October 30, 2011

A few of my favorite witchy reads...

It is almost Halloween - the night where ghosts, goblins, and witches come out to celebrate their night. I thought I would share a few of my favorite witchy teen reads, after all, there is nothing I enjoy reading more than witchy tales. 

I have grouped my reads by category of why I recommend that you add them to your reading mound. Enjoy!

Before Harry Potter, there was...
Beatrice Bailey and The Chrestomanci series are both worth your time.

Looking for a fun witchy read?
These three series are so much fun. They would make great TV. If you've never seen The Worst Witch, Netflix it today!

If you enjoy historical fiction...
All four of these capture the historical frenzy around accusations of witchcraft

Of course, the Mecca of witchy reads...
What would a witch reading list be without the master of witchy storytelling?

 Original Witchy Reads...
These three tales are quite original in the way they bring witches to the page. Worth every moment!

 Favorite Odds and Ends of Witchy Tales...
These are great reads, but they don't fit into one category...except maybe AWESOMENESS!

Are there any above that you read and loved? Are there any suggestions you have for me to add to my collection?

In My Mailbox (15)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  This is a great way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

My mailbox this week is quite small. I have been busy grading, so I have had little time to read and book shop. It is the price I pay for taking a week to relax during fall break, but it was worth it! 

Purchased from B&N

Beautiful Creatures 
Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Purchased for my classroom library

How to Rock Braces and Glasses
Meg Haston
It had me at the title!

Cupcake Diaries: Alexis and the Perfect Recipe
Coco Simon 
This is such a cute series!

Won from Goodreads

Drama: An Actor's Education
 John Lithgow 

That's what is in my mailbox - what's in yours? Have you read any of the above?

Happy reading!


October 24, 2011

Victoria Schwab's Giveaway of Witchy Epicness

Victoria Schwab, author of the amazing The Near Witch, is having a giveaway to celebrate Halloween.

If you have not yet read The Near Witch, you should. It is such a great read, especially for this time of year.

Visit her blog here and enter.

Good luck to you all!

October 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (14)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It is a way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.
This week's load is quite large because I spent a bit of money on my classroom library. Most of them are books I have previously read and have waited for them to come into paperback.
I'm excited for the new reads I have added for myself. I have already read a couple of them (I love fall break) and cannot wait to dive into the others.

Purchased from B&N

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
 I've already read and loved it 
Fury by Elizabeth Miles
I fell in love with the cover and with the plot idea
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
It's Maureen; do I need to say more?

Received as an ARC
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
LOVE the cover on this one; I have already read and reviewed it

Received from The Compulsive Reader
Emily the Strange: Piece of Mind by Jessica Gruner, etc.
Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker
Purchased for my classroom
Life As We Knew It, The Dead & Gone, and This World We Live In by Susan B. Pfeffer
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson 
The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
The Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray
Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Matched by Ally Condie
Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles
I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Tyrell by Coe Booth
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Heist Society by Ally Carter
Jane by April Lindner

Any thoughts on the books above? Happy reading to all!

October 22, 2011

Happy ShatterDay!

You can read a chapter every hour on the hour for 24 hours here.

I read the ARC on Friday and loved it!


amazing illustrations
This book was receiving quite a bit of Internet buzz, so I decided that I would give it a shot. I was not prepared for what was between the cover - a heartbreaking, unforgettable read.

Summary (from Goodreads):

This is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss. The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. . . .

This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

My thoughts: 

"Stories are the wildest things of all," the monster mumbled. "Stories chase and bite and hunt."

First, let me say this - wow! I knew this was going to be an emotional read, but I was not at all prepared by how emotional I would become. If you are an empathetic reader, have a box of tissues on hand.

The storytelling in this book is absolutely solid. The entire book is a metaphor for pain that humans experience when trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. 

Connor's character presents readers with a real, raw truth. Many try to ignore the reality that surrounds them because it is too painful to even acknowledge. Readers will experience this through the bullying that occurs in the novel as well as the monster's character. 
For me, the monster was the most powerful character because of what it represents, the many elements of grief. Its representation made my heart break early in the novel.

The illustrations in the novel helped solidify the pain and chaos in Connor's life. This would have been a solid novel without them, but they do enhance the novel as a whole piece. 

There is not much more I can say about this novel. I recommend it for all readers of all ages, but I especially think it is a powerful piece for any youth experiencing loss, pain, suffering. 

"You do not write your life with words," the monster said. "You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do."

October 21, 2011

The Hunger Games + Divergent + The Incredibles = Shatter Me

I received this as an ARC from my husband's work. The cover was quite intriguing, and since I am participating in a readathon this weekend, I thought I would let this be my first read. I was not prepared for the ride.

Summary (from Goodreads):
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

My thoughts:

"In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived loved and lost through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction." - Juliette
When I first started reading this novel, I was not sure what to think. The style was different from most novels - she flips between straight prose and lyrical - but as the story progressed, I found myself sucked in. 

The strength of this novel is that it is character driven, a staple in true dystopian writing. Readers must care about the characters and their strife in order to truly care that the world has collapsed around them, must be fixed by them. For me, I cared because I wanted to know the cause of Juliette's affliction; the cause of the collapse of society; the cause of the entire package.

Juliette spends seventeen years of her life without strength, without acceptance, without peace. That is until Adam is thrown into her cell. He brings into her life a possibility of all things - even if it costs him his own life. 

There are so many tense situations in the novel brought upon by the character of Warner. His role in the greater picture is clearly laid out in this novel. There seems to be no doubt to his intentions, but I am curious to see if Mafi will take him in a slightly different direction in the next novel.

Since readers are treated to so many tense situations, Mafi treats us to the character of Kenji. His character provides the same level of charm as that of the Weasley brothers in Harry Potter. Exactly! Combine Fred and George and you've got an idea of Kenji. I encountered several laugh-out-loud moments with his character.

The pattern I noticed is that the lyrical style is used during times of Juliette's duress. As readers move deeper into the pages, the lyrical style fades as Juliette's character strengthens, finds acceptance, finds peace. It is as if the prose becomes stronger because Juliette's character does.

I feel that the author takes a risk with the style of the novel. I have read many reviews that were turned off by her switching between lyrical and prose and her over-use of metaphors. For me, this made the novel stronger. I feel that this intentional switch in style is a message from Juliette - she is unsure of herself, so instead of sharing her thoughts through dialogue readers are thrust into her mind, a greater place of uncertainty than what is happening in society. 

The novel is heavy on symbolism as well - blushing, bleeding, touching. While these may seem overplayed to some, I felt that were a necessity to remind us that these characters are living in a broken society, but they themselves are alive. Blood is such a strong symbol in literature, and I feel it serves the same purpose in this novel. The touching steeps from the fact that Juliette was never able to touch, it was the one thing she craved the most. Thus, Mafi gives it to us. A reminder that we all need one another, that touching is as important to life as breathing air. Without giving too much more away, I will leave it there. 

The novel's conclusion was a risk. The author introduces us to another element, to new characters, to a new Juliette. This seemed to upset some readers, but I feel it was her way of throwing us a bone. I felt satisfied at the conclusion. 

As a side note, this novel is heavy on romance. This is the reason I compared it to an element of Divergent. For me, the chemistry between Juliette and Adam mirrors that of Tris and Four.   

Basically, if you love The Hunger Games, Divergent, Awaken, Delirium, etc. you should read this book.  

I am ready to see where Mafi will take us next.

*Note: The quote above is from an ARC - the style you see (the lack of commas) is a small example of how Mafi plays with style in the novel. I thought it was an interesting stylistic choice. The quote itself may be altered in the final copy.

October 20, 2011

Hauntingly delicious...

I'll admit - there are three reasons I purchased this book: (1) I was going to meet Jackson Pearce at the Decatur Book Festival; (2) the cover of awesomesauce; (3) the witch. 

I hate meeting authors when I have not yet read their books. I feel like it is almost a betrayal because I cannot let them know how much I enjoyed getting lost in their story. With my hectic school schedule, that was not an option this year. So I decided to save it for fall break when it would be October, my favorite month of the year. 

Let me just say that it was the right decision - the creep factor in this novel makes it worthy of an October read.

Summary (from Goodreads):

As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch-like monster in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.

When their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out as teens, they stumble upon a sleepy Southern town and are invited to stay with Sophia Kelly at her sweet shop. Sophia molds candied magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel finally start to forget their haunted past - until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel, who gives Gretchen a reason to fear Sophia: girls have been vanishing at Sophia's annual chocolate festival, taken by the insatiable 'witch' of Gretchen's nightmares. Can Gretchen save herself, the girls of Live Oak, and Sophia?

Of one thing, Gretchen is certain: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.

My thoughts:

"There it is - the fear, crawling up through me from somewhere deep in my chest. 
It's darkly comforting and familiar, a friend I despise. I've never known myself 
without the fear - as much as I want it gone, I'm not even sure who I'd be 
if I woke up without it." - Gretchen
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Again, I saved it for October because it seemed like the appropriate time to help me celebrate the creepiest month of the year. There were times when I was reading this and had to put it down and step away. Not because it was bad. Because it was that good. 
Pearce thrusts readers into a retelling of an age-old fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, and delivers a solid story. As the story begins she uses repetition and alliteration, two strategies often found in children's stories. They helped ease me into the story, providing a rhythm that seemed to calm me as I read the heart-pumping "Prologue." As the story progresses, Pearce abandons the repetition and alliteration because it is no longer a children's tale. This is a tale of survival - a tale of finding one's true self - a tale of facing one's fears.

The development of Gretchen and Ansel as characters is right on target. Pearce leaves nothing to the imagination with these two - except what happened to their sister. Instead, she creates a clout of mystery and intrigue around Sophia and the town of Live Oak, leaving the reader to question what is the true story of the disappearance of eight young girls as well as Gretchen and Ansel's sister.
The story's conclusion is rife with action - making this a unisex read. This is not a story just for girls; it is a story for all readers of all ages.
Readers will feel satisfied long after the story is finished - maybe even question walking next to the woods for a wee bit of time. This is what makes Sweetly worth the read.

October 18, 2011

Swoon over Anna and the French Kiss

See, isn't she adorable?
I heard Stephanie Perkins speak at the Decatur Book Festival. I was at the panel to see Elizabeth Eulberg, but I enjoyed hearing Perkins as well. She was so adorable, and I was in love with her stockings.  

For this panel it seemed everyone was there to meet her, so I decided that as a future teen librarian it was important that I read her books. After all, it is my responsibility to know what's "hot," right? At least, that is always my justification when I abuse, I mean use, my husband's B&N employee discount. 

I am so glad that I took the time to see what all the fuss was about. The moment I finished the book I knew exactly which students would appreciate Perkins' storytelling.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

My thoughts:

"I wish for the thing that is best for me."

It is moments like the one above that make me fall in love with this book. To say that Perkins is talented at writing about first true love is an understatement. She captures the feelings, the doubts, the fears with such care and consideration that readers will long feel satisfied, even after they have placed the novel on their shelves.

Anna is a solid character. While I found myself frustrated with her throughout, it was also important to remember that she was a senior in high school. I teach juniors and seniors, and thus have a front row seat to their thoughts, feelings, rationales. Perkins is dead on with all of those in this novel.

Her character development is strong - providing not only a main protagonist but also a cast of supporting characters that lead Anna on her journey of self-discovery and of first love. Etienne St. Clair develops as the perfect foil for Anna. Meredith, Rashmi, and Josh round out the friendship circle, providing readers with a tight nit group of friends to accept Anna into her new school and her new life in Paris, if only for a year. And of course this cannot be a true high school novel without the queen bee "mean girl" Amanda. Her character made me wonder how many Perkins encountered in high school because she was spot on with her. Actually, she was spot on with all of her characters.

The pacing of the novel is also nicely done. Sometimes in novels like this readers are thrust into elements that are not necessary for moving the plot (or the characters) forward. This was not the case with this novel. Every element was working towards the novel's conclusion. 

While there were elements that were predictable, it was still enjoyable. To say that I loved every page is an understatement, and Perkins has won me as a loyal reader of her work. It is refreshing to pick up a novel and know that no matter what,  I will have warm fuzzies at the end.

I wonder how many teens this book will inspire to look into attending school in Paris so they too can not only find themselves but also find true love?

Why should you read this book? 

The answer is simple - this is what love is about. This is how love should be. This is what should have happened to me while I was at boarding school in Paris. Okay, maybe that part is not true, but the rest is. You should read this book because it is a great story with a hot male character. No seriously, where was St. Clair when I was in high school? Guys were never that hot. They were too busy being guys. Not that St. Clair isn't a guy; he is. He is just a hot one. An "out of my league" sort of guy. Okay, he's not even real. I get it; he is a character. But he is still hot. Did I mention you should read this book because there is a hot guy in it? Swoon!

On a side note: I used this novel as a reward for completing tasks from my "to do" list. I am on fall break, but there are still things I need to accomplish. I was so grateful to finish today's task because I sat in my big, comfy chair at 11 AM and did not get up until I finished this book at 4:30 - I enjoyed it that much. So if you feel as if you just do not have time to read this book (or any book), use chapters as rewards. That is what I did, and it worked wonderfully. I ended up finishing my tasks faster because I was ready to jump back into Anna's world.

October 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (13)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It is a way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

This week two of my books are repeats because I received them as ARCs.  

Won from Nayu's Reading Corner - thanks Jessica:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater - excited to read this one. It has been getting a lot of positive buzz on other blogs.

Purchased from B&N:

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick - I love Nora and Patch and cannot wait to see where the author takes us. I've read nothing but positive reviews on this book, but of course I have because the series is awesomesauce!

Received as an ARC: 

Wildwood by Colin Meloy - I purchased an autographed copy at the Decatur Book Festival, but then I received an ARC. Look for a giveaway on this soon.

Eve by Anna Carey - I downloaded this from Netgalley and was in the middle of reading it when I received the ARC. So, I put down the digital copy and went for the printed one.

  That's what's in my mailbox this week - what's in yours? Have you read any of the above?

Happy reading to you all!

Note: The two ARCs I received were from the local B&N store where my husband is an employee.

Friendship, Family, and Espionage

Summary (from Goodreads):

It's 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows - a fascinating boy who's not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary's sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies - Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.

Together with Ian Schoenherr's breathtaking illustrations, this is a truly stunning package from cover to cover. 

My thoughts: 

Loved every moment of this novel. The plot was inventive, and the reader was magnificent.

Fourteen-year-old Janie and her parents move from L.A. to London in 1952 to escape questions of communism. In London her parents will write for a new Robin Hood series, and Janie will continue being fourteen - just with a new school and new friends.

Instead, Janie becomes friends with Benjamin Burrows whose only dream in life is to become a spy. He has already picked out his first suspected Russian "spy" to watch, and soon Janie and Benjamin are caught up in more than either ever bargained for.

Benjamin's father is an apothecary and expects his son to follow in his footsteps, but Benjamin wants more out of life than selling hot water bottles. Little does he know who his father really is nor why following in his footsteps could lead him to his real future as a spy.

The heart of this story lies with the friendship formed between Janie and Benjamin. At first it seems that readers will follow Janie, but soon it becomes apparent that Benjamin is an equally important piece of this plot's puzzle.

The strength lies with the fast-moving plot. The author does not hold back, thrusting readers into an international tale of friendship, family, and espionage.

The character development is spot on with interesting twists and turns throughout. Even the novel's conclusion is tightly woven together and will leave readers satisfied. That was my one true fear: how would this end and leave me satisfied? Meloy accomplished just that, and The Apothecary is going to have a strong hold on childrens literature for years to come.

I did this as an audio, and the reader was fantastic. She enhanced my experience with the characters and with the plot, creating imagery that I would have been robbed had I read it in print. With that said, I have read the print version contains beautiful illustrations, and I plan to check them out to see if the illustrator captured on paper what I captured in my mind.

October 15, 2011

Eve, the savior of humanity?

Title and author: Eve By Anna Carey
Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen
ISBN: 9780062048509
Source: NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):
Sixteen years after a deadly virus wiped out most of Earth’s population, the world is a perilous place. Eighteen-year-old Eve has never been beyond the heavily guarded perimeter of her school, where she and two hundred other orphaned girls have been promised a future as the teachers and artists of the New America. But the night before graduation, Eve learns the shocking truth about her school’s real purpose—and the horrifying fate that awaits her. 

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Arden, her former rival from school, and Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust . . . and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life. 

In this epic new series, Anna Carey imagines a future that is both beautiful and terrifying. Readers will revel in Eve’s timeless story of forbidden love and extraordinary adventure.

My Thoughts: 
An interesting read, Eve brings to light a future that is quite possible, and only a few years away. The idea of a plague wiping out the population is what makes this story terrifying.

Eve is thrust into a life she has never known. While she may be the Valedictorian, she has not acquired the knowledge necessary for survival in the wild. That is, until she meets Caleb. Their relationship shows her that she is tough, that she is capable, and that she is ready to take on whatever the wild may bring.

I found the ending quite a surprise and yet not at the same time. At the novel’s conclusion I had flashbacks to certain parts of the novel that I realized were foreshadowing what was to come, and this made me smile. I almost felt “tricked” because as an English teacher I should have honed in on it; instead, I found myself dismissing those tidbits of information.

As a whole I enjoyed the novel. The author does a great job developing the plot at Eve’s level, not the reader’s. The novel lulled in places for me because I was ready for more action, but Eve was not. This was an interesting tactic because many contemporary dystopian novels are all about the action, but this is not. This is very much character-driven in a different way than the others. Think a milder version of The Hunger Games. While I found HG full of action, it too was character-driven. For me, this makes Eve a strong contender in the dystopian genre.

I don’t know what the author has planned in the second novel, but let me just say that I am ready to see where she takes us next.
Eve is currently available at your local bookstore. Definitely check it out!

P.S. When you finish the novel, look back at the cover carefully. It will come full circle.

Think John Hughes on paper

Title and author: Ditched: A Love Story By Robin Mellom
Date: January 10, 2012
ISBN: 9781423143383
Source: NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):
High school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her.

Ian, who always passed her the baseball bat handle first.

Ian, who knew exactly when she needed red licorice.

Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom. 

And then ditched her.

Now, as the sun rises over her small town, and with only the help of some opinionated ladies at the 7-Eleven, Justina must piece together — stain by stain on her thrift-store dress — exactly how she ended up dateless. A three-legged Chihuahua was involved. Along with a demolition derby-ready Cadillac. And there was that incident at the tattoo parlor. Plus the flying leap from Brian Sontag's moving car...

But to get the whole story, Justina will have to face the boy who ditched her. And discover if losing out at prom can ultimately lead to true love.

Filled with humor, charm, and romance, Ditched: A Love Story by debut novelist Robin Mellom will have readers dreaming of love on their own prom nights.

My Thoughts:   
This is one of my favorite reads of this year. It is clever, it is fun, and it is a stroll down memory lane. Think Pretty in Pink meets The Hangover meets Say Anything. This novel is a true page turner. Readers will find themselves captivated by the events as well as a bit grateful that their own prom nights did not end up like this one. Or did it? 

Justina is a delightful character. She wants one thing – to be herself. Okay, she wants more than that. A side of Ian would be lovely, but when she wakes in a ditch and begins to piece together the pieces of prom night, Ian may no longer be an option. 

Ditched contains a cast of likable characters. From Ian to the ladies in the convenience store and even the characters readers are meant to despise will find a place in your heart because all of them fill a void in the night, a void in the reader’s mind, a void that will be pieced together page by page.

The strength in this novel lies with the plot development. Mellom is skillful in her weaving of this story. The pacing is lovely, and it did not lull in a single spot. All moments revealed in the novel were a necessity for the satisfying conclusion to this modern brat-pack tale. 

Moments of triumph, of heartache, of laughter, of reminiscence are packaged between the pages. The most valuable lesson readers will walk away with at the novel’s end? Never listen to your mom when it comes to color coordinating for prom.

A great, wholesome read for teens and lovers of YA, Ditched must be added to your “I must read this” pile. It is worth every single page.

October 13, 2011

A Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon - YES!

It seems like I have spent the last nine weeks of my plan playing catch up. I have not been able to read as much as I would like, and I've been so tired that a nap sounds better than even dessert. I know! The horror of choosing a nap over eating a dessert, but that is how bone tired I have been.

I am now less than 24 hours from starting fall break. Last year I traveled for nine days during fall break AND I was in Grad school, so it was not really a break. This year - my hubby and my little man will be at work/school and it will be just me...me and my books. YES! So, I have decided to join the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon. Why? Because I love books, because I love all things witchy and Halloweeny, and because I love books. 

I've never done a Read-a-Thon before, so I hope this goes well. Bring on the books! I am loaded with so many I have purchased/received that have been longing for my eyes. I cannot wait.

Stay tuned as I chronicle my reading adventures via Twitter: #WWReadathon

October 1, 2011

Mean Girls invade 7th grade

Title and author: Life Was Cool until You Got Popular by Sarah Billington
Date: Sept. 1, 2011
ISBN: Kindle Edition
Source: Sarah Billington

Summary (from Goodreads):
Thirteen year old Kaley’s best friend Jules is an alien clone. That has to be it. Because Jules wouldn’t dress like that or act like that…and she definitely wouldn’t be friends with Meg-a-bitch. 

Kaley can't wait to start at her new school with her best friend Jules. Jules was away in Europe all summer (worst summer of Kaley's life!) But it's cool, now school is starting and everything is going to be awesome. However as the school bus pulls up on that first day, Kaley barely recognizes the silky hair and glossy lips as Jules gets off with the cool kids and with their arch-nemesis Meg, the popular girl (God only knows why) who made Kaley and Jules's lives miserable in elementary school. In Europe, Meg had somehow won over Kaley's best friend and Kaley finds herself frozen out.   

Life Was Cool Until You Got Popular is a first person MG told through Kaley’s eyes, chronicling the initial pain and incomprehension of what happened to destroy their friendship. But that doesn't last long. Kaley decides that underneath the bleached blond clone with the personality transplant, Jules is still in there. Somewhere. And she is going to get her best friend back! 

My Thoughts:   
Kaley is a delightful heroine in this novel. From the start she is loveable as a character, and the reader will find his/herself rooting for her…and at times for Jules as well.

The author takes care with the angst of starting anew: new school, new friends, new interests, etc. This is a natural part of process called “growing up,” and this realistic portrayal is what will delight readers the most.

The heart of this novel revolves around Kaley trying to win her friend back. At times I found myself becoming frustrated with her, wanting her to just move on to better things, and better friends. After all, if Jules was truly her friend, would she be so hateful to Kaley, or most importantly, allow others to be? (Think Mean Girls times five).

Billington has created the ultimate monster in the character Meg. It makes me wonder if she herself had to contend with such a character in middle school. After all, haven’t we all encountered the one person in school whose sole purpose was to make our daily school lives a living nightmare? I loathed Meg. I loathed everything about her character. In her, the author truly captures a realistic side to the true angst of growing up female.

Since the author has provided us with such a wretch in Meg, she also offers up delightful characters, creating a nice juxtaposition in those who come into Kaley's life. These characters help bring Kaley full circle as a character, and they provide the strength that helps with the pacing of the novel. My personal favorite is Travis, and that is all I will write about him. BUT, I do hope Billington writes a follow-up because I really want to read more about him. 

And did I mention the cat fights? No? Ah, well...they are good and funny and clever. This part of the plot was reminiscent of The Parent Trap camp scenes at the start of the film.

While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I do have a single complaint. It’s a small one, I promise. The book was sprinkled quite lightly with the use of profane words. I do not mind it in literature. I do not fear language at all. As a matter of fact, I enjoy using those words myself. But it bothered me in this particular novel because it seemed so out of place in where it appeared. There was only one character that truly pulled it off for me—Jamie. But when it was used by another character, it seemed contrived. Please don’t let this scare you off from reading the book. It is in there ever so lightly that I would have missed it, but Jamie’s phrase is so comical that it actually enhanced him as a comic relief to the realistic topic at hand. 

Like realistic fiction before, Life Was Cool until You Got Popular will strike a chord with readers of all ages, not just the tweens. For readers of Naylor’s Alice books, Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson books, or Myracle’s The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life, they too will enjoy this novel.