Monday, January 25, 2010

Grace's Turn by Christy Carlson Romano

Minor spoilers, but there's a warning before and after them.

Grace's Turn
Author: Christy Carlson Romano
Year of Publication: 2006
Genre: YA
Pages: 264
First Line: "The weekend before school starts, my best friend, Emily, comes over."

Summary: Grace di Giovanni is a small-town girl with a dream: she wants to be a Broadway star. But Grace has a long way to go. After all, she's never even played a lead in one of her high school's musical's! This year, though, Grace and her best friend, Emily, have decided they're not going to just fade into the background. This year will be different.

Grace spent the summer at a performing arts camp, practicing day and night; so when it's announced that Grease -- Grace's all-time favorite -- is this year's musical, she is determined to play Sandy, the lead. But Grace will have to beat out her more experienced rival, Terri, and impress a top Broadway director if she wants to be the one in the spotlight.

Source: Back of book

Review: A cute read. Nothing super special about it. No great literary achievement and misleading at some points, especially in terms of plot. The style was pretty cliched. It was just average. I really don't have much to say about it. I mostly picked it up because it was written by Christy Carlson Romano (who starred in Even Stevens) and I was curious, plus it's about Broadway stuff, which I love. I was disappointed in the lack of Grease (or eve parallels of it, although, in hindsight, I guess there was some, but it wasn't pointed out or anything). It's not as fast-paced as the jacket suggests, but maybe worth a read for a sort of interim book.

Worst part: Part of the plot was super misleading. It kind of made me angry at some of the characters. MINOR SPOILER ALERT. It concerns how Hunter (oh my God, I love that name. . .I did before I read this, though) treats Grace. END SPOILER ALERT.

Best part: Ehh. . .

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: None.

7 / 50 books. 14% done!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Minor spoilers.

Author: M.T. Anderson
Year of Publication: 2004
Genre: Science Fiction, Satire, YA, Futuristic, Dystopia
Pages: 300
First Line: "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck."

Summary: "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck." So says Titus, a teenager whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his "feed," a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what's happening to the world and challenges everything Titus holds dear. A girl who decides to fight the feed.

Source: Back of book

Review: This book was excellent. I was aware that this had a lot of praise going into it, but I still wasn't expecting too much -- a lot of these kinds of books (especially today) aren't very good. They may have great concepts but the writing style or whatever fails to support it. I've read some of Anderson's other stuff and it was fantastic as well so this was just more reason to read even more. The style/voice of the character was awesome. It made everything much more real. How they spoke was consistent enough to make a believable society while still keeping each character individual. I would love to go on about how fantastic this book was, but I couldn't explain it just right. So I suggest you just read it. There is so much truth in it, so much stuff that reflects modern-day society and it's so well done and in a subtle-but-not-subtle way. . .

Worst part: There really wasn't much. . .I wish the italic interruptions (you'll understand what I'm talking about if you read it -- not the chatting) were a little more clear. I know they were supposed to be somewhat unclear and. . .well, I understand why they were done that way, but I wish it had been just a little more clear/relevant (though it was all very relevant in the big picture).

Best part: I think either the voice/style or the whole lesions thing was my favorite part. I've already said why about the voice and style, but the lesions idea was really interesting.

Grade: A

Other Books by This Author: Teach Me (also an excellent novel), Thirsty, Burger Wuss, The Game of Sunken Places and others.

Other notes: - I would like to point out that, for the edition I have, the discussion questions at the end were actually pretty good. I usually skim over them if a book has them just out of curiosity and find that they often aren't written well or are just plain stupid, but these were actually not bad.

- This is one of two books I think should be required reading. I'm not sure if schools are ready for this one yet -- 1984 and Brave New World and Anthem and any other dystopian novels (which often involve the evils of technology) have several years left in them, but eventually, Feed should take over because it's more "modernly relevant," mostly because the technology is more recognizable and up-to-date, so to speak. (For those of you wondering, the other book I believe should be required is Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser, which I read independently in the eighth grade or so.)

- Feed was a finalist for the National Book Award.

6 / 50 books. 12% done!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Heaven Sent by Montre Bible

Major spoilers in "Review" section. It is pointed out before and after the spoiler, so you can read around it.

Heaven Sent
Author: Montre Bible
Year of Publication: 2005
Genre: Religious (Christian)
Pages: 281
First Line: "'Hurry! Get in the car!' She yells at the top of her lungs."

Summary: Andrew Turner seems like your average small-town teenager. He struggles with his grades; he helps his mother make ends meet; he longs for the prettiest girl in school to see him as more than a friend. But when his mother succumbs to a mysterious disease, this quiet teen discovers his life--and his family--are anything but ordinary. What are at first frightening visions reveal that he has spiritual gifts--and that his mother's illness is part of an unholy plan that will test his faith and everything he loves. Now an untried warrior in a centuries-old battle, Andrew must also deal with the pain and anger he feels about his long-lost father's sudden return and strive to rescue the unsaved brother he didn't know existed. And if he is to become am an and accept his extraordinary legacy, he must also stand strong in the Word and rely on God's almighty strength and unlimited love.

Source: Back of book

Review: You know, I hesitated getting this book. I picked it up once and then decided not to buy it and then I saw it again the next time and I bought it. Big mistake. I don't mind preachy-ness in Christian books. I understand that that's what they're all about. But when you write a book for the sole purpose of preaching and totally disregard the quality of the plot, characters and writing in general, that's just wrong. Characters were flat and pretty stupid, the plot was way underdeveloped and unfinished, and the writing style was obnoxious. One thing I found really annoying was, sometimes, the word "ass" would be written as "a**" other times, it would be fully spelled out. This happened with a few other words, as well.

The big scene at the end was stupid and SPOILER the character they made such a big deal about throughout the entire thing didn't even show up/END SPOILER. The last sentence threatens a sequel.

Seriously, unless you really want to be preached to and not even bother trying to read anything remotely enjoyable, don't come near this book.

Worst part: Gag me. Uh. . .probably the spoiler I mentioned above. The end of the build up didn't even equal the build up. Very poorly balanced.

Best part: I guess Courtney was okay. Probably the best part of the book, though totally unrealistic.

Grade: F

Other Books by This Author: None.

5 / 50 books. 10% done!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Minor spoilers in "worst part."

Title: Living Dead Girl
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA
Pages: 170
First Line: "This is how things look: Shady Pines Apartments, four shabby buildings tucked off int he road near the highway."

Summary: Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared.

Once upon a time, I was not Alice.

Once upon a time, I didn't know how lucky I was.

When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends--her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over.

Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.

Source: Back of book

Review: This has been on my TBR list for awhile. I finally got my hands on it from the library and I'm so glad I did. Living Dead Girl was very well-written, especially since the author, Elizabeth Scott, has written other books. I never would have guessed they were from the same author, having read one of the others. The style is very effective and the plot/story itself is often not as predictable as one might expect. Abduction/rape/etc. stories that I've read are usually pretty predictable but this one, I was unsure of until the last page, and even then I was pretty surprised. This may not be a book that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life, but it certainly was a good one and I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Worst part: I would've liked a little more description on the efforts of Alice's parents.

Best part: The entire thing--plot, style, everything--seemed incredibly realistic (thought it wasn't very grisly, which may be a negative thing in this case).

Grade: A

Other Books by This Author: Perfect You and Bloom

4 / 50 books. 8% done!

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Spoilers (in summary).

The Art of Racing in the Rain
Author: Garth Stein
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: Fiction, Sports/Animals
Pages: 321
First Line: "Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature."

Summary: Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

Internet Book List

Review: I got this book from the woman who does my electrolysis and, though it took me awhile to get through (I started it in the week before 2010, probably), it was interesting. The main plot didn't start for awhile and ended pretty abruptly. Enzo is a great character and gives a lot of insight both to the world of dogs and to that of humans. Stein's writing style is pretty interesting and based on it, he seems rather intelligent. This usually isn't a trait to come across in writing (though it doesn't mean that it's not true), so that made this book even more interesting. The plot itself is fairly original. It's definitely not what you probably expect--it wasn't what I (or the woman who does my electrolysis) thought, certainly. Worth a read if you're a lover of dogs, car racing/NASCAR, medical stories, legal stories or life in general.

Worst part: In retrospect, having gone back to the beginning of the book to check out the first line again, I found the end and the beginning aren't as well connected as they could be. A bit more foreshadowing might have been appropriate.

Best part: Enzo's voice is fantastic.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets and Raven Stole the Moon

3 / 50 books. 6% done!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Deadly Little Lies by Laruie Faria Stolarz

Spoilers for the first book in the Touch series, Deadly Little Secret. Minor/unclear spoilers for Deadly Little Lies.

Deadly Little Lies
Author: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, mystery
Pages: 282
First Line: "I've been having trouble sleeping."

Summary: Last fall, sixteen-year-old Camelia fell for Ben, the mysterious new boy at school who turned out to have a very mysterious gift -- psychometry, the ability to sense the future through touch. But just as Camelia and Ben's romance began to heat up, he abruptly left town. Brokenhearted, Camelia has spent the last few months studying everything she can about psychometry, and experiencing her own strange brushes with premonition. Camelia wonders if Ben's abilities have somehow rubbed off on her. Can the power of psychometry be transferred?

Even once Ben returns to school, Camelia can't get close enough to share her secret with him. Despite the romantic tension between them, Ben remains aloof, avoiding contact. Then, when a series of eerie warnings echoes the threats of last semester -- and Ben just withdraws further -- Camelia makes the painful decision to let him go, and move on. Adam, the new guy at her after-school job, seems good for her in ways Ben wasn't. Adam is easygoing and really seems to care about her.

But when Camelia and Adam start dating, a surprising love triangle results. A chilling sequence of events turns up secrets from Ben's past -- and Adam's. Someone is lying, and it's up to Camelia to figure out who -- before it's too late.

(Source: Back of book)

Review: I read the first of this series awhile ago and didn't bother to reread it before I picked this up (which is the first of its line of sequels). Usually that will be a problem for me because I read so much and stories sort of get blended together unless they were really excellent, but the simplicity of the characters in these novels make it so it doesn't really matter and the plot is memorable enough so that I could piece together what I had forgotten to read this one. While the plot seems pretty relevant throughout the book -- enough so for there to even have this story told -- I'm not sure I had that feeling when I finished it. I certainly expected something much more than what resulted and was kind of disappointed. Characters were pretty flat, including Camelia. They had their personality and stuck to it, with little mirroring of how people really work, with more than just one straight personality.

The writing itself isn't terribly gripping but interesting enough to keep reading. I did find that Ben and Camelia's relationship mirrors something (in so far as the we-can't-but-we-must-ness) similar in my own life, so while it was kind of annoying and felt unrealistic, I knew it was in fact quite realistic.

Probably worth a read if you read the first and plan on reading the next in the series, Deadly Little Games. Don't expect anything spectacular out of this -- or probably the next -- book, though.

Worst part: I was really disappointed with the main problem's ending. It felt really irrelevant -- almost as if it were only there to give a place for the sub plots to develop, which I expect will be more major in the next book.

Best part: I was surprised with the whole Ben/Camelia/Adam thing. I found that was much better done than the individual characters and, as a group, the three were more realistic.

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: Project 17, Deadly Little Secret, Bleed, Blue Is for Nightmares, White Is for Magic, Silver Is for Secrets, Red Is for Remembrance, and Black Is for Beginnings

Other notes: Anyone have any comments on the X Is for Y series? I've been considering reading them, but haven't heard anything positive of negative about them. I don't want to invest in a series if it's not going to be any good....

2 / 50 books. 4% done!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler

Very minor spoilers.

Author: Carolyn Mackler
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: YA
Pages: 310
First Line: "Paradise sucked until I found the suicide note."

Summary: Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen are all at Paradise - a resort in the Caribbean, that is - for different reasons, but in Paradise their lives become tangled together in ways none of them can predict. The week might take Jena one kiss closer to having a life; set Dakota on a new path; push Skye to stop playing a role, or face the consequences; or inspire Owen to take a leap from his online life to a real one, all because of a girl he met in Paradise. Whatever happens here, it will change them all.

(Source: Back of book)

Review: Despite the girly cover of the book (and yes, I do read books by their covers; covers are very telling), Mackler's novel is pretty deep and not so chick-lit. It is c-l to some extent, but certainly not what I expected. I was impressed by the way Mackler managed to sound like a different narrator almost 100% for each of the four parts. Only a few word choices and phrasing made it a little more obvious it was the same author for all four sections. Some of the book was pretty shocking as far as content goes. I've certainly read "worse" but this was pretty racy, especially when it's supposedly for ages 12+. If you're a fan of good YA, I'd check it out. I might compare her to Kevin Brooks, but on a much lighter scale.

Worst part: Despite the title of the book, the plots weren't quite as tangled as I would have wished.

Best part: The writing style, as I mentioned before, being pretty versatile and the individual plots were pretty good.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big Round Things; Vegan Virgin Valentine; and Love and Other Four-Letter Words

Other notes: I got this book as a galley. Which was super exciting.