Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor of symbology, is in Paris to give a lecture. He's supposed to meet up with Jacques Sauniere, the curator of the Louvre, but Sauniere never shows. Later that night Robert is informed that Sauniere was murdered and left a trail of clues to unlock one of mankind's most important secrets. Teamed with French cryptologist Sophie Neveu, Robert takes on the quest, even with the French police and a rigorous Catholic cult on their tails.

This is one of my new favorite books! It was extremely well-written, and even though it was a thriller, it was actually funny at times. The plot is amazingly intricate, and the story even switches points of view to give the reader a feel of what the other characters are thinking. There is so much history and symbology, and all of it is well explained and well researched. It was fun to travel to real-life places, such as the Louvre and Westminster Abbey, and learn about the history of them. And even if you are a Christian, you should still read the book because it is fiction and the author, Dan Brown, stated that he wanted the novel to spur religious debate.

9 out of 10

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Howard J. Campbell, Jr. was a war propagandist in Nazi Germany during World War II. Now he's being charged with war crimes and is held prisoner in Israel. But is he really guilty? The novel is written like a memoir in which Kurt Vonnegut twists our views of right and wrong.

This was my choice summer reading book, and now that I've read it, I wish I didn't choose it. The book is a memoir of a fictional character, so the story isn't linear and jumps around a lot. This makes the plot confusing. I also felt like I was missing out on some of the irony, because I didn't live through WWII. I was frustrated that I wasn't getting the entire meaning of the book and that's bad since this was a summer reading book. I wouldn't suggest this book, but I would recomment reading God Bless You, Dr. Krevorkian, which was very good.
4 out of 10

1984 by George Orwell

In 1949, George Orwell had a vision of what he thought the world was coming to. That is the basis for his most famous book, 1984. The novel is set in London, but it's not London anymore, it's Airstrip One in the country of Oceania. Society is very different than it was in 1949 and how it is now. The government is a strict totalitarian regime. Big Brother, the head of government, is said to always be watching. Any dissent is forbidden and is controlled through the use of telescreens and the Thought Police. The book chronicles the life of Winston Smith, who is caught in the middle of the repression and needs to escape.

This books is pretty freaky because George Orwell thought the world would actually end up this way. The government is very controlling and oppressive and it even changes newspapers and books to make the regime all-knowing and correct all the time. It was interesting to see how the new society was fashioned, because I like reading about utopias, or rather dystopias. Hopefully, people will read this book and be enlightened to prevent anything like this from ever happening.

6 out of 10

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hell Week by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Maggie Quinn is back and ready for action in the latest installment of the Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series. This time, Maggie is going to be a freshmen at college and is rushing a sorority. No, she's not interested in looking cool or meeting cute guys; she's trying to write a column for the school newpaper, even though they don't accept freshmen reporters. So she continues through rush, and onto becoming a pledge, trying to survive the expensive clothes and snobby girls just so she can write a hard-hitting expose. Along the way she discovers that sisterhood is not all about nail polish and parties. There's something sinister lurking in the Sigma Alpha Xi house, and Maggie must figure out what it is before it's too late.

I actually really enjoyed this book. Even though it's part of a series, it isn't necessary to read all the other books. Some parts I was confused about previous events, but it didn't stop the suspense. Maggie is a great character: she's funny and serious at the same time and her commentary on sororities and fraternities is very satirical. I liked reading a book about a quirky heroine who fights evil in her spare time. The mystery about the Sigma Alpha Xis is suspenseful and spooky, and in a good way, too. This very refreshing book makes me want to go back and read the others in the series. Kudos to Rosemary Clement-Moore!

7 out of 10

Release Date: August 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

Mina Hamilton has an important decision to make. Her parents are vampires, and she's just discovered that she has one month to decide whether or not she wants to become a vampire too. She can't tell her best friend Serena anything that's going on, and she has to attend "vampire classes" to learn about her new life. As if being a teenager and trying to get her crush at school to notice her isn't hard enough. But Mina knows she has to make the right decision, one that could change her life forever.

This book was an okay read. I was curious to see how the author, Kimberly Pauley, would fashion her vampires because vampires are a hot subject right now in literature. I wanted to see if these vampires would be completely unique or if they would follow with traditional vampire mythology and I found that it was a little bit of both. The book was corny at times, and Mina tries too hard to be funny. But she's still a good character with a interesting decision before her: to stay alive or to become one of the living "un-dead". It's nice to see someone take a tough decision in stride and add humor to a somewhat somber situation. The book was cute, but definitely not hard-hitting literature.

5 out of 10

Release Date: October 2008

Meeting Lizzy by SarahBeth Carter

Cy McEntire is anything but a normal teenager. His mother died when he was young, and his always-working father is never home. He even dresses like a "freak" with gelled hair and crazy clothes to force his dad to pay even a little bit of attention to him. Then he meets Eliza, the "princess" of Midline High. She's pretty, popular, smart, and isn't so normal either. Eliza has a secret that she's desperate to keep, one that involves her boyfriend's abusive and violent behavior towards her. Cy and Eliza become fast friends, and Cy must figure out a way to help her before it's too late.

I actually really enjoyed this book. It switches between Cy and Eliza's point of view, so you get a feel for what each character is thinking. Cy and Eliza's relationship is so cute; first they are friends, and then they become "more than friends". This story was very character driven, and I got to know them like they were real people. However, I can't really relate to Eliza, because I would never remain in an abusive relationship, but I understood her feelings and truly felt sympathy towards her. This story is perfect for anyone wanting a dramatic plot, but with real characters and a happy ending.

This book is only for mature readers because it contains scenes of violence.

8 out of 10

Release Date: September 2008

Likely Story by David Van Etten

Mallory's life feels like it should be a TV show: her mother's an actress on a popular soap opera and her boyfriend won't break up with his girlfriend. Mallory needs less drama in her life, not more. So when she writes her own soap opera, entitled Likely Story, she wants it to be about real people with real problems. However, this seems to cause more catastrophes. Her mother is now jealous, she needs to get her best friend the lead on the show, and she thinks she might be falling for the lead male actor. What's a girl to do?

The best way I can describe this book is that it was okay. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great, either. The plot was interesting; not many normal teenagers have a semi- famous mother, although this made it slightly hard to relate to Mallory. She is a likable character, though her moral compass might be spinning in the wrong direction. For example, she has a boyfriend that already has a girlfriend, which makes me think that she doesn't respect herself. However, this book is part of a series, so hopefully the rest will be better.

5 out of 10

Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott

Kate Brown is having a tough sophomore year. Her best friend Anna left her for the popular crowd, so Kate is virtually friendless. Her dad also quit his job to sell Perfect You vitamins at a small kiosk in the mall. Since this is a "family" business, Kate is forced to work after school and on weekends. Now lonely and stuck with an unwanted job, Kate finds comfort in her small encounters with obnoxious Will, a boy she pretends to hate. Suddenly, these small encounters lead to the two kissing in a back alleyway. Kate really likes Will, but is afraid that he thinks of her as just another girl.

Perfect You was really a spectacular read. Elizabeth Scott does a great job of adding humor to Kate's bleak and dismal life. Kate is very witty and she says and thinks things that make you laugh out loud. Everyone goes through tough times, so they can easily relate to her character. Even so, Kate carries herself with a certain grace that most people never see. The book is also funny and poignant and everything that a good book should be. It even teaches you a life lesson about happiness: you have to try to be happy in order to actually be happy.

This book may be unsuitable for younger readers because it contains mild language and adult themes.

9 out of 10

Death By Bikini by Linda Gerber

Aphra Connolly seems like the luckiest girl in the world. She lives on a beautiful island resort where she gets to spend her time in the company of the rich and famous. Although, living on an island leaves few opportunities for her to meet people her own age. So when the cute Adam Smith and his family arrive, Aphra is beyond excited. The thing is, the day after the Smith's check-in, a girl is found dead on the beach, with the strings of her bikini top tied around her neck. Is this too much of a coincidence? Could Adam and his family be responsible for the murder? Aphra will have to discover the truth before it's too late.

I thought that this was a really refreshing read. It has been a long time since I read a mystery, and this was the perfect book. It has the right amount of intrigue, suspense, humor and romance. The characters, especially Aphra, are believable and relatable. Aphra is a clever heroine who uses her wit and cunning to find out clues and ultimately save the day. My only qualm with this book is that it needs more plot points. The climax occurred fairly quickly for a mystery. However, there is a sequel, Death By Latte, which should satisfy readers' appetites after this delicious story.

8 out of 10

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, is about sixteen year old Hattie Brooks. Her parents died when she was very young, so for most of her life she has been shuffled around to different relatives to live with. She even thinks of herself as "Hattie-Here-and-There." When she receives a letter from her late uncle, leaving a homestead claim in her name, Hattie jumps at the chance of a new life. So all by herself, Hattie travels from Iowa to Vida, Montana. Even with hard work, failing crops, and a homestead she must prove up on, Hattie feels at home for the first time. She even finds a family in her spirited neighbors, which is what she's always longed for.

Hattie Big Sky was a very good book. It tells the story about a young courageous girl who moves to Montana to prove-up on her late uncle's homestead claim. Even though she is only sixteen years old, she must fend for herself and keep a farm running. She is very strong-willed, determined and independent, which are good characteristics to see in a heroine. Even though the book takes place in 1917, Hattie is very relatable. I found myself admiring her spirit and spunk. The book is an easy read that you won't want to put down. When I finally finished the book, it was like saying good-bye to a good friend.

9 out of 10

What If You Broke All The Rules by Liz Ruckdeschel and Sara James

The book I read was What If You Broke All The Rules by Liz Ruckdeschel and Sara James. This was a different type of book than usual. It's called "a choose your destiny novel". This basically means that you get to choose what the main character, Haley, does by turning to the specific page. There is still a plot, though. It starts out on Christmas Day. You get to choose which New Years' Eve party Haley goes to, what she does on her birthday, and where she goes over Spring Break. All the while, her parents are absent, too busy with work to pay attention to Haley and her younger brother, Mitchell. Utimately, you get to decide Haley's fate as she continues on during her Sophomore year.

Even though this book read differently than most books, it's still a good read. Some books of the same type aren't well written and can be boring. But this book actually had a plot. I was able to relate well to the main character because we are the same age. Even if you don't like this type of book, you should still read it because the protagonist, Haley, is very likable. Also, you can read this book many times, choosing different things for Haley to do.

8 out of 10

High Spirits by Dianne K. Salerni

High Spirits by Dianne K. Salerni is about two real historical figures. These girls, Maggie and Kate Fox, started rapping out messages from spirits as a joke to scare their family. Soon everyone in their family and town believes them to be mediums that are able to communicate with the dead. Their older sister starts using their "gift" for money-making purposes, which leads the girls to creating a national craze known as spiritualism. When Maggie meets an Arctic explorer, she must choose between the man she loves and her spirit rapping.

I really enjoyed this book. It has the right amount of humor, spooks, romance, and character development. You step into Maggie's shoes and see the mid 1800's as she does. The book spans over several years of her life, and you begin to grow up with her. It is very detailed and informative, and Dianne K. Salerni does a wonderful job of storytelling. Even if you don't like historical fiction, this book is a great read, especially since all the characters actually lived in the past.

8 out of 10

Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught

Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught tells the story of Jamie Carcaterra. Or rather, Jamie tells the story herself. Jamie is a self-proclaimed "Fat Girl". She writes an article for her school newspaper, entitled "Fat Girl Manifesto" where she explains how her life is affected by being overweight and the difficulties that come along with it. It starts out in her senior year, where she is busy with the school musical, her crazy friends, and preparing for college. When her overweight boyfriend decides to have gastric bypass surgery, it makes Jamie re-examine her weight, her life, and her views on the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed Big Fat Manifesto. It is very interesting, because the book was from an overweight girl's point of view, which doesn't happen often in literature. You get to learn a lot about what it is like to be overweight and see the world through Jamie's eyes. The book talks a lot about issues young people are dealing with today: school, friends, love, your self-image. It makes this book easy to relate to and a satisfying read.

8 out of 10

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser is about fifteen-year old Garrett. Garrett is very smart. So smart, in fact, that he can skip school and still make honor roll. He's also dating his teacher, who is eight years older than him. Though these are hardly crimes, Garrett is sent to Lake Harmony, a boot camp designed to teach teenagers to obey their parents. Garrett undergoes physical and psychological abuse every day. The only way to freedom is to escape-but how does one break out of a prison?

I thought that Boot Camp by Todd Strasser was an interesting read. It was an eye-opener, because I had never know about these secret boot camps. It was shocking to see the abuse that goes on behind closed doors. Some of the tactics to train teenagers to obey their parents could be considered torture--laying facedown on the floor for days at a time. The book was very sad and radiated helplessness throughout the story--I had no idea how Garrett was going to make it out alive. The books ends on a semi-good note: Garrett's parents come to take him home. The bad part is, Garrett becomes just as brainwashed as the other kids who walk through Lake Harmony's doors.

This book is only for mature readers because there is physical and psychological abuse throughout the story, which may be unsuitable for younger readers.

6 out of 10.

Book Reviews

Hello Everyone!

This is my new blog for posting book reviews. I love reading and writing reviews, so this should be a lot of fun = ]

I write reviews for http://www.flamingnet.com/, Simon Pulse, Henry Holt and Little, Brown. But I'm also going to be posting reviews for the other books I read on the side. I'm hoping to email more publishers and be able to post reviews for those books as well.

Please, please comment on the reviews! They are much appreciated.

Thanks and enjoy!