Monday, March 29, 2010

Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

No spoilers.

Love, Stargirl
Author: Jerry Spinelli
Year of Publication: 2007
Genre: YA
Pages: 274
First Line: "Dear Leo, I love beginnings."
Summary: Stargirl has moved and left everything behind: Arizona, Mica High, enchanted desert places -- and Leo.

He's all she can think about, and her life begins to feel like a parade of unhappy anniversaries. Then Stargirl meets her wonderfully bizarre new neighbors: Dootise, the curly-headed five-year-old "human bean"; Betty Lou, who hasn't stepped outside her house for nine years; Charlie, who sits among the tombstones; hot-tempered Alvina with that one glittery nail; and Perry Dellopane, the blue-eyed thief who soon lays his own claim to Stargirl's heart.

In letters to Leo over the course of a year, Stargirl comes to find hope in new places: mockingbirds, donut angels, moon flowers, and the Winter Solstice -- that turning-point day when dark tips to light. But what's life without Leo? Will he -- can he -- answer that one crucial question she asks every morning to the rising sun?

Source: Back of book

Review: Probably about as good as Stargirl, which I loved in a quirky sort of way. I really don't have much to say about this one. You could probably read it without having read the prequel, but I'd suggest reading the first just because it's good. Definitely appropriate for younger readers as well as older -- there is a lesson for everyone in this special novel. I sound totally lame and manufactured, but really, it's special like that. Just read it, 'kay?

Worst part: The ending was a little anti-climactic, but not horribly so.

Best part: The fact that it exists and doesn't totally ruin the first book.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: Stargirl, Milkweed, Knots in My Yo-Yo string and Crash

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Boys That Bite by Mari Mancusi

Semi-major spoilers indicated in review portion.

Boys That Bite
Author: Mari Mancusi
Year of Publication: 2006
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 262
First Line: "You know, being bitten by a vampire one week before prom really sucks."
Summary: My mom is so going to kill me if she finds out I'm turning into a vampire.

Okay, so technically she can't because I'm immortal. Well, not yet. See, due to the worst case of mistaken identity with my dark-side-loving twin sister at a Goth hangout called Club Fang, Magnus, a vampire hottie, went for my innocent neck instead of hers. Now, if I don't reverse it in time, Magnus will be my blood mate forever and I'm doomed to be a blood-gulping, pasty, daylight-hating vampire. Believe me, it seriously bites.

After the unfortunate slaying of the vampire leader, it's up to me, my sister, and Magnus to find the one thing that can solve my problem -- the Holy Grail. No joke. I seriously hope I can get out of this in time because, somehow, I scored the hottest prom date in my school, the mouth-watering Jake Wilder. And I do not want to be a vampire for the prom -- let alone the rest of eternity.

Source: Back of book

Review: This has been on my TBR list for awhile. It started off really badly. I was tempted to put it down but I decided since it had been on the list for so long, I'd soldier through. I don't know if I'm glad that I did, but I don't feel it was a complete waste of time. It definitely improved, especially about half-way through it got much better. The ending was awful, but I was much more pleased with it than, say, Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer. Vampire fiction has become very popular recently because of Meyer and usually the stories follow a "girl-meets-boy-in-some-kind-of-science-class, boy-seems-to-hate-girl, girl-likes-boy-anyway, blah blah blah." At least this one strayed from that and was original in plot. Characters, however, were quite unoriginal, especially in the physical description department. You'll see what I mean if you read it. BEGIN SPOILER -- A QUICK IDEA OF THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE Basically, Mancusi described every single vampire character to look like some well-known person already. Orlando Bloom was mentioned to be like Magnus, Lucifent was described as Haley Joel Osment and another character described as Gandalf the Grey. Come on. Be original. I mean, she didn't even give a REASON. If there had been like some magical thing that made you look like the "celebrity" of your choice when you turned into a vampire, sure, that'd be okay. But there wasn't even an explanation. A case of laziness? You bet. END SPOILER. Other than that, another thing that was really annoying was the narrator's use of netspeak in speaking. She used "OMG," I think "WTF" was used at one point. . . I don't mind things like "TMI" because I feel like that's been around longer than "OMG" and stuff, but that was super annoying. I don't know if I'd recommend it, but there were some parts of the book that were definitely better and stood out. Basically, the beginning of the book was godawful, the middle was better and in some spots, much better, and the end was just as godawful as the beginning.

Worst part: Unoriginality with the characters was a real downer.

Best part: It took place in NH, where I live. It didn't mention anywhere that I would've recognized (if any of it was real) except for some town names and the air port, but I always enjoy reading books about New Hampshire. The author grew up here, but I still don't think the characters are a fair/accurate representation of New Hampshire people.

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: Girls That Growl, and Stake That!

20 / 50 books. 40% done!

So Super Starry by Rose Wilkins

No spoilers.

So Super Starry
Author: Rose Wilkins
Year of Publication: 2004
Genre: YA
Pages: 230
First Line: "I've just finished this book called Tammy Gets Kissed."
Summary: At Darlinham House, the chic private school, everyone's parents are super-famous, feng shui is part of the curriculum, all of the girls have names like India, Asia, and Twinkle. The girls there don't just read celebrity magazines, they're in them. Except for Octavia Clairbrook-Cleeve. Sure she's got the posh name, and the semi-celeb parents, but there's nothing that Octavia hates more than the "darlings" and their super-glam ways. Until she meets Alex Withers, the gorgeous son of a famous rock star. Suddenly Octavia's staying out all night, shopping for trendy clothes, and even doing favors for her archenemy! How's a regulargirl to keep her head when she's hanging with the A-list?

Source: Back of book

Review: So. Boring. This book had no plot and the characters were incredibly typical. The writing style was tolerable but, really, it just wasn't worth it. I don't even have anything else to say about it.

Worst part: Is "everything" an option?

Best part: Uh. . .it was fairly quick. So I didn't waste a ton of time on it.

Grade: D

Other Books by This Author: So Super Stylish, Wishful Thinking and Unlucky Charm

19 / 50 books. 38% done!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

How I Found the Perfect Dress by Maryrose Wood

Spoilers for HIFTPD and WILMHGO.

How I Found the Perfect Dress
Author: Maryrose Wood
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA, fantasy (faerie)
Pages: 231
First Line: "'Tinker Bell pajamas!' My sister Tammy was the happiest girl in the world."
Summary: I had the most unbelievable summer. On a bike tour of Ireland, I fell head over handlebars for the hunky guide, Colin, and -- oh, yeah -- magically discovered that I'm a half-goddess. Then it was back to my painfully normal life -- and my relationship with Colin fizzled to the occasional e-mail -- until he wrote saying he was coming here!

But Colin's arrival is not so magical -- the poor guy's exhausted. It seems that when I found my goddess mojo, a spell was cast on Colin. In his dreams he's forced to dance till dawn with the faeries, who want to boogie for an eternity. If I don't break the enchantment somehow, the prom I've been dreaming of will be Colin's worst nightmare. Look out, faeries, Colin's next dance is with me!

Source: Back of book

Review: Like many sequels, this wasn't as good as the original. Characters aren't in-character, there is a BEGIN SPOILER major mistake In the original, Why I Let My Hair Grow Out, Morgan says her birthday is on June 3 (see page 141 of the book), but HIFTPD reminds the readers, like, every other page that her birthday is March 20 (which is also my cousin's birthday and the first day of spring). I understand it's difficult to keep stuff straight -- I write too, so really, I get it. But a detail as important as this, especially if you're going to mention it a gazillion times in the second book should really be checked. And it would've been perfectly reasonable to have a prom on June 3. So I don't know what that was all about. END SPOILER And I really missed the characters of the first book. The plot wasn't quite as good, but it was okay. Still, the whole Colin this is pretty sweet. The first book seemed more mature to me, as well. While I preferred the first one, I still plan on reading the third book.

Worst part: As the climax wasn't up to par in the first book, HIFTPD was lacking in the climax and end. Plus the change in everyone was annoying. Plus the thing mentioned under the cut.

Best part: Still Colin. *giggles*

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: Why I Let My Hair Grow Out (the prequel to HIFTPD), and Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love

18 / 50 books. 36% done!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why I Let My Hair Grow Out by Maryrose Wood

No spoilers.

Why I Let My Hair Grow Out
Author: Maryrose Wood
Year of Publication: 2007
Genre: YA, fantasy (faerie)
Pages: 218
First Line: "The first thing I did was take scissors to my bangs."
Summary: When my boyfriend dumped me on the last day of school, it was just the icing on a ten-layer my-life-sucks cake. Hacking off all my hair and dying the stubble orange seemed like the next logical step. Okay, I was acting out. But my parents freaked and called the travel agent, and before you could say "Let's fix Morgan," I was being sent on a bike tour of Ireland. As if pedaling my way across an entire country with a bunch of losers in padded shorts is supposed to cheer me up?

So I'm hating the Emerald Isle, hating my tour mates, liking-yet-hating the cute redheaded guy who drives the luggage van -- when a most unusual bike accident tosses me headfirst into some crazy, once-upon-a-time corner of the past. . .I'm talking faeries and wee folk and a hunky warrior dude named Fergus, who knows how to treat a girl who's part goddess. (Hmm, wonder who that might be?) Now, in addition to biking across the country, I have to help undo some evil curses and perform an impossible rescue. Some vacation, right? But in the middle of all this becoming-a-legend stuff, I'm realizing there's some growing up I need to do -- and I don't just mean my hair. . .

Source: Back of book

Review: Okay, so I usually don't have a really easy time finding good faerie books. Some of my favorites are War for the Oaks, Tithe and Lament. This book just joined those. It was, I admit, a little iffy at first, but it definitely improved. I had been wanting to read this for a long time and my mom, ironically enough, got me the sequel, without realizing it was a sequel. Two or so weeks ago, I finally got the first one and read it in a day. I'm now working on the second which isn't quite as good, so far, but not a bad read, either. I definitely suggest this to the faerie fans out there.

Worst part: The climax could have been done better -- I feel like it took up too much of the book, and it's not as faerie-centric as it could be.

Best part: Colin. Oh my God. I need to stop falling in love with fictional characters.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: How I Found the Perfect Dress (the sequel to WILMHGO), and Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love

17 / 50 books. 34% done!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reading Meters and Other Things

Hello everyone, I don't know if I've already explained this, but I figured I'd do it here, again, for those of you who have been following along.

You may have noticed a little meter at the end of my reviews. This is keeping track of how many books I read this year. My goal is 50, but it looks like I'll get there pretty easily. I might change it and make it 75 or something, depending on when I reach 50.

Here is an example of the meter:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

If you click on it, it will bring you to this site, where you can make your own and customize the size, color, etc. If you need help with the coding there (I think that's the only way to change this stuff), let me know and I can offer a little bit of assistance. It's easy to figure out the coloring, size, etc. with the HTML coding.

The idea for keeping track of how many books I read was from a LiveJournal community called 50bookchallenge. It's a great place for finding reviews and other book-related things, too.

Now, for a few unrelated topics.

- The Inklings Creative Writing group at the DPL is tonight from 6:30-8. We have a lot of talented teen writers, so make sure you show up so you can hear some good stuff and share some of your own!

- Why am I the only one posting, people? I hope, at least, that some of you actually read this! If you're not, I'm wasting time posting when I could be reading! : P So please be posting, too! Even if it's just what you've been reading lately, a good movie you saw, music, whatever. Even if it's a YouTube recommendation. Which reminds me. . .

- For those of you who are aware of John Green (author of An Abundance of Katharines, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns. . .) he and his brother, Hank, have been doing video communication through YouTube for a few years now and their videos are hilarious. I've watched almost all of them now -- I'm about seven months or so behind because I didn't start until August and then I watched multiple videos whenever I could. Anyway, I highly suggest checking it out because it's often very thought-provoking, and even more often, very funny. I mean, you get to see John eat a blenderized Happy Meal. It doesn't get much better than that. You can find their videos here.

That's all. Carry on. :)

Dawn by Kevin Brooks

Title: Dawn
Author: Kevin Brooks
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, drama
Pages: 250
First Line: "This is a story about me, that's all."
Summary: Dawn Bundy lives in a cave. In her head. Where she's been hiding for two years.

Hiding behind headphones. From the two hottest girls at school, in their impossibly short skirts and unbearably tight tops, their razor-sharp cheekbones and taut, smooth shoulders close enough to touch.

Not talking to her mother,not about what matters.

Not thinking of her dad, the drug addict, the ex-con, born-again but far gone.

Two years is a long time. Enough for the cave to grow so small that her breath feels like stone in her throat.

Two years is no time at all. Nowhere near enough to forget. To pretend that nothing happened. Deep one perfect morning.

Source: Back of book

Review: Usually, I'm much more impressed with Kevin Brooks. I don't know if it's just that I've gotten older so his books don't seem as intense, or if it's just that I've read more books so I have more to compare it to or if this one just wasn't as good as his usual stuff. It wasn't BAD. I didn't consider stopping reading it. As always, he managed to have a totally different voice in his story. His books are told (always?) in the first-person, and he's really talented at making them all different people, rather than making it sound like it's just the author talking through a new name. The plot was kind of bland and didn't have a lot to it.

Basically, if you're going to read Kevin Brooks (which I HIGHLY suggest), don't start with this one. (Those bolded in the "other books by this author" section are those I most recommend, but they're all good...)

Worst part: The summary is kind of misleading. While it sort of implies that Dawn doesn't talk and is a mute, that's not it at all. That might have been cliched for the plot, but it would have at least made the book more interesting.

Best part: I liked the whole "killing God" thing. While I certainly don't advocate it, it was so interesting and I would have liked to see more of it.

Grade: C-

Other Books by This Author: Black Rabbit Summer (haven't read that one), Being, The Road of the Dead, Candy, Kissing the Rain (started that one, didn't like the character's voice, stopped reading), Lucas (also excellent), Martyn Pig (really good but not as good as Candy and Lucas)

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Skinned by Robin Wasserman

No spoilers.

Author: Robin Wasserman
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA, sci-fi, futuristic
Pages: 361
First Line: "Lia Kahn is dead."
Summary: Lia Kahn was perfect: rich, beautiful, popular--until the accident that nearly killed her. Now she has been downloaded into a new body that only looks human. Lia will never feel pain again, she will never age, and she can't ever truly die. But she is also rejected by her friends, betrayed by her boyfriend, and alienated from her old life.

Forced to the fringes of society, Lia joins others like her. But they are looked at as freaks. They are hated. . .and feared. They are everything but human, and according to most people, this is the ultimate crime--for which they must pay the ultimate price.

Source: Back of book

Review: Skinned was fantastic. I haven't read a futuristic/sci-fi book in awhile and I loved this one. While it is fairly different from the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, it's up there in the same ranks as far as how good it is. The book brings forth some interesting philosophies and questions. The characters were absolutely fantastic and even before I finished the book, I started a fanfic for Auden/Lia. One of the great things about this book was that it wasn't set in a time -- it vaguely referred to the past but even fifty years from now, someone could read this and not think, "Hey, this doesn't matched what happened," which I feel is a problem with books like this, but name a date, such as 1984. This book could be read in the future and still be thought of as a futuristic society novel.

Aside from it being scifi, I felt it was all very realistic, specifically character relationships and subtle actions by the characters which showed how they were feeling without the narrator telling. Wasserman does a great job of keeping it in first-person without making it seem that the other characters don't have lives of their own and that they aren't the star of their own novels.

All-in-all, I greatly look forward to getting my hands on the next book and am even considering buying this one in paperback (is it already out?) in the near future. Definitely worth checking out, even if you're not into sci-fi.

Worst part: I will say there was something a little bit off about Walker -- he wasn't quite like the other characters. However, that may be intentional and we'll find out in the sequels. Also, I would have liked more with Ben and Asa.

Best part: The writing style was fairly different from what I've read in the past -- I'm always interested in reading a fresh, new style.

Grade: A

Other Books by This Author: Hacking Harvard.

15 / 50 books. 30% done!