REVIEW: Oh, what a fabulously cute book! Two best friends privately battle with romantic feelings for one another, fe...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Oh, what a fabulously cute book! Two best friends privately battle with romantic feelings for one another, fearing what could happen if the other doesn't reciprocate. I loved both Mia and Eric. Their friendship feels real. They are cute together. They have fun together. Neither one is perfect, but they do try.
I loved Eric's honesty and the fact that he is just a good guy. Unlike the typical "bad boy" in so many new adult books, Eric works in a nursing home, struggles with self-confidence, and feels socially awkward. I loved Eric--he's a refreshing change from the cocky, brooding male leads I normally see in NA books.
The only other book I've read by Cassie Mae is How To Date A Nerd. I liked that one, but I remember thinking that though I was engrossed in the story, the writing felt amateurish. That is not the case with The Real Thing. Sure, it's predictable (the romance genre often is), but I really felt the connection between Eric and Mia. I believed in their relationship and that they could last long enough to marry and stay together into old age. The intimate scenes are deliciously slow and beautifully-written. Readers do not feel connected to the characters and their story without good writing, and Cassie Mae asserts her talent as a fresh, fun new adult writer. She is an author that I definitely plan to read again.
As far as teen appeal, I think it's fine for more mature teen readers nearing the end of high school. There are some steamy scenes, but they are more of the heavy kissing and petting variety than is typical for NA (which usually contains more than one intercourse scene).
THE BOTTOM LINE: A fun and engrossing romance about friends who want to be more. I loved this book!
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it--it's more adult than teen.
Appeal to teens: 5/5 (mature readers only)
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: medium--lots of sh**
Sexuality: very high--lots of kissing, petting (with and without clothes), talk/thoughts of intercourse and arousal, intercourse
Drugs/Alcohol: mild--Eric takes prescription medication for anxiety
SUMMARY: Scientific answers to 50 humorous questions about the human body such as: Are there aliens inside you?, What...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
SUMMARY: Scientific answers to 50 humorous questions about the human body such as: Are there aliens inside you?, What is the best bug barrier around?, and What's IQ to you?
REVIEW: Oh my goodness, what a beautifully-illustrated and well-written biology book for kids and teens! I love the folksy language that will easily draw-in upper-elementary and middle school readers. Scientific terms and explanations are presented in a way that young readers can relate to. It's interesting! There is a recipe for synthetic snot, simple scientific experiments to try at home or school, colorful timelines, and tons of interesting facts and captions.
50 Body Questions is nonfiction done RIGHT. Illustrations are clean and colorful without overwhelming the text. Paragraphs are not simply long chunks of information; here, the facts are broken up by anecdotes, illustrations, and lots of color. The illustrator uses the entire page with beautiful, interesting, and varied layouts. Preteen readers might not even realize they are reading factual information about science.
I strongly recommend 50 Body Questions for all elementary and middle school libraries. There is much to learn from this engaging and beautiful nonfiction title. I was previously unaware of this series of five books, and I just added all five to my next book order. The other four titles include 50 questions about fire, poisons, climate, and underwear.
USES FOR TEACHERS/LIBRARIANS:
SCIENCE: Endless possibilities for elementary and middle school science classes. Simple experiments such as "Balance Buster" (p. 65), "Red Brain, Blue Brain" (p. 71), "Reflex-ology" (p. 91), and four others could be done right in the classroom in minutes.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A must for elementary and middle school libraries.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order, along with the other 4 titles in the series.
READALIKES:You Wouldn't Want to Be A... series (various authors); Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood (Kyi/Rolston)
Presentation & layout: 5/5--colorful, excellent use of space
Quality of information: 5/5--Lots of information presented in an easy-to-read format
Photos/illustrations: 5/5--colorful cartoons that compliment the text and tone perfectly
Documentation of sources: 5/5--Sources are broken down by the book's seven chapters into three pages of sources. Multiple references included for each chapter. Sources include academic journals, websites, a radio program, and two newspapers.
Front and back matter: 5/5--Includes colorful and illustrated TOC, a 4-page glossary (colorful, includes a few illustrations), and Further Reading (all nonfiction titles for middle grade readers), 3-page index, and an About the Author & Illustrator page
Engrossing: 5/5--Very easy to read and understand. Perfect for browsers and reluctant readers who like science.
Writing: 5/5--Funny, conversational, interesting.
Appeal to teens: 5/5--Especially useful for browsers and reluctant readers.
Appropriate length: 5/5--Chapters are of similar lengths. Lots of illustrations and colorful captions help break up the text.
CONTENT: No worries about content for younger readers.
REVIEW: I finished this book just two days ago, but as I sit down to write my review, I am having to really think abo...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: I finished this book just two days ago, but as I sit down to write my review, I am having to really think about what happened. The story was a fun distraction, but it just wasn't all that memorable.
There's a "good" girl, a preacher's daughter named Faith. On the surface, Faith leads her life the way any good preacher's daughter should. She dresses modestly, dates the "right" guy, and never, ever gives her father reason to worry about her whereabouts. But that's all on the surface. Inside, a wilder, more carefree Faith is dying to get out.
Enter Diego, the new "bad boy" in school. Diego moved to their Florida town from Cuba, where he previously served as a bodyguard for a drug cartel. Oh, and he barely escaped with his life. And now the local branch of the gang MS-13 is hotly pursuing him as a potential recruit. And the drug cartel may or may not still be looking for him.
So Faith meets Diego on his first day at the new school. I would think most girls like Faith would want to avoid this boy like the plague, especially after he is rude to her when she tries to help him. But not our Faith. No, Faith wants to challenge him. She meets him after every class like he is some sort of invalid so she can walk him to his next class. For two days. And no, they are not in second grade--they are both high school seniors.
As they see more of each other in and out of school, Faith and Diego slowly develop a friendship, which blossoms into a torrid romance full of drama and danger and misunderstandings. And while I enjoyed reading the story, I just feel like I've read this one a whole bunch of other times. I'm no stranger to the New Adult genre, and I think at least 75% of the NA books I have read involve a good-girl/bad-boy romance. Or maybe vice versa. Either way, while Before You was entertaining enough to keep me up late on a Saturday night, it's not really anything special or unique.
The writing has a "stop and start" feel to it. One minute, the characters are speaking and thinking and acting like normal people, then BOOM! their thoughts are all poetic and descriptive and flowery. It just doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the story.
I really don't want to discourage New Adult fans from reading this book. I enjoyed reading it and nearly cried in one part. I really loved Faith's best friend, Melissa, which is great because there are way too many annoying best friends in YA and NA books. I am excited to hear Melissa's story in the next book (yes, despite my complaints in this review, I'll probably still read the sequel). And I did like the ending of Before You, though it was a bit difficult to believe.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Overall, it's just okay. I liked the story, but I've heard it before. Writing is choppy and tone is uneven. The sequel may be promising.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I don't have it. Mature content is along the lines of Perfect Chemistry (Elkeles), but there is much less profanity. Try this with reluctant reader high school girls--it really is difficult to put down.
Overall: 3/5--great story, mediocre execution. Not very original.
Creativity: 2/5--Bad Boy meets Good Girl. I love that setup, but I've read it so many times before.
Characters: 3/5--bonus for Melissa--love her!
Engrossing: 4/5--Yep, I was into the story.
Writing: 2/5--Sudden flowery descriptions interrupt the flow and don't go with the tone of the rest of the story.
Appeal to teens: 4/5--yes, romance-loving HS girls will probably eat this one up
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5--neither too long or too short. I was never bored.
Language: mild--For a NA title, this book had way less profanity than I expected.
Sexuality: medium-high--it's new adult, so it includes frank talk of sex, erections, kissing, touching, and intercourse. It's all tastefully done and nothing the vast majority of high school girls haven't heard before.
Violence: medium-high--threat of rape, murder, gang activity, gun violence, knife violence, street fighting
Drugs/Alcohol: medium--former addiction, drug-addicted parent, Cuban drug cartel is central to story (though no discussion of what type of drugs)
SUMMARY: A young boy notices a crack in his rear-end and decides to shop for a new butt.
REVIEW:I Need A New Butt is a fun read with a cute rhyme that...more SUMMARY: A young boy notices a crack in his rear-end and decides to shop for a new butt.
REVIEW:I Need A New Butt is a fun read with a cute rhyme that young readers will enjoy. There isn't much point to the story, but inventive children will enjoy dreaming up new butt-possibilities for the boy and his father. Kids always love stories with naked rear ends (remember No, David?), but there's not much substance here outside just being a fun read.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Brightly-colored drawings on a white background. Some text is in color with different fonts and larger sizes for emphasis.
ACTIVITIES FOR HOME OR CLASSROOM:
Art--Create a new butt for the father, whose butt falls off on the last page. What kind of butt might the father want?
Music, Reading--Rhythm and rhyme--Have children clap or snap to the rhythm.
Science--What is a butt used for? What would happen if we didn't have a butt crack? Is it possible for a butt to simply fall off?
THE BOTTOM LINE: Fun potty humor for children of all ages.
READALIKES:No, David (Shannon)
Storytime appeal: 2/5--I don't know many librarians or teachers who would be willing to read this aloud with students. There is little substance to the story, and with the frequency of the word "butt" and "fart," it is more likely to send the kids into fits of giggles rather than actually teach them anything. The kids would love it though.
Characters: 2/5--Character development is almost nothing. The different "butt-possibilities" take center-stage.
Engrossing: 4/5--Funny enough to keep most kids' attention for 32 pages. I like the simple, colorful, and cleanly-drawn illustrations.
Writing: 4/5--Rhyming books are sometimes awkward, but this one mostly works.
Appeal to children: 5/5--I have no doubt young children will find this book quite entertaining. Great for reluctant readers.
CONTENT: Butts and farts are central to the story, but it's all in good, clean fun. Butts are cleanly-drawn; there is no detail beyond some wavy lines denoting malodorous rear ends. (less)
REVIEW: Oh, how I love Donna Cooner! Last year, I read and loved her debut, Skinny, so I didn't even bother to read...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Oh, how I love Donna Cooner! Last year, I read and loved her debut, Skinny, so I didn't even bother to read the description of this one when I requested it from NetGalley--I knew I wanted to read it no matter what it was about.
Once again, Cooner writes a beautiful and convincing story of a teen girl experiencing social and emotional recovery after a traumatic event. In this one, we meet Torrey Grey, a 16-year old girl who, to be honest, is not a very sympathetic character at first. Torrey is intensely obsessed with her online persona, being part of the "in crowd," and fashion, fashion, fashion. For the first half of the book, she comes off as stuck-up, mean, and selfish. Torrey is not a girl I would like in real life, and I wanted to see her change. Thankfully, she does.
There is a sweet romance, but the main plot is Torrey's grief and guilt over her own role in the tragic accident that killed her younger sister, Miranda. As many do after the death of a loved one, Torrey constantly wonders, "What if...?" What if she didn't argue with Miranda that day? What if she hadn't made her go to the mall? What if they had left a little earlier, or a little later? Cooner does a fantastic job making the reader feel and believe in Torrey's guilt. It helps to make haughty Torrey begin to feel a bit more human, a bit more like a lost teen girl, a bit more like someone readers can root for.
As with Skinny, I encourage readers to check out Cooner's Acknowledgments page, where she relates her own experiences in the social media spotlight. As Torrey discovers, people can be hateful when typing out comments on their anonymous keyboards. Cooner handles this timely social issue with honesty and grace.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Another hit from Donna Cooner! Timely, honest, emotional, and real.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. This will be easy to booktalk with middle school girls who like emotional reads.
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Sexuality: mild; some kissing
Violence: mild; drunk driving accident
Drugs/Alcohol: very mild; drunk driving accident--the driver isn't important to the story
Other: El Dia de los Muertos is a major plot point; several scenes inside a funeral home; frequent discussion of death, dying, funerals, viewings, cadavers (less)
SUMMARY: A collection of 50 fairy-tale themed poems that tackle problems modern teen girls face.
REVIEW: Incredibly creative! These 50 poems are all short (two pages or less), and many contain illustrations. Some of the illustrations really fit; others left me a little confused. Some poems, such as "Big Bad Spa Treatment," are light-hearted and funny. Others, such as "Spotless," reflect deeper emotional and societal problems. All have a feminist slant.
Like some of the illustrations, a few of the poems, such as "Boy Toy Villanelle" left me scratching my head. There were also a few that didn't seem to follow the fairy tale theme at all. For example, "Human Centipede Two" is about horror movies, and "Pink Champagne" tells of girls getting drunk at a slumber party.
Here's a brief summary of a few of my favorites:
--"Prince Charming"--Turns on the charm to meet the parents. On the date, not so charming.
--"Retelling"--The Miller's Daughter stands up for herself and gets a new life.
--"To My Sheep, Wherever You Are"--After losing his sheep, Little Boy Blue finds a new job at the library.
--"Thumbelina's Get-Tiny Cleanse--Tested"--Miss Muffett goes on a diet and loses so much weight, she is eaten by a spider.
--"Red-Handed"--Little Red Riding Hood steals beer, smokes cigarettes, and makes out with the wolf.
--"Life Among the Swans"--The Ugly Duckling wishes she had stayed ugly. Life was safer then.
--"Spotless"--Desperate for release from the daily drudgery of keeping a spotless cottage, Snow White begins to cut herself, like her mother before her.
--"Big Bad Spa Treatment"--How Big Bad Wolves prepare their dinner.
--"The Beast"--Beauty and the Beast poem gets a cool twist in the last line.
--"Assassin"--A Wicked Witch's work is never done.
THE BOTTOM LINE: For the most part, the poems are creative, funny, and thought-provoking. In a poetry book, there will always be a few that don't make sense. To each, her own poem. The ones that didn't make sense to me may speak perfectly to someone else.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. Poisoned Apples is a must for all middle and high school libraries.
READALIKES:Grumbles From the Forest (Yolen); Follow, Follow and Mirror, Mirror (Singer); for younger readers, Dark Sparkle Tea and Other Bedtime Stories (Myers)
RATING BREAKDOWN: Overall: 5/5
Creativity: 5/5--very creative and very few like this for teens
Engrossing: 5/5--all poems are short, fun and easy to read
Appeal to teens: 5/5--great for reluctant readers, too
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: mild--one F-bomb; nothing else
Sexuality: mild-moderate--references to menstruation, sex, breasts; Red Riding Hood makes out with the wolf
Violence: mild--fairy tale violence--poisoning, witches eat children, cutting
Drugs/Alcohol: mild--teen alcohol use, smoking
IF THIS BOOK WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: "Trouble" by Taylor Swift
REVIEW: Aww. This book was seriously cute. I love the sisters' dual viewpoints and the Sherman, Texas setting. A road trip, two romances, and plenty of teen angst kept me eagerly turning pages. Being a Texan who recently relocated to China, I love that this book helped me feel a little homesick for the first time since I got here. The authors clearly love the Texas countryside!
I have two younger sisters, so I can relate with Charlie and Lucy's sibling rivalry. Their personalities seem to be polar opposites, so it takes some time for them to start to understand how alike they truly are. I love that the authors developed the girls' relationship slowly and realistically. Beautifully written!
The romances are both sweet and realistic. My only complaint is that the ending is a bit of a let-down. True to life, the story just stops without resolving everything. Sequel, please!
THE BOTTOM LINE: An engrossing story of sisters, first loves, and growing up. I loved it!
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I will definitely order this, but it is currently only available as an e-book. Follett doesn't currently list it, so I will have to do some searching to see where I can get a copy. Nook and Kindle editions won't work for checkout in school libraries.
Love this series, and I loved this book! I started it around midnight and finished it just before 5AM. School librari...moreMore reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
Love this series, and I loved this book! I started it around midnight and finished it just before 5AM. School librarian in the summer, y'all! I've read several Abbi Glines books, including two other Sea Breeze titles, but this is my favorite so far. Great characters and story. When I read Jess's story (Misbehaving), I was hoping we'd get to see Dewayne's story at some point. Once again, a hit from Ms. Glines!(less)
REVIEW: If Stitching Snow were published three years ago, I would be praising its originality. A sci-fi Snow White?...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: If Stitching Snow were published three years ago, I would be praising its originality. A sci-fi Snow White? Wow, but that's different! But in case you were visiting the moon for the past two years, there was this little book called Cinder that came out back in 2012. And it was huge: critically-acclaimed, winner of literary awards, and incredibly popular with readers. Since Cinder's publication, author Marissa Meyer has published two sequels, based on Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, both of which have achieved massive critical praise and popularity with readers. Oh, and Winter the 4th book in Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series, set for publication next year, is based on--wait for it--Snow White. Stitching Snow is so much like Cinder that it feels like a copycat effort rather than something incredibly creative.
Don't get me wrong, I really loved Essie's toughness and her survival instinct. I loved that the seven dwarfs are seven droids (with distinct character traits!) that Essie built herself. I loved the world-building of Planet Thanda's isolated, frigid stillness. Life there would certainly be difficult, but it really does sound lovely in an Antarctica-in-winter kind of way.
Pacing is good for the most part. It is gripping at times, slow at others. Sometimes excessive mechanical detail overruns the plot, and I found myself skimming a little. The story was a little difficult to get into at the beginning, but once Essie saves Dane from the crash, the events happen much more quickly.
But the similarities to Cinder are just too huge to ignore. Cinder/Essie are both uber-talented mechanics. Cinder/Essie both have droid "pets" that Cinder/Essie both repair themselves. Cinder/Essie are both lost princesses trying to escape an evil queen out to murder them. Cinder/Essie both meet a handsome prince who may or may not be trustworthy. Both are fairy tales with a sci-fi twist. I liked the story, but I would have liked it more had I not previously read Cinder.
THE BOTTOM LINE:Stitching Snow is a fun read, but its similarities to Cinder are just too huge to ignore. Readers who finished the Lunar Chronicles series and want more will find a great match in Stitching Snow.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Despite my lukewarm reception, I will absolutely order this for my school. It's (mostly) clean and will help satiate Cinder fans hungry for more.
READALIKES:The Lunar Chronicles (Meyer)
Creativity: 3/5--awarding some points for the 7 droids (love Dimwit!)
Engrossing: 4/5--I did have a hard time putting it down in parts (skimmed others though)
Appeal to teens: 5/5--there is definitely a teen market here
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5--neither too short or too long
Sexuality: mild-medium--some kissing; a few allusions to rape, prostitution, and incest (nothing described but all unnecessary)
Violence: mild-medium--poisoning, war scenes, gun violence
I liked but did-not-love this one. As with all of the Abbi Glines books I've already read (Breathe, The Vincent Brothers, Fallen, and Fallen Too Far),...moreI liked but did-not-love this one. As with all of the Abbi Glines books I've already read (Breathe, The Vincent Brothers, Fallen, and Fallen Too Far), I devoured Misbehaving in one sitting. It is really easy to get into, and it no doubt fun to read. But this one is just too Pretty Woman for my taste. Poor girl headed for a life in the sex industry meets super-rich nice boy who falls for her and whisks her away to his castle in the clouds. A bloody fairytale come true.
I really never connected with either of the protagonists. Jess's personality is so focused on her innate ability to drive men crazy, as though men have absolutely no self-control whatsoever. She uses her body to gain advantage but then has the audacity to get upset when men see her as a quick roll-in-the-hay. What did you expect, girlie?
And her "solution" to her problems toward the end! (view spoiler)[Seriously? It's almost like she wants to be depressed and miserable and allow men to use her. She's tough, but where is her grit? Where is her determination to not become just like her mother? Stripping is never "the only way." Yes, her mother has medical bills, but she could have simply gone into debt. Or applied for more aid (kind of hard to believe they wouldn't qualify for aid or disability since her mother can't work while on chemo). Or put it on a credit card. I hate debt as much as anyone, but stripping for a living is hardly the "only" alternative. No matter though because her hot man comes riding in on a white horse and saves her and her mother from a hard life of stripping. Grr. (hide spoiler)]
And then there's Jason. We really know so little about him. His mother is a witch (but we already knew that from Breathe), and she wants him to become a politician. But I have no clue what Jason likes or wants to do or is good at. Sure, he's got good manners and is kind of clueless when it comes to relationships, but what does he actually DO all day? He attends Harvard and studies something (???) frequently. He has tests and classes. But what are the classes? What does he want to do, other than travel and fly cross-country in a jealous rage?
Fun stuff here, but don't expect too much. My least favorite Glines book so far.
IF THIS BOOK WERE A ROCK GROUP, IT WOULD BE: Pink Floyd--it's trippy, surreal, psychedelic
WHAT I LIKED: Remember the movie Innerspace? If you haven't seen it (or maybe weren't born when it was released in 1987), Innerspace is about a man who volunteers to be reduced to a microscopic size and injected into a rabbit in order to study the rabbit's bodily systems. When nefarious evil-doers try to steal this technology, the miniature man is instead injected into the body of a socially-awkward everyman played by Martin Short.
For those who have seen Innerspace, the comparisons to the movie will be evident right away. We have eyeball skating across a milky-white cornea, nanobots that basket-weave a brain aneurysm, giant and monstrous dust mites, and life-sized globs of ear wax. These parts of the book were ultra-cool and really show off Michael Grant's incredible writing talent and creativity.
Though BZRK wasn't my cup of tea, there is absolutely a place for it on high school library shelves. I've compared Michael Grant to Stephen King many times, and BZRK reinforces that comparison. Readers who enjoy Tom Clancey, Stephen King, and Michael Crichton will find plenty to love here. I can think of several boys at my school who would love it.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The characters. Some, like Bug and his mind-controlled girlfriend Jessica, are very well-drawn. Bug reminded me of Harold in Stephen King's epic The Stand (one of my favorite books of all time). The Armstrong Twins were so lifelike I could picture their grotesqueness in every scene they were in. But other characters, like Noah and Sadie, left me feeling disconnected. I liked Noah and Sadie okay, but I didn't really know all that much about them or care what happened to them. Because of this disconnect, I just wasn't invested in the characters' lives or the danger they were in.
The technology. Okay, the Innerspace-esque technology is really cool. Teen sci-fi lovers will eat it right up. But some readers (like me) will find themselves skimming the nano-talk. It wasn't really explained well, and I felt like I needed more background (or any background) in nanotechnology and biotechnology in order to really follow the story properly. There were times I had to force myself to get through those parts just so I could get back to Noah and Sadie's story.
The pacing. Despite lots of action sequences, I just wasn't pumped up about it. This was no Unwind.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Not my thing, but it's an excellent choice for high school boys who love action and sci-fi.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. I am in a MS/HS now, and I know this will be popular.
READALIKES: anything by Stephen King, Tom Clancey, or Michael Crichton
Creativity: 5/5--among the most creative I've read
Characters: 3/5--Grant is a master at drawing evil characters, but "good" characters in this one pale in comparison
Engrossing: 2/5--I had to force myself to read and skim at times
Writing: 4/5--Grant is talented, but I took a point off because I skimmed
Appeal to teens: 3/5--no mass appeal, but target audiences will love it
Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5--it's fine at 415 pages, but it lost me at times
Language: high--contains multiple F-bombs and sh--
Sexuality: medium--kissing; sex is discussed and/or implied on several occasions; allusion to oral sex, but it's not described
Violence: high--plenty of blood and guts (it's Innerspace); murder and attempted murder; a graphic description of a plane wreck
Drugs/Alcohol: mild--adults drink at a bar
Other: BZRK just has an adult "feel" to it. The characters are in their late-teens and early-20s. (less)
IF THIS BOOK WERE A MOVIE, IT WOULD BE: a very irritating and non-clever version of Mean Girls
WHAT I LIKED: I think teens will like this much better than I did. I have had library girls ask me for "books with lots of drama," and this would be an excellent choice for them. I avoid drama at all costs, so for me, not an excellent choice. Teens would also relate better to the cyber-bullying stuff, which I have never encountered. So, even though I didn't connect with this book, I do respect its ability to suck in reluctant reader teen girls who may be going through a similar situation.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Unsympathetic characters. We'll start with Lucy. I just didn't like her. She loves to play the victim and scorn everyone else. Except Cole, of course, who Lucy "loves." Cole's character is pretty flat and not all that sympathetic. Even though he was technically single the night of Prom, he knows Lucy and Ellie are best friends when he makes his move on Lucy. Not cool, dude.
Griffin and Ellie are terrible best friends. Ellie won't even speak to Lucy and give her a chance to tell her side. Griffin is wild and annoying. In one breath, she's telling Lucy to "go for it" with Cole; the next minute, she is shaming Lucy for doing it, saying she was "just kidding." Also not cool. We also have absent parents, a famous sister who has serious emotional problems, and a really cute newspaper editor who, sadly, never gets the time of day as a possible romantic interest. Oh! And that principal! Checking her FaceBook page and posting messages while she is lecturing kids about the dangers of social media? WTH?
Drama. Cruel gossip. Immaturity. Social media shenanigans. There's just a LOT of it. Some teens can handle social media, but the teens in this book are not among them. It's just too stinkin' much.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Social media drama queens will relate. Could work for reluctant reader teen girls.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: It's too mature for middle school. Optional choice for high school.
Overall: 1/5--though I was curious as to the identity of Miss Demeanor, I had to force myself to finish. Skimmed the last 100 pages.
Creativity: 2/5--The mysteries of Miss Demeanor and Jayla Heart were slightly compelling.
Characters: 1/5--I did not like anyone except Franklin--a missed opportunity for a likeable love interest.
Engrossing: 1/5--skim, skim, skim
Writing: 3/5--nothing awful, but I didn't connect with the characters at all
Appeal to teens: 3/5--reluctant reader teen girls may like
Appropriate length to tell the story: 2/5--too long
Language: pretty high--includes F-bomb, sh**, damn, hell, ass, etc.--most are unnecessary
Sexuality: medium--kissing, innuendo, implied sex, slut-shaming
Violence: cyber-bullying and mean girls
Drugs/Alcohol: medium; teens get drunk at a party
This was so cute! I especially love the inclusion of a diabetic protagonist and the authentic dialogue among the teen characters. Full review to come...moreThis was so cute! I especially love the inclusion of a diabetic protagonist and the authentic dialogue among the teen characters. Full review to come closer to pub date.(less)
IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: fried calamari--sometimes yummy, sometimes too chewy
REVIEW: My feelings for this book are best summed up with punctuation:
! (the first quarter)
I was drawn to The Jewel's gorgeous front cover and its comparisons to The Selection, The Handmaid's Tale, and Wither, all of which I adored. At first, I thought I was going to absolutely LOVE The Jewel. I liked the idea of the island arranged in concentric circles, with The Jewel and its royalty at the center and the poorest citizens along the outermost edges. I love all the dresses and pageantry and balls and luxurious estates. And the auguries, special abilities only the Surrogates have, provide a cool supernatural twist to the story.
? (the second quarter)
About 100 pages in, I started losing interest a bit. Questionable worldbuilding left me scratching my head. I'd like to know more about the ocean overtaking the island and how the wall came to be. I don't understand why royalty can't have their own children or why they are only allowed two children. If the royal men are so powerful, why are they so uninvolved? Why would they marry these hag women at all if Surrogates could do the work of the children? Why wouldn't the men just skip the marriage part and buy themselves a young, healthy Surrogate for the childbearing? I just have trouble buying into this world.
Despite all my questions, Ewing includes lots of lengthy descriptions of dresses and ballrooms and royal chitchat. While at first I loved all the descriptions of ball gowns and hairstyles, I started skimming them in this second quarter. I wish Ewing had devoted more space to worldbuilding than to descriptions of opulence. The Duchess and her ilk are stinkin' rich. We get it.
... (the third quarter)
Enter the romance. It's not quite insta-love (they do talk for several weeks before the "I Love Yous" begin), but it's pretty darn close. Garnet, son of the cruel Duchess, has far more personality than Ash, Violet's love interest. While there's plenty to complain about with the speed of the romance, I actually ended up enjoying it okay. While I never liked him as much as Garnet, Ash grew on me eventually, and by the end, I was starting to believe in Ash and Violet's relationship. My only wish here is that the romance started earlier and developed more slowly than it did.
Once again, the third quarter offers up even more descriptions of gowns and other useless details while failing to address major worldbuilding holes. Sigh.
! (the last 50 pages)
The cliffhanger. I actually liked it! It seems Ewing finally found her feet in the book's last 50 pages, and I definitely want to know what happens next.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Overall, it's kind of a roller coaster. I liked the beginning and the ending, but worldbuilding gets lost in the middle. Readers who don't look too deeply for answers will likely enjoy The Jewel; even with all my complaints, I will probably read the sequel.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Concept is too mature for middle school. Optional choice for high school, but as with Kluver's Legacy trilogy, the sequel has potential. Give it to fans of The Selection and Wither.
Appeal to teens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5
Sexuality: medium--vertical and horizontal kissing, one incident of off-the-page sex, teen pregnancy is a major plot point, references to menstruation; gynecological exam (nothing specifically described)
Violence: medium--some blood/bruises from domestic abuse and heavy-handed soldiers
Drugs/Alcohol: mild--champagne at parties, mild hangover
IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: A Strawberry Pop Tart. There's nothing nutritional or especially memorable here,...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: A Strawberry Pop Tart. There's nothing nutritional or especially memorable here, but it's fun while it lasts.
WHAT I LIKED: As its title suggests, Just Like the Movies references tons of fantastic movies from the past 30 years. Including everything from Sixteen Candles to Mean Girls to Say Anything, Just Like the Movies makes me want to snuggle down for a marathon of these and other classics. Some may say that the abundant film quotes will date this book, but I think the movies included here are already classics. Even decades later, we still love to watch them over and over. I don't think this book is intended for a long shelf-life anyway.
Easy to book talk! I have no doubt that, as with Taste Test, this book will be easy to "sell" to middle school girls. Though it isn't the greatest literature ever, the cover and blurb will entice readers to give it a try. Any book that can do that is a "win" in my book!
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The relationships. Despite the alternating first-person viewpoints, I wasn't connected with any of the characters. After reading all 288 pages, I still don't feel like I really know Lily or Marijke. Ditto with the boys they like. Tommy seems like a typical teen boy, and we know almost nothing about Joe. I am disappointed that neither of the romances pulled me in.
Could Lily's mother be more desperate for a man? I truly wanted to reach in and slap her.
I was going to complain about the name Marijke until I saw that the author named her after a friend who died young. Let's just say that I never could figure out how to "say" it in my head. Every time I read it, I got stuck on the pronunciation. There is a phonetic pronunciation early in the story, but I never could get it right. Kind of like Hermione in Harry Potter--I guess sometimes, I need the audio.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Overall, it's just okay for me. I won't remember it next week, but it was cute enough. Middle school girls will probably like it better than I did.
IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: pepperoni pizza--the perfect comfort-food, no matter how many times it's served
REVIEW: I've read all of Kenneally's Hundred Oaks books (now totaling 5), and I love all of them. It's hard to say which is my favorite, but Breathe, Annie, Breathe is definitely up there. This is a story of a girl trying to move on after a life-changing event and unbearable grief. I love the honesty of this story and the role of exercise in healing. Though Annie blames herself for her boyfriend's tragedy (as grieving people sometimes do), she never turns that grief inward or allows herself to fall into a serious depression. She grieves with her family and her boyfriend's family. She doesn't understand how others around her are able to move on, how life can continue without Kyle in the world.
Teens dealing with the death of a loved one may find some solace in Annie's story. Her grief feels real, and I've heard that running or heavy exercise can truly help people battling depression and sadness. I love how Annie trains with a professional (Matt from Things I Can't Forget). She takes her training seriously and though she doubts herself often, she pushes through her fears and pain and grief in a healthy way. It actually makes me want to train to run a marathon. Or at least a mile.
I loved the romance and the characters. Matt was previously my favorite Kenneally boy. Jeremiah (Matt's younger brother and the love interest in this story) just replaced him. As with her other books, Kenneally adds a few character cameos. We get to see more of Jordan and Sam (Catching Jordan), Matt and Kate (Things I Can't Forget), Savannah and Jack (Racing Savannah), and Vanessa and Rory (Racing Savannah). Only Parker and Will are missing this time.
I frequently compare Hundred Oaks with Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits series, but I think I like Kenneally's books just a little better. I just never get tired of reading Kenneally's books. They don't feel formulaic, even though they do all follow a friends-to-lovers romance pattern. But Kenneally's books are all different enough to keep me riveted. As with all the others in the series, I read Breathe, Annie, Breathe in one sitting.
I've heard there are supposed to be six books in this series. I'm hoping to hear Evan's story in Book #6--I felt kind of sorry for him when Annie turned him down.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Love this series. Best for upper-high school or college-aged readers due to sexual content.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Too mature for middle school.
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: multiple F-bombs and sh**
Sexuality: several making out scenes, including one between virtual strangers; includes intercourse and lots of "locker room" talk
Drugs/Alcohol: underage drinking at frat parties
IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: a snack-sized bag of Fritos--it reads quickly and has no nutritional value whats...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: a snack-sized bag of Fritos--it reads quickly and has no nutritional value whatsoever.
REVIEW: This book is cute, but it reads like something a high school girl scribbled down in study hall. I did not care at all for insecure Zoe, who in no way deserves intelligent, introspective Zak. Nevertheless, it is a quick read and one that many high school girls will enjoy. I like the overall theme of being oneself and embracing the person you really are.
There is some sexual content (see below), but parents desperate to get their high school daughter to read something (anything!) should find a winner here. It's an easy read that, despite its amateurish writing style, even I had a hard time putting down.
THE BOTTOM LINE: It's cute and fun as long as you don't expect too much. Great for reluctant readers though it does contain sexual content.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it--too mature for middle school.
WHAT I LIKED: So many things! First off, I have a personal connection with this author and this story. Author Robin T...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: So many things! First off, I have a personal connection with this author and this story. Author Robin Talley and I grew up in the same hometown and lived there (Roanoke, VA) around the same time. The story is set in a fictional town in Virginia, but there was a Jefferson High School in Roanoke that closed before I was born. It had been there for 50 years, so it was around for the desegregation movement. The old JHS building has been converted into a community center, but what a cool history that building has!
So I knew going in that I was going to at least identify heavily with the setting. But there were so many other things I loved about this book! I love the alternating viewpoints between Sarah and Linda. I love the authentic dialogue and Talley's attention to detail. I love the girls' strength, even though they come from two very different worlds. I love the way the chapter titles are the lies that Sarah and Linda tell themselves in order to get themselves through the day. I love the way Judy's port wine stain marks her as an outsider, forever setting her apart from her white peers.
And the writing! This is Talley's debut novel, and I hope to see more from her in the future. I can't think of a time I've seen an author who so clearly cares about her characters. It's almost like Talley is an artist painting every single detail--hair and skin and eyes and lines--of someone she loves. Talley takes her time establishing the girls' families, hopes, fears, appearance, social life, strengths, and weaknesses. The dialogue is so authentic, I can almost see the look on Sarah's face when Linda says something Sarah doesn't agree with. I feel like I really know these girls, that the characters in this story could actually live in my neighborhood or be students at my school.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: For all my gushing (and it does sound a lot like gushing!), I think Talley took too big a bite of the issue pie. Of course, we have racism and female gender roles in the south--kind of a given considering the 1959 setting--but the addition of child abuse, spousal abuse, alcoholism, and homosexuality is just too much.
Don't our protagonists have enough to deal with considering all the racism and sexism they face every single day? By the middle of the story, it started to feel "piled on" rather than part of the story. And I'm really so sad about that because this character-driven story doesn't need a lot of hot-button issues to gussy it up.
In this case, less is definitely more.
THE BOTTOM LINE:Lies We Tell Ourselves is a beautifully-written, heartbreaking story of friendship and desegregation in the south. Too many controversial issues detract from character and plot.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I don't have it; better for high school audiences.
READALIKES:Lions of Little Rock (Levine)
Characters: 5/5--LOVE LOVE LOVE!
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: medium-high; frequent use of "n-word" and other racial slurs
Sexuality: mild-medium; homosexuality, slut-shaming, crude sexual remarks, allusions to teens having sex
Violence: medium; lots of crude name-calling, spousal and child abuse, brutal assault
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; alcoholic parent
IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: a huge bowl of ice cream--good, tasty fun even though it's probably a bit too mu...more More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: a huge bowl of ice cream--good, tasty fun even though it's probably a bit too much
REVIEW: I have read and enjoyed all of the books in the Pushing the Limits series, and I liked this one, too. For the record, this series does not have to be read in order. Each story is about a different character who is in some way related to a character in a previous book. A sort-of literary Six Degrees of Separation.
Take Me On is easy to get into, and I liked both Haley and West as characters. I believed in their attraction and their relationship. I liked getting some snippets of Rachel and Isaiah's story, though it didn't really introduce anything new since the ending of Crash Into You. I love that Haley is a kickboxer and that the female character is teaching the male how to defend himself in a sport she knows far more about than he does. I devoured the whole thing in only two days.
Surprisingly though, Take Me On is my least favorite in the series so far. On its own, it's fine, but after reading the other three, it feels formulaic. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl find themselves in a dangerous situation. Boy and girl work together but vow to remain "just friends." Boy and girl give in to attraction. Boy and girl have a million reasons why they can't be together, yet none of them is really that big a deal...it's fun reading and engaging, but it isn't any different from the rest of the series or many others like it.
I also didn't really buy the premise of training West for a cage fight with Conner/Matt. Matt is a jealous control-freak who beat up his girlfriend and left her a bloody mess on the floor. His brother Conner is on drugs. It's difficult for me to believe that either one would have the restraint or desire to wait for a MMA tournament--a whopping two months away--instead of just jumping West after school or in a dark alley. The whole story is based on this premise, yet it contradicts everything we learn about Matt and Conner as characters.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Enjoyable despite some flaws in logic and similarity to others in the series. Fans will still enjoy it though.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: It's too mature for middle school, but this series is a must for high schools and public libraries.
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5--a bit long
Language: high--lots of profanity, including F-bomb
Sexuality: high--lots of kissing and touching; one naked scene without intercourse; discussion of intercourse, condoms, virginity
Violence: mild-medium--story centers on kickboxing and mixed martial arts
Drugs/Alcohol: medium--one minor character described as a "druggie", brief mention on marijuana purchases, one character is a drug dealer