of the two, it’s the one that runs through your mind over and over again, it’s the one that so pure that you become one with the story.

In 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a poem, “Evangeline,” that has now become one of his most notable works, and also one of the most common taught poems in English classes. This beautiful poem inspired Tucker Shaw to write Anxious Hearts and for that, I must thank Mr. Longfellow (yes, I am going to thank a man that’s been dead for somewhere around, oh, 125+ years).

Anxious Hearts begins the story of Eva and Gabe, two teenagers that lost touch in each other’s lives, only to pick back up years later as they explore the forests surrounding their seaside town. They follow the same paths, and are exploring the same tranquil forests as Evangeline and Gabriel, two young lovers, did over one hundred years before them. On the day of Evangeline and Gabriel’s wedding, their village was attacked by enemies and they were separated from one another. In the present, Gabe suddenly disappears from Eva and it seems as if their love will mirror that of the two lovers torn apart on their wedding day.

The first couple of chapters threw me through a loop, I’m used to alternate points of view, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that is not only alternate voices, but also alternate time periods. Eva and Gabe’s story is told by Eva, while Gabriel and Evangeline’s tale is told by Gabriel, some hundred years earlier. It only took a few chapters in for me to not only get used to the change, but to also welcome the bits of each tale I got.

The imagery in Anxious Hearts is something I’ve not seen in a long time, not since AP English in high school. It’s got the air of one of those old stories your teacher forces you to read, then you’re thankful in the end. It’s pure, beautiful, and vivid in the words that flow across the page. The beauty in Longfellow’s tale weaves into Shaw’s and characters, both new and old, come alive on the page and leap into your mind.

I found it really hard to find the words to describe Anxious Hearts. There were moments that made me laugh and smile, then there were the ones that made my jaw drop and stay hanging open in fear and pain for the characters that have woven themselves into my heart in fewer than 300 pages. Eva, Gabe, Evangeline, and Gabriel all found their own place in my heart and I found myself understanding them in different ways and wanting the best for them.

If you’ve never read “Evangeline” then I advise you not to read it until after you’ve read Anxious Hearts. It’s been years since I’ve read it, but once I started reading the story of these lovers those years faded away and the story was there again. The story behind Shaw’s words is just as important as the words themselves. Anxious Hearts is beautiful and lyrical, it flows with a fluid grace that enamors the soul and captures the soul, all in the same page.

Anxious Hearts speaks to the hopeless romantic in all of us. It contains the purest love I’ve read in a long time. I didn’t want the story to end, even though I knew it had too. If there’s one romance that should be on everyone’s shelf, it should be the timeless beauty that is Anxious Hearts. Even those that aren’t big fans of romance will have no other choice but to fall in love with these characters and the stories they have to tell.

Plot: 5
Writing: 5
Characters: 5
Ending: 5
Cover: 5
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I received this book as part of Around the World Tours.


*While Anxious Hearts isn't set to release until May, it is already in stock at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Book Depository.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Windwhyst by Christine O'Neill

Windwhyst by Christine O'Neill
Release Date: September 7, 2009
Publisher: CreateSpace
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 316
Overall: 4

I’m not usually one to read self-published titles, but the premise of Windwhyst was interesting enough for me to ignore its self-published status and give it s a shot. And I’m really glad I did.

Cole Anderson is your usual high school slacker. He’s a graffiti artist, failing his classes, being pretty invisible in school, and has the sarcastic attitude to match. But when he’s caught for defacing school property, Cole is told he must join the restoration team at the abandoned 19th century Windwhyst mansion. He’s joined in that project by his domineering tutor, Thea.

Thea Wallace is your stereotypical teen movie style overachiever. She’s, as Cole puts it, “President of This and That and Your Mom Club” (Windwhyst, page 7). So of course she’s involved in just about anything and everything that can be put on a college transcript, and anything that will help her succeed, while everything else like friends, is just a formality.

While working at Windwhyst, the two stumble upon a hidden room full of treasures. As they are browsing those treasures, they find Augusta and Josiah Lyons, brother and sister and that have been dead for upwards of 250 years. After meeting the Lyons’ and getting over the idea that ghosts don’t exist, they find that the ghosts aren’t something to be feared, but are people too.

After talking to the Lyons’, Thea and Cole are approached by PELF, a horror movie-esque company that wants to meet with the ghosts and study them. Thea and Cole come to find that PELF isn’t at all what they seem and is actually much more dangerous and deadly. PELF is the kind of company that would give Norman Bates a run for his money in the creep factor.

With the help of a third, ex-military ghost, the friends set out to defend the world and the lives they all cherish. Now they’re all thrown into a world of murder, history, love, war, laboratories, experiments, and PELF.

Now there is more at stake for Cole than he ever thought possible. He’s faced with difficult decisions in terms of love, life, and the survival of not only himself, but also of Thea and the ghosts. And the project Cole was forced into has now played a bigger role in his life than he ever thought possible.

I actually really liked this story. I adored the characters…at least most of them, and thought they were extremely well developed. Cole and Thea had this very amusing love-hate, push-pull relationship. They’re polar opposites and it totally works for them. The ghosts are very intriguing, they’re full of history and life; even if they’re not actually living per say.

I found the involvement of PELF and its employees to be a totally different twist on a typical ghost story. It made things dangerous and adventurous for our protagonists, and exciting for the reader. Plus with Cole as the narrator, it gave a nice change to the normality of having a female voice, and a different spin on the issues and conversations they all had.

I did find a few grammar and spelling mistakes here and there and while that kind of irked me a bit at the moment, there weren’t enough to take away from the story or to be a big enough distraction. And I have found that it’s fairly common to find some in a self-published novel. Also while reading this story I did come to find a few awesome facts, such as the author, Christine O’Neill, is not only sixteen years old, but Windwhyst was also her NaNoWriMo novel! Now how cool is that?

Personally, if I had seen this book in the bookstore, I probably would have skipped right over it based on the cover alone, but I'm glad I didn't. While the image makes me think of the Windwhyst mansion and I think it's cool that the author took the photo, I wouldn't have used it as a cover. I don't really think it fits the nature of the story, and unlike the story it contains, the cover is a bit blah.

Plot: 4
Writing: 4
Characters: 5
Ending: 4
Cover: 3
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I received this book for review for Teens Read Too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Nailed by Jennifer Laurens

Nailed by Jennifer Laurens
Release Date: November 10, 2008
Publisher: Grove Creek Publishing
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 240
Overall: 4

Mandy is a girl that knows what she wants. Unlike most 18 year olds, she also knows who she is and what she wants to do with her life. I knew very few people in high school that knew either one of those things, and I admired the ones that did…I also quite admired Mandy for the same reason.

Ever since she was a little girl Mandy has wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and work in construction. She wants to learn the trade and become not only a professional, but she wants to either take over her father’s business or start one of her own. In order to put that plan into motion, Mandy doesn’t follow her friends on after graduation trips; she stays behind to start her apprenticeship.

The first crew Mandy is assigned too belongs to her brother, Marc, and he is less than happy about it to say the least. Marc isn’t cutting Mandy any slack, he does everything to make sure she pulls her weight, even if it’s just clean up and grunt work. But soon, the older, flirtatious A.J. has Mandy’s attention, as well as the mysterious, brooding Boston (a nickname she affectionately gave him on the first day because of his hat).

With the help of her best friend Cam, Mandy finds herself trying to decipher what is really going on in this push-pull, triangle A.J and Boston have her in. Framing a house is easy for Mandy, the hard work and physical labor is easy, it’s this new mine field of testosterone and desire that’s hard for her.

This is the second novel by Jennifer Laurens I have read, and this is the second one I have loved. Nailed is fun, different, and at times, almost lyrical. Mandy is a heroine of sorts to be admired; she’s cute, fun, straightforward and she’s very wise beyond her years. Cam is adorable and uses those trashy romance novels as insight into the dream relationship. He’s actually quite insightful and he’s one of the best, best friends I’ve seen in a novel lately, to the point that he reminded me of my best friend.

A.J. is older, gorgeous, and a total gentleman. He’s constantly flirting with Mandy, but never pushy, he’s actually very sweet. Boston is a mystery at first, but when Mandy starts to find out more about him and find that they have more in common than she thought, even he can’t help but to warm up to her. He’s one of those guys that are totally sexy, but he’s got the hard exterior, but the sensitive, caring heart that almost any girl desires.

I love Jennifer’s writing style, its fluid and it flows. It’s experienced and has a beautiful touch woven into the words. The characters are so well developed, even the ones that aren’t seen all that much, like Cam. The intense moments are well balanced with comical ones. I really only had one issue with the book and it was minor and mainly my own quirkiness. In the first few chapters, Mandy and Cam frequented Barnes and Noble, but then it randomly changed to Borders, even though the descriptions and the café was the same. I think it was more of an oversight on an editor’s part, but still it irked my nerves for a bit.

Nailed was a fantastic, adorable story and I anyone that’s looking for a cute romantic novel to take up a few hours, then they should totally pick it up. I really recommend it and look forward to reading more from Mrs. Laurens in the future.

Plot: 4
Writing: 4
Characters: 4
Ending: 4
Cover: 3
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I received this book as part of Around the World Tours.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Falling for Romeo by Jennifer Laurens

Falling for Romeo by Jennifer Laurens
Release Date: October 1, 2007
Publisher: Grove Creek Publishing
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 208
Overall: 4

We all know the basic story of Romeo and Juliet. Boy meets Girl, Boy and Girl fall in love, Boy and Girl’s families are mortal enemies, so the star-crossed lovers take their lives to be together. It’s one of the most tragically romantic stories in literary history.

John Michaels is the hottest guy in school, he’s treated like a god, and in the eyes of his peers he can do nothing wrong (think John Tucker in John Tucker Must Die), so it’s no surprise when he lands the coveted role of Romeo in the school play. He seems to do for this school production of Shakespeare’s classic, what Leonardo DiCaprio did for the 1996 movie version.

Jennifer Vienvu is focused, beautiful, and within her school, she is an established actress and a shoe in for Juliet. Jenn is your All-American girl, she’s lovable and kind, she gets good grades, and she’s involved. There’s only one flaw in Jenn’s professional performance is that her Juliet has to kiss John’s Romeo. What everyone doesn’t know is that the kiss they share on stage will be Jenn’s first kiss. John is the guy every girl in school wants to kiss, the guy that lives next door to her, and the guy that used to be her best friend.

Living next to each other since they were kids, John and Jenn grew up being the best of friends; they even did one of those blood ritual things to signify their friendship. As they got older and John turned into the popular guy he is now, they lost each other, they grew apart. Now they are thrown back together and there’s an undeniable chemistry between them that causes them to wonder which kisses are part of the act and which kisses are real.

When our story plants us right in the middle of rehearsal, and right in the middle of the love-hate relationship our characters have with one another. Being thrown into the middle of the story kind of jarred me at first because most of the time you read through all this back story and it takes multiple chapters before you get into the plot. After the initial shock of just being thrown in, I really enjoyed being able to get right into the plot. Sometimes you get bogged down in all the details and back story that you forget what the main plot of the story even is, and that didn’t happen here.

I absolutely loved the characters. They’re fun and vivid, you get to know more than just the main characters. The director Chip is totally amusing, even when he’s being hard on them, he’s still funny. There are also a few side characters (Fletcher, Jessica, and Freddy in particular) that only appear every so often, but they offer a few gems of their own and leave an impression. Of course all characters can’t be lovable and endearing, I honestly detested Lacey and Alex, and they annoyed me to no end.

Falling for Romeo also has another aspect that I was surprised about at first, but very much loved, it switched between Jenn and John’s point of view. A lot of times I’m wary of stories that switch POV, but I absolutely love it in this case. Jennifer Laurens does a fabulous job at bringing you into the lives of both Jenn and John through both perspectives. I loved the insight into not only how they view one another, but also how they view themselves. The tension between Jenn and John in social settings and in the moments they have alone is enough to draw you to them.

I really enjoyed Falling for Romeo, it had a unique style and that’s totally refreshing. The characters were great and well developed, and there’s enough Romeo and Juliet quotes to make anyone who’s ever read the play (or seen the movie) to make them smile. Unless they’re me, and then you quote right along with the book…only you do it out loud and get funny looks from those around you.

Plot: 4
Writing: 4
Characters: 4
Ending: 4
Cover: 3
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I received this book as part of Around the World Tours.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dear Big V by Ellen W. Leroe

Dear Big V by Ellen W. Leroe
Release Date: September 30, 2009
Publisher: WestSide Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 200
Overall: 2

When you look up the definition of “prude” in the dictionary, there are no words to define it, there’s only a picture of Courtney Condon. Courtney is the epitome of a good girl, she’s modest, and she’s the founder of Donuts and Coffee, the schools abstinence club. On top of all of that, she is also the only one in the school that can resist the charms of Lance Lindsey, the most gorgeous guy in school and the school’s total player.

Lance is THAT guy, you know the one, we all know the one. He’s gorgeous, charming, has a new girl every week, and thinks he can have anyone he wants. He’s the kind of guy that you think is so gorgeous, but wouldn’t want to even shake hands with without wearing a hazmat suit. But none the less, he is a fairly realistic character, aside from the “when he walks into a room, everybody stares” mentality, that is something that I’ve never seen happen in all my almost 21 years.

Courtney and Lance are thrown together to do the coveted Op-Ed piece for the school newspaper, and this fact amuses Lance and infuriates Courtney. They have this very Cate and Baze (Life Unexpected, new show on CW) kind of relationship going on and it’s pretty hilarious. Now it’s time to see what happens when the Queen of the Prudes and King of the Lewds is thrown together, and with the single-mindedly religious mother that Courtney has, anything is bound to happen.

I really wanted to like this book more. Dear Big V is cute and funny, and the author was able to address sex and abstinence without being preachy and clinical. But overall the book left me feeling…meh. I expected more from it, there was quite a bit of different things thrown into the story and instead of giving them all time to develop and finish well, they were all rushed into the last few chapters, which left me feeling unsatisfied.

Courtney is funny and mildly adorable, but then there were moments (mainly in the beginning) where I just couldn’t stand her. I found her judgmental and close-minded and I couldn’t connect with her, but as she started to grow, I did like her more but I still never fully connected with her. The one character I did adore was Andy, Courtney’s best friend, while she stands for her beliefs, she’s accepting of other people’s thoughts and feelings, plus she’s really funny.

One of my biggest issues with Courtney is that after a few kisses and literally only a few very brief conversations with Lance, she was telling her best friend that she thinks she’s falling in love with him. I know that in high school and being that age makes you think simple physical attraction can be love without really knowing someone, but that was just a bit much, and very unrealistic. I found it hard to believe that a character like Courtney could confuse love and lust so easily.

Maybe if I was younger and still dealing with the same issues as Courtney, I would have responded better, or maybe with the lack of connection I felt with the characters themselves, I wouldn’t have. There’s no way to really know. I do think that younger readers could benefit from Courtney’s plight; I would love for my niece to read this and maybe save her some heartache later down the road. I think it’s a good book for a look on abstinence, it doesn’t come of clinical and preachy like most others do, and for that alone, I do think readers will respond better. Maybe others will love Dear Big V, but it just wasn’t something I related to.

Plot: 3
Writing: 4
Characters: 2
Ending: 3
Cover: 2
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I received this book as part of Around the World Tours.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Winner!!

 

It's time to announce the winner of the signed copy of Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus! So without further ado...

*drumroll*

YAN

 I've already contacted Yan by email, if she doesn't reply in 48 hours I will chose a new winner.

Congratulations and thank you to everyone that entered!