Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ghostgirl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley

Charlotte Usher is still dead, but has yet to move onto the great paradise that awaits. Now she must complete her "deaducation" by answering phones and advising teenagers who are stuck when making important decisions. But Scarlet's sister and Charlotte's role model Petula is sick - so sick that Scarlet must cross over to the Afterlife and find Charlotte to help her save Petula. Will Charlotte be able to help both Scarlet and Petula return to the living?

The first Ghostgirl book I didn't really like. It wasn't bad, but I just couldn't get into the story. I liked this book a lot more because the story flows better now that everything is already set up. We've all been introduced to the characters and understand the setting, so now it's time for some story-telling. What I really liked about the second Ghostgirl book was the dialogue. These books are supposed to be satires, and I could definitely see that from the way the characters conversed. Everything they said was sarcastic, ironic, or just plain funny. Tonya Hurley makes use of a lot of figures of speech, like puns, which makes the book more interesting. It also make the book less serious, but otherwise we'd all be depressed since we're reading a book about a girl who's dead. The one thing I had a problem with in both books is Charlotte. I never really feel a connection to her and I feel like the author is trying to keep us at a distance from her. I don't know if that's because she's writing a satire, or if I just can't relate to Charlotte. But either way, it makes me like the book a little less. Besides the story, I love the cover and how it's not one-dimensional. I also really like the page after every chapter that talks about an important topic that will be discussed in some way in the coming pages. They are very insighful (moreso than the book itself) and add something extra to the Ghostgirl series.

7 out of 10.

Release Date: July 1, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker

Music-loving Quinn is going to be an intern at Amalgam Records in Austin, the company that signed her favorite band, the Walters. So she's off to Texas to stay with her cousin Penny, a girl who is president of her sorority and is nothing like Quinn, whose wardrobe consists of jeans and t-shirts of her favorite bands. Nevertheless, Quinn is all ready to hit the Austin music scene and snag the perfect indie boyfirend. That is, until she meets frat boy Russ, who happens to be Penny's neighbor. He's annoying, likes country music and has the nerve to call Quinn by her real first name, Priscilla. Even though Russ is completely irritating, there's something about him that Quinn likes. Could he end up being the guy for her?

I was really surprised by Lovestruck Summer. I knew it was a romantic comedy, so I was expecting it to be shallow and a little corny. Instead, I was hooked after the first page. I am not like Quinn or her cousin Penny or any of the other characters, but I was able to relate to and become fond of all of them. The romance aspect was a little predictable, but the ending turned out a bit different than how I thought it would. There were a ton of funny moments and quirky things that made this book enjoyable. For example, Quinn's cousin has a cross-dressing dog, which is definitely unique. Things like that made this book stand out from other romantic comedies. I thought Lovestruck Summer was adorable and I can't wait to read Melissa Walker's other books.

8 out of 10.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Evernight by Claudia Gray

Bianca is used to the comforts of her small hometown and local public high school. But when her parents, both teachers, decide to take jobs at Evernight Academy, she must get used to attending boarding school. And Evernight is not like most schools. The building is as a big as a castle, and the rooms are old and creepy. Something isn't right at Evernight, and it's not just the rich, beautiful and and almost predatory teenagers that attend the school. And when Bianca meets Lucas, an outsider just like her, she can't help but fall for him. Unbeknowest to Bianca, there are dark secrets at Evernight, secrets that are destined to tear her and Lucas apart.

I really liked Evernight. I think most people know what it's about already (I knew before I started reading), but I want to write a spoiler free review for those who haven't read it. Surprisingly, I really liked Bianca as a character. There were times where she was annoying, but overall she was interesting and I could relate to her really well. I liked how Evernight Academy was described: it sounds really Gothic and creepy, and is the perfect setting for this novel. Half-way through the book, there is a twist, and then another twist at the end. I knew both twists before reading (darn you Sam!) but if I didn't, Twist #1 comes right out of left field. There is absolutely no foreshadowing to Twist #1, and you, as the reader, will probably be blind-sided. So be prepared for craziness half-way through the book. Now, Twist #2 was alluded to much better. As I stated before, I already knew what it was, but there were clues that I could pick out and say "Here's where the author wants us to question the plot." Even though I didn't like the set-up to Twist #1, Evernight was still really good, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series, Stargazer.

8 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back Creek by Leslie Goetsch

Grace Barnett has always lived in Back Creek, a small tidewater town in Virginia, and is in love with the water, boats, and easy living that comes with it. But during the summer after her senior year of high school, Grace must confront her dysfunctional and continually changing family; a pregnant sister, her father's budding alcoholism, and her mother's swift disappearance from their home are just a few of the things she has to deal with. As she tries to fix her family, Grace turns to Cal, a recent Vietnam War vet, but he also has his own demons to confront. Like the creek that she lives on, Grace's life is changing very quickly, and she's not sure what to do. As the summer progresses and she prepares for college, Grace begins to understand her complex family, and learns new things about herself in the process.

Back Creek was pretty good. It definitely wasn't my favorite book ever (like the praise on the back suggests), but it was enjoyable. I thought the plot moved slowly, but it matched the pace of life on the creek, which is slow and lazy. I really liked the way the author described the creek; the whole time I felt I was there, watching the water lap along the bank. Grace was an okay protagonist, and she had her good and bad moments. I thought it was cool that she liked to read all the old classics, but didn't think it was realistic that she didn't have any friends her own age. I understand some people like to be by themselves, but Grace literally talked to no one at her school. She had Cal, but he was a few years older, and had his own problems, being a Vietnam vet and all.
I also didn't see the complete maturation of Grace that the synopsis alludes to. She definitely changed, and learned more about her family, but I felt like if Grace did have a new outlook on life, it wasn't explained enough. I also thought some of the ending wasn't tied up enough, at least for me. Grace's mom leaves her family, and the reader learns more about the mother, but we never find out why she left. It's made obvious that she was unhappy, but I just didn't get the real reasoning behind her motives. I think that the book would have been better if the author gave a little bit more attention to the ending. Overall, Back Creek was still an interesting read, and a good coming-of-age story for people that enjoy these kinds of books.

7 out of 10.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Contest: Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

I've been given the opportunity to give away five (5) copies of the newly released paperback edition of Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson! I'm so excited, since this is the first contest on Simply Books.

When Scarlett Martin turns fifteen she is put in charge of the Empire Suite, one of the rooms in her family’s hotel. Enter Mrs. Amberson, an aging C-list starlet who decides to employ Scarlett. Soon, she is taking dictation, running around New York City, and getting caught up in Mrs. Amberson’s crazy adventures. In the midst of it all, Scarlett falls in love–or so she thinks–and it takes Mrs. Amberson to help her see the light.

For more information, visit Maureen Johnson's website or Suite Scarlett's Amazon page.

1) All entries must contain an email address. If I can't find your email, I'll pick another winner.
2) There will be chances to get extra entries. You can include all of them on one comment.

+ 1 for linking to the contest (as many times as you want). Please provide the link!
+ 1 for becoming a follower
+ 2 if you are already a follower

3) This contest is only open to US residents.
4) The contest will close on July 13, 2009, 8 pm EST.

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer's Here!

Wow, I am so glad that school is finally over! Today was my last day, and all I had to do was take a Spanish final. It seems so anti-climatic; the last two weeks I've been super busy with a ton of school work, and now it's done. I have nothing to do. Well, besides summer reading. But I'm so excited to have a whole summer of freedom ahead of me. I'll have so much more time for reading and this blog. What are you guys looking forward to these next few months?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Few have failed to be charmed by the witty and independent spirit of Elizabeth Bennet. Her early determination to dislike Mr. Darcy is a prejudice only matched by the folly of his arrogant pride. Their first impressions give way to true feelings in a comedy profoundly concerned with happiness and how it might be achieved. (A short and sweet summary taken from Amazon)

I've been wanting to read Pride and Prejudice for awhile, because I feel like I don't read any real literature. But I was a little afraid that I wouldn't be able to understand anything, since it was written in 1813. That was not the case at all, though. I have to admit, the book was slow-going, and you have to have a lot of patience to get through it. But I understood everything, and I was proud of myself for reading a literary masterpiece. I actually thought it was pretty funny. There was sarcasm and wit and it was a very good story. I liked Elizabeth and the transformation of her feelings for Mr. Darcy. At first, she thinks he's rude and arrogant and she doesn't like him at all. But then she discovers things about him that she doesn't know, and starts to fall in love with him. There are also a wide array of character types that make the story interesting: there's the comedic characters, like Mrs. Bennet or Mr. Collins, and then there's the characters that are sweet, like Jane and Mr. Bingley. Jane Austen wrote her novels to represent the lives of the gentry in England, and I could definitely tell that her characters were inspired by real people. I thought Pride and Prejudice was a great look into the lives of the people of the time, and even more accurate since it was actually written in the nineteenth century.

By the way, isn't the cover pretty? Unfortunately, it wasn't the cover of the book I was reading, but I just decided to pick the one I liked best for the picture.

8 out of 10.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Revelations by Melissa de la Cruz

Have you ever wondered what secrets lurk behind the closed doors of New York City's wealthiest families? They're powerful, they're famous... they're undead.

Schuyler Van Alen's blood legacy has just been called into question--is the young vampire in fact a Blue Blood, or is it the sinister Silver Blood that runs through her veins? As controversy swirls, Schuyler is left stranded in the Force household, trapped under the same roof as her cunning nemesis, Mimi Force, and her forbidden crush, Jack Force.

When one of the Gates of Hell is breached by Silver Bloods in Rio de Janeiro, however, the Blue Bloods will need Schuyler on their side. The stakes are high; the battle is bloody; and through it all, Carnavale rages on. And in the end, one vampire's secret identity will be exposed in a revelation that shocks everyone. (Taken from Amazon)

If you've read my reviews of the first two books of this series (Blue Bloods and Masquerade), you'll know that I was unimpressed with the writing. I'm happy to say that Melissa de la Cruz did improve a little in this book. The dialogue was better (not as cheesy as before) and the overall writing has made some progress. So hopefully, the next book will be perfect!

The plot, as always, was fast-paced and filled with twists and turns. Those surprises throughout the books are pretty much the only reason why I read them. You think you know what's going on, and BAM, suddenly someone you thought was good is bad and vice versa. There were of ton of new (shall I say it?) revelations in this novel, which helped make up for the average writing. I can't wait for the release of The Van Alen Legacy, just so I can find out what happens.

7 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Callie is completely bored on her class trip to London. As the klutzy and semi-unpopular girl, Callie wants to make some friends and get in with the cool crowd. After spilling iced tea down her shirt, she decides to buy a pair of exprensive Prada shoes as her ticket to popularity. But when she trips in the shoes (not surprisingly), somehow Callie time travels! She falls face first into 1815, and into the mansion of a duke. To figure out how to get back to the twenty-first century, Callie must pretend to be Rebecca, an American who is visiting the Duke of Harksbury and his cousin, Emily. But trouble seems to follow Callie wherever she goes: she's responsible for getting Emily out of an unwanted marriage and trying not to fall in love with the arrogant duke.

From the description, you can tell that this book sounds really corny (which it is), but it was still cute. In the beginning, Callie was pretty annoying. She kept whining about wanting to be friends with the popular girls, who seemed shallow and really vain And when she first ends up in 1815, she is in complete denial, thinking that the people are play-acting in costumes. Since Callie has no sense of the manners that were required of people during this time, some of the things she did were pretty funny, while at the same time making me cringe. Coincidentally, I was also reading the real Pride and Prejudice at the same time, so it was neat to see the comparisons (Obviously, the duke is supposed to be Mr. Darcy). By the end, though, Callie learns that popularity isn't important, it's about just being yourself. Looking back, I can't tell how that relates to going back in time, but hey, it's still a good message. I also really liked the ending; it had a bit of a twist. Overall, a cute and humorous book for fans of any genre.

7 out of 10.

Release Date: June 11, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

End of the Year Craziness

As the school year is coming to a close, my life has become very hectic. I just wanted to give everyone a heads up as to why there may be an absence of reviews. For some reason, everything is happening in the span of two weeks, and I feel really stressed. Some things that are going on in my life:

1. Graduation - the seniors don't graduate until June 11th, but since I'm in band I have to attend band rehearsals and the actual graduation ceremony. And with graduation, comes graduation parties that I feel a little obligated to go to.

2. SATs - They're on Saturday, so I'm attempting to study for them.

3. Research Papers - Did you notice how paper was plural? Yes, I have two. One due Monday and the other due Wednesday. You have no idea how stressed I am about this. Especially since my US History teacher is in Florida grading AP Gov exams and is adding onto our project and making us do a powerpoint presentation in addition to writing a three page paper.

4. Swimming - This doesn't really count, but swim team practice has started again. I actually don't have to go, but it is something else thrown onto my plate.

5. Finals - The all-important exam. They don't start until the 11th, but I still am worrying about them. Especially since I was only supposed to take 4, but my AP English teacher is making us take one, even though AP students are allowed to be exempt. It's a cruel world.

6. Work - Now that the pools have started opening, I am working as a lifeguard. Granted, the pool is only open on the weekends, but it still takes up a lot of my free time.

And I am so jealous of all the people already out of school! My last day isn't until June 16! And most schools in my area don't get out around till then, but since everyone else here is already out, it feels super late. I just can't wait to be done, even though I'm sad junior year is ending. It's been fun. Anyway, I might be absent for the next week or so, or might be on here a lot in lieu of studying. It just depends. But if you don't see me, you know why.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Willow by Julia Hoban

Willow's life has been turned upside down. Her parents have both been killed in a car accident, in the vehicle that Willow was driving. Now she has to live with her brother, sister-in-law, and baby niece. Blaming herself for her parents' deaths, Willow turns to cutting as a way to save herself from feeling any emotional pain. But when she meets Guy, he shows Willow that it's okay to feel grief and that she's strong enough to survive it.

I loved this book. It was such a great story, about a girl who tries not to feel any emotion at all and the boy who shows her how to. Of course I disapproved of Willow cutting herself and thought that she should have told someone who could help her, namely her brother. But even though Willow continually hurt herself, Julia Hoban did such a great job explaining Willow's emotions and reasoning behind her self-mutilation. I could actually begin to understand why someone who do that to themselves. I was so happy watching Willow come out of her shell and open up to Guy. This book was full of character development. We got to see a lot of different characters progress and change throughout the story: Willow, her brother David, and even Guy. And speaking of Guy, he was like the perfect boyfriend. He knew just what to say to make Willow feel better and he was the one to help her through this tough time - mainly by showing her that she is strong enough to withstand grief. In the end, Willow was a wonderful novel of healing, one that everyone can enjoy.

9 out of 10.