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review: “everlasting” July 13, 2010

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Everlasting by Angie Frazier.
Scholastic Press // ARC // 336 pages.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours.

Camille Rowen has always been a shipman’s daughter, sailing with her father on his ships. But in 1855, a woman’s place is not on a ship — it’s with a husband and Camille is engaged. Allowing his daughter one last voyage before her wedding, Camille sets off towards Australia. But what awaits Camille is not what it seems – beyond her sights there are secrets, a mysterious curse, despair, and a different life than she ever imagined.

I don’t really read a lot of historical fiction, but I was willing to give this one a go when I heard that it had paranormal elements in the story. Largely, I would say that this is adventure-romance even more so than historical or paranormal though.

Camille was a narrator struggling between duty and what she really wanted. I think a lot of teens can relate to that struggle and will be able to identify with the narrator. As an adult, I thought that the answer to Camille’s struggle was a little obvious and there were times that I just wanted to shake the girl. But – I did keep in mind that Camille wasn’t a modern girl and that she had more social implications to address than a girl today would have.

My biggest issue with the book was that I didn’t feel enough tension throughout the plotline. I was interested enough to keep reading, but I expected to feel worried for the character’s safety, especially after Frazier shows us (through a character’s death) that her world is dangerous and isn’t safe. But I didn’t feel like Camille or her companions were really facing their deaths.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. I know this will work well with younger teens and tweens – I can imagine them re-reading this several times. I know I would have back in the day!

Amazon
IndieBound
SWAN catalog
Angie Frazier

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review: “scones and sensibility” March 28, 2010

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Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland.
EgmontUSA // Hardcover // 320 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Polly Madessa has fallen in love — with the works of Jane Austen and especially of “Pride and Prejudice.” After being inspired by the likes of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, she sets out her summer speaking as her idols did, determined to find romance in everyday life. When Polly struggles to find what she’s looking for, she decides to create it by playing matchmaker for her older sister, her best friend’s father, and the local owner of a kite store. Farce and comedy ensue as Polly tries to make the perfect couples she read in books.

This was a very cute novel. At first, Polly’s use of archaic language grated on my nerves, but I was soon smiling at the charm of the novel. It reminded me very much of the style of books I read as a tween (Anne of Green Gables, Betsy-Tacy, Little Women), but with a modern twist.

The romance and couples were obvious to me, and I knew exactly where things were going to fall apart. But I was happy to accompany Polly on her journey as she learned that her matchmaking wasn’t as thought out as she had planned.

I was surprised that Polly’s family and friends didn’t give her a harder time about her language and her behavior. Especially during one incident that actually has the police getting involved because Polly wrongly assumes that someone is unattached when in fact they are in a relationship.

What I struggle with is who to sell this novel to. My tweens are very young, and I think the ones that would make age-wise to Polly would have difficulties with the language that she speaks in. This is definitely a book that has a very tight niche, and it might be hard to sell it to a tween.

On the other hand, it is quite enjoyable and I think it might work well as a mother-daughter book club read. I am definitely looking forward to what the author will write next.

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Lindsay Eland

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review: “splendor” March 5, 2010

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Splendor by Anna Godbersen.
Harper Collins // Hardcover // 400 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

[There will be spoilers for the first three Luxe books.]

Elizabeth, Diana, Penelope, and Lina are back for a fourth installment of The Luxe series. Elizabeth, newly wed, prepares for her child’s birth; Diana goes after Henry; Penelope is stuck in a loveless marriage; and Lina is independently wealthy and finally a part of Manhattan society. Four girls with very different goals will chase their dreams and try to find true happiness.

I am not a big historical fiction reader, but I absolutely love The Luxe series! It’s got just enough history mixed in with society drama — these books remain some of my favorites.

Without giving anything away, the conclusion of this book and series was not the happy ending that I wanted for all of the girls. At first I was angry that one girl didn’t get the ending that I wanted for her, but after having some time to cool off I realize that this ending was so fitting for the series. Things aren’t always a happy ending — romance isn’t always a happy ending!

Having been with these characters for the past three books, I only want to comment that each of the girls remained in character for me. I though each of their actions (and subsequent consequences/reactions from surroundings) were really fitting.

I think the hardest thing for me is knowing that the series is over. I still feel a bit of melancholy each time I think about it. However, I *just* found out from Sarah at GreenBeanTeenQueen that Godbersen has a new series coming out about girls in the 1920s. I squealed when I found that one out!

I’d love to comment more about the very detailed endings of the book, but I think I shall have to save that for another post at another time.

But if you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it!

Amazon
SWAN catalog
The Luxe Official Site

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review: “bloom” March 2, 2010

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Bloom by Elizabeth Scott.
Simon Pulse // Paperback // 240 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Lauren’s got a great life — super talented at clarinet, she’s got an awesome best friend, and the perfect, popular boyfriend, Dave — what more could a girl want? But Lauren’s life is far from perfect. Her father’s a workaholic, her mother abandoned them, and maybe that perfect boyfriend isn’t exactly what Lauren needs. When Evan comes back into Lauren’s life, she’s forced to reevaluate the life that she has and the life that she wants.

I read this book on a pretty fall morning in bed during Dewey’s 24-Hour-Readathon and after a long day of reading, this was a perfect (haha) book to read.

Lauren was a flawed realistic teenager, conflicted between the image that she shows to the world and what she really wants. After years of neglect (from her father) and abandonment (from her mother), she wants to be accepted — Dave’s popularity ensures that she is accepted. This complexity to her character really intrigued me and I urged Lauren to figure out that she didn’t want what she had. Lauren could be annoying at times (she makes some poor decisions), but I felt that she was so real, she really reminded me about the uncertainty of being a teenager.

Evan was a great YA romance lead. And the romance was such a refreshing slow build-up. The characters had previous history and the relationship was completely believable.

I’m not sure that teens will want to see themselves in Lauren’s shoes, but they will be able to relate to a lot of what she goes through in the book — especially those unsure feelings.

And it must be said that the writing is simply superb. I cannot believe that this was Scott’s first novel. Like my jaw dropped when I found that out.

Definitely recommend this book for public libraries — great romance. (And it’s a shorter read, which will also appeal to reluctant readers!)

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Elizabeth Scott

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review: “the cupcake queen” December 14, 2009

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thecupcakequeen

The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler.
Dutton Juvenile // Hardcover // 240 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

When her mom uproots her from New York City, Penny is stuck in a small town, helping run the cupcake store her mother has opened. Faced with the cliques of high school, a girl playing pranks on her, and her family’s uncertainty, Penny has little to look forward to. But things start to look up when she meets some new friends, and when a cute boy starts to jog on her beach. Penny struggles with finding acceptance, and her voice.

My summary is absolutely awful. When I sold the book on my floor, I just went with, “Penny’s mom forced her to move to a small town and it sucks.” The teen girl took it immediately. I recommend selling it that way.

That being said, this was a great younger teen novel. So often in YA books, I find myself wondering where the books are for the 7th to 9th graders — or the older ones ones that aren’t ready for hardcore romance or issues or whatever. This book is the answer for that crowd.

It’s a sweet (haha, pun) story really about Penny finding her way — in terms of friends, family, and yes, boys. And it’s also about Penny’s family figuring things out. I found myself frustrated at her parents for not being upfront with her about their separation and subsequent divorce (not really a spoiler, any reader should be able to see what’s coming next), but I think that’s something that a lot of teens will relate to — particularly younger teens.

The romance in the book is chaste, awkward, tentative, quiet — in a word, real. I felt like I was back in seventh grade wondering if the boy in front of me in math class would ever turn around and notice me.

Really, a great book for the younger set. And a great book to introduce tweens reading at a higher level to YA.

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Heather Hepler

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review: “crazy beautiful” October 28, 2009

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crazybeautiful

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted.
Houghton Mifflin // Hardcover // 208 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

After a chemical experiment gone horribly wrong, Lucius was left without his hands. Instead of getting prosthetic hands, he choose hooks…to set himself apart, to show everyone how different he was now. Aurora prepares to start fresh at school this year, after the death of her mother. Both teens struggle to find acceptance and happiness. But what if what they really need is simply each other?

[I’m assuming that everyone knows the ending to “Beauty and the Beast” and won’t be bothered by spoilers, but if you are, turn back now!]

In a modern re-telling of “Beauty and the Beast,” Baratz-Logsted creates both a sympathetic Beast and Beauty. Told in alternating chapters, readers are given a glimpse into both Lucius’s and Aurora’s individual reactions and points-of-view. This decision will only bring teens closer to the characters and their story and utilized as a strong device.

The biggest deviation from the traditional tale is obviously the lack of magic. That is so beyond fine with me. I love magic and fantasy, don’t get me wrong, but setting the story in real life makes it automatically more accessible for today’s teens.

The supporting characters are a nice addition. Our Gaston really annoyed me, but that’s completely in his character. But I really liked seeing the involvement of parents in YA! I know, it’s almost blasphemy to include parents in YA, but they exist.

I did a small problem with the book — that it wrapped up too quickly. I wanted to see more about the fall-out from their decision to be together. It wasn’t enough for me to just end the book on a happily ever after note. I cared about these characters and I wanted more. Someone should tell “Beauty and the Beast: The After Story.” Seriously.

Great solid buy for libraries. Definitely get it in stock before Alex Flinn’s “Beastly” makes it to screen and your teens are clamoring for more re-told fairy tales.

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Lauren Baratz-Logsted

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review: “psych major syndrome” October 13, 2009

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psychmajorsyndrome

Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson.
Hyperion // Hardcover // 336 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Leigh Nolan might come from a family of psychics, but she’s firmly rooted in the real world. She’s escaped to college with her boyfriend, Andrew, to study psychology. But not everything is going according to Leigh’s plan. Andrew is becoming distant, Andrew’s roommate Nathan hates her, and she stuck working this mentor program at a local high school with the snobbiest student in the psychology department. Leigh may be learning how to solve people’s problems, but she’s not very good at solving her own.

Let me be the first to say just how pleased I am that YA authors are writing books about college students. I feel like this is an age that just isn’t served by adult books or YA books, an age just caught in the middle of the bookosphere.

This book is spot-on about college life, it took me straight back to university and to being a psych minor. I related completely to Leigh’s confusion, to her plans falling apart and to her struggle to make new plans and new relationships.

I was worried that the book might be too old for my younger teens or that they might not be able to relate to Leigh because of the college setting. And then I met Nathan who is a totally awesome guy and I think, the best part about the book. He’s definitely going to suck in the younger teens.

The details in Leigh’s world also serve to anchor the story. I loved her car. I too drive a clunker! Her parents and roommate may be a bit stereotypical, but I liked them enough. (Leigh’s visit home for Thanksgiving was really funny, with a few surprises in store.)

My main issue with the book was that I didn’t feel like college life was fully formed. Leigh has only one paper for her class? Really? I had one paper for a class once. It had to be fifty pages. And even then, we had to have our outline, annotated bibliography, a rough draft, etc. all turned in along the semester.

Bottom line? A sweet, fluffy romance novel that I really enjoyed.

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Alicia Thompson MySpace

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review: “prada and prejudice” September 10, 2009

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pradaandprejudice

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard.
Razorbill // Paperback // 270 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Callie’s class trip to England seems to be the stuff of dreams. That is, if the popular crowd would stop bullying Callie and she were actually out and about in the city. Callie comes up with a plan to change all that and it stems on owning a pair of Prada heels. When she trips while wearing the heels, Callie is incredibly surprised to wake up in 1815. Callie is soon taken in by a family, mistaken to be their long-lost friend from America. Soon, Callie finds herself becoming fast friends with Emily, the family’s daughter. They’re both caught up trying to save Emily from a marriage she doesn’t want. It’s up to Callie’s modern day ideals to save the day.

Callie is a funny heroine, her “real world” knowledge and contemporary words getting her into more trouble than she bargained for. She infuriates the lady of the house and Emily’s brother the duke. But readers will see the budding romance behind the scenes if they’re familiar with “Pride and Prejudice.”

The book is funny, too! I definitely wound up getting more than a few looks at I read this book on the train.

The balance between the realism and fantasy in the same book is well done. I didn’t feel overpowered by either the chick lit or fantasy elements. Well-blended. The resolution of the story is good, romantic fun and a nature ending to the book.

I really like the idea of teaching these two books together. A comparison study, a way of making the classics accessible to teens.

Most of the book is light and fluffy, but it’s a welcome break after reading such a serious topic (“The Chosen One” by Carol Lynch Williams was what I read right before this book). A perfect summer beach read, I will definitely be ordering it for my library.

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Mandy Hubbard

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classic review: “graceling” August 4, 2009

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[Classic reviews are reviews that I’ve already written for another source and have moved the text here. I may comment further on them as well.]

graceling

Graceling by Kristin Cashore.
Harcourt // ARC // 480 pages.
Reviewed from an ARC copy, received at ALA’s Annual Convention, 2008.

Katsa is Graced with the ability to kill, and everyone around her uses her ability to their advantage. When Katsa meets another Graced fighter, she finds herself questioning her life in her Uncle’s palace. With Po’s help, Katsa begins a journey to another kingdom and perhaps to another destiny.

Now, I know that most of the YA readers in the library aren’t wild about high fantasy, but this book is way better than “Twilight.” Seriously! I finished it in one night because I couldn’t put it down. Anyone looking for romance and an escape to another world will be thrilled with this book. And there’s a sequel on the way, coming in the fall! [February 2009]

I originally read “Graceling” as an ARC and immediately ordered it for my library and teens. I really believed in this book, book-talked at Teen Book Club, and I’ve been pleased with the circulation rate (five times in seven months…that is a lot for my crew of reluctant readers). A couple of my girls bug me at least once a week about “Fire” since they caught me reading the ARC.

I’m still enamored with this book and I love Katsa. I think she is a great character, strong but with her own flaws. To me, that’s what makes a book memorable — human characters, characters that I know I could meet regardless of the world they live in. And that’s another story entirely — the world that Cashore has created is strong, vibrant, and has held up through the prequel/continuation/sequel (which I promise I will review shortly!).

Still a safe bet for high fantasy fans, and a great way to introduce new teens to the genre.

Amazon.com
SWAN Catalog
This Is My Secret, Kristin Cashore’s blog and website

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review: “a map of the known world” July 27, 2009

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amapoftheknownworld

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell.
Scholastic // Hardcover // 272 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Starting high school is a nerve-wrecking experience for most, but for Cora it’s downright upsetting. Cora’s brother Nate was killed in a car accident months before and she got through the school year. But now she will be in Nate’s school, with Nate’s friends, and sitting in classes taught by Nate’s teachers. Cora puts all of her energy in her art — her talent is making maps. But when art class is invaded by Nate’s best friend who is the lone survivor of the car accident, Cora’s world changes again.

It’s been weeks since I’ve read this book, but I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about it. I think my problems with the book begin with Cora and her personality. She’s grieving and hurting because of her brother’s death and her family’s subsequent collapse, but I don’t understand a lot of the reasons why she has trouble articulating her feelings. (Whereas, in Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak,” I understand exactly why Melinda can’t say what’s bothering her.)

Parts of this book were very moving and well-written, but overall it was a bit choppy in writing style. I had a hard time getting into the book, and a hard time believing a lot of relationships. (Particularly the relationship between Cora and her mother. Cora’s mother goes from suffocating in one instant to understanding that Cora needs to grow in another.)

Even though this wasn’t my favorite book of the year by far, it’s a good book to have in my library’s collection. There was no swearing, no sexual relations (just mild kissing scenes), and it dealt with some serious issues. A great book to give younger teens who want serious content without worrying about inappropriate material.

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Lisa Ann Sandell

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