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48 hour book challenge! June 4, 2010

Posted by Katie in community.
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It’s about that time again. I am so excited to be participating again in MotherReader’s 48-Hour Book Challenge! This was my kick-off event in the book blogging community, and it is still one of my favorite events.

Last time, I didn’t post a starting line post — this time I am playing by the rules!

I have a general plan for reading:

– Read my two judging books for Nerds Heart YA.
– Tackle some ARCs from BEA. (Yes, I will also have a BEA post up when I find my camera cord…)
– Read a galley I got from a publisher from *before* BEA.

Other than that, I have no hard plans. I’m such a mood reader that I can’t plan out my reading ahead of time! That being said, I probably will read a lot of ARC sequels that I got so that I can pass them on to my teens in a timely manner. (And, you know, before the book is out.)

And my writing goal is to write reviews for every book I complete during the challenge so that I don’t get increasing behind in reviewing!

(I’ll be using Bloggiesta next weekend to catch up on all my reviews from before 48-Hour Book Challenge.)

I plan on reading from 9:00 p.m. CDT tonight (Friday) to 9:00 p.m. CDT Sunday.

Wish me luck, all! And let me know if you’re participating so I can cheer you on as well!

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review: “beastly” June 26, 2009

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beastly

Beastly by Alex Flinn.
Harper Teen // Paperback // 336 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Kyle Kingsbury pissed off the wrong girl. Well, she’s not really a girl — Kendra is a witch. And she’s now turned him into a beast. Kyle only has two years to find the girl who will love him as he is. Without his friends or his family, Kyle begins to lose hope. That is, until he sees a girl in the mirror Kendra gave him. Can she be the girl to set him free?

I thought this book was clever, and a really good read. Of course, I knew the story of “Beauty and the Beast,” but I wasn’t concerned about the ending of the story. This book was all about getting through the journey and to the ending. Which is why I think some of my teens didn’t enjoy it as much as other teen book club books. A lot of my teens read for the story, and they already knew how this one was going to work out thanks to Disney.

I, on the other hand, love re-tellings of fairy tales. I’ve already read Flinn’s follow-up “A Kiss In Time,” and I have to say if you’re going to pick one to read, pick “Beastly.” The narrator, Kyle, got under my skin so quickly that I was ever feeling sorry for him before he had turned into the beast.

A very interesting part of the novel were the chat sequences between Kyle and other fairy tale characters. I loved this aspect and I know other readers were on the fence about it. It was a good hook for today’s text/chat heavy teens and I think it served as a good vehicle to move the story along. I could see Flinn writing the other characters’ stories one day, too.

And finally, no review of “Beastly” can skip mentioning the fact that the movie has just started casting. I had a hard time picturing Vanessa Hudgens as Linda Owens, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the movie will be done right. After all, Flinn has already reviewed the screenplay and given it the thumbs up.

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Alex Flinn

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review: “keeping the moon” June 24, 2009

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keepingthemoon

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen.
Speak // Paperback // 240 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

While Colie’s fitness guru mother is out touring Europe, Colie is sent to live with her eccentric Aunt Mira. Aunt Mira is a pack rat, an artist, and definitely does not follow her sister’s fitness plans. Colie feels out of place in her new surroundings…that is, until she stumbles onto the Last Chance Diner. Finding a job and possible friends, Colie begins to reevaluate her life and exactly what it means to be beautiful and happy.

Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors ever. In fact, when she was looking for an assistant a few years back, I considered applying and picking up my life to move cross-country if I got the job. (I didn’t. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my teens. Instead, I just book-talk her books as often as I can!) So, I have to clarify that this review may be a bit biased.

However, I loved this book. And it was a perfect primer for “Along for the Ride,” Dessen’s latest release, but I’ll go into more details about that when I review “Along for the Ride.” But compared to the more recent Dessen books, it doesn’t stand up to “The Truth About Forever” or “Just Listen.”

Colie is a pretty angry narrator, with good reason. She has never fit for a variety of reasons: body image, her mistaken reputation, and her lack of confidence. I easily related to her character and was so pleased when she began to come out of her shell thanks to Morgan and Isabel.

Dessen’s books all take place in Lakeview/Colby, and many of the characters cross over from one book to another. I love this aspect of the books and spend a lot of my time re-reading the books to catch new crossovers, even though there is a fairly thorough Wikipedia article that outlines all the crossovers.

A great summer read and a book that many of my chick lit readers will eagerly scoop up.

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Sarah Dessen

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review: “nobody’s prize” June 23, 2009

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nobodysprize

Nobody’s Prize by Esther Friesner.
Random House // Paperback // 336 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Helen of Sparta is back in this sequel to “Nobody’s Princess.” Her brothers are all set on leaving her behind as they set off to find the Golden Fleece, but Helen isn’t about to let them get away with that. She disguises herself as a boy, with the help of her friend Milo, and climbs aboard the vessel, ducking her brothers the whole way. A whole slew of problems await Helen during and after the voyage on the Argo!

Okay, first of all, I’ve got to say that I don’t necessarily believe that Helen of Troy could possibly hide out as a boy! You’ve got to be kidding me. And the second thing that I’ve got to admit is that I had a really hard time getting into this story and staying into it. I don’t know if it’s because it was after a long weekend of reading, but I wound up reading two books between starting and finishing this one. I had to keep pausing and read one of the other books.

It felt like a lot of the action in this book was smashed in and many of the subplots and twists didn’t get the screen time that I wanted them to. I really believe that this could have easily been a trilogy instead of a pair of books. I was also disappointed that this book didn’t take us all the way up to Helen becoming Helen of Troy. I felt that it ended abruptly and I wanted to see the story brought to the point where history takes over.

However, one of the strengths of this series is that was well researched and developed. I loved that Friesner put a historic note at the end of each of these novels. That is the way historical fiction should be treated.

I would pick up a third Helen book if it were published, but I don’t think I would buy it.

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Esther Friesner

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review: “nobody’s princess” June 22, 2009

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nobodysprincess

Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner.
Random House // Paperback // 336 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Everyone knows the story of Helen of Troy. But no one knows the story of Helen of Sparta, the girl who becomes the face that launched a thousand ships. Friesner draws from classic texts and historical events to weave a tale about the childhood of Helen and her family. Helen is the heir to the throne of Sparta, but she wants to be anything but a princess. She longs to join her brothers and learn to fight. When her wish comes true, Helen packs up with her brothers and set out for an adventure of her own.

This book came highly recommended to me from a few friends and several other YA authors. I’m not a big historical fiction reader, but I’m trying my best to read in genres that I’m not as familiar with this year. I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I really enjoyed the family aspects of the book and parts of it definitely had echoes of Tamora Pierce novels for me.

I thought Helen was spunky and a great narrator. I don’t think I would have stuck around for the entire story if we had had a different narrator. Helen’s determination to change her position really brought me into the story and kept me there. Other characters, however, wound up falling flat for me. I didn’t care about anyone other than Helen and Milo, the servant boy that Helen rescues.

The Greek aspects of the story also were a great draw to me. (Especially after finishing the Percy Jackson series, I was glad to hear about some of my favorite Greek gods and goddesses!) I would pass this book along to readers of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books gladly, but I won’t find many readers of this book in my library.

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Esther Friesner

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review: “love the way you love” June 22, 2009

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lovethewayyoulove

Love The Way You Love by Jamie S. Rich & Marc Ellerby.
Vol 1.: Oni Press // Paperback // 200 pages.
Vol 2.: Oni Press // Paperback // 200 pages.
Reviewed from library copies.

Back after a much needed break, Tristan and his band are trying to take off and they manage to catch the eye of a record label agent, Marcus. But Tristan has got his mind on the mysterious girl from the airport who shows up again at the show. The only problem is that Isobel’s engaged to Marcus. A chance meeting, star-crossed lovers, and a killer soundtrack…can Tristan and Isobel manage to be together?

I used to read a lot more graphic novels when I was in college, but fell out of the practice as of late. I’ve only read a few stand-alones in the past two years, but they’ve been among some of my favorite books. This series was originally published in six short volumes and has been compiled in these two volumes (original volumes 1-3 in Side A, “Songs of Faith” and original volumes 4-6 in Side B, “Songs of Devotion”).

I really liked this set of graphic novels! This largely an updated version of the Tristan and Isolde legend, which is what drew me to them because of my classic literature background. A lot of originality, such as the songs listed in the panels — which I wish I had been able to listen to while reading. The drawings aren’t like your typical manga style, more reminiscent of Futurama and the Simpsons. This actually endeared the characters to me; making them seem all the more flawed.

Most of the supporting characters had storylines and face-time of their own and I really liked that decision. Anyone who knows the story of Tristan and Isolde will know the ending before it happens. However, I was pleased with the treatment of the ending in these novels.

A great, quick two volume-er. I would definitely give this to teens who claim they “aren’t into graphic novels.” I think it would quickly change their minds!

Amazon — Vol. 1
Amazon — Vol. 2
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Jamie S. Rich
Marc Ellerby

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review: “twenty boy summer” June 19, 2009

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Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.
Little, Brown // Hardcover // 304 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Three friends, plenty of room for secrets. Anna and Frankie are best friends, Frankie and Matt are brother and sister, Anna and Matt are secretly seeing each other. That is, until Matt dies in a car accident. Anna is left holding their secret inside a year later when she and Frankie begin a quest to have the absolute best summer ever by hanging out with twenty boys over twenty days. But can Anna find closure from her relationship with Matt?

I was worried at first that this novel would only wind up being a tear-jerker. Of course parts of the book are sad, but not in a Lurlene McDaniel kind of way. I found myself tearing up more at the writing and details of the characters’ lives. Several stand-out scenes remain etched in memory; in particular a passage about Matt and how he always left pennies on the ground for someone else to have some luck.

Anna and Frankie’s friendship really sold me on the novel. I really appreciated the almost sister-like relationship. Additionally, I thought that Frankie’s parents got a few nice spotlights and I really wanted to see more of Aunt Jayne, to delve into her life. (I recognize that most teenagers probably don’t want to read about the character’s parents though!)

The cover of this book fits in perfectly with the story and with the many themes within the story. This is a classic example of a cover selling the book and still selling the story at the same time. (I really want a sea glass necklace now!)

This is a stunning debut novel. Ockler writes with such a convincing voice that every emotion and situation Anna finds herself in is real and believable. Truly a layered three-dimensional work that teens will be able to relate to and enjoy.

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Sarah Ockler

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review: “cathy’s ring” June 18, 2009

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cathysring

Cathy’s Ring by Sean Stewart.
Running Press Kids // Hardcover // 144 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

In the final book of the Cathy series, Cathy’s life is once again in shambles. Cathy thinks the only way to save all of her friends and family is to run away and start her life over with Jewel’s brother Denny. Can her friends rally around her and convince Cathy that she really belongs at home with them?

First of all, do not open the evidence packet in this volume before you finish reading the book. It will spell out the ending to you immediately and you will regret it! Needlessly to say, that’s what happened to me.

This last volume was a disappointment for me. Cathy’s decision to run bothered me, her friends convincing her to stay (with a heavy handed “friendship saves all” moral attached) bothered me, and the end result of the villain, Ancestor Lu, bothered me. The whole ending, in fact, brought back echoes of “Breaking Dawn” for me — no one died, but everything was solved. Additionally, the title of the book is obvious — their relationship ends with a ring. And this could send me on a rant about YA fiction pushing marriage and rushing into long-term relationships when the characters are still teenagers, but instead I’ll refrain.

The major problem with this book is that there is no mystery. All the evidence has already been uncovered and the serum is the solution. There is a minor twist with Victor, but anyone who had been paying attention should have been able to guess what happened before it’s revealed to Cathy.

Cathy, for all her wit and humor, once again fails to be the heroine. I think that’s an interesting way to go about writing a mystery series. The problem is that her friends saving her comes with the moral attached — friendship saves. I wanted a bit more of a balance between Cathy needing her friends and her friends needing her. Luckily, there was one lovely moment at the end between Cathy and Emma that saved this book from bombing for me. It was always the relationship between Cathy and Emma that kept me reading and I was so glad I stuck it out.

I’d definitely recommend the series to teens, but I don’t think I’d be picking up another one, unless it concentrated on the immortals.

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Sean Stewart

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review: “cathy’s key” June 16, 2009

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cathyskey

Cathy’s Key by Sean Stewart.
Running Press Kids // Hardcover // 240 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Cathy’s back in the second installment in this bestselling series! Even with the amount of secrets that Cathy uncovered in the first book, she’s still got a lot to learn about the world of immortals and her boyfriend, Victor. In order to find out more about the immortals, Cathy sets out for St. Louis only to bring back more trouble than she thought — Jewel, a thief from the bus follows Cathy all the way back to San Francisco.

The mystery only becomes more entangled during this book. I really enjoyed the integration of the clues in “Cathy’s Book”, but I was saddened that the library copy of “Cathy’s Key” I was reading had the evidence removed or stolen. I wasn’t lost during the story, luckily, but it frustrated me nonetheless that I couldn’t look at the evidence.

I didn’t have any problems slipping into the second book and that’s one of the things I like most about series — the characters you care about are already back for a second round. The series has definitely found its niche and the supernatural/mystery/romance is more solid this go around.

The worst part of the whole book, in my opinion, was Jewel. I didn’t like her one bit and I thought that the addition of her character didn’t add to the plot except for causing more complications in Cathy’s life. Furthermore, I didn’t like the seemingly unconnected subplot of identity theft. Jewel didn’t gain anything by stealing Cathy’s identity other than messing with Victor. Cathy really didn’t lose anything. It felt like a waste of time.

I wished that we had spent more time on learning the back stories of the immortals. That’s what I’m really interested in learning more about. My favorite part about this book though, was definitely the stories about Cathy’s jobs. As someone who has held more than a few difficult jobs (college dish washer, DMV clerk), Cathy’s job failures had me in stitches remembering my own bad experiences. The job scenes were written with such humor that I think anyone could appreciate them.

Had to run out and get the third (and final) book, “Cathy’s Ring” immediately after I finished this one. I thought it definitely was on par (and perhaps better) than “Cathy’s Book.”

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Sean Stewart

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review: “cathy’s book” June 15, 2009

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cathysbook

Cathy’s Book by Sean Stewart.
Running Press Kids // Paperback // 176 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Cathy Vickers woke up with a weird bite mark on her arm and that’s just the least of her problems when her older boyfriend, Victor, dumps her without a reason at the beginning of this novel. Cathy and her best friend, Emma, set out to find exactly why Victor has suddenly disappeared. But there’s much more to Victor than meets the eye…as Cathy and Emma soon find out.

My teens have been buzzing about this series for a good long time now and it’s very easy to see how these books are appealing to them. Great friendships, an almost manga-like style of doodlings, and of course, the supernatural. A lot of people thought the supernatural was a twist and I definitely agree — if I hadn’t read some reviews of the book prior to reading it, I would have felt snowballed about the sudden appearance of Victor’s past. Most of the teen readers at my library, however, didn’t seem to mind the snowball. I think that’s part of the book’s appeal for them.

The mystery was engaging, and I wish the interactive sites were still up so I could poke around them. (Does anyone know why the sites went down? I’ve tried loading them on three different days, but no such luck.) The stand-out part of this book for me was the relationship between Cathy and Emma though. I thought the portrayal of their friendship was realistic and an ever better relationship than Cathy and Victor.

The set-up for Victor definitely had me thinking vampire and I was uber-impressed that it was a different kind of immortal. I wish they had taken more time to explain the immortals. I would have dug that.

I’d actually give this book to more manga fans than “Twilight” fans. Ties with the gaming communities and the incredible artwork throughout the book will be a sell with them, especially if they’re looking to branch out into fiction.

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Sean Stewart

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