May 27, 2012

Review: Between the Lines

I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan. When I learned she was going to step into the world of YA, there were certain expectations I had – a controversial topic, a court case, tears. This is not what happened with her new novel, written with her daughter, Samantha Van Leer, and it was a pleasant (and refreshing) surprise.  

My husband works for B&N and was able to secure an ARC for me - GO HUBBY!

Summary (from book jacket):

What happens when happily ever after…isn’t?

Delilah hates school as much as she loves books—one book in particular. In fact if anyone knew how many times she has read and reread the sweet little fairy tale she found in the library, especially her cooler classmates, she’d be sent into social Siberia…forever.

To Delilah, though, this fairy tale is more than just words on the page. Sure, there’s a handsome (well, okay, incredibly handsome) prince, and a castle, and an evil villain, but it feels as if there’s something deeper going on. And one day, Delilah finds out there is.

Turns out, this Prince Charming is real, and a certain fifteen-year-old loner has caught his eye. But they’re from two different worlds, and how can it ever possibly work?

My thoughts:

First, let me say that this is such an interesting concept for a YA novel – what if the story continues after the cover of a book is closed? I am surprised that we have not seen this story told a lot because we see this idea with toys.

There are three different stories in this novel: Delilah’s, Prince Charming, and the fairy tale Between the Lines. These three wrapped together create an intriguing story about longing, friendship, and teen angst.

What I loved about the novel: the plot concept and the illustrations.

The plot concept is intriguing – what happens when we close the cover to books we read? Does the action stop, or are the characters merely actors playing their parts? This element of the novel was one of my favorites because it was interesting to see some of the characters feel they were living their parts more than their lives. It reminded me of actors like Daniel Day-Lewis who stay in character while shooting movies. It was especially amusing to read the interaction between Prince Charming and the villain and to learn that in the end, the characters are more like a family on a film set.

To make the novel even more appealing, Picoult and Van Leer sprinkle illustrations throughout. I think this will appeal to tween and teen readers. My students especially discuss how much they love when writers include those illustrations. This is where Picoult and Van Leer are really playing to the audience.

What I struggled with while reading this novel: the changing writer’s voice.

With that said, let me say that writing a novel with her daughter was an interesting idea. The storytelling is true Picoult-style with alternating points-of-view, but there were parts that I found difficult to read because the writer’s voice would change, sometimes in the middle of a paragraph. I found myself saying in my head, “This part is all Picoult,” and then a few paragraphs later, “This is all her daughter.”

There is a note in the front of this novel where Picoult discusses how she and her daughter wrote this novel together. If that note is in the final copy, be sure to read it. If you’ve never read one of her books, you more than likely will not notice the difference. It is slight, but it is still there.

Overall, tween readers will especially enjoy this novel because the concept and execution will appeal to them.

I recommend this novel to all YA readers because of the interesting concept, and really, who does not enjoy a good fairy tale once in a while?

Between the Lines is on sale June 26, 2012 – add it to your summer reads!

May 19, 2012

Fake, Outrageous, Cupcakes!

Okay, I know the title of this post is a little odd, but it fits perfectly with three great tween reads I've read over that last couple of weeks. Two of the novels are from a series and the other is a fun read.

I love tween novels, and I really love when I find a series that makes me feel good about life. 


Summary (from the book):

Now that she is settling into eighth grade, the class she used to envy, Alice McKinley is discovering that it isn’t all that exciting. But maybe it’s up to her to make this year as thrilling as she thought it would be. Out with the old, plain-Jane Alice, in with the new, stylish, creative Alice. She’s sick of being boring. It’s time to be outrageous!

But what if outrageous isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be? What if Alice finds herself in situations that are more embarrassing than they are wild and fun? Is Alice destined to be the same boring girl forever?

My Thoughts:

Another Alice book bites the dust. My goal is to read all of them before the end of the year, and as always, I adored this one as much as the others.

Alice is growing up, page-by-page, allowing readers to experience it with her. This is why I love these books. I feel as if I am Alice – as if I am the one experiencing all the love, friendship, and laughter.

In this latest installment Alice decides that she is just too plain, and she wants to be a bit different. It seems everyone has something that makes them special, and she is just plain Alice. So…she experiments with ways to make herself more interesting. My favorite moment is when she shows up to school with her green Mohawk – well, her sort of green Mohawk. She doesn’t shave her hair or anything. She just tries to create the spikes with her hair.

And do you know what I love about Alice as a character? That she is willing to take chances, even wearing a crazy Mohawk to school, and doesn’t really care what others think. She understands that the key to life is loving one’s self, but it is her road of discovering her own self that makes these books worth every page.

Summary (from the book):

Emma is not thrilled with always needing to rearrange her schedule to babysit her younger brother, Jake, after school. But it’s summer, and Emma is free…or so she thinks. Emma’s parents have broken the news that really threatens to push Emma over the edge: Emma and Jake are going to the same day camp together. And Emma will have to babysit Jake on the bus. Every day.

My Thoughts:

I highly recommend The Cupcake Diaries series to all tween readers. These books bring to life what real friendship is all about, even if it is through the making of cupcakes. I feel that these books also empower girls to remember that tween life is meant to be clean-cut, wholesome. Who wants to grow up too fast anyway?

I also love that each book focuses on an individual member of the Cupcake Club.

In the latest installment, the focus is on Emma. It’s summer and it’s time for day camp. But, does her brother Jake really have to go to the same one? Of course he does. And not only that, but Emma has to “babysit” him on the bus to camp each day. This alone is a trial of her patience, but she meets new friends, has a great time, and learns that sacrifice for family can never lead her down the wrong path—even if she would rather ride with her best friend to camp each day instead.

With typical “one for all and all for one” attitudes, the Cupcake Club comes together to make it all work—even when Emma doesn’t think she can take her brother anymore.

Summary (from the book):

A novelty mustache pits two seventh-grade friends against each other in a battle for the fate of the U.S.A.

The mustache in question is no cheap costume prop but the Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven, a lip tickler so dazzlingly convincing, it can turn whole towns of people into mindless yes-men. Twelve-year-old Casper Bengue borrows ten dollars from his friend Lenny Flem Jr. to buy the mustache. So when a mysterious—and very short—mustachioed man goes on a bank-robbing spree, then launches a well-financed bid for the presidency, it doesn’t take Lenny long to realize that his buddy is up to no good. Too bad almost everyone else is completely under Casper’s spell.

With the amazing Jodie O’Rodeo, teen cowgirl queen, at his side and dozens of hypnotized townsfolk on his trail, Lenny will try to stop Casper—aka Fako Mustacho—on his seemingly inexorable march to the White House.

My Thoughts:

Be prepared to laugh! No seriously, I mean it.

Angleberger does it again with this hilarious take on what happens when a seven-year-old has enough money to purchase a “man about town” suit and a “Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven” mustache.

The novel opens with Lenny Flem Jr.’s point of view, following him through the discovery that his best friend is actually a bank-robbing, governorship-stealing, president-wanting criminal mastermind…all because of a suit and mustache!

The narration is broken into two parts: Lenny and Jodie O’Rodeo. I prefer Lenny’s narration, and I felt as if Jodie’s took away from the overall novel. But, the chapter titles are clever, the chapter lengths are appropriate, and the overall effect = belly laughs.

While there are parts that will make adult readers go “As if…”, young readers will be delighted with the wit and charm of this novel.

This is a fast read, and it is appropriate for both male and female readers. 

Review: Between, a Haunting Ghost Tale

The first thing that caught my attention with this book is the combination of book jacket and title font. I picked it up at the bookstore, read the jacket, and then read the first chapter. I was hooked! I knew this was going to be right up my reading ally, and I was right.

Summary (from jacket):

Elizabeth Valchar—pretty, popular, and perfect—wakes up the morning after her eighteenth birthday party on her family’s yacht, where she’d been celebrating with her five closest friends. A persistent thumping noise has roused her. When she goes to investigate, what she discovers will change everything she thought she knew about her past, her future, and what lies in between.

As Liz begins to unravel the circumstances surrounding her birthday night, she finds that no one, least of all Liz herself, was perfect—or innocent. And that some memories never stop following you, no matter how hard you run.

From the very first chapter, Jessica Warman launches readers into a roller-coaster ride of a mystery, one that is also a heartbreaking character study, a tender romance, and ultimately a hopeful tale of redemption, love, and letting go.

My Thoughts:

An intriguing “ghost” mystery is what this YA novel truly is. It is difficult to review this novel without ruining plot points, so I will tiptoe lightly.

I loved this book!

I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I loved Liz. By the novel’s end I was praying that the circumstances would change because I was so vested in her as a character.

Here’s what I loved: the weaving of character development and plot development sprinkled with mystery throughout.

The character and plot development are weaved so tightly in this novel. A lot of YA novels tend to be either character-driven or plot-driven. For me, this novel brought the two together like a perfect marriage. One would not have succeeded without the other, period.

The characters themselves create the mystery haunting these pages (and Liz), and it not just one mystery that is in need of solving—but two.

Readers will find themselves caught up in Liz’s world of popularity, a world that even Liz will discover is not what she thought it was.

I recommend this novel to all lovers of YA, but especially to lovers of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. This novel has the same creep-factor without the side of crazy.

May 6, 2012

In My Mailbox (23)

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.

I am excited about several reads I've added to my mound. As a matter of fact, right now my mound is so overwhelming that I'm not too sure if I'll be able to read all of them...summer break, where are you?!

Purchased from Used Bookstore:
  • Carrie (King) - this copy is from 1974! The author photo of King is priceless
  • Wench (Perkins-Valdez) - so anxious to read this
  • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Howe) - have an ARC and wanted to add a finished copy to my library

Purchased from B&N:
  • Just Grace and the Terrible TuTu (Harper) - I love this children's series
  • Cupcake Diaries: Emma All Stirred Up (Simon) - book 7; keep them coming
  • Falling In (Dowell) - a little iffy about this one, but it looks cute
  • Summer of the Gypsy Moths (Packer) - love the Clementine books and decided to give this a try
  • Cinder (Meyer) - our latest pick for the YA Teacher Reader bookclub
  • Insurgent (Roth) - do I really need to tell you why I bought this (awesomeness on paper)

Well, that's it for this week. Do you have any books you recommend for me to add to my mound of reads?

Happy Reading!