Tuesday, January 22, 2008


So, I'm definitely behind the times on this one, but that's what I get for being a busy college student, I guess.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, the amazing book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan that everyone should go out and read, is being made into a movie starring Michael Cera (of Superbad and Juno fame) and Kat Dennings (from The 40-Year-Old Virgin). The movie comes out in October and more information can be read in this article: http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1576357/story.jhtml

Nick and Norah is the story of two teenagers who meet at a concert one night, share a kiss, and end up having a whirlwind adventure in Manhattan. The story is told in alternating viewpoints between Nick and Norah (written by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn respectively), and it's just amazing. I highly recommend it. (I'd also recommend Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List which is also written by Levithan and Cohn. It's not a sequel to Nick and Norah and not quite as amazing, but still great.)

I'm not sure how I feel about the upcoming movie, but that's my general reaction to all movies based on books these days. After massacring some of my absolute favorites (Ella Enchanted and Blood and Chocolate, to name the two big ones), I've kind of given up on Hollywood being able to do a good book adaptation.

A couple of other movies coming out in the near future that are based on books are Twilight (by Stephenie Meyer), and The Time Traveler's Wife (by Audrey Niffenneger), both of which are excellent and highly recommended books. Fingers crossed for the movies, though. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Review: ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY by Valerie Hobbs

Anything But Ordinary by Valerie Hobbs
7 out of 10 Stars on http://flamingnet.com/

When he is thirteen, Bernie Federman moves to Pittstown, New Jersey. Proudly different than anybody else, he doesn't know anyone in the eighth grade, and from the very first day of school sits in the back of the classroom. Then he meets Winifred Owens, also fiercely individualistic, and possibly the only person less popular at school than Bernie. They fall in love and begin planning their life together. Both very intelligent, they are at the top of their class and apply to all the same colleges, neither of them dreaming they'll end up somewhere different than the other.

Then, shortly before graduation, tragedy strikes for Bernie, and all his dreams fall apart. He stops going to school, dropping to the bottom of the class, and starts working in a tire shop, abandoning his plans for college. Winifred is heartbroken, but presses on, going across the country to attend the University of California at Santa Barbara. Once there, she realizes just how much she doesn't fit in, and with the help of her new roommates, she gets a makeover and becomes 'Wini,' changing her major from nanoscience to communications and spending her time partying, gossiping, and drinking lattes. Meanwhile, Bernie realizes he may have lost her forever, so he travels crosscountry to catch up with her. However, once he finds her again and realizes that she's become 'ordinary,' it may be too late for them.

I really loved this book. It's different than a lot of the teen romances available today in that it deals with the dark horses, the underdogs, the "unpopular" kids. You really find yourself rooting for Bernie and Winifred to make it work, for Winifred to wake up and realize how silly she's being, and you want them to get back together in the end. From the moment I picked it up, I didn't stop reading ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY, and I would definitely recommend it. It's a great look at the first year of college and how much it can change a person (for better or for worse), and although the ending is slightly bittersweet, it still leaves the reader with a smile. I'll definitely keep my eyes open for other books by Valerie Hobbs.

Adult guidance recommended, as this book involves the lives of college students and deals with alcohol and sexual situations.

Book Review: LOVE UNDERCOVER by Jo Edwards

Love Undercover by Jo Edwards

Kaitlyn Nichols doesn't have your typical parents. Her father is a member of the FBI secret service and is often gone for long periods of time. Her mother is a sex (excuse me, "relationship") columnist, and her research frequently involves piles of thongs and condoms lying around the house. However, despite what one might think, her parents' work doesn't usually affect Kaitlyn too much. Until now.

Enter Blaine Donovan, AKA "Gordon," AKA the son of a Texas billionaire, AKA major hottie. Blaine's father is in the middle of a big business deal, and his rivals have started threatening the family. So, Kaitlyn's dad has put Blaine in the Witness Protection Program as Gordon Dennis Nichols, Kaitlyn's third-cousin who has come to live with her family and go to school with her for a few months. Now Kaitlyn is responsible for keeping Blaine safe and watching for anything suspicious. She brushes up on her spy tricks by watching Alias, The Bourne Identity, and James Bond, and she feels ready to handle anything that comes her way. But when she starts to fall for Blaine, she realizes that she's broken the number one rule of being a secret agent: she's gotten emotionally involved.

I've really enjoyed all the books in the Simon Romantic Comedies series, and LOVE UNDERCOVER is a great addition. The spy stuff doesn't overwhelm the book, but it's just enough to be fun, and Kaitlyn deals with problems that every teenager faces: liking the popular boy who doesn't know you exist, dealing with mean popular girls, and occasionally keeping secrets even from best friends. I definitely hope that Jo Edwards contributes more books to the Romantic Comedies series – and soon!

Book Review: TOURIST TRAP by Emma Harrison

Tourist Trap by Emma Harrison

Cassandra Grace and her best friends, twins Donna and Derek Policastro, have lived in Lake Logan, a tiny town in upstate New York, for their whole lives, and they're looking forward to spending their last summer before college together -- swimming at the lake, riding horses, and hanging out the Regency Theater, the old, run-down theater Donna and Derek's parents own. Cassie is also going to be busy working, giving horseback riding lessons at her parents' farm to the kids of the rich vacationers who spend the summers at Lake Logan, commonly known by the year-round locals as invaders. Cassie needs to make enough money for the entry fee of the jumper competition she plans to win with her horse, Lola, and she's determined that nothing is going to stop her from making that money and winning the competition.

Then Jared Kent shows up, son of the most infamous invader family (this is their first time back at Lake Logan in twenty years), and suddenly Cassie finds herself very distracted. She's skipping work and hang-out sessions with her friends in order to spend time with Jared, and she's definitely not making the money she needs. On top of that, Jared's father has made a proposition to the Lake Logan locals, one that has the whole town in an uproar and Cassie wondering whether she's making the right choice by being with Jared.

A story of first love, life changes, and just plain fitting in, TOURIST TRAP is a fun, light read, and teenagers, especially those getting ready to go off to college, will definitely be able to relate.

Book Review: FLORA SEGUNDA by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog by Ysabeau S. Wilce
Written for TCM Reviews

Flora Fydraaca is about to turn 14 and celebrate her Catorcena, the coming-of-age ceremony that qualifies her to enter military training. She has to write a speech, but she’s finding it difficult because it is supposed to celebrate everything that is great about her family and her home, and neither of those things has been particularly wonderful for quite some time. Flora lives in Crackpot Hall, which has started to decay ever since her mother, the Warlord’s Commanding General, fired the magickal Butler. Now the 11,000 rooms randomly shift position, the windows leak, stairways forget to finish, and hallways end in nothing.One day Flora is running late and has to run back inside to get her overdue library book. Taking a chance, she uses an elevator and ends up in a part of the house she’s never seen before. Here she discovers Valefor, the banished butler who is now wasting away to nothing. He is convinced that Flora can help him, but the real question is should she help him? What happens over the next week changes Flora, her family, and Crackpot Hall forever.

Flora Segunda is a fun magickal adventure, with a very entertaining cast of characters. Ysabeau Wilce has created a fresh, original fantasy that is sure to please readers.

Book Review: VAMPIREVILLE by Ellen Schreiber

Vampireville (Vampire Kisses 3) by Ellen Schreiber

VAMPIREVILLE follows right on the heels of its predecessors, and it is strongly recommended that the previous books in the series, VAMPIRE KISSES and KISSING COFFINS, be read first, otherwise things will not make sense and you're sure to be confused and not fully enjoy the story.

Alexander Sterling is back in "Dullsville," and Raven couldn't be happier about that. However, Jagger and his twin sister, Luna, are also hanging around, which is the reason why Raven has started carrying garlic in her purse with her. To make matters worse, now that Luna has been turned into a vampire, she's on the search for her true love, and she's convinced she's found him in Trevor.

Trevor may have been Raven's arch nemesis since kindergarten, but that doesn't mean that she wants him to fall victim to Luna's charms. Not to mention her fangs. So Raven takes it upon herself to protect Trevor – after all, the last thing Dullsville needs is a vampire-Trevor!

Raven is also trying to deal with having a nocturnal boyfriend. She mourns the loss of Alexander's company during the day, just as she despises the school that prevents her from being able to keep the same hours as he does. The time they do have together they spend searching cemeteries and other spooky deserted areas for Jagger and Luna's hideout, determined to drive them away before they turn "Dullsville" into someplace infinitely less dull – "Vampireville."

VAMPIREVILLE is a fun continuation of the VAMPIRE KISSES series, and will definitely leave readers eagerly awaiting the fourth book, DANCE WITH A VAMPIRE. The writing and storyline still doesn't quite live up to some of the other young adult books in this genre, but it is nevertheless an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

Book Review: KISSING COFFINS by Ellen Schreiber

Kissing Coffins (Vampire Kisses 2) by Ellen Schreiber

First of all, I just want to say that this is the second book in the series, picking up right where the first one left off, so it is highly suggested that this be read after VAMPIRE KISSES. Consider that your warning. Now that that's out of the way, on to the book!

Goth-girl Raven has just discovered that her boyfriend Alexander Sterling, new to the town of "Dullsville," is an actual vampire. Unfortunately, the morning after this startling discovery, he disappears. Raven is devastated, but doesn't dare ask anyone for help for fear they will discover his secret.

She decides to take it into her own hands and sets off to look for clues to his whereabouts, determined to find him and convince him that she is perfectly fine with the fact that he is one of the undead. Her search leads her to the Mansion, where she finds a mysterious note in Alexander's bedroom that only says, "Alexander, HE IS ON HIS WAY!" She then takes a trip to nearby "Hipsterville," home of hippies, Goths, starving artists, her aunt Libby, and hopefully Alexander.

Following a trail of clues, she visits the Coffin Club (a popular hangout for Goths), the Hipsterville Historical Society (who knew THAT would be helpful?), and a deserted mansion on the outskirts of town (that's hopefully not really deserted at all).

She also meets the mysterious and slightly creepy Jagger, who offers to help her with her search. But is he just a goth-obsessed teen like Raven, or is he the real thing? And why does he seem so interested in Alexander?

KISSING COFFINS is a fun, quick read for those looking for a vampire story without the blood and gore. However, the writing is often quite shallow, and the relationship between Raven and Alexander is never really fully developed enough for my taste. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the book, and I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the series, but if you're looking for a really great vampire story, I'd recommend checking out Vivian Vande Velde's COMPANIONS OF THE NIGHT.

Book Review: WILDLY ROMANTIC by Catherine M. Andronik

Wildly Romantic: The English Romantic Poets: The Mad, the Bad, and the Dangerous by Catherine M. Andronik
Written for The In Group

Wildly Romantic is a fascinating look at the lives of the Romantic poets Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and John Keats. These young rebels pushed the boundaries of their times, risking everything to express themselves through their poetry. I really enjoyed this book, because I have always loved the Romantic poems and it was wonderful to read about what was going on in the lives of the brilliant people who wrote them. I would recommend this book to anyone, however, not just poetry buffs. It may be classified as a non-fiction book about the Romantic poets, it reads more like a fascinating novel, and with the many poems scattered throughout the book, it is sure to keep anyone's interest.

Book Review: BASS ACKWARDS AND BELLY UP by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain

Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
Written for Hip Scouts

Bound to be called ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' for the older set, ‘Bass Ackwards and Belly Up' is wonderful, humorous tale that tells the story of four best friends and their adventures after graduating from high school, as they each make their own decisions about what they want to do in life. As a soon-to-be high school graduate myself, I could completely relate to Harper, Sophie, Kate, and Becca, but you definitely don't need to be eighteen in order to enjoy this book. If you've ever pursued your dreams, or even if you've only dreamed of pursuing them, this book is not to be missed.

Book Review: MAXIMUM RIDE: SCHOOL'S OUT - FOREVER by James Patterson

School's Out - Forever (Maximum Ride 2) by James Patterson
Written for Hip Scouts

Picking up right where the first book left off, Maximum Ride: School's Out - Forever takes Max and the rest of the flock on a whirlwind adventure. The flock is still on the run from some of the same old baddies, but now they have new foes to deal with as well, including a Max clone. However, they're not entirely on their own, and help comes from some unexpected people. But are they really trying to help? Only time will tell.

And not only do they have to worry about staying alive, grades now hang in the balance for the flock. Once again, they find themselves in school... but this time it's for real. New challenges are faced every day, with classes, teachers, an evil principal, field trips, and even possible romances, all while new powers are being discovered and developed.

With this book, James Patterson manages to prove once again what a great storyteller he is. I'd never even read any of his books before, but Maximum Ride has turned me into a true fan. Fun and enjoyable to read, with a great plot and interesting characters, it will not disappoint. Full of surprising twists and turns, School's Out - Forever will leave fans feeling satisfied, yet eagerly anticipating the next Maximum Ride.

Book Review: BOOK OF SHADOWS by Cate Tiernan

Book of Shadows (Sweep 1) by Cate Tiernan
7 out of 10 Stars on http://flamingnet.com/

Morgan has always lived in the shadow of her best friend, the gorgeous and popular Bree. When Cal, a handsome and charismatic senior, transfers to their school, he immediately catches Morgan's eye. But when Bree announces her intention to go after him, Morgan feels that she has no chance and resigns herself to watching from the shadows as usual. But Cal is not your average guy. He practices Wicca, and wastes no time in inviting a group of students to join him in a Wiccan celebration. Morgan is strangely affected by these circles, and Cal starts showing a particular interest in her. Could it be that she is a "blood witch," descended from one of the seven great witch clans?

BOOK OF SHADOWS is a great beginning to the Sweep series. I'm not a Wiccan, but it was still really interesting to read about their different practices and beliefs. Morgan is a likeable character and is sure to gain readers' sympathies. It should be kept in mind however, that this is part of series, doesn't have a definitive ending, and will no doubt leave more than one reader planning a trip to the bookstore to get the next book.

This book deals with a lot of Wiccan celebrations and beliefs, although it is not immediately clear whether the author is in support of it or not.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Book Review: PRINCESS ON THE BRINK by Meg Cabot

Princess on the Brink (The Princess Diaries VIII) by Meg Cabot
4 Stars on http://teensreadtoo.com/

It's the beginning of Mia's junior year, but so far, things are not going as planned. For starters, Mia may have managed to pass Algebra and Geometry, but now she has to deal with Pre-Calculus. And she's also totally lost in Chemistry, even though she now has two lab partners instead of just one. Lilly has also decided to nominate Mia for student body president. Again. And even though Mia has tried to explain that she doesn't want it, as we all know, once Lilly's mind is made up, there's no changing it.

On top of all that, Michael has some interesting news for Mia. He has the opportunity to do some more work on the robotic arm he's been developing that could make it possible to perform closed-chest surgery. Great, right? Wrong. In order to do this research, Michael is moving to Japan. For a year. Or more. And he won't be coming back over holiday breaks.

Mia's world seems to be falling apart around her, and she can't understand how a year that was supposed to have been so great can have turned into such a nightmare so quickly. But then, with some unexpected help from Grandmere, Mia comes up with a plan. One that might just convince Michael to stay in New York, if only she has the guts to go through with it.

In this eighth installment of the PRINCESS DIARIES series, Mia finds herself having to grow up and deal with more adult situations, and it's a refreshing change from previous books. I have to admit, this series did seem to be going on for a very long time, but personally, with this book, Meg Cabot has managed to recapture my interest. Mia is still the same princess, entertaining and somewhat naive, but her voice seems to have matured, and the book has lost a lot of the bubbly, pre-teen feel.

Overall, PRINCESS ON THE BRINK is a great addition to the series, sure to please old and new fans, and there is no doubt that it will leave readers clamoring for number nine.

Book Review: PARTY PRINCESS by Meg Cabot

Party Princess (The Princess Diaries VII) by Meg Cabot

Princess Mia is back in this seventh installment of the popular PRINCESS DIARIES series, and as usual, she's facing more problems than she knows what to do with. She's recently been elected student body president, which shouldn't really be that difficult a job since she's been in training to rule her own county someday, but it turns out that the student government is broke.

As if that weren't enough, Lilly starts a new literary magazine, calls it Fat Louie's Pink Butthole, and wants to publish Mia's story about the Guy Who Hates It When They Put Corn in the Chili, a story that Mia would rather the entire student body not read.

Luckily (or not so luckily, depending on how you look at it), there's Grandmere to the rescue, and she's got a plan to help Mia's financial situation, social situation, and romantic situation all at once (not that Mia was aware she had a romantic "situation" in the first place). Unfortunately, Mia's romantic issues become all too clear when Michael decides to throw a party, and Mia starts freaking out because she's not a "party girl."

Fans of the previous PRINCESS DIARIES books won't want to miss this and will definitely enjoy reading along as Mia shares her crazy high school experiences through her journal. Meg Cabot's writing is light and breezy as always, and perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Book Review: HORSE POWER by Bonnie Bryant

Horse Power (The Saddle Club 4) by Bonnie Bryant

Stevie, Carole, and Lisa are ready and excited for the upcoming gymkhana, a three day event full of relays and games and fun – all on horseback, of course. The girls need a fourth team member, and surprisingly, Stevie’s brother Chad fills in. Chad is not the most experienced rider, but he’s entertaining, and they soon discover that he has a crush on one of them.

Carole also meets Kate Devine, a championship rider who is introduced in this book and later becomes a main character in the series. The girls think Kate would be the perfect fourth member to the Saddle Club, but unfortunately Kate has sworn off riding ever again.

HORSE POWER is the fourth book in the Saddle Club series, and it continues to be relatable and fun for the intended age group. With each book, readers get more and more attached to Stevie, Carole, and Lisa, while also introducing new characters, so it’s a good thing the series is so long!

Book Review: HORSE SENSE by Bonnie Bryant

Horse Sense (The Saddle Club 3) by Bonnie Bryant

HORSE SENSE is the third book in the Saddle Club series, and it seems that although Stevie, Carole, and Lisa all love being in the club, they’re having trouble finding time for each other. Carole is monitoring the pregnancy of one of the mares at Pine Hollow, Stevie is in charge of coming up with gymkhana events, and Lisa decides to make official rules for the club, and possibly even add a new member.

Lisa meets Estelle and thinks she’d be a great addition to the club, but Stevie and Carole are too busy with their individual projects and they keep forgetting the meetings that Lisa has scheduled. Lisa invites Estelle into the club without consulting her friends, and they don’t seem too happy. It finally takes the birth of a foal to bring the three girls back together and restore the Saddle Club.

I’ve been a fan of the Saddle Club series for a very long time, and while HORSE SENSE isn’t one of my favorites, I’m sure it will still appeal to horse-loving girls everywhere.

Book Review: HORSE SHY by Bonnie Bryant

Horse Shy (The Saddle Club 2) by Bonnie Bryant

In HORSE SHY, the second book in the Saddle Club series, Stevie, Carole, and Lisa, finally get to go on the long-awaited Mountain Trail Overnight (or MTO). They have a great time, and things get even better for Carole when she gets back: she gets to care for Veronica’s stallion, Cobalt. Veronica may be snobby, but Cobalt is beautiful and Carole loves him.

Then there’s a tragic jumping accident and Cobalt is killed. Carole is devastated and swears that she’ll never ride again. It’s up to Lisa and Stevie to remind Carole how much she loves riding, and that life continues, maybe in ways that nobody expected.

HORSE SHY delves into deeper material than HORSE CRAZY, the first book in the series, with the death of a beloved horse, but Bryant still manages to keep it light for her readers, with a more than happy ending.

Book Review: HORSE CRAZY by Bonnie Bryant

Horse Crazy (The Saddle Club 1) by Bonnie Bryant

The Saddle Club is a hugely popular series by Bonnie Bryant. In this first book, HORSE CRAZY, we are introduced to Stevie Lake, Carole Hanson, and Lisa Atwood. All three girls are very different: Stevie is a practical joker, Carole is obsessed with horses, and Lisa is a straight-A student, but they are brought together by their love of riding.

Stevie and Carole have been friends ever since they met at Pine Hollow Stables, and at first they’re not sure that Lisa will fit in. But when Stevie’s parents tell her that she can’t go on the Mountain Trail Overnight unless she improves her grades, the girls decide to come up with a plan, and eventually the Saddle Club is formed.

The Saddle Club is a very fun and enjoyable series. It’s a quick, light read, great for a day when you just want to relax with a book. The characters are all likeable and relatable, and HORSE CRAZY does a great job at introducing them and making you want to read more.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Book Review: IRONSIDE by Holly Black

Ironside: A Modern Faerie's Tale (Faerie Trilogy 3) by Holly Black

5 Stars (Gold Star Award) on http://teensreadtoo.com/

I have been looking forward to this book ever since I finished TITHE, and Holly Black most definitely does not disappoint. IRONSIDE picks up soon after the events in TITHE and VALIANT, and takes the reader on another breathless journey into the amazing and deadly world of Faerie.

Things have been uneasy ever since Roiben assumed the throne of the Unseelie Court, and with the threat of war in the air and Roiben's coronation drawing near, everyone is on edge. Changeling Kaye Fierch knows that she loves Roiben, but she feels increasingly unwelcome and out of place in the Unseelie Court. So the night of the coronation, determined to prove herself to Roiben and the rest of the court, she makes a formal declaration and pledges herself to him as his consort. However, faerie custom demands that a quest be undertaken before anyone can sit as the Lord's consort, and Roiben grants Kaye an impossible task: to find a fairy who can tell an untruth. Now she is forbidden from seeing or speaking to him until she completes something she knows cannot be done.

Kaye doesn't know where to go, because she has been feeling uncomfortable at home as well, knowing that she stole a human child's life. In a moment of desperation, she tells her mother the truth: that she is a changeling that was switched with Ellen's real daughter, the real Kaye, and she vows to retrieve her from the Seelie Court and return her to Ellen. She feels that this, at least, is something she can do, even if there's no way she can complete Roiben's quest.

But with all the tension between the courts there is nowhere safe, and in venturing into the Seelie Court to find her human counterpart, Kaye puts herself within reach of Lady Silarial. Silarial wants Roiben's throne, and she's willing do anything, including use Kaye, to get it. Once again Kaye finds herself in the middle of Faerie politics, but this time Roiben's not there to save her, and she may not have a way out.

In my personal experience it is rare that a sequel ever lives up to the first book, but IRONSIDE does just that. Full of court rivalry, deception and betrayal, sword fights and murder, faerie curses, new romances, and even characters from VALIANT, IRONSIDE is another wonderful foray into the dark, gritty world of Faerie and will not leave readers disappointed. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you pound your pillow in frustration and clap your hands in delight. My one and only complaint is that this is the last book set in this amazing world.


Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass

4 Stars on http://teensreadtoo.com/ (also reviewed for Hip Scouts)

When 16-year-old Tessa sees the orange dodgeball flying at her from across her high school gym, it never even occurs to her to duck. Soon after, she finds herself floating towards heaven, which looks just like the mall where her parents work and where she has spent a good deal of her life.

She is led to the Lost and Found, where she is given a bag of items: items that she has taken home from the mall during her lifetime, and each item takes her on a journey to her past. She relives several memories, many of which she'd rather forget, and she realizes that it is up to her to sort through her life up until the moment the dodgeball hits her and finally answer the most important question of all.

I really enjoyed HEAVEN LOOKS A LOT LIKE THE MALL, and would definitely recommend it, especially to fans of stories like A CHRISTMAS CAROL. It is written in verse, but if that's not your thing don't let it stop you. About a quarter of the way through I stopped noticing the verse because I was so engrossed in the story, and Wendy Mass does a wonderful job making the reader feel for Tessa, even if she's not always the most likeable person. Whether you're looking for a fun summer read, an interesting verse novel, or a deeper story about life and death, you shouldn't miss HEAVEN LOOKS A LOT LIKE THE MALL.


The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine is well-known for taking familiar fairy tales and weaving them with her own magic. THE FAIRY'S REUTRN AND OTHER PRINCESS TALES is no exception. In this collection of the six popular Princess Tales, Levine has rewritten six familiar (and some not-so-familiar) stories until they are virtually unrecognizable.

In THE FAIRY'S MISTAKE, which is based on the fairy tale "Toads and Diamonds," two very different sisters are each granted a gift by the fairy Ethelinda. Ethelinda feels that her gifts are both well-deserved, so it comes as a great surprise when she discovers that neither gift brought the results she had planned.

THE PRINCESS TEST, which is based on "The Princess and the Pea," tells the story of Lorelei, a blacksmith's daughter, and the prince who falls in love with her. However, the prince's father is determined that his son should marry a princess, so he designs a series of tests to ensure the bride's pedigree. Nicholas still wants to marry Lorelei, but how can she ever pass the tests if she's not a real princess?

PRINCESS SONORA AND THE LONG SLEEP is based on "Sleeping Beauty." As a baby, Princess Sonora is granted many gifts, each fairy trying to outdo the others and bestow the best gift. As a result, Sonora is a beautiful, precocious young child, and she decides to wait until the opportune moment to prick her finger, which will put the castle to sleep for 100 years, as promised by the fairy Belladonna. Her plan, however, doesn't exactly go as planned.

In CINDERELLIS AND THE GLASS HILL, which is based on "The Princess on the Glass Hill," Cinderellis is a lonely boy inventor who is ignored and made fun of by his brothers. Princess Marigold is equally lonely, and wishes she had someone to talk to other than her cat. When Marigold's father decides that it's time for her to marry, he puts her on a glass hill that suitors will have to climb, and it will take Cinderellis' best invention yet to win her hand.

FOR BIDDLE'S SAKE is based on "Puddocky," and tells the story of Parsley, a young girl who loves eating parsley. Unfortunately, the only place that parsley grows is in the garden of the fairy Bombina, who is in jail for turning too many people into toads. When Bombina is released and Parsley is accidentally turned into a toad, she must find a way to make the most of the situation, and maybe even help someone else along the way.

In THE FAIRY'S RETURN, which is based on "The Golden Goose," the fairy Ethelinda is back, and she's nervous about giving any more gifts. But when a baker's son and a princess fall in love and the king forbids their marriage, she just has to do something! So she hopes that everything goes well and gives the baker's son a golden goose.

All six of these stories were absolutely wonderful, full of humor, magic, and love. If you're a fan of ELLA ENCHANTED or THE TWO PRINCESSES OF BAMARRE, you definitely shouldn't miss this!

Book Review: BAD KITTY by Michele Jaffe

Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe

BAD KITTY is the story of Jasmine Callihan, amateur super sleuth and trouble magnet extraordinaire. While on vacation with her family in Las Vegas, all she wants to do is lounge around by the pool, check out the cute guy she saw at the snack hut, and, most of all, be a Model Daughter and prove to her dad that she can stay out of trouble. This lasts for all of about five minutes, until a little boy and his three-legged cat entangle her, "literally," in a murder mystery.

Add in a famous fashion model (who happens to be the little boy's mother), an intimidating bodyguard, an insane killer, threatening messages, limo rides, the Evil Hench Twins (Jas' cousin Alyson and her best friend, Veronique), and even jail time, and you have one crazy adventure. Not to mention that Jack, the cute snack hut guy that Jas can't seem to stop thinking about, may be more than he appears. Pretty soon Jas' best friends Roxy, Tom, and Polly also crash the vacation, bringing with them a handy Bedazzler and tons of hilarious ideas to aid (and hinder) Jas in her investigation.

BAD KITTY is a fantastic read, and one you might not want to read in public if you tend to laugh while reading. Footnotes sprinkled throughout every chapter act as conversations between Jas and her friends, correcting and adding to the story, and by the end of the book, Jas has come up with sixty hilarious "Little Life Lessons" that everyone should know. For example, "Little Life Lesson 12: If you have your cousin and her friend stand out the sunroof of your limo to give you navigational instructions, be sure that they aren't facing backward to wave at the cute guys in the Porsche behind you when they tell you to go left or right."

The characters are fun and entertaining, the plot hysterical, and you can't help but be swept along with Jas and her friends for the ride. This will definitely appeal to fans of authors like Meg Cabot and Louise Rennison, and for readers who are already fans of the book, Michele Jaffe is hard at work on the sequel.

So hurry to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of BAD KITTY. Believe me, it's totally Visa! (Oh, go read the book and you'll understand!)


Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume edited by Jennifer O'Connell

5 Stars (Gold Star Award) on http://teensreadtoo.com/

Judy Blume is one of the most beloved and well-known authors of our time. She has written countless stories for pre-teens, teens, and adults alike, and millions of readers have been charmed by her lovable characters and easy-to-relate-to storylines.

In EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME, twenty-four of the most popular female authors today, including Megan McCafferty, Jennifer O’Connell, Megan Crane, Cara Lockwood, and Meg Cabot, contribute essays relating their own experiences with Judy Blume.

Covering everything from their own "Judy Blume moments" to hiding under the covers with FOREVER..., these stories are intensely personal recollections that offer an insight into the influence that Judy Blume’s works have had on everyone who reads them.

As a Judy Blume fan myself, I really loved reading this book, and it brought to mind my own memories of reading her novels. Whether you just want to know more about some of your favorite authors today, or, like me, you grew up with Blume and her characters, this book is well worth reading and you definitely don’t want to miss it.

Book Review: TO CATCH A PIRATE by Jade Parker

To Catch a Pirate by Jade Parker

It’s the year 1720, and Annalisa Townsend and her father are on their way to the Caribbean island of Mourning to set up a governorship when they are attacked by pirates. Hiding in the hold, Anna is discovered by the young James Sterling, who, surprisingly, says nothing of her whereabouts to the rest of the pirate crew. When he goes to take her necklace, however, which is all she has left of her mother, she begs him not to and he agrees, but only in exchange for a kiss. He then disappears with the rest of the pirates, and so does the treasure that the ship was carrying.

One year later, Anna has found a ship and crew of her own, and sets out to find James Sterling, determined to get her father’s treasure back. She finds James and takes him prisoner easily enough, but getting him to cooperate is another matter entirely. As she spends more and more time with him, she slowly begins to forget that he is a pirate and starts to fall for him. James seems to feel the same about her, but has he really given up his pirating ways, and can she ever really trust him?

TO CATCH A PIRATE is a fun summer read full of swashbuckling adventure and romance on the high seas. Jade Parker, who also writes as Rachel Hawthorne and Lorraine Heath, has created a fantastic world with likeable characters that are sure to win over readers.

Book Review: SCARY BEAUTIFUL by Niki Burnham

Scary Beautiful by Niki Burnham

Chloe Rand seems to have the perfect life. She’s about to start her junior year of high school, she has a great boyfriend and a close group of girlfriends, and she’s incredibly gorgeous. But when her boyfriend moves across the country, dumping her at the airport right before he leaves, everything seems to fall apart.

Now Chloe realizes that being a stunningly beautiful, suddenly single girl at high school isn’t easy. Guys aren’t sure how to treat her, girls don’t trust her, and Chloe’s junior year isn’t going at all as planned.

Chloe decides to take charge of her own life and get out of the bubble she’s been living in, but when the first thing she does is fall for Billy, who is a complete geek and totally out of the range of the “old Chloe,” will it make things easier, or harder?

I’ve really enjoyed all of the Simon Romantic Comedies, particularly Niki Burnham’s other contributions, and SCARY BEAUTIFUL is no exception. It’s a great book that really challenges the “popular girl” stereotypes, and teens are sure to have fun reading it.

Book Review: BEATING HEART by AM Jenkins

Beating Heart: A Ghost Story by AM Jenkins

When his mother forces him to move with her to a new house, Evan Calhoun doesn’t expect much. Sure, he’ll have to move all his stuff, but he’ll still go to the same school and have the same friends.

Little does he know that there’s a spirit occupying his new room, a spirit who will mistake him for her dead lover and change his life forever.

BEATING HEART was really interesting, and my favorite part was the way the story is told. The point of view alternates between Evan and the ghost, and the ghost speaks in beautiful verse fragments that definitely make the book worth reading.

Book Review: 101 WAYS TO DANCE by Kathy Stinson

101 Ways To Dance by Kathy Stinson

5 Stars (Gold Star Award) on http://teensreadtoo.com/

101 WAYS TO DANCE is an amazing collection of short stories that each deal with a different aspect of teenage sexuality. The stories vary in length and tone, covering a vast array of topics that include everything from teen pregnancies, mental illness, and terminal cancer to struggling with coming out to friends and feeling inappropriate lust for cousins.

As is bound to happen with a collection, there were certain stories that I enjoyed more than others, but each one is brilliant in its own way. Some of my favorites include CHICKEN, which is less than two pages long and involves a game of chicken between two teenagers in a church basement, and the title story, 101 WAYS TO DANCE, which is just that: a very creative list of one hundred and one ways to dance.

Kathy Stinson has created believable, likeable characters and realistic storylines that teenagers will be able to identify with, even if they have not had similar experiences. Each story is a gem, a refreshing coming-of-age tale, and I would highly encourage every teenager to go out and read this book, because it shows us that there truly are one hundred and one (and many, many more) ways to dance.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Book Review: HIGH SPIRITS by Dianne K. Salerni

High Spirits: A Tale of Ghostly Rapping and Romance by Dianne K. Salerni

5 Stars (Gold Star Award) on http://teensreadtoo.com/

When mischievous sisters Maggie and Kate Fox hear that their dreaded niece, Lizzie, is coming for a visit, they immediately start thinking of ways to get rid of her. Their prank takes the form of rapping noises that spell out messages from the dead, but instead of making Lizzie flee in fear, their plan backfires, and soon they have not only Lizzie and their family convinced, but the whole town.

All of a sudden, neighbors want to hold séances to give messages to their deceased loved ones, an innocent man is accused of murder, and a reporter comes to investigate, turning their harmless little prank into something much bigger.

The girls are thrilled with all the attention, but when their older sister, Leah, makes a visit and witnesses a spirit rapping for herself, she immediately sees through their shenanigans and recognizes that it is one of their tricks. Rather than turning them in, however, she gives them a choice: come with her and allow her to take charge of the rappings and make the decisions, or be revealed as frauds. Under Leah’s control, the spirit circles turn into a business venture, as she starts charging admission and adds a vast arsenal of spooky tricks to the evening’s entertainment.

The sisters travel around holding séances, and their fame grows, giving rise to spiritualism and mesmerism, and causing many more “mediums” to be discovered. Not everyone is impressed, though, and more than once they find themselves confronted by disbelievers and skeptics, even having to flee for their lives on occasion.

One of these skeptics is Elisha Kent Kane, a charismatic and well-known Arctic explorer who, despite his misgivings about her occupation, takes a great liking to Maggie and begins to court her. He insists that she give up the spirit rapping and the deception, even offering to provide her with an education and place to stay in order to improve her social status. Maggie finds herself with a decision to make, as she is torn between her feelings for Elisha and what he can provide, and her old way of life and the acceptance of her family.

HIGH SPIRITS is a fascinating book, made even more interesting by the fact that the story of the Fox sisters is based in truth. I enjoyed every second of reading it, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Readers will be swept along with Maggie and Kate as they bamboozle an entire nation, and will feel for Maggie as she debates whether or not to leave the profession and then has to deal with the consequences of her decision.

Dianne K. Salerni has written a brilliant debut novel and I am eagerly awaiting her next.

Book Review: 68 KNOTS by Michael Robert Evans

68 Knots by Michael Robert Evans

Eight teenagers are ready for the summer of a lifetime – as part of a Leadership Cruise on board the schooner Dreadnought. But when the camp owner commits suicide just a few days into the cruise, rather than go back home, the teens decide to take charge of the ship themselves. They tie knots into a piece of rope, one knot for each day of summer remaining, and then set off to enjoy their 68 days of freedom.

The journey is not always easy, and they face many challenges along the way – including struggles for leadership, failed romances, storms, desertions, damages to the ship, and diminishing food supplies. But it’s not all difficult, and they manage to have several fun adventures as well, such as trying to rescue a whale, searching for buried treasure, raiding yachts, racing other boats, and going hunting for seals.

The teens may not have had the summer experience they were expecting, but they are all undoubtedly changed by their time aboard the Dreadnought, as new friendships and relationships are formed, and they all begin to question their own futures.

68 KNOTS is a very fun read, and I really enjoyed it. The characters are interesting and diverse (although a couple of them have rather annoying habits), and the book is full of great details about sailing a ship. Even though the crew of the Dreadnought gets into some pretty sticky situations, anyone who reads this is bound to want to go out and experience the same summer at sea as these kids – I know I do!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

First Post!

A new blog, how exciting! I've been meaning to get one for ages but just somehow never got around to actually doing it. I don't even know what to say now! :)

I'm a college student to loves to read and write, and I mainly decided to start this blog as a way to keep all of my book reviews together. I review for several different publishing companies and websites, and this way all the reviews will be in one place (linked back to where they were originally posted, of course).

I'll also post the occasional movie/television show or music review, and I'm sure there will also be posts that don't have any reviews in them at all. And who knows, maybe we can get some author interviews on here as well.

Hope you enjoy, happy reading, and leave a comment!

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